The Old Coroners Court, Bristol
19 November

While parts of Bristol experienced flooding this past weekend, the city centre saw the appropriately named Submerge Festival make its debut across various venues including Colston Hall, the ancient church of St Thomas The Martyr and that perennial grimy ravebox, The Old Coroners Court.

Beloved local LGBT night Horseplay hosted Saturday’s clubnight The Ascent which featured helpings of queer performance art combined with house and techno faultlessly delivered by headliners Octo Octa and Rrose.

Now more than ever artists are responding to the gender disparity of festival line-ups. Objekt, for example, recently committed to bettering the state of dancefloors by stating that he’ll only “perform on lineups with at least one female, trans or non-binary DJ playing on the same stage or bigger.” Submerge champions this surge towards diversity with tonight’s line up which includes the non-binary Rrose (an artist who willingly alternates between gender pronouns) and the newly transitioned Octo Octa who came out as trans quite publicly in a Resident Advisor interview at the beginning of the year.

It’s this willingness to take the focus away from straight cis male dominated dance music and place minorities back at the forefront thereby highlighting the roots of house and techno that informs the rest of the performances scattered around The Old Coroners Court. Steakhouse Live in the white room (where the bar is, meaning pretty much all attendees got an eyeful) brought an atmosphere that cemented the freedom of expression at the heart of Submerge, where non-conventional acts still have an important place in more arts-orientated festivals. As drag queens decked out in their finery and other fetish freaks crowded round to watch, London based performers Daniel Oliver, Oozing Gloop and Lucy Hutson drew ever more people from the bar into their orbit to catch a glimpse of their weird and wonderful queer performances.

Just next door in the Morgue, Octo Octa was busy serving up a set full of house jams of her own making – such as Fever Dream and Let Me See You – weaved together with staples like Hurt My Feelings by Trouble Men ft. Colonel Abrams. Her bouncy, fun set matched the cute figure behind the decks bobbing up and down and dancing along, but also served as a counterpoint to Rrose’s body-jarring techno that came after. A tonal shift in the night’s proceedings as the weather worsened and things got that bit darker – and that bit more visceral. In a way that was not altogether unpleasant, every note of her set was felt deep within the body; overwhelming yet not scary, a sensation akin to being underwater for a long period of time. A fitting end to a festival aimed squarely at bringing something new and exciting to Bristol.

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