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With Simple Things celebrating its 6th year of the multi-venue, city-wide commemoration of left field music, we weigh up the festival that appears to tick all the boxes.

Things we expected:

1. A wide variety of Bristol venues would be used. In previous years, anything from the city’s most mainstream venue to its underground police cells were used as stages. The festival organisers seem to be constantly shifting around venues each year, using what’s worked in the past and discarding what hasn’t. Best new additions included The Sportsman (your average old man pub), and neighboring pub the Gryphon, which typically hosts heavy metal gigs in their small upstairs space.

2. A mix of local, national and international acts. Simple Things’ programmers have always done a pretty stellar job at selecting an eclectic lineup, usually split evenly between bands and electronica. Smaller pub-style venues hosted popular local acts known to bring something a little different to the table. The festival’s beating heart, Colston Hall, showcased a bit of everything, using the main hall for international acts that played throughout the day.

3. Missing acts. With so many acts playing in such a short space of time, we all knew we were going to miss at least a small amount of what we wanted to see. For a band lover to minimalise this, one must sign on at 1pm, which is not always possible when trying to prepare for over 12 hours of music.

Things we didn’t expect:

1. More security. Venues like Colston Hall and the Firestation seemed a bit more under guard this time round, with full pat downs and bag searches every time you wanted to enter. Families may have found it a little frustrating that you weren’t allowed to bring food inside some venues. Thankfully the security were friendly and understanding.

2. A great deal of queuing. This year’s festival was clearly busier than previous years, due in part to it being the first year to sell out. However, queues were in excess this time ’round, and from early doors too. A split-gender queue to get into Colston Hall before Anna Meredith and Warpaint was an odd sight, and also meant that males took 4 times as long to enter the venue.

Strengths:

1. Colston Hall. Bristol music goers all know and love this venue for its variance in acts and its accessibility. The foyer is like its bustling reception but also the heart of the venue. Mostly UK bands headed up this stage, each one topping the last as smooth dream pop flowed into 90s shoegaze – a popular genre of the time no doubt but here the curation was fresh and exciting. The acoustics were also great, holding in the sound so well that even looking down from the upper-most stairwell was sufficient. The Lantern was as sonically varied as always, starting with minimalist electronica and building up to wild tribal rock. The main venue acted as the novelty festival stage, boasting great acoustics and popular acts. The option of sitting down was also a welcome sight after a day of standing.

2. An impressive curation for a decent price. Where else could you see acts like Shobaleader One in your local fire station? This is a festival that gives you Death Grips and Charlotte Church as headliners – two sides of the spectrum but increasingly eclectic and captivating bands to see live. All this came with a decent price tag too. Aside from a few perceived hiccups, the program was chock full of high-end acts, some of which played in perhaps previously unseen spaces around the city.

3. The O2 was ditched for SWX. There’s just something about the O2 that doesn’t sit right with the average Bristol music goer. Perhaps it’s the intimidating security; perhaps it’s the mediocre sound; perhaps it’s the screaming hordes of fans. Thankfully it seemed to have been replaced by SWX which boasted far better sound and a less intimidating atmosphere.

Weaknesses:

1. Big acts and overcapacity. Rival Consoles were a key example of this early on, playing at 2:45pm at the indoor Firestation stage. By half 2 the queue to get in was already unfeasible, while the outdoor DJ booth remained quiet. Perhaps some stage shifting was in order. For Warpaint and Death Grips in Colston’s main stage, the reality of even making it in seemed futile. One couldn’t help but be drawn to the Lantern, or another venue nearby instead. Whilst the festival’s popularity has caused this, perhaps organisers should have capped ticket sales a little earlier, to ensure every punter has the option to see what they desire.

2. No use of the police cells at The Island. This is one of Bristol’s most underrated venues because of how well it retains sound, but failed to make it onto this year’s program.

3. Acts started later than scheduled. Some acts (i.e. Jessie Lanza) were very late starting, making the clashes even more chaotic.

Best Acts (in no particular order):

1. Powell: Brilliant, exciting, arty, challenging techno to get your head dreaming and your feet stomping.

2. Anna Meredith: Brilliant voice, quirky tunes and Scottish charm – a joy to watch!

3. Warpaint: Unrivaled energy and atmosphere, producing an electrified performance.

4. Bayonne: Austin’s one-man act who captivated us with atmospheric loop arrangements, primitive drumming and ambient pop sensibility.

5. Suuns. Pulsating sonic energy in the way of neo-psych and krautrock – reminiscent of Beak on the same stage the year before).

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