Despite many fruitful years spent sprayed across Liverpool’s various picturesque docklands, toying with a three dayer and a catalogue of big names and many memorable moments – the return of Liverpool Sound City festival to its roots this year was both a neccesary and welcome one.
Gone with the dust, sun stroke and occasional sound clashing on the docks and hello to the beautiful venues and spaces Liverpool’s simply unrivaled Baltic Triangle has to offer. The move to the Baltic meant the use of tonnes of intimate to medium venues, so therefore less huge names with Sound City moving back in line with its formative years – supporting, spotlighting and establishing the next big things. The Great Escape of the north.
Come Saturday afternoon, a buzz was already forming and my festival kicked off at Constellations with Liverpool’s own Generation – a band that never disappoint on the live stage. They nailed it once again. Addictive, youthful punk attitudes, sharp attires and Lucozade energy – enthralling.
Next the short trip outside to a packed, sun-kissed Constellations Garden to catch the phenomenal Cut Glass Kings. As mentioned in our preview The Coral’s James Skelly is a big fan and it’s easy to see why. Not only is there more hooks than a cloakroom but Cross and McMurray don’t half build a wall of sound for two people. Insane. Well into it and ‘Shadow Of Your Love‘ is a belter under the sun.
What followed was a trip over to Camp & Furnace – a space that works really well for gigs. Despite Sound City and the dozen or so venues all really getting into full swing by now the trio that followed here made the decision to stay put a fully justified one.
You really wouldn’t know Marsicans had spent hours in traffic travelling to Sound City. Their upbeat, summery cheer remained in full force. Matching their summery indie-pop belters beautifully with the relentless, beaming sun we’d just sheltered from, the Leeds quartet were certainly a day one highlight for the packed house that caught their set.
Following them and preceeding Black Honey wouldn’t be easy but Scots Neon Waltz were certainly up to the task. They’re now firmly Sound City regulars and favourites having appeared at many of the docklands editions. Since their last visit their fantastic debut record Strange Hymns has dropped. Said LP made up the majority of the set with sublime psych-pop fusions at every turn. These lads are belter, a fact that’s never lost on an educated Liverpool crowd.
Shortly after a very colourful procession by Liverpool artistic genuises Stealing Sheep had passed through, personal faves and baddest of friends Black Honey took to the stage. Izzy and the dudes had Liverpool eating out the palm of their hands in what, as often is the way with their performances felt like a headline set. Anthemic, polished and only made bigger yet by phenomenal new hit ‘Bad Friends‘. A fitting and memorable end to my day one. They should be headliners, so I made them such.
Day two kicked off with a huge set from Liverpool’s own Mad Alice, located in the very intimate and quirky Brick Street. Their half hour set of extremely tight, relentless blues-rock left a lasting impression with colourful frontwoman Caitlin Hare leading the charge and loving every second of it. Wonderful.
Elsewhere from afternoon to early evening a huge impression was left on me by a quartet of wicked bands – two of Liverpool’s own and two from down south, over on the Pirate Studios stage at Baltic Market. I think I can safely say a market has never seen anything of the like. The first of which was False Heads, a band that like a few of these have graced these pages in glowing terms before. I’ve long championed them as one of the best emerging live bands in the country and following this unreal set I bet Liverpool agrees. ‘Retina‘ is still one of the biggest releases I’ve heard by a new band in years and live it’s next level again. They put on a hell of a sweaty show and Finn Balor would’ve been proud of vocal-guitarist Luke Griffiths’ attempt at a set closing, diving neckbreaker on his own drummer. Insane.
Another safely placed among my favourite sets of the weekend came a few hours later on the same stage, as one of the most exciting new bands around Hey Charlie had hundreds skipping their evening food and moshing, dancing and singing along with them instead. ‘Hey!‘ and ‘Love Machine‘ are wicked tunes and their set never really slows, it keeps rolling and rolling. Tonnes of fun was had by the masses and it was great to see so many turn out for such a great new band in what was a competitive slot on the bill.
A quick dart back and forth between Furnace & Baltic Market to catch some of Radio 1 championed scousers Paris Youth Foundation‘s anthemic set and a raucous Red Rum Club party followed. The Paris Youth Foundation lads certainly are crowd pleasers and new single ‘The Off Button‘ is huge.
Queues ended up 100 or so deep to get in to an already packed ‘venue’ to catch Red Rum Club but those who got in witnessed a band on top form. The trumpets were sounded and Francis Doran rallied the scouse troops, climbing the speaker stands as they delivered a phenomenal set closer to a rapturous reception.
A must-see band on the Mersey circuit and beyond for going on years now, catching Queen Zee & the Sasstones was a must for me. They’re just bonkers and so much fun. Every part of their set seems crucial, you just can’t take your eyes off the performance before you for wonder of what might happen next. It’s weird and wonderful in equal measure. Talking of Bonkers, that unique rendition of the Dizzee Rascal hit thrown in the set had Liverpool delirious. Queen Zee don’t do things by halves, unreal performance, another festival highlight.
Overall, Sound City’s return to the city and to backing new talent was a welcome one. The chance to catch a cocktail of the finest emerging artists and bands in the country within five minutes of eachother is always an appealing one and worked seamlessly, whilst showing off the cities’ fantastic Baltic Triangle jewel to the wider musical circle proved a great thing for Liverpool.
Here’s to 2019.
All photos courtesy of the excellent Andy Von Pip.