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Whether it’s shifting an entire country’s musical culture by pioneering trip-hop, shaking basements citywide with speedy drums and bass, or even producing one of the heaviest post-punk outfits in the UK, Bristol’s gravitational pull is so weighty that, for the first edition of brand-new festival FORWARDS, last weekend saw a line-up of heavyweight music titans land in the city for the two-day event.
From emerging pop stars to the most entrenched of rave legends, FORWARDS is a festival that welcomes all. You can even bring your kids, should they be precocious enough to spin tracks from Kojey Radical, Sudan Archives and Boiler Room’s beloved TikTok superstar, Fred Again. And despite a typically overcast sky threatening to throw everything into disarray, the likes of Shygirl and Charli XCX succeeded in keeping spirits buoyant, commanding total power over an awestruck audience
Across the festival site, Khruangbin provided a mellow and groove-filled alternate to all this frenetic energy, followed shortly by the aforementioned Fred Again, a multi-instrumental talent who can DJ, keyboard, sing, write, remix and probably juggle if you asked him to. FORWARDS also played host to intimate talks from the likes of Travis Alabanza, Shon Faye and even Liverpool football icon John Barnes, harnessing the power of live events to enact positive change by tackling social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, racism and the cost of living crisis.
The night’s penultimate performance was led by Little Simz, who broke down barriers between performer and audience, throwing herself into a bustling crowd to rap alongside her adoring fans. Jamie XX then closed proceedings, whirling through bass-heavy UKG cuts and the gems of 2015’s In Colour as a hulking disco ball projected bright, beaming lights across a sea of limbs
As the dramatic siren call of Gosh bursting across the field brought the night to a close, an atmosphere of euphoria and togetherness spread around the site, cementing FORWARDS’ place on the UK festival scene.
FORWARDS Festival will be back in 2023, check their website for more details