Simon Arinze

L.O.V.E. is What the People of Bristol Wanted as Skindred Closed Out Day 1 of Bristol Sounds

Simon Arinze
Jun 26, 2024
13 min read

The days are long and the weather is (possibly too) warm, that can only mean one thing…..FESTIVAL SEASON BABY!!! 

This weekend saw the opening day of 2024’s edition of Bristol Sounds, a series of seven open-air mixed genre live music events taking place at the much-loved Canon’s Marsh Amphitheatre on Bristol’s Harbourside. Day One was curated especially for those with a particular taste for the heavier side of things, with Newport boys and “Ragga-Metal” pioneers Skindred headlining the event. But more on them later.

First of all, opening up the Main Stage, was local Alt-Metal outfit Mallavora, who seemed genuinely buzzing to be playing to, admittedly at this point, quite a small hometown crowd. They used their time onstage to not only treat us all to a well-polished, sub-genre bending set, but they also spent time highlighting awareness of access to live music for both disabled artists and fans alike. Having recently won Kerrang Radios 'The Deal' competition that netted them a slot on the Avalanche Stage at this year's Download Festival, and with their first single “Skin” produced by Skindred very own Mikey Demus (insert Charlie from Its Always Sunny conspiracy theory meme…. it's all connected), Mallavora are clearly an act that should be on our collective radars.

Out of southeast London, Kid Bookie was next, bringing his particular variety of Hip-Hop/Trap Metal/Rap Rock/Nu-Metal fusion to the Main Stage. Before things started he had to apologise to the parents in the crowd, letting them know that their kids would learn a few swear words today, what followed was a heavy yet grooving set (imagine Limp Bizkit meets Mushroom Head with a little pinch of UK Grime sprinkled on top), that had the crowd swaying away in no time. Shoutouts were given to Corey Taylor (the crowd were encouraged to shout loud enough that Corey, who was playing at the Isle of Wight Festival that weekend could hear us) before they performed “Stuck In My Ways” in which he features. With anecdotes about the extracurricular activities that he got up to in the city whilst he was at university, and a helpful fan in the front row pointing out that he may have been flying low, the ever-growing crowd was now officially well and truly warmed up.

Brighton-based anime-influenced Alt-Metal band Lake Malice then took to the Main Stage. The energy on display from guitarist Blake Cornwall, who was a whirlwind of jumps and spin kicks all over the stage, showed that he could not be contained by the confines of the stage alone, as he vaulted the barrier and made his way into the centre of the circle pitting crowd. Although Blake’s skill with six strings is in no doubt, it is Alice Guala’s vocal performance that is truly outstanding. Her transition between clean vocals into some truly face-melting harsh vocals had the crowd completely captivated. The way in which all of this amalgamates with the electronic elements of their soundscape and some unbelievably fierce drums, on this occasion provided by Emily Ainger, Lake Malice were definitely one of my highlights of the day and absolutely worth your time for a cheeky little listen.

On the back of their recent UK #5 album Halo Effect, the Devon-based Kris Barras Band were greeted by a crowd, now noticeably swelling in numbers. Fronted by former MMA fighter Kris Barras, commanding the stage with his sizable, unsleeved tattooed arms; but if you thought he was skilled at fighting people, just wait till you see him shred on guitar. During this 45-minute set, which treated those assembled to a romp of Blues adjacent Shoegaze-y Rock, riffs were plentiful, some of which were downright outrageous, with at one point  Frazer Kerslake provided a very Tim Henson-esq solo on his bass.

Into the early evening now and the sun is harsh and beaming down directly onto the Main Stage. A appears, with front man Jason Perry, sporting a full ‘Just Eat’ delivery driver uniform, insulated bag and everything.

Having been in the business since the mid 90’s, they know that their fan base is now slipping into the bracket of a particular vintage group. Perry orchestrated a 'walking pit' in the crowd, instructing fans to go slower than a jog but a little quicker than Captain Tom in his last days, which went down well with the gathered masses. 

The banterous back and forth continued as he slipped into full Corey Taylor mode, shouting for all of us 'maggots' to get down on the floor, before on the count of 3 …….just staying there and relaxing for a little while. There was also a brief interlude of football chat to fill some time, questioning Gareth Southgate's selection choices and the England team's overall performance at the current UEFA European football tournament, all whilst the audio techs frantically tried to fix an issue with Giles Perry’s keyboard/sampler set up.

With Jason’s voice now starting to strain, A closed out with fan favourite “Nothing”, arms were in the air, heads were banging and all were thoroughly entertained. How Jason managed to last the full 1 hour set in the heat whilst wearing his takeaway kagool may have been the most impressive performance of the whole day.

