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Review: Love Saves the Day 2024

A highlight of the year's musical offerings, the weekend was a feeding frenzy for Bristol's mainstay musical appetite.

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

Every May, students fortunate enough to have their exams finished in time flock to Ashton Court for a long-awaited blowout party to the tune of various drum and bass, garage, and electronic artists that Bristol is best known for. The weekend was expectedly on key for Bristol's music scene and filled with a litany of ravers with love in their hearts, ready to face the elements and any other perils the weekend could contain.

If you had shown me the lineup for 2024's Love Saves the Day during my first year in Bristol, I wouldn't have been able to recognise more than two artists at best.

Whatever it is about Bristol, though, it fosters an awareness of dance music. If you haven't encountered someone trying to feed you their USB of 'massive dubs' while foaming at the mouth and insisting you're not mixing right unless you turn off beat-matching, do a back-flip, and then drop the next track in blindfolded, then you truly have not experienced the magic of Bristol's DJ scene.

I am, of course, being glib and am a massive fan of Bristol's DJs - a lovely bunch when you chat to them - themselves standing on the shoulders of earlier Bristolian pioneers, who produced music that began in local studios and has now ended up booming from stadiums and festivals all around the world.

Shwarma @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

This year's offerings extended beyond just dance music to rap and alternative rock artists. An undeniable key appeal was the stellar combination of older legends like Goldie, Groove Armada, and The Streets, alongside modern zeitgeists reinterpreting and adapting these sounds for the new age.

The weekend started strong and concluded poetically with Mike Skinner's cryptic meditations about the wasteland Ashton Court had been reduced to by Sunday night. If you're as perplexed as I was, please read on, as I detail the weekend from its highs to lows. Don't make the same mistake I did: bring a poncho and some wellies. It'll be muddy.

Emz @ Brouhaha

Emz @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

Making our way through security and a misguided detour into the circus performers' tent, we kicked things off with Emz at the Brouhaha stage. At only 14:30, the crowd was notably sober, but a budding energy was beginning to surface by the middle of Emz's set. I had scoped out my artists for Saturday and knew it would be a long haul in the Big Top from 16:00 until as long as I could last. The airy environment of Brouhaha's open stage and the smaller crowd left me full of energy for the impending artists, which isn't to say Emz's performance wasn't full of pulsing anticipation from the start.

Slower beats were shunted in pace with roller-coaster whiplash as his set progressed, closing strong at 170 bpm with cheers onstage for "all my ravers in the crowd". The pace of the drum and bass instrumentals were matched with lyrical ease by Emz, who maintaned the intense rhythm, spitting with clarity and marksman-like precision.

CASISDEAD @ Big Top

CASISDEAD @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

This was my second time seeing CASISDEAD in 2024, with his Love Saves performance following the vein of his Simple Things set in February in its beratement of the festival staff. Joined by producer Mystry on the decks, the resultant sound of their partnership was just as aggressive as CAS' attitude. As he took to the Big Top stage, where we had weaseled our way to the front, frustration was wry in the crowd due to his delayed arrival by 15 minutes.

An artist who hides little (besides his own face), CAS revealed the delay was due to an altercation with security, which frankly could have been due to several things: his explicit lyrics remiss of an early Odd Future tape, or perhaps more likely his drug taking which he admitted onstage. This was a statement he half-heartedly followed with the caveat "I wouldn't promote it" and an observed "smell of cannabis in the air". Verbal taunts to security continued while a gleeful onlooker, none other than Goldie himself, stood by the foot of the stage to watch with a shining grin in silent approval of the bad behaviour. Sacrificing time from his own set, he allowed CAS to perform for the entire hour before they switched places.

Goldie ft Medic MC @ Big Top

Goldie @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

During the wake of CAS' set, a sprawling table of CDJs was charioted to the centre of the stage, with Goldie behind and rubbing his hands with glee. He may be the creator of one of the largest drum and bass labels of all time - indeed a founder of the genre - but that wouldn't stop Goldie from antics or due diligence to his fellow performers. He gazed out, childlike, to the crowd throughout the set with grins that wrinkled his face from the eyes to shimmering golden teeth. Only an artist as esteemed in calibre as Goldie could engage in the impending horseplay but still deliver a set of unparalleled hit after hit, as beats smashed through each other like colliding freight trains.

