REVIEW: Levellers, Bristol Sounds, Harbourside

Levellers held a big day out for their fans at Bristol Sounds festival and we caught the sun and the bands, of course

Words: Delroy Hibbert, @crossingthedanny & Leon Riccio, @leonricciojourno

Images: Delroy Hibbert, @crossingthedanny & Ania Shrimpton, @ania_shrimpton

Gaz Brookfield 

Gaz Brookfield has the unenviable honour of opening the day or at least I thought until I get closer to the stage and see that Bristol has turned out pretty damn early for this one and despite the fact that gates have only been open for an hour he’s attracted a good turnout.

Gaz is a proud local to these parts and his songs and lyrics reflect a West Country narrative at times. He’s clearly a crowd favourite and most sing along with him. It’s hard to fill a large stage this early and on your own but he makes it seem like he’s the headliner not the first support act. DH

Gaz Brookfield Image: Delroy Hibbert, @crossingthedanny

Grandma’s House

Grandma’s House is another local act given their chance to shine this afternoon. The line up today is proving to be an eclectic one and this trio follow Gaz Brookfields solo singalong folky pop with an aggressive diy approach to punk that brings to mind Big Joanie and early riot grrrl. They are clearly not as familiar to the crowd as Gaz but well received all the same. DH

Grandma’s House. Image: Delroy Hibbert, @crossingthedanny

Goldie Lookin Chain

GLC made the short trip over the bridge from Newport. Being the best thing out of that city since they built the M4 they’ve brought a big crowd with them including a stag party dressed faithfully in the same style as the band which tbh have us fooled on arrival! They run through Soap Bar, Guns, You’re Missus Is A Nutter, Your Mother’s Got A Penis to the obvious delight of their fanbase in the audience.

Goldie Lookin Chain (L) and their fans (R). Image: Delroy Hibbert, @crossingthedanny

Personally, after 20 odd years I find the hip hop parody thing a little tiring especially as the band has obviously aged since their heyday and now resemble a bunch of middle aged dads who’ve formed a People Just Do Nothing tribute act. Sometimes however you have to admit you’re in the minority of opinion as the arms are in the air and people are singing word for word. DH

Peat & Diesel

Peat & Diesel are another new one for me. The three piece have probably travelled the furthest for today’s event having originated in the Isle of Lewis in Stornoway. The description Celtic Punk has been given to them early in their career and it’s pretty much accurate. It  takes a few songs to get the crowd but there’s a lot of energy in the amphitheatre and it’s not long before the crowd gets on its dancing shoes. DH

Black Grape

Apologies to The Levellers but this is the act I came for and everything else is a bonus. Black Grape have been around since 1993 when two legendary Shaun & Bez from The Happy Mondays linked up with Kermit & Ged Lynch from underground UK rap pioneers, The Ruthless Rap Assassins and other local Mancs.

Black Grape Image: Delroy Hibbert,

It’s my first chance seeing them though I still have their debut single Reverend Black Grape somewhere gathering dust and 30 years is a long time to wait. Like me, they are older and greyer now but still believe they’ve got it. 

Shaun after years of good (and not so good) living has been reduced to using an autocue to remember the lyrics of his songs for a while now but at least has upgraded from the rolls of paper he was using when I saw him with The Happy Mondays twenty years ago!

The two frontmen make up for this by involving the crowd in their good natured onstage banter between songs and showing with their performance that they still have the charisma they were known for even if a few brain cells were left behind in the 90’s.

Running through the standout songs from the first two albums and a few surprises the 45 or so minutes soon fly by and I for one am definitely left satisfied although still slightly regretting that I didn’t see them in action back when Shaun and I had hair and slim waistlines. DH

The Selecter

Ska royalty The Selecter, dressed to the nines despite the scorching heat, played a mix of fan favourites Three Minute Hero, Too Much Pressure, and On My Radio. interspersed with a few songs of their latest album Human Algebra, the off-note playing makes each song impossible not to dance along to.

Bristol Sounds Image: Ania Shrimpton, @ania_shrimpton

“Bristol has always been a special place to The Selecter. There used to be a cafe called Black and White cafe in St Paul’s,” singer Pauline Black tells the crowd before playing Bristol to Miami (written about the riots that broke out in both cities in April /May 1980), the melodic guitar underpinning the raspy sax and bouncing synths. 

And then, as if the crowd wasn’t won over already, the five-piece threw in a few covers of other ska classics such as Pressure Drop, James Bond and Train to Skaville to keep the party going before closing the 30 minute set. LR


The all-day event finally came to a head with closing act Levellers, taking to the stage just before 9.30pm and appearing in hand-sewn punk-patch outfits, kicking off the final performance of the day to the packed out crowd.

Levellers Image: Ania Shrimpton, @ania_shrimpton

The band played through their folk-punk politically-conscious discography including ‘Liberty Song,’ ‘What Matters Most,’ and ‘The Road,’ before frontman Mark Chadwick told the revellers: “This could be an awful mistake, but we’re letting the drummer loose.”

Moments later, the stage goes dark. Friend-of-the-band Stephen Boakes takes centre position and points a six-foot didgeridoo into the sky, glow-in-the-dark bands casting an outline of his limbs and the end of the whopping great instrument. 90’s dance-pattern drumming and reeling fiddle coalesce with the deep bass notes of the didge, getting more than three thousand attendees to boogie along to the strange instrumental.

Levellers Image: Ania Shrimpton, @ania_shrimpton

The band continued through the setlist for a handful more songs before ‘finishing’ surprisingly early with ‘Riverflow.’ Somehow, a mild-tempered call for an encore from a sunburnt and boozed-up crowd successfully coaxes the band back on. They play a few more hits (‘Another Man’s Cause,’ ‘Fifteen Years’), before closing on their best-known song ‘Beautiful Day’.

Despite the stage-audience interactions feeling a little stale, the crowd clearly loved the show. Half the punters were wearing Levellers merch they’d gathered over the years, sang along for great chunks of the gig, and danced along with their best attempt at an Irish jig. The Levellers clearly knew how to play the role of festival headliner and brought a well-executed close to the biggest day of the festival. LR

Leon Riccio is a freelance journalist who joined our team to share his love of music with our audience. More of his work can be found via his website. Delroy Hibbert is the Managing Director (or OG) of Freestyle Bristol and a DJ for the Crossing The Danny radio show on Noods.