Hardly A Party: Art Is Hard’s Birthday Party @ Bristol, 27/08/2017

Art is Hard / Hardly a PartyIt can’t be easy to run an independent record label. Luckily, Bristol-based record label Art is Hard is doing it for us. Born from a sorry reflection on the music industry, Art is Hard’s portfolio of great releases from pop bands to indie rock artists shows the dynamism of an emerging label. With quirky release formats to boot, Art is Hard is a steady rock in the Bristol music scene.

To celebrate their seventh birthday, they’ve organised a big b-day bash showcasing a plethora of acts from Bristol, further afield, and even from across the pond. Hosted across three stages, the event is a sellout this glorious Bank Holiday weekend. And what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than at a party.

The Orielles kick off the day, delivering punchy basslines and echoic vocals. The classic rock setup they adopt with drummer, bassist, and guitarist is refreshed by their summery surf-pop output. They really come into their own for “Liminal Spaces”, dedicating the track to Big Jeff, slowing down in tempo but increasing in stage presence. They’re on an upward trajectory, with “Only Got It From The Bottle” and “Sugar Tastes Like Salt” to follow up, both bass-driven tracks laced with enigmatic guitar solos and dreamy soundscapes.

We scooch over to The Louisiana to get a glimpse of Matt Riviere in a close and intimate performance. His back and the top of his cap is the most we get to see of the artist as he reveals his vulnerability by facing away from the crowd. Unique, droney vocals are layered over electronic tracks for an intriguing performance.

Moving into a more alt-rock territory, Happyness combine slow, soft rock with hushed vocals. Very Pavement-esque in their offering, Happyness pack sultry guitar lines but surprise the crowd every now and again with an explosion of sound. It’s announced that bassist Paul will be playing his last ever performance tonight. To commemorate, we send Paul off round Thekla in a final crowd surf, getting to the top of the balcony and climbing back around. It’s a nice send-off and a great way to close the set.

Ultimate Painting follows up at Thekla, delving further into the alt-rock corner. They pick up the pace with faster guitar lines, but still emanate a chilled-out energy, in an oxymoronic kind of way. Their catchy riffs and breezy vocals strip back any self-indulgence or decadence to leave a casual, mellow rock get up.

Headlining tonight, Beach Fossils fulfill the indie-pop quota, coming all the way from the NYC. Suitably, a ceremonious pink balloon bobs around to say a hovering hello in the bubblegum lighting. Their jangly guitar and expansive soundscapes are the epitomai of summer; a fitting way to close such a sunny day. It's their first time in Bristol, as they delight the crowd with a setlist jam-packed with upbeat crowd pleasers. Quirky vocals meet bubbly keys, jangly guitar and even a trumpet at one point to create an enigmatic showdown. 2011 hit "Daydream" secures the day as a meteoric success.

The Hardly A Party after party ends up at Crofter's Rights with karaoke, including all the cheese you can muster at 2am on a Bank Holiday weekend (hint: it's a lot). Art is Hard sure know how to throw a party. Happy birthday AIH, and here's to seven more!


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