Roars and guttural sounds of industrial, machinelike bass projected from speaker cabs behind the occasional haze of a suspiciously long and pungent cigarette clamped between the DJ's grills. Joined by an MC who was as much a hype man as a rapper, I couldn't help myself from raising my Metalheadz shirt proudly into the air as Break's 'Inner City Life' remix kicked off the set. Winks and love hearts featured galore as Goldie treated the crowd with the utmost respect, and challenged them with track selections that were old-school, left-field, and timeless as ever.

Interplanetary Criminal @ Big Top

Interplanetary Criminal @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

Having stood at the front of Big Top for over two hours now, we briefly escaped to the guest area before returning to the gigantic tent, to be unexpectedly greeted by a meatgrinder of sorts. The crowd, loosened with alcohol and a myriad of chemical concoctions - if the drug awareness table's sticker survey was anything to go by - was now swarming in a gigantic horde to catch one of the fastest rising UK garage superstars, Interplanetary Criminal. Making our way around the outskirts of the riot, the pressure cooker that the Big Top stage had become was crawling with ravers.

Dressed in signature shades and anorak, the man himself oversaw the chaos with ease, parting the crowd with assertive dominance behind the decks. Assuming a commanding presence, IPC bobbed steadily up and down to his two-step rhythms: tackling tracks of his own production, homegrown choices from his ATW label as well as some choice remixes- namely a thumping 140 version of M-Beat's 'Incredible' which I am still in dire need of an ID for. It was an intimidating crowd, maybe, but it would do little to sway IPC or me from staying put for the tunes as I rooted my place in the crowd to catch the rest of the set that ended on a high with a 'Races' VIP. 

Joy Orbison @ Big Top

Joy Orbison @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

As IPC sheathed his USB and stepped out, Joy Orbison strode over to shake his predecessor's hand and take control of the table. Slowing from the snappy hi-hats and pounding snare patterns of before, a wave of synths surged over the audience with seismic presence. Perky string stabs made their way through the mix as Overmono's 'Turn The Page' remix began. The climactic and uplifting introduction was soon to be warped with savagery that would be expected from a contemporary in the dubstep scene such as Orbison.

The sounds of the tent for the next hour were exclusively grating and pulsing with an alien freakishness; visually complimented by swarms of bats on the stage's screen. Orbison mechanistically ploughed through with sinister sub-bass. More nods to Overmono featured with 2023's three-way collaborative hit 'Freedom 2' closing the latter half of the set, before the tension in the rave's spooky atmosphere was obliterated when 'flight fm' began to rise from the wreckage of the last track. With a sonic boom, the volcanic drops of the tune felt like they were erupting with increased strength each time, engulfing the crowd under a viscous layer of bass.

Sammy Virji @ Big Top

Sammy Virji @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

Sammy Virji was the final stop on the long-haul trip we had taken into the Big Top tent, one which had been sustained by only a can of Buckfast and Lemonade and shawarma drenched in questionably luminescent garlic ooze (see photo one). The slightly sickly but sustaining combination had done little to alleviate the feeling of exhaustion that had descended upon both mine and my photographer's neurodivergent sensory tolerances, though we were determined to hang on until the end of Virji's set. The final section of Saturday's brigade of 140 bpm electronic artists saw the sounds come full circle back to garage from dubstep, with Virji kicking things off with his biggest hit 'Shella Verse'.

As Flowdan's velvety voice called the crowd to action, phones were raised, and skanking began: the tent had transformed into a whirlpool of bodies beyond previous standards of choppiness. The sprawling environment was hilariously chaotic, rife with gum-chewing and swinging jaws. I shifted places countless times in that crowd as the Big Top reached peak occupancy, the signature boom-bap garage rhythms timing my unpredictable steps. Virji smiled atop the madness, swinging faders to the max and watching the drops rip across the room like a salvo of rockets. It had been a tiring day of high-pressure scrumming in the Big Top however, and by the 45 minute mark we decided to cut our losses. My ears were sad to hear the music stop, though the rest of my body heaved a sigh of relief as we escaped.

