Terraces and Techno: How Simple Things Turned Bristol Inside Out
The weekend festival is a beacon for how inner-city events work best.
DJ Funk — Photo by Kane Rich.
"I wanna fuck dat ass." It's around quarter to five in the afternoon and DJ Funk is shouting at me, "who here is going to fuck some ass tonight?" Out of a reflexive obligation to respond I limply raise my hand and shout a tepid "yeah", at which point I also make a second of uncomfortable eye contact with the girl stood next to me. My hand slowly lowers and I shoot back an apologetic look. In truth, it was probably pretty unlikely I was going to fuck any ass tonight, but that was barely the point. This wasn't really about ass fucking at all. It was about the one weekend of the year where regardless of day jobs, dress sense, or conventional sensibilities, Bristol is turned inside out.
Simple Things isn't like a lot of other festivals, and for the most part this is to do with size. Normally a for a festival to grow, the bill is likely to succumb to flashier, more outwardly notable headline acts, as the branding becomes gradually more and more "all encompassing." The same cannot be said for the inner-city weekender. Rather than blindly growing out, the festival, now in its fifth year, seems to have grown further in; calling in more and more of the underground — perfectly curated, precision engineered, niche noise. Fortunately, this 'headsy' approach is then complimented by a city that knows how to celebrate. From the Saturday afternoon, all the way through to the sprawling Sunday morning bow out, the streets are littered with the genuine buzz of a place united.
Once DJ Funk had warmed us up with expletives and tight, slamming, ghetto grooves, we pushed out of the Bristol's old Fire Station (now converted into a cavernous music venue) and into the courtyard to check in with Avalon Emerson, and as the afternoon becoming the evening, her blend of weirdo-grooves and were the perfect step up into the rest of the evening. From there we ambled across to the Colston Hall to catch rising producer Gramcy playing a set that, while decidedly lighter than his own productions, was perfect for a crowd huddled on a terrace watching the sky turn a burnt pink. The staging in fact is responsible for much of the festival's success, from the panoramic terrace views, to the Island's murky tunnel, every environment proved as characterful as the performances that filled them.
It was in The Island that the night truly took hold, following two stellar sets from Helena Hauff and then Darwin. The former continued her run of absolute supremacy, layering hard and fast, punishing techno upon the penned in crowd before handing over to Berliner Darwin for a more acidic, but equally effective set. While it's not a subject that should be over-lauded, it is also worth acknowledging that The Island played host to a female only line-up all day. Certainly something some DJs could take note from when considering the overwhelming quality that was on display.
Night drew in further, Bristol's streets became wilder and weirder, and we made our way to Lakota. The club played host to the final leg of Simple Things, and across five rooms bounced from the balmy disco edits of Discodromo, to the steely rumblings of Hodge's b2b with Randomer. In fact there was almost a physical divide on exactly how you wanted your night to end. For those of a sunnier disposition Hunee was without a doubt the headline highlight. Flitting anywhere between funk, house, and even Shangaan Electro, his set was further proof for his devotees that eclecticism, when done properly, is an unbeatable gift.
Yet for us, the evening belonged to Objekt. We'd been waiting for his four hour set with the sort of ebullient excitement normally reserved for a fourth birthday party (when we were four obviously), and he more than delivered. Coursing throw everything from devastating techno, to tearing sub-level wobbles, harsh builds, and cool rolling break beats, it was the sort of set where pin-pointing tracks fast becomes an irrelevance in favour of the bigger, banging, picture. As six in the morning rolled around, and from what we could see Objekt was basically removed from continuing his set, we spilled out of Lakota and into the confused, cold morning streets.
Teeth chattering, and draining the last of our batteries trying to round up stray mates and after-parties, we were struck by a deja-vu. We've been here before with Simple Things. An inner-city festival that doesn't just host great acts in great venues, but somehow amplifies the best of city already dedicated to new, weird, and emerging music. The weekend sets an example for the inner-city festival, proof that success is not in cramming as much as possible into as many possible places, instead it is about attracting the highest standard of acts, and letting their devoted crowds flood the streets. Bleary eyed and stumbling home, we'd once again been part of a festival that perfectly balanced discerning and challenging music with an unfettered celebratory spirit. Something that despite DJ Funk's insistence, we'd take over ass fucking any day of the week.