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Previews: March live music

From churches to warehouses, Bristol has it all for any music-head looking to divulge in a late night of raucous fun or a classical assortment of esteemed symphonic tranquility.

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

March offers a uniquely lively month for student-lead gigs as both societies and student bands take Bristol's concert halls, alongside a notable collection of bigger artists stopping off on world tours. Trailblazers of historic significance are matched by modern acts, inspired by preceding innovative boldness, before the month ends as another historic Bristol day festival comes to a close.

Minerva Choir, 5th @ St Pauls Church

BUMS "newest and friendliest" ensemble is one of the most welcoming choirs from the repertoire of groups on show at the society, bringing a light-hearted and enthusiastic approach to what can sometimes seem a somewhat unapproachable genre for the uninitiated. The choir offer "fun pop arrangements" as well as some iconic sounds from the cannon of classical music. Priding themselves on increasing accessibility to classical music, the Minvera choir are named after the goddesss of wisdom for good reason: certain to kick the month off in style with a playful yet esteemed attitude.

Minerva Choir @ St Pauls Church | BUMS

PAPERBOY + Emergency Exit, 8th @ Crofter's Rights

A returning line-up which saw success last month are dual student outfits PAPERBOY and Bristol University's very own "Senate house-hold name", Emergency Exit. Returning to the venue of Emergency Exit's first show symbolises the fruits of the band's perseverance and justified success in the local scene as they celebrate alongside student peers from Brighton, united by their rustic DIY attitude. PAPERBOY will be launching their first full-length EP on the night to further contribute to the night's highly energetic festivities following such significant accolades.

Folly Group, 9th @ Strange Brew

“Angular post-punk” is a term that seemingly applies to every newly-heralded up-and-coming guitar band these days. But for Folly Group, it’s a label that definitely fits. Not only that, but it’s a sound that they master. They really might be one of the best of this new crop of guitar bands. With their brilliant debut ‘Down There!’ having just come out, it’s a perfect time to catch them. On top of all that Strange Brew might lay claim to being Bristol’s best venue, so it makes for a pretty potent combination.

Battle of the Big Band, 10th @ Strange Brew

In the otherworldly smog of Strange Brew, a quartet of student-lead big bands from the South will meet to battle it out. Only one will leave victorious. The various Jazz and Big Bands from Falmouth, Exeter, Plymouth, Bath and Bristol are converging to showcase themselves individually with "top-tapping tunes, explosive brass, and swinging rhythms". Following their respective showcases of ability, all five groups will cram onto the stage within a nail-biting arena of sound to more competitively prove they can pull through under pressure. Promising "swing, sass and sensational sounds", the night will be musically proficient but equally filled with intense rivalries that will be formed and hopefully settled before each group moves into the night for the after-party.

Battle of the Big Bands @ Strange Brew | Strange Brew

Barry Can't Swim, 13th @ SWX

Edinburgh born electronic producer Joshua Mannie is importing his effervescent style of jazzy house music to Bristol, which combines the softer typicality of multicoloured dance grooves with a smiling punchiness. His debut record released last year was among my personal favourites, and certainly one of the most diligently produced and original house projects. I would recommend his music to anyone looking for a gig that will leave them consistently grinning ear to ear, swaying inside the maelstrom of rhythm. If you want a gig with a crowd that's going to be dancing, but don't fancy the late set-times or breakneck BPMs from some of the drum and bass acts this month, Barry Can't Swim's return to Bristol will be one to attend.

Robert Plant w/ Saving Grace, 13th @ Bristol Beacon

Hard rock fans, get your tickets now for one of the greatest frontmen in the genre's history at the gigantic Beacon Hall. The cavernous venue is the only one appropriate for such a titan in the scene, who will be playing original solo material and various covers, naturally supplemented with Led Zepplin classics. New Zealand based Saving Grace make up the instrumental end of this raucous rock equation as Plant takes the microphone, a metal outfit who channel Zepplin's blues with a revitalised passion.

Wall of Bass: Electrikal Soundsystem x Scotland Yard w/ 4AM Kru and Coco Bryce 16th @ Motion

Frequenting Bristol venues with one of the best-kept sound systems on offer, Wall of Bass consistently delivers. A trio of big names christen the line-up: Scotland Yard, 4AM Kru and Coco Bryce are respectively adapting a classic jungle style with contemporary interpretations that result in something spawned which is chaotically original. 4AM Kru, who unconventionally preform their music live will be fully visible in action alongside "Amsterdam's most precious export", Coco Bryce, through a fully immersive 360 degree centre stage which allows the crowd to get up close and personal to the beats and bass. 

Wall of Bass @ Motion | Electrikal

An Evening with BUMS, 18th @ St George's

A collaboration between the Chamber Choir and Chamber Orchestra, one of Bristol University's largest music societies, BUMS present a night of classical prowess from their ever-expanding catalogue of esteemed student talents. BUMS will be preforming a range of orchestral and choral pieces from the works of Parry, Shubert and Mozart. The spacious church-hall of St George's is readied to transport aged soundscapes to the modern setting of the Church's stage fit for a contemporary recollection of pieces from years gone, reimagined with modern-day precision and captured in consummate acoustic conditions.

