Simple Things is a day festival in Bristol. Packing a truly heavyweight lineup of electronic artists with a smattering of Pitchfork-friendly bands, it goes full throttle for fifteen hours. Spread across two strikingly contrasting venues, Colston Hall and a little down the road The Island Complex: a grungy warren of buildings set around a courtyard adjunct to an old fire station.
As you enter Colston Hall, breaking new acts like John Wizards play to doting crowds in the foyer. Acts like Pantha du Prince and Modeselektor glitched and twitched upstairs in a cavernous auditorium, which, because of strict health and safety, wasn’t filled to anywhere near the kind of capacity rapacious techno enthusiasts are accustomed.
That’s not for want of trying – but friendly West Country bouncers assured us it was full to legal capacity and they were only obeying orders. Once the boss was gone, a gaggle of us who persevered at the door were hurriedly smuggled in.
Enter Nicolas Jaar, playing a beautiful, glowing techno set that soared and twisted. Everyone was attentive and convinced. Jaar’s music worked with the vast concert hall, compensating for the intensity lost by not being sardined in a brine of club sweat.
“This is the hardest I've ever played,” he said over the mic towards the end of his set. “It must be Bristol. I'm feeling crazy.”
Maybe he says that to all the girls, but in a city bearing such historic significance to dance music and culture, Bristol has something. But Simple Things certainly wasn’t just about dance music. One of the most thrilling performances of the day was the heavy, heavy thrash of Arrows of Love who beasted and staggered through a small audience in the daylight. A boy–girl band who embodied the rock’n’roll wet dream.
The festival focused on music and partying. It was loud and liberal. There weren’t art installations, entertainers or fancy dress. Special effects were limited to a bubble machine by day, flashing lights and the lasers by night. That shouldn’t downplay what a mammoth party it was. It just had no pretensions to twee.
The buildings themselves magnified fantasy. The deep, dark night happened as you explored old police cells with Ital Tek or a fire station with Jon Hopkins and Marcel Dettmann, only to stagger into disco crescendos at the end of labyrinthine passageways.
And then, when it all seemed like it might never end, it was bedtime, feeling a little crazy like that Nicolas guy said.