Love Saves The Day
Eastville Park, Bristol
Bristol has a long, rich and well documented lineage of purveying some of Britain’s best underground music. The heritage can be traced back through traditions of reggae, dub, punk, hip hop, trip hop, drum’n’bass, dubstep and the bass music of today.
Step out onto the graffitied streets of Stokes Croft on any given night of the year and it’s there, alive and well and annoying the neighbours. However, it’s during the summer months that the city truly comes to life. Over the past eight years, the gateway to the annual purple patch for the city’s student population, in particular, has been Eastville Park’s Love Saves The Day.
Although the rebelliousness that has come to define much of Bristol’s music tradition is thin on the ground – everywhere you look over the ensuing two days the hallmarks of glitter, 2019 chic and boys in bucket hats are in abundance – the various strands of Bristol’s artistic identity have found their home here.
For homegrown Bristolians and resident students alike there were familiar names playing and showcasing. On Sunday, DJ Die’s Gutterfunk label presented the idyllic Lost Gardens stage, dousing the prayer flag daubed hippy sanctuary in his and his friends’ trademark jungle, dubstep and drum’n’bass for eight hours straight. The DJ and producer who has become a defining voice of the ‘Bristol sound’, continued that lineage with a line up including the likes of Addison Groove and Randall & Breakage.
Similarly, Bristol’s Hold Tight Records hosted the Brouhaha stage on Sunday to showcase some of their favourite dub and soul. On the same stage, one of the city’s foremost clubnights Futureboogie exhibited the kind of lineup – which included Orpheu The Wizard and Palms Trax – that has seen them become standard bearers for a house music revival in the city.
Although the city of Bristol was richly represented across the two days, it’s the sheer breadth and quality of the line up from every corner of Britain and Europe that turned Love Saves The Day from a local event into something national.
On Saturday’s Paradiso stage, London’s rising DIY star Chelou played through his gauzy and hypnotic ‘Out of Sight’ debut early on before being followed by a who’s who of experimental British rap and dance music.
Across the ensuing hours, a raucous Flohio blasted through a riotous set of cuts taken largely from last year’s Wild Yout EP. Hailing from Bermondsey, Flohio – real name Funmi Ohio – exhibited through her stage intensity the reason she’s been called one of Britain’s most vital voices.
With a brief lo-fi house interlude from Brainfeeder’s Ross From Friends, further searing rap came in the form of Kojey Radical, who made his name in 2016 with his socio-politically charged 23 Winters mixtape, and – most notably – Slowthai.
For those still unaware of Slowthai’s eruptive ascendency, a slew of single releases since 2018 and his crescendoing, 17 track debut LP ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ has seen the seismic Northampton rapper – real name Tyron Frampton – become arguably the most hyped artist in the country.
Only two days before his set at Love Saves The Day, the album reached number 10 in the charts on the same day that Theresa May was leaving Number 10 Downing St. It’s poetic for an album that brutally critiques Britain, Brexit, rising inequality, social mobility and life in the working class. Coming off the back of a tour where he was selling tickets for just a fiver, Slowthai was in imperious form.
Scrambling hysterically across the stage from start to finish, Slowthai creates one of the most cognisant connections between the traditions of rap and punk here in the UK, both on wax and on stage. The intensity found on his guttural, biting and venomous debut LP is replicated tenfold live and he had the packed crowd of seemingly similarly disaffected youngsters enraptured. Elsewhere on the mainstage, more barbs were being flung in the same direction from a different artist altogether, as Lily Allen dedicated her 2009 hit ‘Fuck You’ directly to Theresa May.
For those pining for something they recognised from the past, London’s Channel One Sound System dub selectors, who have their legacy as far back as the early 70s, took full control of the ‘Teachings in Dub’ stage across the weekend. There was more nostalgia with jungle specialists Shy FX, David Rodigan and a RTRN II Jungle masterclass featuring Brockie & Det and General Levy.
Although the true beating heart of Bristol’s music tradition lives in the city on a nightly basis, Love Saves The Day coherently boils it down; placing the city’s music stalwarts at centre stage at the same time as providing space for the leading lights of Britain and Europe. As a gateway for summer hedonism in Bristol, it’s hard to find anything better.
Review Sam Willis