Simple Things 2016 @ Bristol, 22/10/2016

Simple Things 2016Simple Things 2016 features at the end of a long run of successful UK music festivals this summer, all with an unusually diverse bill. Conversely, while it’s infamous for holding an experimental niche in the industry, this year the inner city Bristol event breaks tradition by booking– dare we say it – commercial and hyped acts.

Intrigued by the proposition of a move towards the mainstream, we set out on Saturday determined to watch at least one of the acoustic singer songwriters included in the line-up. Despite our best intentions, we end up watching a foray of experimental and progressive bands, all equally exciting and innovative in their own right. This could mean one of two things: either Simple Things’ attempt to bring in a different genre fails to ignite much interest, or the competition is just too stiff to give the soulful-types a chance.

In the experimental arena, first up is Stevie Parker, who returns to our line of vision courtesy of an early set at the largest venue of the day, Colston Hall’s main room. The gig boasts a great turnout despite the tantalising lure of stellar bands elsewhere. Parker’s performance is ethereal and engaging, showing off her impressive vocal range alongside her talent for building a gorgeous atmosphere.

Simple Things does not do things by halves and the first few hours of the day are packed with promising new talent, making it hard to decide where to go next. We amble towards Plastic Mermaids not because we’ve chosen to see them over Three Trapped Tigers (who play the much-too-far-away Fire Station, sob) or The Big Moon, but because they’re just up the road in the Sportsman. We discover later that the pub venue’s basement roof threatens to buckle under the pressure of the sardine-like audience throughout the day, but we remain blissfully unaware of our impending doom during the gig. We’re not sure we would have evacuated the premises anyway – with a long cameo from fellow Isle of Wight-turned-Bristol musician Rhain, the gig is a standout of the entire day, rudely barging past the competition to reassert the Mermaids as an act to watch out for in 2017.

Slightly dazed and deafened, we realise we’ve forgotten to leave quarter of an hour early to catch a glimpse of London Riot Grrrl band, Dream Wife. Although slightly deflated, we’re soon picked back up off the ground: it’s Kayla Painter’s time to wow at The Lantern – a wow she does. This is the first time we’ve witnessed her dual screen set in an intimate and focused setting - the last time being the far more rowdy Canteen gig at the beginning of the year – and, bloody hell. We stand gawping for a straight two hours thanks to some phenomenal visuals from Jason Baker and Painter’s well timed audio. We agree with those around us – we’re not sure we’d ever listen to the music alone in our bedroom – but we’d pay a significant part of life savings to see the set again.

The mad rush of bands over, a huge amount of time seems to have passed since we entered The Lantern and so, bewildered in every sense of the word, we stumble towards the main room and a closing headline set from Warpaint. The stage is ready for the four-piece to charm, but as they pick up their instruments, they’re bathed in a murky purple light. Sat at the back of the crowded venue, we have a clear line of vision, but we can’t actually see much. It’s up to their music therefore to leave a good impression, and you can’t fault the “New Song” band for that. New material clicks and leaves a great impression, marking the end of the day.

Simple Things 2016 differed from previous years as it didn’t introduce us to new music in quite the same Google-tastic way it has done in the past. What the promoters did do however, and very successfully, was to choose a number of musicians whom we had yet to give the time they deserved. We walk away as firm fans of all of the acts mentioned above, and for that Simple Things can count their job as done.

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  1. Simple Things 2016 @ Bristol, 22/10/2016 – Live List - 02/11/2016

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