Love Saves The Day 2023 event review

It was that time of year again, when zap! bang! heads west for the late May bank holiday. Love Saves The Day 2023 took place over Saturday and Sunday, its sophomore year in the gorgeous rolling grounds of Ashton Court in Bristol, and the eleventh edition. Laura Jones was there.

A new year brought a new name to the map, The Big Top, and added to stages known for high production values and individual creative identities. To accommodate, the site had a reshuffle to fit in all ten, including the elusive Ball Pit stage, and it was the rowdy Brouhaha stage that was first to welcome us. The crowd were already jumping for newcomer Melle Brown who has collaborated with legend Annie Mac. Melle was playing a blend of sunny house and jazzy sounds, but onwards we went as there was a stacked line up to discover. 

Love Saves mixed it up across a blend of UKG, house and breaks from Bklava; genre-defying hip hop star Kelis; drum & bass across the spectrum from Nia Archives and Andy C; and closed with iconic big beat from Fatboy Slim. 

Bristol’s very own Shambarber was back and had the brilliantly named Misscoteque, who in their own words are “reimagining 80s lesbian discos'' and was a great reminder of the proud inclusivity of the event. But we could only stay for a hot minute, as Dr Dubplate was on a house call with Main Phase. His Mixmag warm up set had been full of heaters, and he brought the fire live to Lost Gardens. Now nestled next to the terrace-style Paradiso (who were enjoying the Amapiano stylings of Kilimanjaro) was the flower-surrounded cottagecore stage. In its place were the bassline wobbles that could be heard over the warm breeze from Teachings in Dub as explorers made their way to the glade.

The Big Top was huge and packed with ravers when we arrived despite the first proper good weather here in the UK, which is testimony to the solid work A Little Sound has put into building her name. She offers perfectly pitched festival sets, mixing her own heartfelt vocals, like on 'Weed and Wine', with jump-up favourites that never let the energy drop. Although a vast tent, the same attention to detail found festival-wide saw Printworks-style vertical LED screens hung over the artists at an angle for maximum visuals, and we would be back to sample more of the Run DNB curated acts as night fell. 

Back out into the sun, and in need of refreshment, we stopped at hill-top Transmission, still in its beacon position sending out bassy sound waves, beaming more drum & bass from Sicaria B2B Sir Hiss to the ravers in the sunshine. Using our vantage point we worked out our route to the main stage, Love Saves Stage, via the strip of yummy food stalls, and Centre Stage for a shuffle to Salute. With an amazing line-up, Love Saves mixed it up across a blend of UKG, house and breaks from Bklava; genre-defying hip hop star Kelis; drum & bass across the spectrum from Nia Archives and Andy C; and closed with iconic big beat from Fatboy Slim. 

Kelis should never be missed at a festival. Many of the crowd weren't born when she released debut 'Caught Out There' in 1999, so this would act as an education. Supported by tour DJ Nikki Beatnik, and vocalist Simone Daley-Richards, she dropped knowledge by blending her own critically-acclaimed back catalogue with dancehall, old skool hip hop, R&B, disco, house, and drum & bass into a frenetic forty five minutes. There were very few hands not in the air by the end. 

Norman Cook looked like he was easily having as good a time as the Bristol crowd.

Bristol showed up for Nia Archives, as the huge crowd stayed out in force for the artist who showed her authenticity and vulnerability in her singing, on tracks such as 'Headz Gone West’, 'Sunshine Bang UR Head Against The Wall', and 'Conveniency'. Her C.P. Company goggle jacket artwork for the latter loomed large over the crowd, and the towering LED screens were a canvas to spread her trademark glitch art and showing us why she deserved a move up the bill having caused a ruckus at Lost Gardens last year. 

We had barely time for a breather as Andy C burst out the starting-gate. An artist capable of turning the festival set up to ten in a heartbeat, he brought dubs-a-plenty of new tracks and old reworks, and MC Tonn Piper injects his energy for a fresh new take every time. Fittingly starting off with the Netsky and Sub Focus bootleg of Shouse’s 'Love Tonight' and taking in classics like 'Messiah' and fresh Sub Focus cut 'It’s Time', as well as crowd-pleasing tracks that sample from a wide range of electronica, from Eurythmics’ 'Sweet Dreams' to La Roux’s 'In for The Kill', this was another slick set from the award-winning executioner. 

