Eastville Park, Bristol
26 - 27 May

On a cold Saturday morning, neon disco pants and glittery cheekbones fill Eastville Park as the seventh edition of Bristol’s Love Saves the Day gets under way. Our first stop is the Crack-hosted Paradiso stage, one of the first stages you can see upon entering the park. I arrive just as ascendant Bristol producer L U C Y starts her set. The set begins with haunting strings, which then develops into a mix of energetic dub and grime. Halfway through, a raver nudges me and shouts, “she’s sick ain’t she.” An auspicious start.

It was the first time in Bristol for South London rapper Octavian. The Paradiso tent’s sound was tested to its full with Hands – a track laced with raspy verses over wonky grime. His music is a synthesis of sound that pulls from trap, garage, grime and electronic genres and  is infectious. As such, Octavian owned the stage, every lyric he spat was packed full of energy – even while dancing and hyping up the full crowd.

Next up, Avelino. Opening with Know My Name, smoke filled the inside of the tent while he rhymed over the grime beats. His whole crew stormed the stage to the track So Fine, throwing water on the crowd as soon as the beat dropped. By contrast, Smerz opened their set with a slow hard-hitting beat that reverberated through the tent, trailed by a slippery bass line layered with whispery vocals. After high-energy performances on the Paradiso stage by Avelino and Octavian their set felt a bit slow moving. It fell to Four Tet to close the night with a warm electronic mix, his setup lit by two desk lamps.

The Black Madonna eased the more relaxed Sunday programming into gear, with her combination of disco and techno. The recent London transplant’s energy is infectious as she dances and interacts with her music – really getting into it even from behind the decks.

Over on the main stage, Mabel opens her show with a slow, silky R&B version of Thinking of You leading the charge into her set of chart-ready pop. Though her performance seemed to be lacking in energy at some points, it was still undeniably fun.

Closing out the main stage was Sampha, a performance many were eagerly anticipating. The stage lighting on his performance was beautifully crafted, an illuminated wall that cycled through colours. But it was his voice that was most disarming, giving new life to sang the now-familiar songs from his 2017 album Process. 

Love Saves the Day is one of those festivals that opens you up to new and exciting music, leaving you lost in meditation one minute and throwing up gun fingers the next. Besides some very small sound errors, this year’s edition was the perfect start for the festival calendar and the long summer ahead.