6 acts to catch at Ritual Union Festival 2024

Songwriter Pem in front of blue sky

Bristol seems to have the art of the day festival down to a tee. With long-running staples such as Simple Things and Dot to Dot capturing the brilliance of the city’s music scene and smaller affairs such as Outer Town and Breakfest bringing an undeniable allure; the South West capital (sorry to any other cities vying for this title) really is spoilt for choice.

One such occasion which has become something of a smash hit in the post-pandemic years is Ritual Union – a compact yet thrilling event from the collective minds of the promoters behind Future Perfect and 1% of One. Their approach to curation has always led them down a path of up-and-comers, cult heroes, and a smattering of attention-grabbing headliners there for good measure, and this year’s third edition of the festival is no different.

In true Overblown fashion, we’ve picked out six must-see acts that are perhaps a little more under the radar for you to try and catch at the festival.

The Cleaners From Venus
The epitome of cultish outsider, the long-running project of Martin Newell will open the festival with a one-off performance at Strange Brew. Now in his seventies and with over thirty studio albums under the Cleaners From Venus name, Newell has never compromised his DIY ethos in favour of conventionality, and is sure to provide a thrilling start to the day with his eccentric brand of jangly psychedelic-pop.

The Itch
If word of mouth is anything to go by, London-based quintet The Itch might well be one of the hot tickets for the day. With information being scarce in terms of online presence and zero material released to date, the information we’re basing this on comes from a combination of the group comprising members of Regressive Left, who are joined live by faces from Lazarus Kane, Opus Kink and Yassassin. Those who have been lucky enough to see them live have described them as an indie-dance crossover act that are equally capable of making pop hits as they are club floorfillers. Strap yourselves in for this one.

If there’s any band in the capital right now more deserving of the title of ‘most fun hardcore band’, then it’s Handcuff. With sugary-sweet melodies finding themselves aligned with brash riffs and an ardent political edge, the band are proof that punk can still be confrontational while maintaining a certain effervescent charm. If you’re after a mid-afternoon rager then they’re one to watch, but equally if you want to be filled with an unmatched sense of warmth, then you might also want to head down.

While there’s always a fine spread of artists from across the globe on the Ritual Union lineup, the ones from closer to home should not be shrugged off, and leading the line for the unmissable Bristolian acts this year is the art-pop wonder Pem. Having recently returned with her incredible new single, ‘awe’, songwriter Emily Perry has garnered attention for dazzling support slots with The Last Dinner Party and mary in the junkyard, but you can guarantee she’ll be taking her game up another notch for a spellbinding hometown show.

A band with three tongues firmly placed in three cheek(face)s, ‘America’s local band’ are ready to steal the show in their debut Bristol performance, with their off-the-wall humour and ineffably brilliant hooks. Cheekface have been on something of a hot streak in the last few years, with their latest album ‘It’s Sorted’ perhaps being their punchiest offering to date. If you’ve ever wondered what Parquet Courts would sound like if they developed a penchant for They Might Be Giants, look no further.

William Doyle
Since his promising beginnings under his East India Youth moniker, songwriter and composer William Doyle has had a fascinating career trajectory since opting to return to recording under his own name. Frequently dubbed as a modern-day answer to the likes of Brian Eno and Robert Wyatt, Doyle has been known to dabble in the more peculiar and progressive sides of pop music with lavish soundscapes filling his work, yet his latest album ‘Springs Eternal’ is him at his most unabashedly catchy. It’s anyone’s guess as to which side we’ll get, but it’s going to be a fantastic way to close out the day.

Still stuck for choice? Here’s another six honourable mentions for you to consider and a tiny bit of blurb to help sway your decision…

Do Nothing – Nottingham’s masters of sardonic wit never fail to impress when in town

Ebbb – an utterly confounding act that blend intense electronics with angelic vocals

Holiday Ghosts – at least one other band will tell you to watch Holiday Ghosts, so how can you go wrong?

Sam Akpro – Peckham shapeshifter that combines scrappy post-punk with a love of jazz and soul

The New Eves – simply put, the future of freaky British folk music

Ovlov – Connecticut noise-rockers make their maiden UK voyage and are set to impress

When is Ritual Union?
The event takes places on 23rd March 2024

Where is Ritual Union?
Ritual Union takes place across several Bristol venues: SWX, SWX 2, Strange Brew, Rough Trade & The Island.

How much are Ritual Union tickets?
At the time of writing, the festival is on its 3rd release of tickets: priced at £28 and available here.

featured image: Pem by Sandra Ebert

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