Our somewhat delayed final round up of Liverpool’s Sound City saw us dash about the festival site with greater haste than Eric Pickles at a free buffet as we tried to take in as many bands as possible … below are some, but not all of our highlights ( You can see loads more pictures HERE from all three days)
NINA – The Cavern Stage
We started the day with a serving sophisticated, moody synth pop from Berlin-born NINA, who won the ‘most precarious heels’ award this year. Her mix of pulsing electronic with soaring vocals, which was as shimmering as her splendid silver trousers elegantly set us up for the day ahead.
SASKWATCH – The Record Store
There’d been a bit of a buzz growing following Saskwatch’s well-received set at Sounds Australia’s now legendary Aussie Barbeque showcase the previous evening. This time we caught them on the cramped Record Store stage, and they’d just about managed to squeeze all six members on the small makeshift stage. It’s a good job they aren’t still a nine piece, but their mix of upbeat tunes, great musicianship and Nkechi Anele’s timeless soulful (and amazing) voice demonstrated perfectly why the band have been making such waves. For many Saskwatch were their “find” of the festival, and on this evidence with good reason.
HONEYBLOOD – The Baltic Stage
A bit of mix up here – as we tried to access the photo pit a stern-faced security guard, and charm school refugee with a disposition that could curdle milk informed us nobody was allowed in the pit. Apparently he cared not one jot that we had photo passes, he had no desire to read what the photo passes said and indeed even if we were THE POPE HIMSELF, he wouldn’t let us into the photo pit, not now, not ever. Not sure if the Pope is a Honeyblood fan but he should be, their sound is really developing and maturing, it’s still loud and melodic, but their newer songs have an added layer of sophistication. You had to marvel at the fact that despite the fact there are just two members of Honeyblood, and yet they filled every inch of the cavernous warehouse with their brand of crunching guitar pop.
THE PROBES – The Cavern Stage
The Probes were one of our highlights of last year’s Sound City festival, and again the foursome from Liverpool produced a stellar set full of menace and melody. Chiming guitars, psychedelic flourishes and a plethora of new tunes, which at times sounded like a psych version of Joy Divison proved The Probes, are one of the best young bands in the city and shouldn’t be dismissed as just another guitar band. Hopefully, now they’ve finished college we’ll be hearing much more from them in the future.
JANE WEAVER – Atlantic Stage
We were disappointed to miss Jane’s conference speech this year because as a singer, songwriter guitarist, label owner Jane has built her own creative microclimate, which has sustained her as an independent artist for around 20 years. It’s a testament to her talent, determination, and artistic vision that she has carved out her own niche in music so successfully for so long. Her performance at Sound City, despite a strong Mersey breeze highlighted her enduring appeal, with a set that was seductive, hypnotic and demonstrated her unique ability to keep producing music that always seems on trend without every following trends. We will add one caveat; the set would have probably sounded a whole lot better in the warehouse stage.
ALLUSONDRUGS – Cargo Stage
We miss the end of Jane’s set to catch Allusondrugs after recommendations that the band are ‘mental’ live. Moreover, we can’t argue with that rather un-PC assertion, we’re not sure if we can recall seeing a band hurl themselves around with quite so much gusto before. The resembled brightly coloured musical pinballs as they ricocheted about the stage somehow contriving not to collide with each other. It’s Loud frenetic fun
BILL RYDER – JONES – Atlantic Stage
We catch the end of Bill’s set, and the Tranmere Rovers scarf on stage is probably seeing its biggest audience for quite some time. His new songs do certainly have an atmospheric, timeless quality, and never lapse into pastiche, which is something many Liverpool artists have had a tendency to do over the years. Mind you as Bill would probably point out he’s not from Liverpool, he’s from the Wirral.
MOON KING – Baltic Stage
Moon King made up of the core songwriting duo of Daniel Benjamin and singer/guitarist Maddy Wilde, are a fabulous live act. Their songs, which are often centred on weighty themes such as loss, emotional torment, redemption, are delivered with the sort of intensity you’d expect. Despite the subject matter, there’s nothing bleak about Moon King’s music and their performance on the Baltic warehouse stage is passionate and mesmeric.