CamelPhat @ Love Saves Stage

CamelPhat @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

I had unfortunately missed the fact that, at this point, a mass migration was now beginning to the Love Saves Stage. Swept in a slew of sweaty limbs, we evacuated as quickly as possible before the stampede of fleeing sunglass donned ravers broke the levy of straining bodies behind us. Grabbed on the way out by a man shrouded by a bucket hat and pledging to protect me if a fight broke out, I was grateful if a little emasculated by my mysterious guardian as we evacuated: pressed meekly against the barriers like floundering up-turned beetles. Tumbling into the light, we made a quick stop at a frequently revisited point of refuge, the Teachings In Dub tent, to gather ourselves beneath the warm fuzz of bass notes that hummed from its wooden cabs.

We then made our retreat to the Love Saves Stage, emblazed by flashes of projected lightning while two black-suited DJs stood in the storm's eye. I realised now that the procession's destination had been CamelPhat, posed with resolute confidence against the flames and lighting that wailed around them, differentiating from the other acts of the day in their austere nature and cool professionalism. The duo were clearly in their element, and selections drifted from one to the next rather than emerging unexpectedly like before. We knew we would need all the strength we could for the second day of the weekend's musical conquests and wisely watched from afar. 

IZCO @ Transmission

IZCO @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

Walking back to Ashton Gate on Sunday, it was disheartening to hear that Shy FX had unexpectedly cancelled that morning. Regrouping with friends in the guest area, we speculated the potential reasons for his sudden withdrawal but were left stumped. Rather than pose an obstacle to our festival experience, we adapted it into the new attack plan for the Sunday lineup, of which we were mainly targeting The Streets. A short trip to Transmission began our day in much the same way as the first: in an open-air and lively environment. Excitement was brewing quicker than yesterday, and the sun peeked over Ashton Gate's crest to shine triumphantly through the lettering of the nearby Love Saves sign, which had been erected adjacent to the Transmission stage.

The small radio tower that housed IZCO and his cheerful MC welcomed the sun, nodding to Bristol's strong Jamaican heritage with shoutouts to St Pauls carnival and its "amazing" jerk chicken. Some of the assembled audience had begun to move around luridly, met with somewhat judgemental looks from those yet to leave the land of sobriety. In Walking Dead fashion, we attempted to imitate the zombie-like movements of the tipsy partygoers in order to go by undetected before abandoning the gentle melodies and wafting downtempo beats, in search of something more intense.

Caity Baser @ Love Saves Stage

Caity Baser @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

It had been a gentle start, but I felt a big send-off for the weekend starting to emerge. Keen to avoid another mass exodus at the Big Top tent, we planned to hop around from stage to stage, and were lead to see Caity Baser next at the nearby Love Saves stage. As the first non-electronic artist I'd seen this weekend, I was going in blind and wasn't quite sure what to expect when fluttering L-plates appeared on the screen, and Baser and her band stepped out.

Producing an impressive ensemble of sounds for a three-piece band, her guitarist worked through solos and held down complex melodies through the seamless use of effects units while Baser's playful lyrics were allowed to breathe inside the sonic headroom. The performance was enjoyable, although admittedly not to my own tastes, a criticism that perhaps speaks only to the diverse talents on display at the festival. We watched to mixed reactions, though I admit her song 'DILF' was a highlight and a refreshingly unserious alternative to the heaviness of yesterday.

Bru-C @ Love Saves Stage

Bru-C @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

Another artist I was seeing on a friend's recommendation rather than my own choice. Bru-C is an act I associate with a pre-Bristol conception of drum and bass, one which would land me a few judgemental looks had I publicly admitted this fact in my first year. Like Baser, Bru-C is an artist far from my own tastes. Yesterday had been Goldie, a forerunner of the drum and bass genre, and now came Bru-C, who arrives near the front of the modern jump up subgenre, which - love it or hate it - had mustered up a gigantic crowd. I savoured the satisfaction of standing in the photo pit, away from the "I Love Drum and Bass" t-shirt and Bru-C branded high-vis donned audience.

I found the sound a little lacking in volume as we left the pit and moved to the back of the crowd, though this was no fault of Bru-C himself, who's enthusiasm and keenness to connect with the crowd was a strong force in the performance's convincingness. My photographer and I left an impromptu backstage interaction with the artist afterwards clutching a signed high-vis, and bearing wholesomely gleeful grins. The moment felt magic in its unlikely randomness that wouldn't have taken place had I not spied the emerging MC as we walked to the porta-loos. Thank the stars for well-timed toilet trips.

