Misery Loves Company – Bristol (30/09/23)17th October 2023
The date is Saturday, September 30th, 2023, and while it may be the last day of this particular Calendar month, it brings with it a lot of firsts for this veteran reviewer. While I have spent many a night in Bristol for gigs, today marked the inaugural MISERY LOVES COMPANY festival; a full day of bands spread across four venues and five stages in the heart of the city, celebrating equality and alternative music. It was a statement of representation that was split evenly between male, female, and non-binary artists, giving everybody an equal opportunity to shine, and it promised to deliver. All About The Rock was kindly invited along to get some coverage, and to check out the UK circuit’s newest fledgling festival…here’s what went down.
Spanning from 12:30 pm right up until 22:00 pm, Bristol was treated to over 40 bands in the close proximity of the city center, for a full day of riffs, raucousness, and rock ‘n’ roll. Plans are to be made to get the most out of today’s variety, but it’s off to a slow start, as between rail strikes making me run late, plus checking into my hotel, I miss the earliest acts. So, apologies to THE MENSTRUAL CRAMPS who by sheer name alone I wanted to check out, but missed out on. The self-proclaimed “Queer Punks” house a raw, early punk aesthetic on record a la THE RAMONES or X-RAY SPEX, with songs about social satire, empowerment, and human rights, and whatever period they were allocated here today, I’m sure they flowed well…
The main hub for the festival was THE STATION, where we were given our wristbands and passes for the day, got to browse official festival merch, and got to check out our first artist of the line-up; SAFIRE . Can of San Miguel in hand, we witness the Hackney-born, Brighton-based artist play to a sparse, early afternoon crowd, but it didn’t stop her strutting her stuff on stage with a cool confidence. Blending elements of emo, with drum & bass and EDM, (Imagine like, an edgier version of VANILLA SUGAR) her brief set was bouncing with tracks like “Paradise” that spoke of overcoming challenges and obstacles in life, and it’s an incredibly positive, affirming number. “Mercy” houses trap and drum ‘n’ bass elements with hints of PENDULUM in their “Immersion” era, and the clean vocals here are so smooth, it’s simply catchy as all hell. Blending beats with melody perfectly, but not shy from belting out screamed aggression, Safire is a wonderful start to the festival but truthfully, it’s a little early in the day, as this set would have benefitted a later time slot, in a grubbier venue, to maximize the atmosphere and vibe. One to watch for sure, as she expands her army of serotonin sluts.
Next up, we head over to SWX for our second band, LOVE IS NOISE  and we have a more, alternative / nu-metal-esque offering for our afternoon. Blending crunching riffs, scorching vocals, and atmospherics, in ways on first listen, they house elements of DEFTONES and CANE HILL with added melody, and against their bright, strobe-laden backdrop they make an early impression. “Memento” is a perfect example of this with its intro; equally subdued, visceral, and emotional. Combining subtle snarls and the almost haunting vocal harmonies, before it tears into bold riffs and blast beats. It’s a well-balanced track and they are tight on stage delivering it. “Azure” leans more into the hushed, melancholia and it showcases the band’s emotional, passionate tendencies. It’s a track fans of HOLDING ABSENCE would appreciate, and they are consistent with it. Well worth keeping an eye on. Side note…SWX, £7 for one pint of Stella? Are you taking the absolute piss? I’d rather DRINK piss than pay that much for a pint! Your insurance should cover the fire damage, not my bloody bar tab!
On to act three, as we head to THE LANES, another first-time visit for this reviewer, as we’re about to check out RAIDERS . This is arguably the most energetic act of the day, Sean Smith (THE BLACKOUT) and co waste no time laying waste to this, frankly odd little venue setup. The beer garden/smoking area is actually the acoustic stage, it’s absolutely crammed wall to wall and it’s also a fucking bowling alley. Talk about over-stimulation and sensory overload. In between snarling snippets of screamo and hardcore-tinged rock, via tracks like “Vnnvcvssvry Vs” and “I Still Function”, Sean provides ample derogatory banter about the Conservative government, being a valley’s lad, and gives play-by-play commentary on the state of innocent bystanders bowling. Imagine planning a family day out to go bowling, and then you’ve got some mad-mulleted Welshman critiquing your angle of approach on a 7-10 Split, while screaming to a crowd of sweaty rockers. It’s honestly surreal and despite the obvious musical aggression, it’s a wonderfully relaxed, easy-going set that brings with it chuckles and chaos in equal measure. Another side note…Mr barman…how do you confuse coconut rum with tequila? Genuine question. I mean, there’s Greebo and then there’s gringo, you know? The drinks aren’t going well today!