JOHNNY SANDS – Cargo Stage
Johnny’s recent single has garnered a lot of attention from blogs, radio stations, and sounds like an artist stepping up to the plate to take things up to the next level. As is the way with these sort of events we don’t have time to catch his full set , but see enough to know he’s got plenty more tunes in his arsenal to ensure he reaches a bigger audience this year.
PIC: John McCullagh and the Escorts
FINDLAY – Cargo Stage
F*cking hell how good is Findlay? Seriously, this is another massive highlight of this year’s Sound City. Her latest material may have added more electronic flourishes than her earlier releases but live Natalie and her band are as huge sounding and intense as ever. ‘Electric Bones’ and ‘Wolfback’ sound far rockier live whilst ‘Off and On’ is greeted with howls of delight and even induces some early evening moshing from the audience.
SEAWITCHES – Karken Stage
Seawitches exude a rather menacing air live, with singer Joe Herring’s eerie vocals and intense stare having you wondering if she’s about to put a hex on you. Again the difficulty with this stage was apparent as the sound bleed from other stages was apparent. Still we know they have some whopping tunes and look forward to catching them again soon.
GAZ COOMBES -Atlantic Stage
Ahead of headliners Belle and Sebastian, Gaz Coombes set was polished, and efficient but never quite hit the heights for us. There were occasions when it threatened to spark into life, but maybe we were knackered, maybe we were suffering from ‘play the hits’ festival syndrome but we found ourselves drifting off and ruminating on just how the devil does Gaz manage to remain so fresh faced? He hasn’t really changed since the days he burst onto the scene with Supergrass replete with Amos Brearly’s mighty sideburns.
Pic – Spark Drummers
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – Atlantic Stage
Any doubts about Belle and Sebastian ability to wrap up proceedings on the festival’s main stage on a high were quickly dispelled with a masterful display from the Scottish veterans. Stuart Murdoch, who after discarding his Frank Spencer flasher mac, looked not unlike Frank Gorsin (from the camp70’s Batman TV show) was on fine form, his days of C.F.S. seeming a distant memory as he bounced about the stage with boundless energy, chatting to the crowd like they’d been friends for years. Classics such as ‘I’m A Cuckoo’, ‘I Want The World To Stop’ ‘ The Boy In The Arab Strap’ sat comfortably alongside the surging pop of new tunes such as ‘The Party Line’ as Belle And Sebastian proved that simplicity can provide just as an effecting and ecstatic experience as Flaming Lips’ mind bending theatrics the previous evening.
Pic – The Gramotones
There was still time for one last act and as we headed for the exit, we popped into the Baltic Stage to catch …
PEACE – The Baltic Stage
In some quarters, Peace have been dismissed as indie lightweights, but they have a loyal following some seriously great guitar anthems, and it must be said really do cut the mustard live. We’ve seen then on a number of occasions in the live arena , and this is where the band really do make sense. Their energy and intensity hasn’t yet been captured satisfactorily on any of their recorded releases yet, and they brought our visit to this year’s Sound City to an exhilarating end.
Sound City 2015 was the best and most intense yet, and has laid down the template for future events. Yes, of course, we miss the Kaz, the Cathedral, St Georges Hall et all but things change and to evolve you have to take risks. The teething issues of a first year in this new location require tweaks rather than a wholesale rethink. So yes the sound bleed from stages positioned in close proximity to each other was irksome, the space taken up by the largely unused fairground could have been better utililised, more toilets, seating, fairy lights, and art installations would certainly improve the overall experience, and disabled access could have been better. But all in all the dizzying array of talent on display, the great atmosphere, the parades, the fantastic conferences and the faded grandeur of the docklands location all combined to make this a spectacular four days that will live long in the memory. This is just the start, anyone who knows the team behind Sound City know they are doing this for all the right reasons – and we predict 2016 will be massive!