Amped up for more drum & bass, we headed back to Big Top for Sub Focus and Dimension, and while we could only stay for a few tracks before tearing ourselves away for funk soul brother Norman Cook, Sub Focus track 'Fine Day' could easily hold the title for sound of the festival, and a contender for the whole of the summer. 

Saturday headliner Fatboy Slim brought us big name guests (on the screen). Rita Ora was a limbless apparition for opener 'Praise You', Christopher Walken danced on 'Weapon of Choice', and faces morphed like an AI fever dream. Beardyman featuring “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat” and Greta Thunberg featuring 'Right Here Right Now' were always going to be ravey. But it was the sight of lasers shining out into the night from the giant heart to the Frankie Goes To Hollywood sample “hit me with those laser beams” that stayed with me. We left shaking what our mama’s gave us to the big beat of Norman Cook, who looked like he was easily having as good a time as the Bristol crowd.

On Sunday we headed in for Katy B, but don’t call it a comeback. Before this year’s slammer with Kings of the Rollers, there was a whole host of bangers with which to whip up the excitement of the huge early-afternoon Brouhaha crowd, before dropping 'Katy on a Mission'. We would then rewind back from 2011 to the early 00s and the sounds of the original Sugababes.

Sugababes' hits 'Overload', 'Round Round', and 'Freak Like Me' were met with an energetic crowd, and testament to the tight live band and the pacing of their set.

Sugababes’ songs sounded as fresh as yesterday, and seen through the prism of rapturous reception from young and older millennials alike it tapped into an appreciation of Y2K shimmering icy cool pop that sounds right again for now. Hits 'Overload', 'Round Round', and 'Freak Like Me' were met with an energetic crowd, and testament to the tight live band and the pacing of their set. Every pop band needs a “sits down on a bar stool” moment and we were treated to 'Too Lost In You' and 'Ugly'. Those fans that know DJ Spoony helped out with a rework of Sweet Female Attitude’s 'Flowers' would not have been surprised by a garage megamix, but I was (and was here for it). The closer 'Back Around' was euphoric and left everyone wanting more. 

Back to bass, and I could write all day about the high grade programming from old skool junglists like General Levy to bright new things like Piri. Kings of the Rollers brought Inja to the Brouhaha to distribute his brand of wisdom of peace, love and unity. While the sun was still out we wandered to find some more sun-soaked positivity in the form of electronic artists Folamore, followed by B.O.T.A. Eliza Rose, then Romy from The XX. She skilfully blended her signature down-tempo vocals with 90s gems like N-Trance’s 'Set You Free', jumping up energetically for the highs and blending the emotion with the euphoria on tracks like fresh cut 'Enjoy Your Life'. 

Overmono cocooned us in a warm forty minute embrace.

Overmono had one of the most hotly anticipated albums of the year and the Big Top was still packed. Of course fate is a cruel mistress, and it was ever thus that the weather would remain fine and warm-ish both days, negating the need for this new cover that had been added after listening to the wishes of ticket-holders. But it provided a step change from the outdoor raving and Overmono cocooned us in a warm forty minute embrace. 

Years & Years would soon bring the love to a packed crowd over at Loves Saves with Olly Alexander’s pop bangers, but we checked out Brouhaha for one last bruk out of heavy hitters from Bristol’s Clipz with Dread MC, followed by Shy FX and Stamina MC. It had not lost an inch of the levels of insane bass for the switch up to the new position, and made tearing yourself away at any point very hard. We left with Shy FX dropping his remix of Proteje’s 'Who Knows' ringing in our ears, Stamina singing “Who knows/I just go where the trade winds blow/Sending love to my friends and foes” and flames shooting into the dark night, which seemed a fitting end to a love-filled two days. 

Images: Plaster