Simple Things festival review – masterfully curated and delivered

Multiple venues, Bristol
The two-day weekender put math-punk with mumblecore, house, grime and happy hardcore as Battles and Galcher Lustwerk played to impress

Bristol’s Simple Things festival – which adopts the “stumbling around multiple venues” festival model of The Great Escape, Tramlines and others – has now reached its fifth year. It opens with a Friday night gig from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whose noise-rock is stirring but dogmatic, with only brief bursts that truly grab your collar.

Chastity Belt kick things off on Saturday with pleasant mumblecore songs about Samantha from Sex and the City, among other millennial topics, sung entirely out of tune as is the slacker’s wont; Lower Dens can’t seem to fill the stage with a guitarist missing, while Speedy Ortiz play lazily written math-punk. Maximum Joy also disappoint with their doily-fringed funk, but Battles impress. They have one of the best rhythm sections in rock, comprising all three members – their melodies are often gawky, but they’re spectacular when locked into pure groove.

Two grime acts take the roof off the Academy – nimble hectoring from Ruff Sqwad segues into a well-drilled set from Skepta and JME. Its climactic third, of bars thrown over a megamix of classic instrumentals – German Whip, I Luv U, the whimsically beautiful Ruff Sqwad anthem Functions on the Low – is overwhelming, but their own greatest hits stand proudly beside them.

Over in a converted fire station, PC Music emissary Danny L Harle has half the audience dancing with genuine abandon to his brilliantly overstuffed J-pop and happy hardcore; the other half dancing with inverted commas, trapped behind the hipster’s irony shield. They’d have struggled even more with Jam City’s earnest emo-soul – his songs were improbably but expertly juxtaposed with gorgeously dark dancehall.

By 4am in the Lakota club space – which, this being Bristol, has its own dedicated nitrous oxide bar – some punters are a bit worse for wear. Galcher Lustwerk is halfway through a profoundly satisfying deep house set, but a man with oscillating eyeballs, lying in repose, manages to yank out the cabling from the decks. No matter: Lustwerk makes a right turn into sparse rap from Future, before steering back towards the cosmos. A masterful end to a masterfully curated and delivered festival.

Contributor

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Afropunk review – afrofuturism gets anthemic at festival of booming black creativity
Printworks, London
JME, Nadia Rose, Nao, Lianne La Havas, Willow Smith and Corinne Bailey Rae all came together at a diverse celebration of black culture

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

24, Jul, 2017 @3:37 PM

Article image
Field Day festival review – a collective roar in the face of the storm
A lineup including Skepta, Deerhunter, James Blake and PJ Harvey prove more than able to banish wet weather blues with warm and powerful performances

Dorian Lynskey

13, Jun, 2016 @12:24 PM

Wireless festival – review
Listen-and-bounce was the best way to approach the chart-friendly festival dance and R&B-packed lineup, says Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

03, Jul, 2011 @5:44 PM

Article image
Bloc.2012: festival preview

Here's our pick of some of the acts playing the London Pleasure Gardens this weekend

Rachel Obordo

03, Jul, 2012 @4:20 PM

Article image
The 100 greatest BBC music performances – ranked!
As the Beeb celebrates its centenary, we take a look at its most memorable pop moments, from the birth of grime to the first sightings of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, plus TOTP goes Madchester and countless classic Peel sessions

Guardian music

06, Oct, 2022 @12:12 PM

Article image
The Great Escape festival review – unexpected new sounds thrill Brighton
A mesmerising Kate Tempest and Skepta and JME’s pulverising grime are highlights at the new-music festival

David Bennun

18, May, 2015 @11:18 AM

Deer Shed festival – review
The family-friendly Deer Shed festival provided a 'very civilised' afternoon lineup, but the evening brought spicier acts, and then a shared mournful moment in impromptu tribute to Amy Winehouse, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

25, Jul, 2011 @5:01 PM

Article image
Rudimental – review

This jungle collective radiates positivity with a set that promises more hits, writes Graeme Virtue

Graeme Virtue

24, Apr, 2013 @4:34 PM

Article image
Wireless festival review – British rap stars show Americans how it's done
In his first major set since leaving prison, J Hus made a joyful homecoming and outshone much of the A-list American talent – the irrepressible Cardi B aside

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

08, Jul, 2019 @11:12 AM

Article image
Citadel festival review – a kaleidoscopic musical landscape
From Afrobeat royalty Seun Kuti to hometown heroes such as Roots Manuva, this boutique festival presented a rousing, crowd-pleasing account of London’s musical diversity

Stevie Chick

20, Jul, 2015 @12:27 PM