Inevitably, with Liverpool Sound City music festival changing location there will be comparisons, people will talk quite rightly, with affection of how things used to be. But perhaps the first step to enjoying the festival as it now is, is to reconfigure your mindset to accept that Sound City is no longer a city centre festival in the same vein as the Great Escape, Live At Leeds and Dot To Dot. It has gotten bigger, but in doing so, has lost none of its heart. 2015 was undoubtedly a pivotal year for Sound City but the bold and ambitious move to transfer the entire set-up to a deserted dock has certainly paid off. The weather gods were kind, and what transpired was a spectacular musical house warming party in the festival’s new home. Sure there were a few teething problems, but given that this was the first time in a completely untried location, you have to say hats off to ’em.
Dave Pichilingi festival CEO told us beforehand that he’d hoped to make Sound City 2015 a totally immersive experience. That’s exactly what he and his team delivered, despite it being just a fifteen-minute drive from our front door the four days we spent at the festival really did feel like we were on a different planet. From a fantastic conference, incredible music, Mad Max post-apocalyptic carnivals, illuminated drummers, the world’s worst superheroes, we crammed in as much as possible over four mind-bending, occasionally ear shredding, totally exhausting but always hugely enjoyable days.
Here are just some of our highlights of 4 days of music, madness, and mayhem in words and pictures.
The music industry conference in Liverpool’s hugely impressive Titanic hotel felt like a major step up from previous years. Meeting one of our punk heroes Viv Albertine was a huge highlight as was listening to her stories of close encounters with John Lydon, being taught to fight, (or rather run,) by Sid Vicious and of her disappointment at how many of today’s bands attempts at being edgy seems to start and stop with wearing a leather jacket.
She discussed her remarkably frank bio ‘Clothes, Music, Boys’ with the sort of candour and openness you’ve come to expect from Viv. Huge credit to Dave Haslam (who earlier had a tricky encounter with Mark E.Smith by all accounts) for his expert questioning.
Julian Cope’s discussion with John Robb around the theme of ‘Jubilee Punk’ was everything you’d want it to be, reflecting on how Liverpool’s post-punk scene had accepted him by simply not telling him to ‘fuck off’ …..
but the highlight had to be hearing Edwyn Collins and his wife Grace Maxwell talk about his recovery with great humanity and humour. In addition, to top it all Edwyn performed a short set of new songs backed by a string quartet. You would have to have a heart of stone not to have been moved by that experience. It was a genuine honour to be there!
There then followed a number of showcase performances in the hotel which featured a great mini-set from local band Scarlet.
The Festival – Part 1
Given the number of bands we caught this year, we’ll be trying to convey the atmosphere rather than write straight up reviews.
Holly Siz – The North Stage
French artist Holly Siz (aka actor and singer Cécile Cassel) kicked off our Sound City experience this year. High on energy and attitude she produced a sparkling set sprinkled with some serious earworms which combined elements of dance rock and pop with the end result being a seriously engaging upbeat musical cocktail.
Barberos – The Baltic Stage
Our first ‘WTF’ moment of the festival arrived when we wandered into the vast Baltic Stage warehouse and caught a band that initially looked like they’d wandered off the set of Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’. However Barberos are in reality a three piece electro- noise band from Liverpool, who were certainly visually arresting and strangely hypnotic, Indeed we were still mumbling ‘WTF’ for some considerable time after leaving their set.
Triana Park – Kraken Stage
To be honest, we weren’t sure if a fusion of Latvian hip-hop and rock would be our cup of tea but Trina Park’s singer Agnese Rakovska, certainly had the style, and presence of somebody who would be very much at home on one of the festival’s main stages. There was a definite aura of star quality about her.
YAK – Baltic Stage
After missing these chaps at Live At Leeds, they were one of our must-see bands at this year’s Sound City and they didn’t disappoint. They buzz they are starting to generate is clearly based on real substance and are a band with an intuitive ability to take their influences and make them their own.