An Evening with BUMS @ St George's | BUMS

Yard Act, 23rd @ O2 Academy

"Post-punk's greatest poster boys" may have sold out Rough Trade's more intimate album launch on the 1st, but if you're looking for a stomping night of bangers off their new album Where's My Utopia?, out at the start of the month, then celebrate in style at the larger and louder O2 Academy. It will be hard to follow up the group's prolific debut record, but if their latest singles are anything to go by it should be a challenge they can overcome. I was lucky enough to catch the band for 2023's DotToDot Festival at the same venue, and as the night closed I recalled vividly their onstage antics and wit- the likes of which I have never seen before.

Ritual Union Festival, 23rd @ Various

This year, Ritual Union festival is boasting an impressive line-up of returning and respectively emerging artists. Expect Nelson Street to be a stampede as clusters of gig-goers hurry from SWX, Rough Trade, Strange Brew (and now The Island) in order to catch their favourites. The day will be opened with a set from Martin Newell, AKA The Cleaners From Venus; kicking things off in style whilst forerunners in the underground scene such as mary in the junkyard, Holiday Ghosts and Chalk Lee keep energy levels high throughout the day. Big names like Maruja and Knives, who are each returning to the festival from 2023's lineup, will also be joined by Dream Wife, Liz Lawrence and Do Nothing for a sporadic collection of sounds that make tickets worth booking early for.

A Guy Called Gerald, Pete Cannon + Special Guest @ Lost Horizon

A "good n' proper hardcore" jungle show, this is a night which will be mandatory for any old school drum and bass fan in Bristol. A vinyl DJ set from no less than the legendary A Guy Called Gerald is a rarity that is often reserved to scattered recordings online or the weathered burner CDs and pirate cassettes of jungle-heads' attics. Experience the champion DJ to shine with confidence live, through Lost Horizon's titanic sound-system, which is sure to run late without fail thanks to the supplemented artists joining proceedings: namely Pete Cannon, among other pioneers of a retro-influenced hardcore style.

Vocal Jam, 24th March @ The Fleece

Sets will run from 19:40-11:20 at The Fleece with a line-up from nine separate A Capella outfits, running back to back in 20 minute slots for a quickfire night of flourishing vocal talent that challenge a traditional presentation of the genre in its striking variety. Local groups as well talents from the University of Bristol such as The Suspensions, hot off their tenth anniversary, will be taking the stage. Discounted tickets are available for students. 

Vocal Jam @ The Fleece | The Fleece

NewDad, 24th March @ Trinity

Amidst a shoegaze revival, Galway’s NewDad have marked themselves out as masters of the ethereal end of the shoegaze-dream pop spectrum. After a couple of excellent EPs in the last few years, they’re back. This time with debut album MADRA in tow. Trinity seems a pretty perfect venue too, the old church is as good a place as any to pray at the altar of the best in dream pop and let the ethereal soundscapes wash over you.

Rabbit Party no.2 - AW24 Show, 27th @ Strange Brew

Somewhere between a gig and a fashion-show, Bristolian designer and founder of rabbit Sophie Spratley is bringing the Rabbit Party back to Bristol from its debut in January. The women's fashion brand, which "appeals to your inner child", will be brought to the stage of Strange Brew in full sound and colour as musicians vitalise the handcrafted clothes with a melodic energy. Class left-field musicianship is expected from a staple of Bristol's live independent music scene whilst the musical side of proceedings is surely not to be eclipsed by the quality of lavish garments on display.

Thundercat, 30th @ Bristol Beacon

March closes with one of the most anticipated shows this side of the new year. Thundercat is nothing short of a supernatural bassist, has to be seen live to be believed in his technical ability as a musician. Only matched in his skill on the instrument by his now extensive collaborations between the likes of Gorillaz, Rick James and Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat melds funk and progressive tendencies in his sound effortlessly. The one-man musical army will be playing in the wake of an inevitable brawl for tickets, so search far and wide for admission to a tour that is not one to be missed if you want to catch one of the biggest names on offer so far this year.

The Wurzels, 31st @ The Fleece

Bring your suspenders, straw hats and neckerchiefs as Bristol welcomes the Wurzels to the fleece just before April begins. For a band which needs little introduction, it would only be fitting the month would be ended by one of Somerset's most beloved acts. Cider and a scrumpy attitude will be required as tispy cheers from young and old are bound to fill the Fleece's concert room, coalescing around a love of the South West with a gusto that has stood the test of time. If you're looking for a joyful way to celebrate the end of term, stick around in Bristol for The Wurzels to make the journey home one full of happy hearts and ears buzzing with cheery sing-a-longs. 

The Wurzels @ The Fleece | The Fleece
Featured Images: Zyanya Lorenzo, Rory Dewar, Sandra Ebert courtesy of Rabbit Baby, Alysse Gafkjen, Chuffmedia

Who are you most excited to see this month?