9th June | Exchange & Stag and Hounds
Photo: Simon Holliday
The strains of putting together a show of the magnitude of Triptych can have a significant impact on the way it pans out. With the number of acts set to play and unforeseeable difficulties that can arise, the overall feeling and identity of such an event can be lost in its eventual outcome as the day commences. Yet for Triptych, this is no such issue whatsoever.
Olanza have the obligation of opening the festival, and with their powerful and technically proficient instrumental set, they do so with relative success. Even with it being as early as it was, a small crowd begins to build as their set proceeds, the trio a tight and focused proposition that rely on the drums to be its central point. While the guitars may be slightly flat, for the rhythmic repetition they follow, they are commendably loose and exploratory.
The Ornsteins provide jittery and tender, lovelorn lo-fi tunes that are built live solely by Joe Groves through bright, chiming guitars looped with skipping, clear beats and dreamily woven, atmospheric vocals. While there are couple of unavoidable and understandable technical issues, the breadth of instruments that Groves crafts together on his own is impressive.
Sounding even sharper and fluid than their last headline set at The Exchange, Jesuits’ songs are brimming with electricity and eclecticism, sounding much more whole and in a good way, a little less impressionistic. Arthur rocks back and forth for the whole set emphatically. Lily’s basslines are ominous and looming, while Miles’ pinpoint drumming intrinsically explores its own space.
An incensed and brooding country rock band, Crewel Intentions do fit conveniently into the aggravated and inflated London scene, but certainly possess a keen sense of melody that embellishes their frustrated and exasperated tone. As a five-piece, their best trait is their harmonic unity, the group bawling through the highly compelling choruses.
Bo Gritz’s incessant and jarring post-punk clips through belligerent yet quite wonky riffs at a grooving and rhythmic pace. They incite the first real movement from the crowd of the day, the frontman spitting his lyrics with umbrage as the crowd really begin to engage with what they’re watching. Meanwhile, EBU‘s set in the upstairs of The Stag and Hounds is intimate and enigmatic, the maximalist and eclectic nature of their music harboured in such a minimal set-up remains seamlessly impressive. The tangible feeling behind their set really comes to the fore on a smaller stage, the humanity amongst the machinery increasingly evocative.
At times atmospherically spacious and reminiscent of the golden era of early 70s stadium-sized bands and then like adrenaline-fuelled garage-rock in others, Swedish Death Candy sound momentous and know how to use the space they afford themselves. While sadly also facing a slightly depleted crowd, the band aren’t afraid to throw themselves around a stage either, Jiwoon Whang hypnotised by his own rhythm as he crouches in a state of calm while playing the wildest of basslines.
For show number 28 of 64, EP/64 sound completely different once again from how they sounded supporting Lice recently – much more stripped back and quite minimal. There is a really rewarding groove to their sound, simply from the drums of Dan Johnson, while Dali de Saint Paul seethes with an erratic scream, weaving and torturing it around the rhythmic timing of the drums. What’s so great about the project is their creative ability. Dali is the core of each show, but with each different member, the show takes on an impressively cohesive nature. It’s completely engaging.
Due to the electricity powering out upstairs at the Stag and Hounds, The Exchange becomes host to an industrial-sized bill that showcases some of the most eclectic and heavily discordant acts currently around.
With only an intense white strobe illuminating them, Spectres return to Bristol as fiercely dense and as completely uncompromising as they always have been. They somehow sound even tighter than before; the rhythm that simmers underneath the blistering distortion becomes more prominent as the set continues. The Exchange suits their sound, defiantly clear and stark in its loudness. Joe Hatt’s low burr howls as if he’s reaching down in the depths, foreboding even when delivering lines with a murmur.
Settling in with a table of synths, off the stage at the front, AJA tears into some blistering techno, screaming into the mic as her voice oscillates. It’s cacophonous in an entirely different way from Spectres, yet shares the same rhythmic sentiment under waves of cataclysmic noise. It’s almost the most suitable warm up for Scalping, whirling uncontrollably throughout yet undeniably focused.
It’s important not to compare each Scalping show to its predecessor. Each diverse show demonstrates their raw quality. The group’s life-affirming set supporting HMLTD bounced at an unfathomable rate of knots, rhythmically, and was euphoric. This time around, they sound darker, more intense, and deliberately harsher, and for this offer another side to their personality, one which goes even further to cement them as Bristol’s most individual prospect. They are once again utterly arresting, yet in a much more foreboding way.
With Autobahn pulling out of the event, it only seemed fitting that LICE would jump in and headline the prime time slot of the day, pulling in the biggest crowd of the day at The Exchange quite comfortably. Teetering over the edge of the stage, Alastair incites wave after wave of movement with a swift, enticing beckoning of his hands as Gareth and Silas rumble around Bruce, who controls the ever devious tempo studiously. It’s sweaty, intense and exhilarating, something we perhaps need a little more of in life.
Despite bands dropping out close to the day and an unpredictable incident leading to a closure of one of the stages, the event was a joy to attend, cementing Gravy Train as not only one of the more enigmatic promoters in the city, but also one of the most reliable.