We follow this up by heading back over to SWX to check out WITCH FEVER  The Manchester-based four-piece blends desert/doom rock with grunge-inspired qualities for a deep, rumbling rocking sensation that’s impressive from the young lady’s truth be told. From the up-tempo groove-laden barrage of “Reincarnate”, to the almost black-metal bassy tones in the depth of “Bully Boy”, they really explore heavy music on a wider scale instrumentally and creatively, while retaining their challenging, and inquisitive quest for belonging. Skimpy outfits may very well be for attention, or not, who ACTUALLY cares what they wear, (It’s hard to tell these days to be honest, is it female empowerment and body confidence or is it time and tested sex sells? Either way let’s not objectify) they provide a thought-provoking peek into heavy alternative music, and they deliver. Witch Fever cast a spell on this encouragingly large crowd, and they certainly ended up with new fans tonight
We stick with SWX for a little while longer as we stick around to catch some of THE XCERTS . The Aberdeen-based alternative indie-rockers are in the middle of promoting their latest album “Learning How To Live And Let Go”, and they open up with “GIMME”, which is a brief, angsty little hard pop piece, while “Jealousy” also gets a feature, with a more subdued, husky vocal, combined with melodic emo/pop-punk tones. They played a few others and were over well with the crowd, but by this point, this reviewer was hungry, and there was a convenient little KFC around the corner which was calling my name. Side note…Jesus Christ, has KFC gone downhill? This was worse than the Stella prices. Kentucky Fried Chicken? More like killing the fucking chef! Zinger Tower Meal? My burger had zero zing, the fries must have come from one solitary baby potato given how many there weren’t on my tray, and I was under the assumption meals came with sides like spicy beans, corn or gravy. I enjoyed my thin air though, Michelin star shit that was, fair play. Who needs food when I can just pretend like fucking Robin Williams in “Hook”. I’ll imagine my dinner into reality. My Pepsi was nice though…
Following that ignominious meal, I head back to SWX to cheer myself up to catch arguably the weekends’ standout highlight; YONAKA . They too are promoting a new record by the name of “Welcome To My House” and they begin with “By The Time You’re Reading This”. It’s classic Yonaka in their anthemic, power-pop indie rock vibe and Theresa Jarvis is such a natural, charismatic frontwoman, from the very minute they walk on stage she has the crowd in the palm of her hand. The title track gets a feature that itself is quite impassioned and soulful, while “I Want More” is an up-tempo, punk-tinged number that oozes frustration and frenetic energy. Fan favorites like “Creature” and “Rockstar” get the crowd absolutely bouncing and draw some massive sing-alongs and credit to the four-piece, they are riding a wave of popularity and are embracing every moment. I first saw them supporting ANDREW W.K in Cardiff, and they have continued to grow and grow in the years since. One of the hottest bands on the UK circuit right now and well worth seeing on their UK tour next March if you are still new to the band. Absolute quality.
Finally, then, we round the night off at ROUGH TRADE, as we end our night with FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS . They take us on a trip down memory lane with some darkly melodic emo and pack out this intimate record store venue, and while it’s been a good while since they’ve been active properly, they still have it in them and end proceedings for tonight’s reviewer on a positive note. “Neon In The Dancehalls” is as energetic as ever while “All Hallows Evil” houses some semi-thrash classic guitar riffs allowing them to bring the heavy screamo.
By this point, it had been a long day, and this reviewer was ready for his hotel room. Misery Loves Company, on first impressions, has everything you could need to make a successful little day festival in the heart of Bristol. The venues are practically next door to each other, the bands are spaced out evenly in terms of time slots (Yes there are clashes but that comes down to preference and taste), the staff and merchants are friendly, and the bands deliver. Honestly, what more could you ask for? Should the festival continue to grow, or be allowed to, it’s only realistically going to get bigger and better, and on the evidence of today, they’re off to a promising, winning start. A lot of new bands to be discovered, big enough names to draw attention…it’s a solid blend, and I hope All About The Rock is allowed back next year, as it was a fantastic day of live music. At the end of the day, we’re all sad, let’s be sad together, because misery loves company, and truthfully you couldn’t be in better company today. A wonderful festival debut.