Preview: Forwards Festival brings heritage acts and cutting edge rising stars to the Downs

Confidence Man

Confidence Man, playing on the Friday at Forwards

After it’s inaugural outing last year, the second annual Forwards Festival – featuring a healthy line up combining established artists with up and coming talent – returns to Clifton Downs on 1st and 2nd September. A slight format shift sees the festival taking place on Friday and Saturday this time (rather than Saturday and Sunday) so we’d advise any Friday revellers to book some annual leave or at least pre-load at the office by sneaking some liquor into your usual afternoon coffee.


Having earned the moniker “Queen of Neo-Soul,” Erykah Badu is one of a rare breed of artists who have had an honorific musical title bestowed upon them by critics. Furthermore, the vocal style of the Dallas-born singer, songwriter, rapper, producer and actor has garnered rather impressive comparisons to Billie Holliday. A near 30 year career has seen Badu smash the US Billboard charts, win multiple Grammy awards and court controversy by being quoted in defence of R Kelly, Bill Cosby and…err…Adolf Hitler (well, she said his paintings were good). Boredom will not be on the agenda for her headline slot.

Co-headliner is DJ, producer and multi instrumentalist Bonobo, or Simon Green if you’re not using his simian-based sobriquet. An established live performer in the sphere of electronica, trip-hop and world music, Bonobo masterfully embellishes his electronic sounds with organic use of instrumentation and his live shows brilliantly capture his recorded work with a full band set up. Having enjoyed a professional career of close to 25 years, he remains at the top of his game; this year saw him nominated for Best British Dance Act at this year’s Brit Awards.

Reports from their appearance on the West Holts Stage at Glastonbury this year suggest that London jazz quintet Ezra Collective are a force to be reckoned with. The collective’s four formidable musicians will inject a thrilling multi-genre fusion of afrobeat, reggae, jazz, soul and hip-hop into this year’s festivities. Having won Best Jazz Act at last year’s MOBO Awards and their album Where I’m Meant To Be earning a nomination at this year’s Mercury Prize, Ezra Collective are a band in the ascendency and certainly one to watch.


Goldie, performing with a Live Ensemble on Friday at Forwards


Saturday at Forwards Festival promises to be every bit as mouth-watering as the Friday, combining heritage acts with cutting edge musical ascendants and cult favourites.

Nigerian-born Obongjayar promises to be a rising star of the future. Blending afrobeat and soul with hip-hop influences, OB released his debut full-length Some Nights I Dream of Doors last summer to critical acclaim, including an Ivor Novello Best Album nomination. Crediting his creative ascendancy to a move to Norwich in his early-20s, he must be one of the few young musicians who have reversed the traditional East Anglia-to-London settlement arc.

Propping up the headliner with significant back-catalogues are two heritage acts sure to please the older generation of attendees. Primal Scream, despite not releasing a studio album since 2016’s Chaosmosis, remain one of the most exciting live bands on the circuit. Screamadelica alone could fill a setlist, and Bobby Gillespie et al have plenty of other belters to fall back on. Progressive house and electro outfit Leftfield, meanwhile, celebrate over 30 years at the top of the dance music game, plus last year’s successful This Is What We Do, their first album release in seven years.

Headlining the Saturday is the elusive figure of Aphex Twin, an artist so embedded in cult mythology that his appearance at the festival was announced earlier this year with billboards emblazoned with his logo and nothing else. Word soon spread that he would be putting on a rare show in Bristol. The electronic pioneer, famous for releasing huge amounts of material at random intervals, will surely be pleasing the crowd with mindbending hits like Windowlicker, On and Come to Daddy.

For full line up details and ticket information, visit the festival’s official website.