Review: Scaler, Fat Dog and more @ Simple Things Festival 2024

Press photo of SCALER by Sandra Ebert

SCALER by Sandra Ebert

It’s great to have Simple Things Festival back.

After a long break, the Simple Things Festival returns to Bristol in a new slot.

Where previously the festival took place in October, due to the city’s now bulging music schedule (Ritual Union, Outer Town and Dot2Dot are slated for the preceding months) it’s now found a new home in February.

It’s a shame the event has had to make way, for its rich heritage alone deserves better: the last iteration included sets from A Certain Ratio, Squid, Big Joanie and a certain Andrew Weatherall.

Taking place across six distinct locations, the 2024 version spans the genres. Local band Spectres fill the SWX with their incessant, brooding doom rock; all feedback and delays, like a grizzled version of The Jesus And Mary Chain. Abstract music full of nihilistic despair, it’s a gloomy but vital way to start proceedings.

Over in the main room of the recently reopened (and renamed) Bristol Beacon, Wu-Lu’s offerings are more frenetic, if equally as punk.

The Brixton musician is a favourite in Bristol, and his fusion of hip hop and rock has undergone some changes since the release of his debut Loggerhead in 2022.

Where the stage used to be filled with unrestrained chaos, he and his band have reined in the stage antics for a more considered approach, possibly a result of turnover in personnel (today’s drummer is usually on guitar). However, the effectiveness and power of the music remains.

Like them all, the delight of Simple Things Festival lies in discovering something new. Stepping out of the main room into the Beacon’s foyer (dubbed the Bridgehouse stage) shortly after Wu-Lu finishes, your reviewer stumbles across Ziyad Al-Samman, who quickly takes the title of Highlight Of The Day.

With only a backing track, the self-professed ‘habibi music maker’ is barrels of fun, with offerings of uninhibitedly-camp pop music getting the audience (which at least triples in size across the half-hour slot) fully on board and bouncing.

One of Bristol’s newer venues, Strange Brew hosts post-punk band Ditz, whose insolent sneer is fun in its own way, singer Cal Franci’s withering indifference to the crowd and the event offset by the passion of the music, while The Bug Club – who are presently recording their 1001st album, or so it seems – display more willing and charm over at SWX.

A quick jaunt over to Rough Trade to see Honesty’s slinky electronica is the perfect soundtrack as the night draws in, vocalist Imi Holmes’s glee at performing at odds with the moody ambience, but a delight nonetheless.

Fat Dog are likely to be ubiquitous in 2024, and it’s clear to see why: their dance-punk tunes such as All The Same are tailor-made for festivals, and a rapturous crowd shows no sign of flagging 10 hours into the festival.

The unfamiliarity of most of the material doesn’t stop them, and once that’s remedied things bode very well for the South Londoners.

Over in the main hall, last-minute replacement headliners Scaler show no signs of rustiness in their first gig for a couple of months. Their industrial electronica slices through the Main Hall irrepressibly, cementing their place at dance-rock’s top table alongside the Prodigy.

With a diverse lineup offering something for everyone, it’s great to have Simple Things Festival back.

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