Written by: Lily Fulvio-Mason
A somewhat grey and overcast day greeted Bristolians and festival goers alike at the gates of Forwards Bristol, fortunately enough this was not by any means a foreshadowing of the day ahead, but the naturally wet conditions of the South West.
For a festival debut, it was reassuring that they had all the usual hallmarks of an established day festival, a good number of trusty portaloos, an Instagram-worthy festival sign, a couple of main stages, and the obligatory overpriced food stalls.
The god-tier line-up, comparable to London’s All Points East, boasted an incredible billing spanning a variety of genres - although you’ll be very happy to hear that the sound quality was far better than the Vicky Park affair.
Fresh from her Colors Studio session, the South London-based rapper and label founder Shygirl entertained the early crowd. Performing her latest single pop-infused track ‘Nike’ off her forthcoming debut album Nymph, followed by a suitably camp and choreographed set from Charlie XCX.
After a tiny - yet bankrupting - portion of noodles that looked like they had been made in a year 7 food tech class, the psychedelic rock trio that is Khruangbin took to the stage and immediately lessened the bitter noodle residue. As their guitarist's thick Texan accent rang out across The Downs, the audience hugged their neighbours and pulled some very loose shapes to the likes of 'Time (you and I)' and 'Evan Finds the Third Room', with a dose of Snoop Dogg and Mariah Carey for good measure.
As predicted by the summer-long hype South London producer and DJ Fred again.. was one of the real highlights of the day. Attracting a headliner-worthy sized crowd, he humbly delivered a euphoric set bringing his debut album ‘Actual Life’ to actual life. As Fred’s hit track ‘Marea (We Lost Dancing)’ brought the audience to the epitome of elation, a North Londoner was waiting to take to the stage on the other side of The Downs.
Headlining the West Holts Stage at Glastonbury Festival, rapper Little Simz performed a career-defining set to thousands of festival goers, and she was back to conclude a summer of festivals on the one-year anniversary of her critically acclaimed album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. From the smile on her face, you could tell she was enjoying this more intimate performance but, as always, was delivering an immaculate set with the pure nonchalance of flicking the kettle on. Starting with ‘Introvert’ and its monumental intro, the entire crowd hung on tenterhooks before erupting as she made her way across the stage.
What followed was a captivating performance including spoken word, her biggest tracks including 'Woman' and 'Venom', and a walk through the crowd during '101 FM'. Simz is merely at the beginning of her career, and yet already feels like a national treasure.
Concluding the day was the driving force behind the electro-indie band The xx: Jamie xx. To many of the crowd’s surprise, the non-stop DJ set contained a minimal selection from his Grammy-nominated album In Colour. However, he expertly - and typically - found a way of filling his seamless 90-minute set with crowd-pleasing remixes that tied up the day rather nicely.
Dates for Forwards Bristol 2023 have yet to be announced, but for all the latest news and updates join the Forwards Bristol 2023 Waiting List here.