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Apocalypse Summer Bash @ Exchange, Bristol

By Roxann Yus | 03/09/22

The first gig I ever went to was at the Exchange in Bristol – I saw Barns Courtney. Looking back at the gig a year or so ago I noticed that he had performed alongside someone oddly familiar. Someone who would go on to become an icon in my world, enticing me into the unfamiliar and fascinatingly-paired world of nu-metal and Britney Spears. Of course, I’m talking about Milkie Way from WARGASM (UK). And yes, I must add “(UK)” to avoid that endearing chain-message-like reception about the other band Wargasm.

I understand that this might sound irrelevant to this specific review considering WARGASM (UK) didn’t actually perform at the Apocalypse Summer Bash. But to me, this is totally relevant.

Why? Well, what if I look back at this festival in years to come and suddenly realise someone I saw for the first time has transformed the way I view and listen to music? Someone who’s become an icon in the rock and metal community, challenging the image we associate with ‘rockstar’?

Luckily for you, I’m pretty sure the Apocalypse Summer Bash on the 28th of August provided the ingredients for just that. I got to see the talented Bambie Thug and Death Blooms again and check out some familiar names I hadn’t seen live yet, as well as bands I’d never heard of.

The first act of the day was the artist I was most looking forward to seeing. This was Joe Appleford: he opened the main stage and debuted his album Dystopian Dreams Utopian Nightmares at this very special grassroots venue. I had checked out this album upon its release in August and particularly loved the tracks Silver Lining, The Escapist, and Love & War. His live performance was just as compelling and warm as it was when I’d played it whilst cooking dinner in the evening.

Joe’s voice has such warm and mysterious strength and an engraved echo within it. It’s the sound of classic rock and roll tucked into a modern, post-hardcore project best described as the lovechild of Thrice and Boston Manor. His set was an intimate microcosm of Thrice’s Vheissu headlining set at 2000Trees in June this year. Any fans of Thrice, and that album in particular, would be beautifully suited to Dystopian Dreams Utopian Nightmares, and likely the future direction of Joe Appleford. With this only being Joe’s debut album, compared to Thrice’s immense discography up to and after Vhiessu, the attention to detail and modern, yet relentlessly classic take on hardcore will be received welcomely in months and years to come.

Soon after, we caught Black Coast in the main room. It had slipped my mind that I’d actually caught them before supporting Higher Power at the Brudenell in Leeds; partly because, as carelessly as it sounds, all my attention was on Static Dress, and also because they sounded so different to me this time around. I must admit, my music taste has become a lot more partial to the heavy, nitty-gritty hardcore and metal sound now. Even at that Higher Power show, I was sceptical about Static Dress, but now I’m drop-dead obsessed. So, I, by all fault of my own, likely did not appreciate their music enough then.

But during their set at the Apocalypse Summer Bash, I wholeheartedly appreciated their magnetic effect on their audience, and what an energetic show they put on. I witnessed some of the grooviest mosh moves I’d ever been lucky enough to see. Shout out to the dude in the beanie.

I was very excited about the next act, Lightwave. They're a female-fronted metal band defying our normative expectation of the genre and an undeniable minority booked for metal gigs and festivals. The latter was apparent in this lineup alone, but it's our job, as well as grassroots venues, to elevate their special voices.

As we walked down to the basement stage we were greeted by their guitarist who was eagerly awaiting moshers since there was a bit of a lag between sets finishing and beginning again. But soon the basement was full, overwhelmingly warm and sweaty, and bouncing from wall to wall with a feel-good genre bend. And, if anyone knows me, I am a complete sucker for a genre bend. Pop and metal? Go on. That’s exactly what I just praised Milkie Way for after all.

What makes this band even cooler? They played their first-ever gig on Halloween last year. This fits my fantasy of the band’s storyline perfectly since their debut album Dark Cycles couldn’t have a more astronomical and spiritual aesthetic. Lightwave are only just getting started, escaping the cycle of genre expectations and creating their own meaningful relationship with music and sound.

Headlining the small stage was the non-binary excellence of Bambie Thug, whom I’ve praised many times for their relentless sex-positivity and experimentation with the spectrum of gender through their music. I was really excited to get up close and personal at a Bambie Thug set since when I last saw them (supporting WARGASM (UK) at the Bodega in Nottingham), I was very new to the Bambie Thug experience and definitely not educated enough on the PMP philosophy they’ve created.

Bambie is an accumulation of music and expression coded inside a hypnotising performer. Their relationship with their body appears greatly influenced by witchcraft and magic, resulting in a spiritual expression of self onstage. They debuted their newest (and my favourite) song Kawasaki (I Love It) which infused both them and their audience with energy, sexual identity and honestly, joy. A wise and arguably discerning friend of mine once told me that concerts have no point unless they add something that you cannot hear from a recording. I always found this a pessimistic view of live music until I looked back at the concerts I had attended and realised the best ones had elements of theatre, performance, and electricity that could never translate to Spotify. Despite no budget for theatrics, fire and all the things we may ostensibly associate with an ‘electric performance’, Bambie Thug proves my wise friend’s point perfectly: live music has a meaning when we're given a performance and experience.

Last but not least was our headliner Death Blooms. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them a few times, which yes, means I’m an emo pessimist too. But nothing was pessimistic about their set: optimism filled the mosh pit as Paul commanded the stage and asked everyone to get involved and look after each other. Again, Death Blooms are another example of my wise friend’s hypothesis. Albeit, less in touch with spirituality and performance onstage, bystanders at a Death Blooms gig express themselves in movement and create their own experiences that cannot be recreated digitally.

I began this review by mentioning the importance of grassroots venues in elevating voices and giving artists a physical platform to change the way fans experience music. It almost comes full circle given I mentioned seeing Milkie Way for the first time at the Exchange, and Death Blooms and WARGASM (UK) have a banger of a song together, Shut Up. These are the places that host our future favourite artists and songs. The artists I caught at the Apocalypse Summer Bash have bright futures ahead of them and represent the uniqueness and individuality of artists in this scene.


Edited by: Roxann Yus

Photos taken by: Ben Massey

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