Brisfest: Ashton Court, Bristol – festival reviewBrisfest

Ashton Court, Bristol. 

21st – 22nd Sept 2013

This year Brisfest promised to be bigger and better than ever. Over 20.000 music lovers took over the beautiful grounds of Ashton Court to revel in Bristol’s diverse and talented creative community.

Well over 200 bands performed over 2 days, made up of local and international acts spread over 15 stages, not forgetting the massive arts programme from sculptors, graffiti artists and performers located all over the site. The addition of a campsite this year has propelled this event into one of the essential end of summer parties in the West country.

Entering the site on Saturday, our excited expectations are high. Even the heavy police presence on the gate with their sniffer dog picking off the unfortunate few that stuffed their drugs down their Y-fronts can’t ruin today’s buzz. On the main stage, The John E Vistic Experience and his band of rock ‘n’ rollers know how to start a party. Their dynamic, hypnotizing swagger is exactly what I needed to get the adrenaline flowing for the day ahead. Their energy is infectious as people begin to let go and boogie down the front of the stage. Vistic is a consummate professional and a gracious host, even though he looks like he would come over for tea and steal your daughter away with his stylish posturing and witty repartee.

Wandering round the stages, we discover Eastpole Orchestra on the DBS World Stage and what a revelation they are. They have such presence with each member displaying such consummate talent that their Baltic and middle eastern music certainly got me and everyone around dancing like half-cut ruskies. The Lund Quartet on the Jelli Records stage (The best stage in my books!) prove why everyone is talking about this band. Their sample-led jazz owes a lot to Brian Eno and the addition of a Theremin always makes them a joy to watch as they create a sparse and tense, yet playful soundscape that never fails to amaze. Also of note on the Jelli stage were the captivating pianist, Daisy Chapman who played a rousing version of the Smashing Pumkins song, ‘Disarm’ &‘Poppy Perezz, who turned the cloudy skies dayglo with their upbeat and positive electro-funk songs. Their audience included a very tanned man in a multi-coloured mohawk wig supping copious litres of cider, looking very happy with himself whilst dancing the fandango. Need I say more.

As the evening draws in and sun hides itself again, the site lights up like a Christmas tree. Multi-coloured lights, lasers and dry ice fill every available space creating a mesmerising vista. Everyone seems to fly the freak flag, especially after dark when the glittered, spray-painted mutants come out to play. Major attraction, Dr Meaker, on the main stage manage to create a massive sound encompassing drum & bass and electronic genres with a wealth of instruments and talent on display. In fact, whilst I did enjoy the early evening hip hop from the inimitable Chester P of TaskForce, the night belonged to drum & bass as I was bewitched by the dark, industrial sounds of Technical Itch & DJ Producer on the Neverlution stage, not forgetting the masterful, soul-ridden grooves of Fabio & Grooverider on the WOC stage. I was so in-grossed in the flow and rhythm that I unfortunately missed main stage headliner, Toddla T, but the first day seemed a success & everyone I spoke to whilst wandering off site agreed it had been a spectacular success so far.

Sunday starts out as a far more subdued affair, with heads thumping too hard because of last nights indulgences, the crowd is far more sparse today but George Ezra on the main stage does his best to entertain the groggy-eyed who are mostly sitting on the grass. Ezra is creating quiet a buzz around Bristol and now further afield thanks to being recently signed to SONY. As I am sure he is aware, this is where the hard work begins. The jaw-dropping qualities of Ezra’s vocals, the delicate yet grizzly dance his tonsils add to his bright-eyed, yet darkly tinged lyrics. This singer’s affecting nature certainly gets the audience on side with his humble words and disarming smile. To capture such raw talent on the rise is a pleasure to watch and it’s what this event is all about. In years to come, he will be headlining events like this it seems.

The main stage held my attention for most of the day offering up an incredible selection of talent programmed by Factory Studios in Barton Hill. They are arguably the best rehearsal and recording space in Bristol but it’s their commitment to supporting and nurturing great talent that makes them stand out, both as active members & in helping to organise and sponsor events such as this. The Boxettes perform an impressive set, all created from the mouths of each of the five female members. Bad For Lazarus & Yes Sir Boss take the crowd into the evening, both played hi-energy sets that sounded fantastic on the exceptional sound system. Dry-Ice billowing amongst the pulsating gas lamps in the dark night, Spector surprise me with a stellar set of sing-a-long catchy tunes akin to The Vaccines. Their enigmatic singer, Frederick Macpherson, more than holds the audiences attention as his humour and powerful voice makes their set exceptionally enjoyable.

There is no doubt though, that Sunday night belonged to Primal Scream. Their psychedelic,  good time Rock ‘n’ Roll lit up the night with an impressive light show and they sounded every bit the legends they are. Bobby Gillespie is one cool motherfucker, whose deeply felt lyrics and ear for a hook make him one of the best front men – as good as Jagger. Other than the false start on, ‘Movin On Up’ , they are a tight outfit, nailing every song from, ‘Swastika Eyes’ to ‘Loaded’ & ‘Come Together’ they perform them all with flair and sass. Hands aloft, the crowd sing aloud the chorus’s creating a great moment of connectedness and unity. I am unable to run round the other stages to check out fellow headliners, DJ Zinc & Dynamite MC because Primal Scream  have got me transfixed, totally in the moment and loving the vibe and message of the tunes played. One last walk around the site after Primal Scream finish, taking in the atmosphere, and the scale of what Brisfest offers is truly astounding and for a non-profit ‘community’ event relying heavily on volunteers, it is testament to Bristol’s culture of co-operation that it is, what it is.

Here’s to many more.

All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.

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