On paper, Simple Things festival offered one of the most impressive and diverse lineups to reach the city of Bristol in 2012, with a range of captivating new performers sharing the bill alongside many more established outfits in the world of electronic music.
Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher returned to headline the annual West Country event, with his highly anticipated live show.
Unfortunately, an issue with a jam-packed lineup can be the risk of multiple clashes between performers. It was immediately clear when investigating the running order that there would be a number of difficult choices to made when deciding who to watch, and who is miss out on. Kutmah, Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and Squarepusher were all billed at the same time, at venues a sizeable distance from each other across the city.
Last year the festival received a fair amount of feedback from those in attendance stating that accessing the venues had become a bit of a nightmare around the time of headline acts, so in response it appears that festival organisers did their utmost ensure this was not repeated. In fairness, this was not a problem at any time during the event, however it must be said that it was certainly disappointing to realise that half the acts that had grabbed my attention on the flyer would have to be missed out this time.
Despite this initial setback, the early afternoon start did offer the opportunity to enjoy the many vibrant areas of Bristol whilst checking out some of the others acts further down the bill. Canadian artist Grimes served up a fantastic hour of her own music in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the 02 academy, demonstrating why her rise to success has come about so quickly. Three Trapped Tigers also provided a stand out performance, fusing an array of electronic textures with intense, distorted guitar riffs and energetic drums. For a three-piece band, the depth of music was really quite astounding.
Arriving at the 02 Academy with plenty of time before Squarepusher meant that we were able to catch the set of DJ Zinc, one of the most consistent and respected DJs on the club and festival circuit. Over the course of his set, Zinc worked his way through a range of his energetic ‘Crack House’, as well as ending with some Drum and Bass classics to raise the tempo. Although it seemed like an odd selection to have Zinc warming up for Squarepusher, nothing can be taken away from a performance that was full or energy and imagination.
Following a quick exit from the stage, a rush of technicians under dimmed lights, and the momentary hush of an excited crowd; it was time for the headline act.
Squarepusher has become renowned for being one of the most exciting live performers since his arrival on the electronic music scene in the early 90’s. After mesmerising crowds with his exceptional bass guitar mashups, it was time to try something a little different, this time exploring the combination of an audio-visual performance.
In recent years the likes of Amon Tobin, Plaid and Daedelus have established highly successful displays that have raised the bar of expectations. Unfortunately, Squarepusher Live didn’t quite reach such heights. The high definition visuals never really went anywhere, and Jenkins often looked rather static behind his large podium, fixed in the centre of the stage. Musically the show was fairly laid back, with sporadic pulses of intensity breaching the melodic and atmospheric grooves, but sadly this was not to be the epic headline performance that many had expected.
Overall the festival had been a success, with a fantastic range of music spanning across the city until the early hours of Monday morning. The frustration of performance clashes was somewhat disheartening upon arrival at the festival, however the location and refreshing approach to the event made Simple Things a day out that I would recommend to anyone looking for some bank holiday mischief in the West Country.
Words: Tom Mullett
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