REVIEW: Headliners deliver at The Downs Festival 2019
PUBLISHED: 17:55 02 September 2019 | UPDATED: 18:05 02 September 2019
An impressive line-up of iconic musicians and hot up-and-comers gave revellers an incredible summer's day out in Bristol.
The Downs festival returned to the city centre parkland on Saturday for a day of sun, songs and solidarity.
Dublin rockers Fontaines D.C. kicked off proceedings on the main stage and got the moshpits going strongly. Despite a late start, they came alive during Boys Of The Better Land and were the perfect precursor for the main event of hometown punks, IDLES.
On a high from an iconic Glastonbury Festival performance and having their second album, Joy As An Act Of Resistance, shortlisted for a Mercury Prize, they garnered the loudest cheers of the afternoon.
Starting their set with Heel/Heal got the crowd, who had turned up in their droves to flood the main stage, buzzing. Lead singer Joe Talbot told the audience 'this is an anti-fascist song' before every banger and backed them up with a number of anti-establishment references and messages of love for his city. Their rendition of Danny Nedelko got the strongest response, thanks in part to a cameo from Nedelko himself. His band, Heavy Lungs, would later perform at the Information Stage that night which, coincidentally, was curated by IDLES.
The love theme was palpable throughout the event, with all the acts stating their fondness of Bristol and its people. Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, a Big Issue ambassador, spoke passionately about helping the region's homeless and continuing on the day's theme of spreading love and compassion and sticking together in divisive times.
For those who wanted a break from the heavy stuff, the Avon Stage provided the perfect backdrop to a sunny afternoon. Nightmares On Wax brought his Shape The Future living room to the stage, wafting incense sticks around the audience and kicking back on his sofa in what was easily the most chilled-out set of the day. Singers were sat on comfortable armchairs and gave live reworks of his latest album and classics including Les Nuits and You Wish.
Nottingham electronic collective Crazy P then stepped things up a notch with a live band performance which included all five members. This was the third time I had seen the group perform, but the first 'full house' with all members present. They did not mess around, with lead singer Danielle Moore going straight into SOS from their new album, Age Of The Ego. It was probably my favourite track of the day and, in my opinion, should be renamed Sound Of Summer with its 1980s synth pads sound and incredibly melodic groove.
Moore's exuberant stage presence allowed her to rant about Brexit and the Government in a satirical way, particularly during We Will F*** You Up, where a quick outfit change into a baggy suit and tie coupled with a placard complete with said song title was waved aloft throughout the track.
The evening belonged to two legendary divas: first Grace Jones played classics from her almost 50-year career. She danced with vigour, managed a large number of costume changes and interacted with the crowd, as fans chanted along to Warm Leatherette and Slave To The Rhythm. At 71-years-old, Jones still sounded amazing.
Of course her performance overran but it did not matter as Ms Lauryn Hill, who closed the main stage, was half an hour late before finally emerging. She began proceedings with Lost Ones, the first track from her iconic The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill album.
Everything Is Everything went down a treat and despite seeming a little agitated with sound issues at first, she recovered, before drawing the curtain on another epic festival with Killing Me Softly With His Song.
The performance of the day, however, came from rapper Loyle Carner. He was someone I had wanted to see live for quite some time, and he smashed it. In an action-packed set the Londoner went from hit after hit, mixing in tracks from his first album such as Ain't Nothing Changed and No CD, seamlessly with new material from Not Waving, Just Drowning, which will surely receive more Mercury Prize attention before the year is out.
Away from the music, local brewery Lost And Grounded made sure guests did not go dry and the range of food stalls on offer was tantalising. For youngsters, the games they could enjoy in the activities area expanded this year and included a model making Aardman Animations tent, where kids could channel their inner Nick Park and made their own Gromit from clay. Debates were held in the Information Stage, where members of Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and Protect Our NHS spoke passionately.
Yet again The Downs proved to be a fantastic day out for friends and families, with a range of people from various different backgrounds coming together to enjoy themselves. Last year, I said it would be hard for the organisers to top the event, but they did exactly that.