The Downs @ Bristol, 02/09/2017

The Downs, BristolIt's a big day in Bristol's musical diary. On the sunniest day in what feels like forever, it is time to revisit one of the cities most prestigious locations. Following in the steps of Massive Attack's triumphant return to Bristol and teetering just on the edge of the Avon Gorge, The Downs celebrates its 1st birthday.

From the off, it's clear that it will be a very different event to last year. The whole site feels a lot bigger and well equipped for the 27,000 punters set to swap in. The Information Stage and Second Stage both have designated areas, the bars are larger and, most importantly, there isn't a drop of rain in sight. The Main Stage is surrounded by people basking in the last rays of summer onto the shadowless Downs. The chilled mood changes quickly as Soul II Soul takes to the stage. Everyone is up and moving to Caron Wheeler's timeless vocals and Jazzie B's excellent stage banter. The band ends with the classic "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)", which goes down a storm.

Mike Skinner, ex-MC of The Streets and DJ, now takes on the second stage. Technical difficulties seem to hinder the start of the set, but it doesn't take long for Mike to get into his groove. Seemingly blissfully unaware of this popularity, Mike plays anything from R Kelly's "Ignition" to bass heavy trap music, with the odd Streets banger chucked in to keep the crowd ecstatic.

Hip hop legends De La Soul are next on the main stage, drawing the biggest crowd of the day so far. While being an act famed for sampling other people's music, they surprisingly play with a full live band. Claiming to be “not perfect, but good” they end their set with an amalgamation of "Men in Black", "Candy" and "Drop It Like It's Hot".

As the sun disappears Seasick Steve ups the tempo and ushers in the night. Playing with a simple backdrop, guitarist Steven Wold and drummer Dan Magnusson play the lowest of lo-fi sets with an array of homemade instruments and slide guitar solos. Over on the Second Stage, house music legends Groove Armada play classics "I See You Baby" and "Super Stylin" to a chock-a-block crowd.

It's now time for tonight's headliners, Elbow, to take to The Downs' Main Stage. Joined on stage with a large string section, the band open with "The Birds". From the off, it is clear that seemingly docile frontman Guy Garvey is clearly in his element when performing. He commands the stage and the crowd with ease, all while hitting those long vocal notes with perfect execution.

An almost nude (socks and not much else) streaker appears on stage during "The Bones of You" (how apt). Seizing the moment Guy grabs the honorary band member and slow dances with him until security takes control. The band draws mainly from the 2008's The Seldom Seen Kid, playing "Mirrorball" backed by a giant disco ball. New tunes “All Disco” and “Magnificent (She Says)” from this year's Little Fictions are also played, while Guy's dulcet tones and wit fill all the gaps in between. As a crowd favourite “One Day Like This” plays towards the close of the set, you get the impression that this song was meant for this specific day in particular. Guy builds up to the big finale by starting chants of “beautiful” and “love” just before the banendsnd on the massive “Grounds for Divorce”.

Mid-set Guy pays homage to where he is stood, by singing a couple of verses to "Hymn of the Big Wheel" by Bristol's own Massive Attack. Elbow's set stands out as a huge success which will help cement this yearly event as a proper festival, and not something that will forever remain in the shadow of Massive Attack's biblical return. The Downs has certainly come a long way since last year, and in the only UK city that does not have an arena, it is starting to prove itself as a cornerstone to Bristol's already bubbling music scene.


One Response to “The Downs @ Bristol, 02/09/2017”


  1. The Downs @ Bristol, 02/09/2017 – Live List - 09/09/2017

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