Forwards Festival returns for a second year: A fabulous museum of music

Forwards is a festival that Bristol needs to keep hold of


Forwards is back. The newly fledged Bristol festival returned for its sophomore showing and somehow promised an even more impressive line-up than last year. So, did it live up to the previous year’s extravaganza or fall short of the mark?

From the get go I was hit with a great wave of deja-vu of what made Forwards so easy and enjoyable last year. No hour long queues, being assaulted by camping bags and the chants of lads who have one personality trait: bonding over how shit Tottenham are.

Instead, I was inside within a couple minutes, testament to how well organised Forwards is and how the festival goer experience is at the heart of this weekend.

Once I was past the barriers I was met with that silly festival giddiness as I scanned my eyes across the Downs and over the three stages.

Whilst the layout remained very similar to last year there were some notable improvements. The sound, especially on the main stage, was louder, much to the joy of myself and the camper chair crew at the back. There was also a greater emphasis on sustainability with talks at smaller stages dotted around the festival, something especially fitting during this September heatwave.

Image credit: Plaster Communications

As for the music, unlike last year there seemed an attempt to perhaps distinguish genres between the two days. Friday starred the likes of Erykah Badu, Confidence Man and Bonobo whilst Saturday was graced with more electronic artists like Aphex Twin, Primal Scream and Leftfield.

Although this separation would make it easier to pick which day to attend if you are not a fan of dance music, I felt this gave the festival a bit of an identity crisis. I have always enjoyed the blend of genres at Forwards which makes it distinctive.

Last year, the closing acts were solely EDM which lifted the atmosphere from sing along tunes in the day to a party crescendo at night, something which this year the Friday sorely lacked.

It must be noted, though, that this could be down to Erykah’s performance who came on late, much to her band’s horror, and seemed more interested in her clothes than giving the crowd a good time.

Credit: Plaster Communications

Image credit: Plaster Communications

Apart from this and Viagra Boys sadly pulling out due to visa issues, there were no other faults with the performers who all put on spectacular shows. Shout outs go to Aphex’s pop-culture visuals (you know the ones), Raye’s spectacular voice, the raucous energy of Amyl and the Sniffers, and Scalping for filling Viagra Boy’s slot seamlessly.

I would still count Forwards as a massive success and definitely worth the money. As only its second time running, the experiments in direction I felt this year are most definitely allowed and will shape what is hopefully to be an iconic Bristol festival. 

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