Louder Than War were at the inaugural Fear Of Fiction festival in Bristol on Saturday, a new festival geared towards music discovery & centred around the Stokes Croft area of the city. The Haxan Cloak was always going to be a highlight of the day but what the rest of it? Read on to find out.
We like our music festivals in Bristol. In fact, we like our music festivals so much that when Fear Of Fiction (website hosters, promoters, listings mag publishers & all round heroes of the local scene) announced an addition to the many festivals already well established in the city (which include (deep breath) dot2dot, simple things, brisfest, love saves the day, deadpunk, the folk festival, harbourside, pride, vegfest, womad, st pauls etc) no one batted an eye or questioned if there was room for another.
I very nearly didn’t bother getting a ticket for this festival coz it clashed with the official album launch of Bristol’s favourite roots reggae son’s Black Roots & despite the fact that the digidub scene in the city is really strong there’s very little opportunity to see live roots reggae in Bristol. But then I saw The Haxan Cloak’s name on the bill & as it’d been way too long time since I’d last had my soul razed to the ground (The Haxan Cloak’s speciality) I went the FOFF route.
My personal itinerary (which I’d uncharacteristically well preparedly compiled beforehand) started off with Spectres b2b We Are Romans b2b Gumm b2b Velcro Hooks. But like the bad time keeping fuckup that I am I arrived too late to see any of them. I hear they were all ace though & & my feelings of guilt about missing them are a tad tempered by the fact that I’ve already mentioned 3 of the 4 in these pages before.
Despite the fact that the festival was scattered around 10 venues all within easy walking distance of each other I still wound up on my fixie quite a lot during the day. So as soon as I had my wristband I hied it off up the hill to The Croft to catch the tail end of the brilliant Yes Rebels set in the front room. It was 4.30 & the room was packed as I squeezed my way in – a testament to the bands reputation locally. ‘Throbbing’ was the word that came to mind as I settled down, both the band & the general atmosphere. The two songs I saw them rip through were a brilliant start to the day. Within seconds the pulse was racing as the band blasted out their energetic, fuzzed up but traditional rock n roll. They were obviously having a great time & managed to marry ‘relaxed’ & ‘tight’, with competent ease.
The main room at the Croft was an oddity. Three times I went in there in the course of the day & each time I quite quickly got bored & left. So after the first of these occurrences I hopped over t’road to Cafe Kino for a bit of smooth, laid back, “perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon” jazz courtesy of Jilk. Turned out it was also perfect music for a buzzing Saturday afternoon too. Chilled sounds to bob about too, I was especially impressed with the wonderful flautist (cum electric whisk playing) member of the band who brilliantly took total control of one of the songs, a song that sent the heart skipping.
Back to the front room of the Croft now for FOF favourites The St Pierre Snake Invasion. Scuzz and grunge but hints of ‘billy’. Stoppy starty scuzzabilly. A band born to play live with a lead vocalist who prefers to party down with the punters rather than hang about on the stage & who doesn’t even think to ask whether it’s too soon to sing songs about Jimmy Saville, but rather just ploughs straight into it while stroking random audience members hair / heads as they were leaving the room. A good times band.
After my second failed attempt to enjoy a band in the main room of The Croft I was back on the fixie & went down to The Attic. You’ll remember when I reviewed Simple Things that I caught the tail end of The Naturals set & was mighty impressed? Well, this time I saw the whole of their set & was, if anything, even more impressed. After the Simple Things gig I was left wondering if they were a one trick pony. Mainly coz I only saw one song. They aren’t. They’re part of bunch of cool new Bristol bands intent on taking the sound of guitar bands in a different & exciting new direction. When I first saw them live they were teetering on the cusp of being “just another guitar band” and “just another guitar band with some interesting little tricks up their sleeves”. They’ve progressed now though to the point where they’re now teetering on the cusp of being “just another guitar band with some interesting little tricks up their sleeves” and “a really impressive band stretching the boundaries of what a guitar band can do”. They’ve grown up in other words, grown up & learnt some new skillz, skillz centred around subtle but effective use of effects boards / pedals & distortion which underlie & warp the classic looping meandering song structures that are what first strike you about the band when you start listening to them. Swaying / dancing is obligatory & despite the fact that I desperately wanted to leave midway coz I thought I was missing The Haxan Cloak I couldn’t tear myself away from their masterfully tempered attack of the sonics. Definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Fortune was on my side coz the Lakota were running late! This meant that not only had I not missed The Haxan Cloak but I also had the chance to check out shimmery electropopsters Baskerville In Lakota 2 & shimmery electropopsters My Tiger My Timing in Lakota main. I’ve been wanting to see this dude for ages now. The Haxan Cloak was the festival’s incongruity. Looked at in the general context of all the other artists he shouldn’t have been on this bill. The venue couldn’t have been more appropriate it being cold, stark, harsh, empty & metallic it mirrored THC’s dark, dissonant, jarring, music perfectly. If you aren’t familiar with THC imagine the most soul destroying music you can think of then imagine something that makes that sound like The Birdy Song. THC’s music works best if you can let yourself go & get sucked into it. It’s desolate & grinding & frankly it reduced me to a shell. I was totally lost, rapt in the oppressive, crisp, crashing beats which were pulsing through the room. The one moment I managed to pull myself out of the hypnotic drag of the music & glance around it seemed everyone was doing the same as me, hands thrust in pockets body maniacally swaying. The music finished & I staggered towards the bar to try & figure shit out. I didnt really figure much shit out but I did decide that from now on in I’m gonna refer to him as “The Motherfucking Haxan Cloak”.
