26th & 27th May | Eastville Park
Photos: Paul Lippiatt
When my friends and I checked the weather for Love Saves The Day, we were greeted with the same disheartening predictions that must have plagued many thousands of phone browsers during the week. A pervasively sullen atmosphere then invaded our group chat; were we really to face a torrential downpour on our first festival together in a year?
No, we were not, it turned out. During our ride over to Eastville Park, a mild, grey morning gave way to a much more inviting afternoon and relief evolved into excitement, as we joined the throngs of like-minded revellers. The Main Stage line-up was perfect for this collective summery optimism, and the Dancehall/Calypso loveliness that poured from the speakers during Raye’s set felt like an open invitation for everyone to begin letting loose for the afternoon’s frivolities.
Next up was Tom Misch, taking to the stage with his band as his gargantuan backdrop was unveiled. In this live, open-air setting, his guitar was imbued with a certain ripeness that placed him much more in the Hendrix/Clapton/Mayer camp than his debut record would have you believe.
By the time Misch’s set was drawing to a close, the sky was just beginning to bruise, and a set each from George Fitzgerald and Bicep provided a perfect electro-celestial segue into the twilight. With Bicep closing on ‘Glue,’ their most recognisable tune, the night was upon us, and we ambled up towards the Lonely Hearts Club Stage to catch My Nu Leng, passing a lively Jackmaster crowd on the way.
My Nu Leng dropped as explosive and varied a set as we have come to expect from the Bristol duo, although I’m sad to say I didn’t see it through to the end; something a touch more intriguing lay waiting in the Paradiso Tent. Four Tet generated one of the liveliest crowds of the weekend, despite the near-suffocating atmosphere (comprised more of sweat than air). Somehow, the closeness of the tent only heightened the enchanting elegance of his mixing and production. ‘Two Thousand and Seventeen,’ the down-tempo lead single from New Energy elicited the loudest response, and when that zither sample dropped, it was as close to sonic bliss as you’re likely to find in a crowded, sweaty tent.
Unfortunately, the 4/4 magnetism of Four Tet meant I only caught the last few minutes of Fatboy Slim, although upon hearing ‘Right Here Right Now’ and ‘Praise You,’ I figured I caught the best few minutes also, and a fitting finale to a fine first day.
Returning on Sunday in positively balmy (and busier) conditions, we gravitated towards what seemed to be the most excitable crowd, who were being shaken about by a heavy Lenzman Dn’B set with DRS at the geometric centre stage. An interesting counterpoint to this bass-heavy precision was taking place just behind, however, at the main stage. DJ legend, David Rodigan and The Outlook Orchestra were weaving acoustic webs through classic dancehall, reggae, jungle and Dn’B tunes that felt like the perfect homage to a special musical heritage. In a set that genuinely had something for everyone, it was undeniable that Rodigan has crafted something quite special with this collaboration.
A wander over to the Brouhaha stage brought us to something a whole lot heavier. A legendary Bristol back-to-back pairing of Pinch & Joker, followed by a set from dubstep royalty Digital Mystikz (Mala and Coki) was two hours of half-time madness. The smaller scale of this somewhat tucked away stage allowed for the sub-frequencies to achieve their body-plunging limits, and an appearance from Jman on the mic raised the crowd’s energy to a ‘bass face’ fervour.
After expending nearly all my own energy resources on the aforementioned acts, it was time to catch some rest, enjoying the silky smooth wordsmithery of Loyle Carner, grab some food and regroup for Sampha’s headline slot.
Any doubts I had about how Sampha’s material would translate into a festival setting were abolished instantly. His arrangements, vocal performance, band, light show and stage presence were truly befitting of a headline act. Not only were these technical aspects nailed, but his set dynamics, both sonically and emotionally, were expertly crafted. You could be clinging on to your loved ones through the stripped-back ‘Too Much’ only moments after lifting your arms in an enraptured trance to ‘Reverse Faults.’
By the time this set was over, closing on the bewitching majesty of ‘Blood on Me,’ I simply had nothing left to give; and we carried ourselves out into the city with that same feeling of contented exhaustion that always comes after a quality festival.