April 13, 2022
Words by: Ewan Ferguson
As we approach the summer months it’s time to re-acquaint ourselves with Bristol’s extensive festival scene. When you start to total them up, it’s clear that Bristol’s formidable number of summertime events and music festivals is something to be celebrated. This four month spree of musical and cultural celebrations has recently expanded with the addition of Outer Town festival – a day event rammed with over 30 artists ranging from the obscure and abstract, through to some of the city’s underground sweethearts.
Situated along Old Market Street, the event on 10th April brought together five venues worth of music across six separate stages. As well as a collaboration with Moor Beer and Off the Record, the lineup pulled together the very best of Bristol’s underground/DIY scene, as well as a few from further afield.
As the day drew closer we had a sit down with Harry Dodson, the event’s single-handed director and curator, to discuss his thoughts behind Outer Town.
Outer Town mainly consists of small venues and bars along Old Market rather than some more traditional venues situated closer to the centre of Bristol. What was the thought process regarding location choice and the selection of venues?
I feel like Old Market is somewhat a forgotten part of Bristol. There’s so much going on there and so many great venues, restaurants and events, but often I feel like it isn’t spoken of as much as other parts of Bristol.
The venues individually are all recognised but maybe not as a whole area of culture as such. Outer Town is designed to be a community-orientated event and the aim is to support the Bristol music scene and, in regards to Old Market, support the independent venues there.
There’s this whole street of independent bars and venues that are all often overlooked by some and hopefully this event will bring some well-deserved attention to Old Market. It’d be great to be part of a push to make Old Market more of a place to talk about – bringing Bristol’s community into Old Market with a common interest in music.
What was your thought process regarding the lineup? You’ve very successfully curated a diverse, yet succinct selection of artists on the bill. What are you hoping to represent?
The aim is to represent what’s going on in the Bristol music scene with local bands as much as possible, and to also create a diverse space that provides a platform for everybody, but also so that is reflected within the crowd as well. Everybody is included, celebrated and represented.
With so many day festivals in Bristol what does Outer Town bring to the table? What separates it from the rest?
The thing that’s different about Outer Town is that it is primarily Bristol bands; it’s about Bristol and is a celebration of what great music culture we have here. That’s the main thing about Outer Town. 80% of the line-up is local. Even the artists from further afield, which is important for variation, still have strong links to the city anyway so it’s still consciously keeping that theme underpinning the whole event.
I guess it’s kind of the opposite of a lot of other day festivals, where the top end of the line-up is curated with artists from all over the UK or further afield and local artists backfill the rest of the event?
Exactly. That was a conscious route I wanted to avoid. It feels like some festivals might just bring in lots of local bands just to show that they have somewhat included the scene, whereas Outer Town is there to showcase these bands in a large majority and to let them have the forefront rather than just as an addition to an already finished line-up.
You have already established yourself as an independent Bristol promoter through Klyphex Productions in the last couple of years. What made you decide to try something else in terms of events? Any reason for not putting the day festival under Klyphex?
I haven’t made this festival a ‘Klyphex presents’ event because, to be to the point, it’s not about me, it’s about the bands. I’ve tried to separate the event from myself as much as I can. After putting on quite a few shows at the Exchange and spending time at other venues in Old Market, I had this link in my mind for some reason and also I just wanted to challenge myself.
Doing Klyphex brings it’s own challenges as with any promotion companies, but after doing a large number of shows in the same venues, I wanted to try something new and expand on the experience I had built up. I wanted to create a platform in which I could involve as many creatives as possible. Doing one-off shows limits it to just three or four bands, but with Outer Town there’s so much space, honestly still not enough space, but enough to get some really great people playing across some really great venues.
I feel like it’s a very natural progression as well. You’ve earned your stripes as a promoter on the local scene anyway, so it only makes sense to showcase everything that you are interested in at one large event.
Yeah exactly. With the line-up, I truly do love every band on the bill, I’ve been interested in most of them and aware of them long before I thought about booking them and that’s why this is so exciting for me. In my eyes therefore, it is the perfect festival (laughs).
Being a promoter and line-up curator demands a keen eye for acts/artists in order to create great events with complimentary line-ups and stages. Is there anything particular that catches your eye as a promoter? What draws you to certain bands?
I think the people that have the drive to put in the effort themselves and don’t just expect other people to do it all for them. I listen to every band sends me music and that’s a commitment I think is important to keep for myself as a promoter.
Being a musician/artist isn’t necessarily a glamorous job most of the time – it’s extremely hard work. Bands that I see putting in consistent effort and treating it as seriously as a full time job, immediately stand out to me as they are aware of the fact that things won’t land in their lap. Working hard and pushing themselves creatively are the two things I love to see in bands.
As we’ve already mentioned, with the Bristol-heavy line-up there are a lot of new bands emerging and being showcased at Outer Town. Do you have any specific recommendations for the day? Any must-see sets?
I don’t want to pick favourites but I was personally very excited for HAAL. They’re doing some really special music in the Bristol scene at the moment. Beige Banquet – not a group from Bristol – they’re great!
As I said, I love everyone on the line-up and am reluctant to pick favourites, so I’ll just say keep up with as many bands as you can. I really hope this event will introduce some people to some bands that they become obsessed with.
Outer Town took place Sunday 10th April along Old Market Street. Follow them here to keep up with their movements.