I never thought I’d start this review by writing ‘It’s 2am and Charlotte Church is sporting a wedding dress and singing ‘Ignition’ by R Kelly.’ But here I am and I’ve written it. Even as it’s happening in front of me it feels a bit like a fever dream rather than the end of Simple Things. But no – there she is and she’s now singing ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials. There is an equally joyous surreal feeling in the crowd watching on in the foyer of Bristol’s Colston Hall. Everyone seems to be on each other’s shoulders. There is a swirl of people with their tops off and shirts being swung around heads.
“Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte fucking Church,” the crowd had chanted as they waited for the bride to arrive. Her set has already provided the thrills of the best every jukebox, zigzagging through renditions of ‘Don’t Let Go’ by En Vogue, ‘Lovefool’ by the Cardigans and ‘Hometown Unicorn’ by Super Furry Animals and ending with a glorious version of the Ghostbusters theme tune.
It epitomises what has been a brilliantly surreal and diverse line up, a mash up of indie, hip-hop and electronica, with all the jagged pieces somehow fitting together. It starts at 2pm in a disused fire station and the sirens of the cut n shut, Oneohtrix Point Never glee of Iglooghost (his music is tagged “cereal hop” on SoundCloud). He looks so young it looks like he’s won a competition to play at the festival but his blast of itchy techno wakes us up. He’s replaced on stage with four mean wearing what look like LED ice hockey masks, reworking the back catalogue of bandleader Tom Jenkinson, otherwise known as Squarepusher. This is Shobaleader One, gear shifting virtuosos whose fidegty jazz and fusion-esque bass acrobatics continues the breakneck sonic assault.
Jessy Lanza feels like a palette cleanser, managing to soothe our ears despite some initial sound problems to deliver her dreamy electro-pop, before Dream Wife whip us up again with a ferocious set in a tiny room above a pub. The deceptively sized and painted room is packed, sweat drips from the walls. “Thank you for joining us in this sweaty room of optical illusion,” says Rakel Mjöll. ‘FUU’ is a stand out, with its ‘Gonna fuck you up’ refrain and Spice Girls breakdown.
The next two hours are a blur of running around Colston Hall trying to fit in as many acts as possible: Anna Meredith has heeded the memo for uptempo thrills, the thumping bombast of Nautilus shaking the Lantern. Back in the main hall Warpaint remain the coolest gang in the world and the tracks from the new album hypnotise and enthrall. Suuns, cloaked in shadows of the Lantern and backed by huge inflatable letters spelling out their name, are mastering their dark electronic grooves, and it ends with the mighty ‘Arena’ and ‘Pie IX’.
It’s clear from the start Death Grips mean business. From the very first minute the pit is a swirling mass of bodies. They blast through ‘Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching)’ and ‘Bubbles Buried in This Jungle’ as people crash into each other. It’s a pummelling, riotous set, only highlighted by the fact that the house lights remain on – you can see carnage taking place, the old Hall shaking in its foundations.
After all of that you get the feeling the organisers of Simple Things realised the only way to round all of this off was to have the Voice of an Angel to sing a mash-up of Rage Against The Machine and Destiny’s Child.