VAULTS – Atlantic Stage
After the incendiary power of Yak, it was over to the main stage for some haunting atmospherics from Vaults. Given the intimate nature of their music it translated surprisingly, well on a big stage.
LUCKLESS – Kraken Stage
Ivy Rossiter, aka Luckless, delivered a sterling set on what could be described as the “challenging” Kraken stage. Logistically this stage, the North stage and the Cavern stage were far too close to each other, thus quieter bands often suffered due to the sounds travelling between each stage. However, Ivy delivered a polished and emotive set despite the sound leakage. A big talent with a bright future, her second album ‘Vindication Blues’ comes highly recommended.
SPECTOR – Atlantic Stage
Spector’s early releases didn’t really grab us but their newer material, which somebody once rather woefully described as ‘doing a Horrors’ seemed to have much more depth than the previous indie by numbers. Unfortunately, for Spector, aside from their diehard fans who seemed to be up for it, much of the crowd had to be cajoled into getting into the mood, which is never a good sign. Still it was a competent rather than inspiring performance.
Before we headed across to listen to the bright and breezy sound of Swans, we came across the fantastic Brazilica Carnival dancers, who actually induced in us, feelings of excitement, rather than doom about the prospect of an impending apocalypse. Dressed as post-Armageddon Mad Max-style Amazonian road warriors the end of civilisation, it appears doesn’t actually look too bad after all In fact, we enjoyed it so much we almost forgot we were here to watch some bands. Ahem!
Pic : Taffy
SWANS – Baltic Stage
If our spirits were raised by Brazilica’s dancers they were soon about to come crashing down…
We’ve tried to appreciate Swans music on numerous occasions, and we’ve often failed. Given our obsessive love for the Jesus and mary Chain this surprises many people, but as Last FM users will testify music doesn’t work on a ‘if you like this, you’ll LOVE this’ basis. We accept the failure is entirely our own, that we just don’t ‘get it’ but we’d hoped seeing them live would change our minds, and perhaps disabuse us from the view that much of their post-reunion music resembles ponderous self-indulgent arse wankery of some distinction – sadly this performance cemented that view. And we really wanted to like them. I guess we’ll have to concede defeat.
After an intro, which could have been mesmeric if it hadn’t of made back-to-back Bruce Springsteen sets seem like a mere wrinkle in the fabric of time, we realised brevity wasn’t exactly going to be embraced during this set. Swans made the sort of noise that threatened to summon up Lucifer himself, alas Lucifer upon hearing this cacophony, seemed to have popped in his earplugs and settled down for a nap!
Friends tell us that back in the day Swans used to be amazing, but during their very final days and since their reunion, Michael Gira seems to have concentrated on hefty 20-minute epics. Epics which seem to huff and puff and, like a driver with a broken sat nav, when they do finally arrive at their destination the will to live has long since evaporated. The none appearance of Beelzebub certainly didn’t dampen the appreciation of many in the audience and there were numerous examples of the sage nodding of heads and the thoughtful stroking of chins, as if to say ‘yes we get it, this is high art’. Unfortunately, they also reminded us of the type of person who laughs a little too heartily and loudly at certain junctures during a Shakespeare play. But each to their own – we departed the set early filled with an overwhelming desire to listen to the Ramones.
Pic: Delta Rae
GEORGE THE POET – Cargo Stage
With bleeding ears, we left the Swans to wallow in their pit of crushing gloom and popped in to the Cargo stage in time to catch George The Poet. George is a Brit award nominated artist and Cambridge graduate who grew up on an inner city estate, and represents the cerebral flip side to empty commercial misogynist rap. He’s a chap with something to say, somebody with a social conscience who isn’t afraid to tackle contemporary political issues head on. He delivered his messages with such confidence, wit style and charisma that he quite simply demanded your attention and it felt like something of a wakeup call… but alas, it was time for bed…
Pic: ‘Sleep well, the world is in safe hands’
And so ends Part 1 of our Sound City review – Part 2 plus lots more pictures HERE