Yesterday that nice Mr Geoff Barrow held forth on the manifold delights awaiting lucky punters at this weekend's Invada Invasion concert at Bristol's Colston Hall which - it turns out - is named after a notorious slave trader. "Whoa, hold on!" you say. "Just exactly what sort of crazy town is this 'Bristol'?" Fortunately Invada-signed peddle abusers Thought Forms are on hand to navigate you through the nooks and crannies of the South West's storied capital.
Though the three of us are Wiltshire til-we-die, we have kind of been charmed over to Bristol since becoming part of the Invada family.
So… if you were to visit for the weekend maybe a good place to start would be to have a drink or two in The Croft, which is the venue / bar owned by Invada’s Fat Paul. Listen to a few of his stories if you’re lucky enough to bump into him, then maybe ask around to see if anyone knows what’s going on at The Warehouse (and where it is!) which is a favourite place for a great community atmosphere and DIY, unofficial happenings; gigs with the right amount of love gone into them that reminds me of places like Death By Audio in Brooklyn and The Radish Patch in Chicago… there needs to be more places like this!
When it’s all over there, if watching sweaty goths gyrate against each other and dancing to all the nu-metal classics is your thing then there’s no better place to end your night (and it’s important that you END it there) than The Bierkeller.
Make sure you get up and start the next day with a proper breakfast (til 4pm!) from The Bristolian on Picton Street then grab a coffee from Café Kino which is around the corner on Stokes Croft, a co-operatively run vegetarian café / gallery space (where sometimes you’ll see a gig in the very tiny downstairs). Then you’ll be in a better state to have a leisurely browse through the books and zines at Here, just across the street.
Pop into Hobgoblin Music on College Green where you can touch and buy harps and other intriguing instruments…
But if it’s serious guitars and rare / interesting pedals you are after a look at then you should take the 10 minute train journey to Vintage and Rare in Bath. It’s by far our favourite guitar shop in the country, not only is all the stuff ridiculously drool-worthy but the staff are actually NICE, unlike a lot of guitar shops around. And if you, like us, need to get stuff fixed then there’s no better place to get your guitars and amps serviced. Seriously, recommended.
Picture: Thought Forms, enjoying a lively day out in what is probably Bristol (is that the Camera Obscura in the background?)
So you should make your way up Park Street to check out Rise Records before having a look in the Bristol Museum because it’s a beautiful building to wander. Test the reverb, look at all the pretty stuffed birds. (There’s one that finds a mate by digging a hole then screaming into it! He’s my favourite.) You should make the effort to carry on up to the Suspension Bridge and look at how pretty all the lights and muddy water is. All trees one side, all city the other. Have a sit down then visit Pie-Minister for the only dinner that will truuuuly satisfy after all that walking.
There are plenty of places to go and see interesting stuff…
On the arty side of things, we have Friend & Co which is Geoff’s gallery on Gloucester Road, it’s SMALL but full of goodness. The Arnolfini located on the harbour side is a larger arts centre… there are books and galleries to browse and a café/bar plus concerts, films, talks and other events.
http://www.cubecinema.com/The Cube is a rather lovely sit-down venue (run by volunteers) that plays host to a lot of awesome gigs as well as (obviously) showing films. They also have their own 'Cube Orchestra' into which anyone is welcomed to go and jam weekly. Qu-Junktions put on a lot of great stuff there.
Of course, you have to check out if there is a Sonic Sanctuary gig going on, sometimes they take place in Bristol venues such as The Louisiana, with it’s cozy living room vibe where we had our album launch, or Cherry Picked - the record store in the front bar of The Croft where aside from picking up new and used vinyl / cd’s and having a drink, you can catch free gigs on Saturday afternoons.
But the true home of Sonic Sanctuary is The Village Pump in Trowbridge, Wiltshire just a short train ride away. It’s a unique venue which is very special to me, a small barn at the back of a pub with cinema seats upstairs and old instruments covering the walls… a really beautiful place with a wonderful atmosphere that makes me feel warm inside every time. There, SS has seen some really incredible sets from international types such as MV/EE, Jack Rose and White Hills as well as local awesomeness from the likes of Team Brick, Gonga, Geisha, Don Bear… too many to name so check out the site!
So yeah. That’s our short guide to Bristol… the best part is that if you get sick of the city you’re never far away from the magnetic countryside of Wiltshire where you can wander around the stones at Avebury and get lost in Savernake forest if you need that space.