Review: Bristol’s Outer Town Festival – A Unique and Charming Day

Just beyond Bristol City Centre sits Old Market Street. Home to several kebab stores, antique shops and every April, Outer Town, the City’s Finest Festival.

On its tertiary edition, Outer Town Festival brought their most exciting lineup yet, importing a big turnout from across the South West and beyond. Getting the train up from Cardiff I met multiple other people on their way to the festival and spoke to people who’d come from London and beyond. Bristol is a city with a well respected, well rooted music scene and Outer Town was another opportunity for Bristolian alternative bands to display their talent, as well as play alongside some of the most exciting bands across the country.

Photo by Holly Bradley

The festival began in Trinity Centre. In a city of diverse venues, Trinity stands out for being an upcycled church towering over the bottom of Old Market Street. The festival was based in the Church gardens where the wristband exchange, a bar and a market of prints, clothing and food stalls were all set up. A few feet away from the market was the outdoor main stage packing in 500 people at max. To open the festival, Bristol Native Eve Appleton took to the stage and serenaded us with avant-garde folk, the sweetest possible opening to Outer Town.

On the polar opposite end of the road lies The Exchange, a three floor cult punk and hardcore venue in the city. After having a look around the record store on the top floor, I caught Milo’s Plane, a local art-punk band consisting of Fenne Lily guitarist Joe Sherrin. Despite it being 3:30 they packed out the exchange with a bashy but technical set, rounding it out with a platter of new instrumentals. Staying at The Exchange, Brighton’s Flip Top Head took to the stage in their masses using an eclectic range of instruments, a set of passionate narrative lyrics and their general charming presence to create one of the most impactful sets I caught. With new music coming soon, I strongly advise you to catch Flip Top Head over the summer.

Photo by Holly Bradley

Just up the street, you find The Stag and Hounds, one of Bristol’s oldest pubs sitting at over 500 years old. Rather ironically, Newcomers My First Time brought their fresh and irresistibly fun set to the packed-out pub. Lead singer Issac Stroud-Allen perfectly balances the messages of My First Time’s music with his mad Horrid Henry-esque stage presence, making for a wicked forty minutes. Back down at The Exchange, local hardcore heroes Knives brought the roof down with a max-capacity exchange. Despite lead singer Jay Schottlander finishing his 9-5 shift 5 minutes before the set, he rallied up a bumping mosh pit leaving a stench of sweat, my glasses in two pieces but mostly a very lasting impression. With an EP due next month, Knives don’t have any intention of halting their rise anytime soon.

Knives by Richard Mukuze

Up next, Cambridge’s finest Ugly. On The final night of their UK headline tour, Ugly brought it all in their set, playing songs from their hotly released debut EP ‘Twice Around The Sun’ along with road-testing new material. The new songs led by Jasmine Miller-Sauchella stood out with creative vocal performances supported by engaging crowd-work. Ugly ended with ‘I’m Happy You’re Here’, prompting a crowd sing-along with its ascension like outro resulting in a moving finish to the set. Back to Trinity Centre for Snapped Ankles who brought what felt like half of Bristol into Trinity’s tent with a boiling experimental set getting everyone moving. With abstract masks and undeniable character, Snapped Ankles made sure that their set would be talked about up and down Old Market Street for years to come.

Snapped Ankles

Lastly, I headed to Old Market Assembly, a beautiful venue usually reserved for weddings and formal events. Tonight was headlined by the mighty Deadletter. It’s no secret that Deadletter know how to put on a show, but with an epic hour and fifteen set, the London-Via-Yorkshire band displayed their status as born headliners creating a powerful set worthy of any main stage. With hits like ‘Binge’ and ‘The Snitching Hour’ proving a booming sing-along orchestrated by a jumping crowd. They also debuted some new material set for release in the next few months, setting up what seems to be another promising year for one of the greatest live bands in the country.

Outer Town Festival excels in the unconventional, from their impressive range of unique venues hosting an equally diverse set of artists, to the exclusive Outer Town-branded beer sold across the venues. Just like the old street it’s based on, Outer Town has a lot of heart and is an essential date in the calendar for any live music fan.

Header photo by Richard Mukuze

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