Whereto for from here you ask? Well, inevitably downwards coz, like, you can’t follow shit like that, but the evening still held some treats in store. Or it did after my third (and final) attempt at the main room at the Croft. From there I went to see possibly the least appropriate band you could want to see after The Haxan Cloak, Minotaur Shock. Inappropriate it may’ve been but by dint of that very fact ideal at the same time. A very entertaining blast of electronic fun is what was waiting for me down in Cafe Kino’s basement. We danced & people laughed & it was all a bit twee & jolly & therefore lifted any remaining doomful fug still sat squat on my innermost self following THC. Big ups to Minotaur Shock then. The placed was packed & although the music came across as a bit scrappy at times (& inevitably a lot of it was courtesy of backing tracks (‘inevitably’ coz being a human being the guy only has two arms right?)) it was total & utter unmitigated funtimes.
Damn though, coz I was enjoying The Minotaur Shock so much I only went & missed the start of Mugstar! Fuck the fact that the Croft was running perfectly on time! Mugstar, anyway, were sublime. Powerful psychedelic soundscapes building & crashing all around the front room of The Croft. Fierce, intense & expansive they rocked through their 30 minute set in what felt like 2 minutes so much fun it was. As their sound is Kraut rock inflected they inevitably demand the use of the word “motorik” but their’s is one of the most muscular examples of motorik beatyness that you’re likely to hear. Champion.
Next up my first trip of the day to The Cube for a sit down, a film & some music c/o the ever busy Geoff Barrow. I was actually there to see Anthropomorph who I’d really been really looking forward to see but I guess it wasn’t to be. Not to worry, last minute drop outs happen at music festivals I guess. The film was an industrial version of one of those swish ads you sometimes see that demonstrate the domino effect taking place in a real life scenario (like this Lynx ad). A series of actions & reactions progressing through a sparse warehouse with a similarly sparse backing track of industrial sounds helmed by geoff barrow. It started out pretty simple (the visuals) but got more & more ingenious to the point where people ended up laughing in wonderment at it all. The movements were fueled purely by the use of natural forces, gravity in the main, but triggered in various exciting & ingenious ways. A fascinating break from the days festivities & a welcome few moments sat down / not dancing.
Next up I hurried down to the Motorcycle Showroom where I was hoping to catch the final few moments of TOY’s set but was lucky enough to find they were running late so I got to catch most of their set! And got the chance to reflect on the fact that if ever there were a band that had been squirted out of a PR / marketing teams toolbox this was it. I’m probably being terribly harsh & I know I have a massive distrust of any hyped band but overall I felt a bit like people have been trying too hard to get us to like them. Witness also Savages. Both bands, TOY & Savages, are perfectly adequate & perfectly deserving of success and under different circumstances I may like them. But as much as the next band not more so. Having said all that I stayed till the end of their set & I danced a bit & kind of enjoyed myself.
And my final band of the day was 3 Trapped Tigers over at The Attic again. A great way to end the night, the place was heaving with people again all bouncing away to the bands largely vocal less mix of heavy rock & electronica. Driving & forceful at times but blended with slower more reflective moments. I think people were a bit drunk by now (in the main) & the atmosphere was bubbling & vibrant, so I’m imagining the fact that these guys are astonishingly brilliant musicians slipped past most people’s ken. But what probably didn’t slip by everyone’s attention though will have been how ace it all was.
I bailed then but the music carried on till 4am in the clubs partaking in the festival. So a massive ‘congrats’ to all at Fear Of Fiction. And a smaller congrats to me for heroically getting to all the stages (except fpr Lakota 3 only opened after midnight). This was an astonishing performance by FOF considering it was their first ever festival. It ran super smoothly & the bill was brilliant. Personally I’d have liked a stage jointly curated by Dead Chemists x Sabotage Promotions as the cities hardcore scene’s so fucking ace atm but hec, that’s me. Overall a cracking day.