Keeping things rolling for fans of late 90’s/early 00’s Rock, next up were Glastonbury’s finest Reef, with Mr Gary Stringer himself, swaggering his way onto and around the stage with a coolness that I can only hope to one day achieve. 

The band's collective experience shone through with a super tight and thoroughly enjoyable set. Possibly their most recognisable hit “Raise Your Hands” featured towards the middle of their time on stage, but with a little twist in tempo which, although familiar, was a pleasantly fresh version.

By the end the crowd, who were now packed, in high spirits and in fine voice, were treated to a completely unrelated flypast of a couple of hot-air balloons advertising Somerset's own Thatchers Cider, things could not be more Bristol.

Then the main event Skindred, the boys from just down the road in Newport South Wales (area code 01633 in case you were wondering, frontman Benji Webbe made damn sure everyone on the night had that memorised), these pioneers fusing Reggae with Heavy Metal have been at this game with this current line up for over 20 years now. 

Tension was built in the crowd, the lights flared and the stage was bathed in red, before a remix of the Imperial March from Star Wars played as the band emerged one by one, finishing off with Benji (arguably the most charismatic frontman in metal at the moment) decked out in a black leather trench coat with the massive signature Union Black flag aloft, it was straight into the set proper with a heavy opening of “Set Fazers” followed by “Pressure” and “Rat Race”.

But it was not all heavy, the set included Reggae track “L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)”, an Acoustic rendition of “Life That’s Free” and a Dubstep remix of fan favourite “Nobody” before the initial closer “Gimme That Boom”.

There were anecdotes about Benji’s upbringing in Newport and his brother Clifford, his discovery of The Specials and how seeing Terry Hall and Neville Staple bringing white people and black people together, making music for people who 'want love and want life' and that ultimately inspired him to do the same. The messages of unity continued as Webbe introduced the Bristol masses to his band mates, “some are Welsh people, some are English people, but the best part is were all people” and speaking of friends and the pandemic and the struggles that we had all/are still going through, ultimately spreading a message of love.

The fans knew that we weren’t done yet, before the band was even back on stage, shirts were already off and raised in the air. Back for the encore, first was “Our Religion” before Gary Stringer of Reef and Kris Barras were brought back out onstage for the big finish of “Warning” and (wait for it bitches) the t-shirt twirling ‘Newport Helicopter’.

All in all Skindred presented us with an undoubtedly fun hour and a half of hits (both old and new), jokes, pantomime calls and responses and a plethora of hats, sunglasses and some mighty fierce jackets as Benji had the Bristol crowd in the palm of his hand. To paraphrase a Mr. Gary Barlow, today was my idea of a very nice day out.

The screen went into a soft focus and some ethereal flashback music starts playing.

Nestled between the Gyros Stand and the Noodle Bar of the street food/merch area of the festival site was the diminutive Second Stage, but as I've often been told “it's not the size that matters, it's how you use it” and the acts on showcase here proved in every part that they deserved to be on the bill around the corner.

For a very quickfire roundup of the goings on here:

First up, Tova brought a mixture of Metal and Emo, that pulled on elements of Jungle, Garage and Dubstep, to the early afternoon Bristol sunshine.

Then, four-piece and local lads Mother Vulture definitely won the award for the biggest performance on the smallest stage. The energy that those boys gave and in return the assembled crowd gave back to them was unreal. The vocal performance from Georgie Valentine is something that truly has to be witnessed in person. With spins, kicks and hair flips a plenty from Chris Simpson and Brodie Maguire on Bass and guitar respectively (I’m sure Matt West would have also got involved if he was not stuck behind the drums).

Another set of local lads, Bristol-based RXPTRS drew probably the largest crowd of the day for the Second Stage with their particular blend of Rock, Metal, Punk and Hardcore. A set that was complete with crowd surfing around and on top of the assembled picnic benches.

Finally, the poser from the northwest, Burnley-based Cody Frost came out two-stepping to close proceedings on the Second Stage.

Sadly logistics meant that I was only able to catch a snippet of a song or two from each of these Second Stage acts; I genuinely am gutted that I was not able to experience the full-length mayhem that was on show in that little corner of the festival, but that's just all of the excuse that I need to track them down again.

The Second Stage was bookended by Alt Music DJ sets supplied by Choker, providing the ambience for your cheesy chips or other street foods of choice.

With local bands Mallavora holding their own on the Main Stage and Mother Vulture and RXPTRS causing absolute havoc on the Second Stage, it is evident that the future of the Alternative Music Scene in Bristol is very bright indeed.

There are six more jam-packed days of rock, reggae pop and DJ acts taking place as part of the Bristol Sounds event through to June 30th.

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