Simple Things 2015
Falling a couple of months out of line to the normative festival season scope was last weekend's Simple Things Festival. It's unique that a festival mirrors a grandeur like the many rooms inside Colston Hall to the more packed spaces of an abandoned fire station that houses the later hours electronic tones.
What Simple Things gets right that so many city based multi-venue others get very wrong is a methodically planned curation of how all the paramount keys should be laid out. Bristol is totally spoilt for choice in having two large venues in Colston Hall and the O2 Academy being a stone’s throw apart from each other, so this circuit makes perfect sense. This set up allows the festival to compliment Bristol's finest on the larger stages as Oliver Wilde opens up proceedings on the main stage, Giant Swan took their never-structured techno, and dub to The Lantern with fellow Howling Owl Records pals Something Anorak taking to the floor above the Academy.
However, it was at The Firestation where the festival looked it strongest. Danny L Harle kept up PC Music appearances after SOPHIE's set last year balancing harder, frenetic tension in a pop template and Romare blurred space pop and vocal jabs in his technically exquisite hour long set. Wrapping up the night was Factory Floor. They took to the stage to play all this zoned out, moody techno. Even outside of their live drum capacities – just accompanied by a flickering backdrop in grey and black – it's an incredible set by one of the best techno creators in the UK today.
Battles – headlining the Colston Hall – have three major-keyed, totally individual prog-influenced albums. A few years have seen the band trade roles and ideas since the departure of ex-vocalist Tyondai Braxton and it's only fitting to see all three members at the forefront of the stage. It's still their drummer John Stanier that keeps this group weaving in closely, with sometimes only his rhythm making any sense of the spiraling glitched noise. This is a set that's rather top heavy on new album La Di Da Di, but it's the earlier hits 'Atlas' and 'Ice Cream' that see the room heat up.
Simple Things continues with a wider representation of the same dynamic Bristol has as a city. The big names are dotted in the midst of the leftfield, but this never feels alienating – it's music that the festival actively wants you to discover. A stage on The Foyer as you enter the Colston Hall perfects this enough, with slabs of airy synths that lift from the ground floor to intimidate the balconies in the fourth floor bars. The team at Crack Magazine always exceed in an attentive balance between getting a vast diversity of music throughout the 18-hour event – many of their peers can learn from them.
Words by Niall Cunningham
Photography by Jack Collins