Fran Pope reviews Bristol Beacon’s annual Bristol Takeover, the music and poetry festival celebrating up and coming bands, DJs, artists and poets. We showcase Fantastic Stranger, Irish Mellow and Cxption, Kutamba, Dreamwave, Quade, Iman West and Dash.
Words and Images: Fran Pope
Fantastic Stranger, Irish Mellow x Cxption
Jazz trio Fantastic Stranger were holding the Level 1 bar immersed when I arrived at the Beacon around 3.30 p.m. An already-substantial crowd of listeners were deep in the groove, vibing with the band’s fluttering beats, rich bass tones and fluid, jazzy sax. Under blue and purple lights, the musicians – who, incredibly, only have a handful of gigs under their belt so far – emanated poise and cool confidence, with a sound to match.
Irish Mellow and Cxption
Down on the Foyer stage, vocalist Irish Mellow (Olamiposi Ayorinde) introduced his six-strong band of collaborators, this time on saxophone, bass, trumpet, guitar, drums and keys – although, as he explained, Cxption is a revolving line-up that changes for each show. Not only that, but their performances are entirely improvised. On paper, this set-up sounds more or less like an on-stage experiment, but the collective gelled beautifully, with the harmonious, in-step lilting of the sax and trumpet a real highlight. Ayorinde’s improvised lyrics had a crisp, poetic flow. To warm applause all round, he even slid into his rhymes a note of appreciation for Big Jeff, who was back in his rightful place at the front of the crowd.
Irish Mellow x Cxption
Irish Mellow x Cxption
Poetry at the Terrace bar
I caught a few of the poets performing upstairs at the Terrace bar, just about making themselves heard over the music from Level 1. Iman West, who is part of the Shiiku poetry collective, shared her powerful work about her Pakistani heritage and her experience as a mixed-race person, as well as the much more light-hearted “If Relationships Were Shits.” Next up, Bristol poet Dash brought a visceral energy to the stage with his pieces confronting toxic masculinity, mental health and the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, with our location (Bristol Beacon being formally called Colston Hall) lending added poignancy to his closing line, “Colston will not be the last to fall.”
Poets Iman West and Dash
The uplifting rhythms of Kutamba’s Zimbabwean music were hard to resist, and I headed back to Level 1 where the steadily growing audience was a testament to the band’s joyful energy. With previous gigs at the Trinity, Jam Jar and Lansdown in Bristol, as well as Komedia in Bath and private events, Kutamba certainly aren’t new to their craft, and their knack of lighting up the room and getting feet moving seemed to come naturally. If there was a prize for the band – and the crowd – visibly having the most fun, Kutamba get my vote.
Over stomping beats, yearning synth and guitar riffs oozing reverb, Dreamwave’s two vocalists took turns leading a glistening selection of psych pop numbers. Heavy drums and rattling tambourine were cut with the pastel hues of summertime psychedelia, and the glow of the strung-up lights felt like a throwback to warm days past. Formed in Brighton, the now-Bristol-based band – Hester, Alex, Benjamin and Grant – have two singles, sell-out launch shows, and several gigs in Bristol and Bath behind them. Catch them at Mr. Wolf’s on December 1 – tickets here.
Ambient alt-rock band Quade are familiar faces on the Bristol gig circuit, and they’ve been steadily building a following since they formed pre-lockdown. In the absence of usual drummer Leo, stand-in Henry capably took up the rhythm section, with regular members Tom, Matt and Barney on violin, synth and bass/vocals respectively. Having seen Quade play in a number of venues, I was curious to see how their immersive sound would feel in the cavernous Beacon foyer. In fact, with listeners lining the stairs and upper walkways as well as those in the foyer itself, the multi-level space seemed to fit well: the darkly glittered ambience of their strange, commanding music unfurled all the way up through the levels.
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