A.M.C @ Big Top

A.M.C @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

I was beginning to see a trend with the jump up artists on offer for Sunday, leading to Dimension and Hedex's B2B with Bou later in the Big Top. A.M.C was closer aligned to my own experiences in the genre and began to chip away at the protectiveness I felt around drum and bass, a little embarrassing in retrospect. I have since decided it's best not to be so protective: I actually quite enjoyed the blaring horn sounds and whopping bass stabs by the end of the set, that I would have previously dismissed as, in a Guy Called Gerald's words as "music for car commercials".

The set was engagingly mobile in its movements through different styles and sounds. I admit the day shifted my intial position from an old-school jungle purist to looking more favourably on modern styles of drum and bass music, though I still can't take it as seriously as the latter. Maybe it's a feeling induced by my flatmate imitating the drops of jump-up tunes with vocal stims and flatulence. As we left the Big Top I was admitting to myself I couldn't brave another prolonged stint in the tent. 'F*ck Jump Up' fittingly soundtracked our exit.

Badger @ Teachings In Dub

Badger @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

The silliness that had made the Sunday so enjoyable only increased when we ended up at Badger's tent. Like many new garage artists, Badger has found success in his popular 140 remixes of just about anything: from Slipknot to Rusted Root, Charli XCX, and Blur. The man has chosen his name fittingly for a producer who scurries around the wilderness, selecting tracks that only a rabid scavenger of the forests would choose to align with UKG basslines (though I'm not sure Brian May would campaign for his protection from a culling). The endangered mammal had a lineup of tracks that were as oddball as expected, and we were yet to tire as the Teachings In Dub tent was transformed from a place of rest to a party full of laughs and drunken smiles.

His signature "Baj-uh" producer tag, which I had been mocking my South-London-born friend for pronouncing all day, was echoed across all his tracks as the only guiding thread between the eclectic nature of his set. Keen to catch The Streets close the weekend, we were whisked away halfway through. As anyone who attended Love Saves 2024 will know, this movement was complicated amid the omnipreesent slip-and-slide that had been mustered by nonstop torrents of rain hammering the ground, threatening to claim me at any misplaced step or skank.

The Streets @ Love Saves Stage

The Streets @ Love Saves the Day | Clara Conquest

Approaching the final curtain, a move from Badger to The Streets felt illustrative of one of the guiding themes of the weekend. Acts had been performing who pioneered the genres on display, while modern artists offered continued variations on what came before. The Streets took garage back to its primal beginnings with a live acoustic band, orchestrated in the middle by chief officer Mike Skinner. His expression was absent as he gazed into the crowd, eyes wide. Mentioning a cryptic reason everyone had been assembled at the stage he later divulged this was that "your parents had sex". The Streets were a culmination of Sunday's wackiness that would have been downright impossible to understand were it not for the staggering quality and legacy of the music on display.

It was hard also to fault Skinner's ability to gather engagement from the crowd as he threatened to "go full Apocalypse Now" atop a porta-loo overseeing the sea of muddy ravers. Disappearing briefly, Skinner took a page out of the festival's name and pleaded for everyone in the crowd to love each-other: "I'm going to violently endeavour for you to love one another". Peering to see where Skinner had gone next, the concerned expressions of security gained my attention before I turned right to see none other than Mike Skinner himself passing my right side. Following Skinner into the crowd, security trailed between a flapping microphone lead as surprised audience members turned to see the man himself amongst them.

Lifting his hand into the air he unveiled a yellow Poké Ball, which I am still yet to understand how or why he had. As the ball was tossed towards reaching hands, Skinner left the pit at the behest of a flustered security team. With his hands free Skinner symbolically joined the audience in their muddy plight; he smothered his face with the ground before revealing at the final song's closure that he was, in fact, Banksy. The final moments of the performance left me confused and impressed by Skinner's hijinks, that had somehow also felt slightly philosophical in nature in its appeal for unconditional love. In a final defiance of security he stayed backstage afterwards and spoke to fans late before he was ushered to clean up. I had to resist laughing too loudly after, as I watched him sprinting to the tour bus with a growing group of security in pursuit.

Featured Image: Clara Conquest (@cconquest.jpeg on Instagram)

Who was your favourite artist at Love Saves this year?

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