‘Forwards Festival delivers again’ - 2023 two-day festival review

Forwards Festival was back this year - and it delivered once again
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As the sun came down over a packed Forwards Festival on The Downs in Bristol, hundreds enjoyed the moment as Los Angeles-based DJ Bonobo dropped his hit Otomo - it was pure perfection.

It was an incredible end to the first day of the festival, which despite only launching last year attracted another huge audience with 30,000 people revelling in a wonderful mix of music, food and entertainment over the Friday and Saturday.

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Bonobo, best known for his upbeat electriconic jazz, was my highlight of the event - but there were also countless others, including many Bristol-based artists, who shone across the two days.

It all started on the Friday night with Olivia Dean who sang a great cover of Kelis’ Millionnaire - she was rapping better than Andre 3000! Next up was Ezra Collective - a five-piece jazz band from London - who got the crowd swinging and dancing away with many drum solos! Loved it, surprisingly my first time seeing them and definitely not my last.

I then rushed across the catch Goldie; a huge Bristol name who had his set lit up by a backdrop of black and white footage of his home city. Goldie was accompanied by two drummers and a full band and when his own verson of Prodigy’s Charly dropped there were yelps and cheers all around me. Proper drum and bass. Sublime. Raye was then my biggest discovery of this festival. She commanded a large crowd and had them singing every word. Describing her own music as ‘music you can dance and cry to at the same time’. I didn’t see anyone crying, just a whole lot of dancing and phones in the air trying to capture the moment.

Then it was my highlight of the festival Bonobo, I was fascinated to see what they would be like live. I usually listen to them when I chilling out, but live they transformed the songs into music that made dance loads! As they played Otomo the sunset and it was perfection.

Thousands attended Forwards Festival on The Downs in Bristol (Photo credit: Beth Whelan)Thousands attended Forwards Festival on The Downs in Bristol (Photo credit: Beth Whelan)
Thousands attended Forwards Festival on The Downs in Bristol (Photo credit: Beth Whelan)
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The day belonged to Erykah Badu. I lost count of the amount of people who I spoke to who were here to see her. She came on to possibly the longest intro to anyone coming on stage - but it was all worth it. I some how then managed to miss Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) take the stage. Roll on tmrw! What a day, what a party.

Saturday began most importantly with sunshine and Bristol-based Katy J Pearson. She had her family to watch and a nice big appreciative crowd for a mid-afternoon slot. I think it’s my fifth time seeing her, and she never disappoints.

Scalping, also Bristol based, were then moved to the main stage to replace Viagra Boys and did a great job getting me and friends dancing.Their back drop was mesmeric and very trippy. Before long  there was my first ever techno mosh pit with wizard hats and pogo sticks flying everywhere!

Primal Screams Country Boy got people dancing toward the end of the festival (Photo credit: Beth Whelan)Primal Screams Country Boy got people dancing toward the end of the festival (Photo credit: Beth Whelan)
Primal Screams Country Boy got people dancing toward the end of the festival (Photo credit: Beth Whelan)

Amyl and the Sniffers then easily won the prize for most energetic and rowdy show sweeping me off my feet and on top of the crowd duringSecurity. Luckily, the security scooped me up and I was back in the crowd before long! I think if they played for eight hours singer Amy Taylor would still be jirating and screaming her head off!

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After dancing to Primal Screams Country Boy it was finally time for headliner Aphex Twin. This show was like nothing I’ve seen before. To be honest, I’m still trying to process what happened and what he played. Every song seemed to combine eight different genres from drum and bass to techno then back all over the place - but all tight and on point. Songs that took me places I didn’t think I needed to go and blew my tiny mind. One fan I spoke to had been waiting 26 years for this performance and described it as dance music for the lonely.

What ever happened, it was transformative and had me in a trance. As we walked out of the festival we were confused and content. Forwards Festival delivers again.

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