Recently, Bristol catered for two types of groups, people attending Simple Things Festival and those who are not. The centre of the city was oozing with anticipation in the early morning of Saturday 22nd of October as the attendees started to fill the streets. At the heart of the festival is Colston Hall, named after Edward Colston – who made his wealth trading Ivory, Gold, and Slaves in the 16th century. Colston Hall would be the main venue for the day housing the most artist throughout the day, compared to other venues. The festival itself is hosted by Crack Magazine – Bristol’s favorite free cultural published magazine. By the overwhelming amount of differing genres covered in the magazine, there was no doubt there was a melting pot of artist to choose from.
With time to spare due to my artist of choice not playing until the latter stages of the event, I decided to go and see Stevie Parker with my trusted Nikon D800. With no expectations, I couldn’t be disappointed.
Her eerie electro performance wasn’t something that I often appreciate even listen to but, it settled well with me. Actual fans were adored by her presence something that was warming to see. Her rhythms resembled the music of other significant artists like London Grammar and The XX, which if anything is a good thing. Stevie Parkers’ vocal range was howlingly pitch perfect. The arrangement between her vocals, keyboard, drums and electric guitar throughout the performance created an ethereal sense in the hall. She flawlessly delivered her 2016 track entitled ‘The Cure’ which again highlighted her atmospheric voice. The song that caught my attention wholeheartedly was ‘Blue’ which conveniently is the name of her latest EP. The song explores the insecurities and sadness felt in relationships a feeling unfortunately felt by all. In a conversation with Wonderland Magazine, she commented on how she felt when performing live, “It’s fight or flight” as she put it. She certainly showed her feathers and left us looking up for more.
After carefully maneuvering through an overpopulated Colston St I found myself in the bar named, The Sportsman. The stage was at the corner of the room and occupied by Idles a local Bristolian band. Unfortunately, punk music is not my thing, though I have on occasion listened to the likes Avenge Sevenfold when working out. Nor do I know the material these guys put out. So how can describe their performance? How about notably relentless! In the moment, I found myself trying to get into the heart of the action, for example, the mosh pits but the crowd weren’t displacing themselves for me, gratefully a table at the back came to light as something I could stand on. Looking down at the audience you could tell that this band is idealized by their fans. The crowd seemed intergalactically pumped by the presence. Though my self-proclaimed eclectic pallet doesn’t stretch as far the new post-punk sound, from what I saw their worth a watch if that genre is your thing.
Call it Pop or call it RnB; many would say ABRA sound is a hybrid of the two. The Atlanta-born producer/singer known for what Pitchfork labeled as bedroom pop was here at Simple Things Festival. Her carefully constructed captivating originality was all that was on my mind as she adjusted equipment on stage while she waited to commence her slot. Similar to the talented Justin Bieber, ABRA made a name for herself by uploading covers from a wide spectrum of musicians; whether it was covers of Radiohead or Waka Flocka ‘No Hands’ – she’d layer her vocals that were played from what sounds like a laptop speaker and harmoniously sing-a-long with herself.
In her short line of modest and at times the progressive body of work we arrive at her Princess EP. In this thought, I could only predict for the opening track to be from her best work to date. Instead, she came in at a simmering pace, ‘I Guess’ opened up her performance. The low-frequency vibe of ‘I Guess’ featured in BLQ Velvet EP which came out in 2015. The soothing sounds of ABRA’s vocals sank softly into the R&B house beats she so well creates. Amidst the purples and sunset yellows darting from stage to ceiling from the stage-lighting, her holiness vocals resonated with the crowd and you couldn’t tell her career was in her infancy. Though not choreographed as well as Janet Jacksons ‘Nasty,’ she enticingly danced on the stage to what at times seemed like an ambiguous production. While listening to what for me is my favourite track on her Princess Ep, ‘Crybaby’ it felt as if I was in a state of nervous excitement. Listening to the 808\Hi-hat layered beat I could only he curious of the girls potential. Already, ABRA is remediating the nostalgic echo of 90s/80s RnB-House Music while blanketing these rhythms with a hint of Hip Hop, 808 drum-sampled bass.
Swiftly following the ABRA’s performance was the 2016 Mercury Prize nominee, Kano. The adrenaline pumping performance had the Carharrt Whip Stage attendees by their sentimental knees. His undeniable flow conceived a bold ambiance while on stage that the crowd perfectly duplicated through mosh pits and shared bravado. Rhythms like ‘GangSkankFreestyle,’ ‘3Wheels Up’ and early hits like ‘P’s and Q’s’ endorsed Kano being one of UK’s best grime MC’s and outright performers, the persuasively agile garage rooted beats ended SimpleThings Festival in SWX on high.
Simple Things Festival is one of the finest examples of Bristol’s varied appreciation for music. Over my time here, I have seen a range of musicians, to name a few – Floating Points, Boddika, Elle Eyre, Soulection and now Abra. This gala of good music cemented Bristol’s ability to shine a light in the artist that need to be heard.
All in all, Simple Things was penned to be a standout day in 2016’s calendar and it didn’t disappoint with festival’s eclectic lineup. It had everything to offer from the weighty sounds of punk-rock to the noise of rebellion that comes in the form of Kano. So when it comes to next year if you haven’t marked it down on your calendar just yet, you may want to whip out your pen and diary now.