The Downs festival returns to Clifton’s Downs this weekend for its second year, this time promising more of a fully-fledged day festival, where last year’s event seemed to fall somewhere between a festival and huge outdoor concert.
Headliners (and co-organisers) Massive Attack headlined with their first homecoming show in 13 years, and very likely the reason that online tickets sold out in two hours, with queues for physical tickets forming round the corner from 4.30am.
That’s not to say by any stretch that last year’s inaugural festival didn’t offer something brilliant for Bristol, and those of us who did arrive early got to enjoy a full day’s dancing and a shedload of fun. It was the unfortunate onslaught of rain that meant around 18,000 ticket holders didn’t turn up until 6pm – causing huge bar queues and a lot of complaining.
with the weather looking brighter and a more even keel of talent spread through the day, this year’s festival is definitely going to be a goodun’
But with the weather looking brighter and a more even keel of talent spread throughout the day, this year’s festival is definitely going to be a goodun’. Here’s are our key festival highlights to look forward to:
Elbow – Main Stage – 9.30pm – 11pm
While they might be yet to top their 2008 Mercury Prize-winning album Seldom Seen Kid, their phenomenal live show should be a bucket list item. And judging by their recent festivals setlists, there’s a very good chance of hearing some of their older stuff too.
Roni Size – Second Stage – 9.30pm – 11pm
Bristol legend Roni Size gives a different flavour over on the Second Stage, celebrating 20 years of Reprazent’s seminal New Forms, which also won the Mercury Prize in 1997 and helping mark the Bristol on the map as the UK epicenter of bass music.
Groove Armada (DJ set) – Second Stage – 7.30pm – 9pm
Dance music icons Groove Armada are also celebrating 20 years in the biz. In the two decades since the release of their debut album Northern Star (including their classic At The River), they have continued to shape and influence dance music to this day. Groove Armada’s set at The Downs is going to be a ‘funky house thing’, as they told us during a recent chat – read the full interview here.
David Rodigan – Second Stage – 6pm – 7.15pm
The MBE-awarded reggae selector and broadcaster never fails to get a crowd bouncing. Expect reggae and dub classics, along with cutting edge music coming right out of the heart of Jamaica, as well as a bit of dancehall, jungle and singed fingers (give him signal!). Read our interview with the living legend here.
Ibibio Sound Machine – Main Stage – 5pm – 6pm
Ibibio refers to the native tongue of the people of South East Nigeria, which is exactly how London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams recounts her folk tales along to a mesmerising electronic fusion of African and funk-laden, future disco sounds.
Mike Skinner (DJ set) – Main Stage – 4.30 – 6pm
Since retiring from The Streets in 2011, Mike Skinner has remained a big part of the underground club scene, DJing at raves around the country, as well as hosting his notoriously mental Tonga parties with Murkage (have a look at what happened when we gave them disposable cameras at Nass festival this summer). Skinner has also recently returned to the world of music making, both with Murkage under the guise Tonga Balloon Gang, as well as quietly releasing a new album a few weeks ago, under the name Darker The Shadow, The Brighter The Light.
Bristol Hi-Fi – Second Stage – 1pm – 3pm
Bristol Hi-Fi are back at The Downs this year, and we can’t think of a better way to start the day. Made up of Massive Attack’s Daddy G, Queen Bee, Mr Benn and Souls Liberation, they are a little known Bristol institution who know exactly how to get hips moving. Each drawing on their collective passions, they create a beautiful mashup of reggae and hip hop basslines, afro and latin beats, and rare funky grooves.
Also playing throughout the day and night will be Seasick Steve, De La Soul, Soul II Soul, The Districs, Keir, and Mad Professor. You can see the full lineup and set times here. Be aware that last entry is 8pm.
And finally, not forgetting the Information Stage – an area dedicated to political and social discussion, workshops and art – which is headlined by MOBO-award winning rapper and thinker Akala, who will be giving a talk on the history of the MC in hip hop.
Joining him are the likes of I, Daniel Blake director Ken Loach, slam poet finalist Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, who talks widely on issues of Islamophobia; The Revolution will be Televised co-writer and host Heydon Prowse, and many more. View the full Information Stage lineup here.