FREESTYLE BRISTOL

At The River

Libby Smith goes Superstylin’ at the first night of the Siren Festival with Groove Armada and friends.

Words & photos: Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

Friday had finally rolled around, I’d left work and was eagerly making my way to the beautiful Bristol Harbourside whilst the sun gently beamed through the clouds. Nothing could spoil the mood of the day, and it was hard not to sense the excitement in the atmosphere building up to Siren Festival gracing the Amphitheatre that night, with incredible acts such as Scarlett O’Malley, Huey Morgan and the one and only Groove Armada.

Siren Festival. Image: Libby Smith

The usually quiet area of the harbour had once again been transformed into something magical, with food stalls, bars, and of course two dazzling stages, and as I watched the gates open at 5pm, the Amphitheatre slowly began to fill with smiles. As people excitedly connected, drank, ate and danced, the wonderful sounds of Scarlett O’Malley began to flow through the air. Based in London, Scarlett is nothing short of a jack of all trades; not only is she an impeccable DJ, but is also known as a podcaster, radio presenter and journalist. Her collection of atmospheric disco and soul hyped everyone up for the rest of the evening as she effortlessly raised the bar for those playing after her.

Scarlett O’Malley. Image: Libby Smith

During O’Malley’s unrivalled soul selections, I ventured around the festival to find some food, swayed by the heavenly smells floating from the various stalls. Deciding on a burger from the wonderful Burger Bear (which was quite possibly the best burger I have ever eaten), I still wished I had a stomach large enough to sample everything that there was to offer, from chicken, to falafel and curries, there was enough choice for everyone to enjoy. 

Running back to the main stage, food in both hand and mouth, the time had come for the legendary Huey Morgan. Growing up to the sounds of Huey in the band the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, I was just as excited as everyone else for a set of hip hop, funk, and all of Huey’s New York flavours.

Huey Morgan. Image: Libby Smith

I took to the pit to get some photos, and it was easy to see that every single song chosen by Huey was perfect, as I watched the crowd jump, scream and sing every single song word for word as the classic hip hop bangers radiated from the speakers. His charisma, paired with the finest 90’s and 2000’s sounds, meant this was easily one of the best sets I had experienced in terms of atmosphere and vibe. 

Honing his craft on his own show on BBC Radio 6 Music as well as in the group he was the frontman for, there’s no doubt that Huey’s DJ skills have become almost unreal by now, and as he played his final song, there was not a single person that wasn’t smiling ear to ear, now hyped up for the headliner.

Siren Festival. Image: Libby Smith

Sofa Sofa, DJ Marns and Fly Fox took to the second stage running up to the final headlining set, and spread all the good vibes onto those eating, relaxing and enjoying some time away from the main area, which was quickly filling up with excitable people. Each of these DJs let their own tastes spill through the speakers, and it was hard not to dance in the sunshine along with them, feeling like you were in a small hidden paradise.

Sofa Sofa. Image: Libby Smith

DJ Marns. Image: Libby Smith

The incredible talent from these three artists, combined with O’Malley and Huey, made everyone want to wander from stage to stage all night until the final act came on. Soon enough, the clock hit 9pm and it was time to rush to the Amphitheatre for the iconic Groove Armada.

Siren Festival. Image: Libby Smith

People quickly flooded the main stage, and everywhere you looked Groove Armada merch, glitter, sparkles, and lots of excitement filled the air. I once again took my position at the pit, and found that my fellow photographers were equally as excited. 

The lights dimmed, and then radiated again as the crowd erupted into claps and cheers, and each member of Groove Armada made their way to the stage, and that entire hour and a half was nothing short of magical from start to finish. 

It was incredible to see the talent coming from each individual member of the band whilst they played their instruments on stage, and it made it clear why they are one of the most successful bands of all time, and why this year they are celebrating 25 years since their debut.

Groove Armada. Image: Libby Smith

Each song hit the crowd just right, bringing out laughter, tears, and pure happiness from those reliving their best years through each classic that the band performed. This was apparently the last UK tour for the popular band, so the emotions coming from both the artists and the crowd could be felt all night, and it was obvious that this was something special. 

Their stage presence couldn’t be described as anything else other than beautiful, with three vocalists for the night rotating for different songs that varied in genre whilst the band showed off their astounding instrumentals.

Groove Armada. Image: Libby Smith

There was pop, soul and dub radiating from each singer, allowing the band to reach each and every person in the crowd with their array of songs, such as the dance classic, I See You Baby followed by the much slower At The River and then the dub anthem Superstylin. Moving to the back of the crowd, there was not a single person that wasn’t jumping by the end of the night, and just like everyone else, I left Siren Festival beaming with joy. 

Throughout the entire night at this event, each DJ absolutely nailed their set, making every second an incredible experience. Having the opportunity to see Groove Armada and Huey Morgan, as well as finding some new artists and being able to take pictures at the same time, I truly felt like I was living the dream, and I cannot recommend Siren Festival enough for any future events they may hold.

Groove Armada. Image: Libby Smith

Have a listen to Groove Armada’s latest release in our Freestyle Finds playlist