It’s good to see this sort of thing at Bristol’s harbourside. Apart from the Harbour Festival, which is always more of a family-friendly event, I don’t remember there being much like the We, The People festival since the Grolsch Summer Set came to the Floating Harbour in 2004.
That year, we were treated to Massive Attack, Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx over three nights from Monday to Wednesday. We, The People was a weekend affair, similar in terms of crowd numbers but with a fair-sized tent to complement the main stage in the Lloyds Amphitheatre.
Still, there didn’t quite seem enough people to warrant both arenas. The tent was practically empty at the crescendo of the first night, with just a handful of people choosing to dance under cover away from the open air set from Chase & Status. Indeed, word had it that a last-minute change of heart by the organisers saw the planned three stages cut down to just the two.
Maybe ticket prices were keeping people away. On the door tariffs of £40 plus booking fee for each night does seem a bit pricey, especially given that Ashton Court Festival used to be free for so many years. But there was a decent-sized crowd, even braving the bad weather on Sunday.
Saturday’s headline act Chase & Status played an enjoyable and were plenty loud enough, with a good mixture of ambient and harder drum ‘n’ bass and enough hits to keep the crowd going throughout.
It was a slight shame not to have had an encore; I guess rules and regulations dictate. And I’m not sure a drum kit alongside two DJs and an MC constitutes “live” drum ‘n’ bass. Not quite Reprazent, for example. Even some more live vocals could have changed this set from a good one, into something better.
Apart from the ever-eclectic Annie Mac, who warmed up the crowd before Chase & Status, the highlight of the day was Bristol’s favourite Harbour Festival stalwart DJ Derek. Capturing the mood of the afternoon perfectly, with a refreshing degree of irreverence, the tent was fuller for his set that at any other point in the day.
Sunday was blighted by the weather, especially during the rain which pelted down for an hour or so around 8pm. People headed for shelter under the tent, only to be prevented from entry by the stewards. Fair enough, but things reached the bizarre scenario whereby, after the rain had eased off and the tent started to empty, five stewards were preventing a tiny group of about 30 wet people from joining The Gaslamp Killer’s party – an inventive mish mash of 60s rock with breakbeat samples. Born decades too late for Woodstock, I never thought I’d get to see Jimi Hendrix’s Burning Of The Midnight Lamp played in concert. Almost as good as the real thing.
Roots Manuva’s set lived up to the pre-gig billing as one of the weekend’s big draws and Lee Scratch Perry was another of the tent-based highlights.
This was a good event, not great, with room for some thought and improvement. Hopefully we’ll have something similar – better, even – to enjoy next year.
Review by Rupert Janisch