Liverpool Sound City 2009: SSS, Johnny Foreigner, Sparkwood & 21, Black Eyes and Neckties, The Sand Band

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The Sound City opening night marathon continues. And Getintothis’ Matt Eland is determined to go the distance.


I finish work later than intended, and seeking consolation over missing local heroes Metro Manila Aide, investigate scouse hardcore boys SSS.
That’s proper hardcore, not happy hardcore, the type pumping out of several bars on the jog down – beards, feedback, and songs with titles like ‘The Beast.’
They sound a bit like Doomriders, but with the more explicitly metal tendencies toned down and condensed into the kind of short sharp shock they’re named after.
The Loft is a bit sparse though, and between each song there’s the sort of cloying, expectant pause that’s almost an uncomfortable silence.
It’s good, then, that their guitarist and bassist have the confidence to concentrate on their instruments, and leave the singer for the odd bit of crowd interaction with the huddled knot of devotees at the front – but they’d benefit more from the kind of intimate, sweaty mist that Johnny Foreigner have worked up downstairs.
Sparkwood & 21 are a short jog away, and a total change of pace, in the Zanzibar.
Maybe it’s the just presence of a Mandolin on stage, but there’s a definite hint of mid-point REM about these country feedbackers.
I say feedbackers – whilst they’ve got those gong type drumsticks and a guitarist with a massive beard (beards again -there were many on show) they never go into the full on neo-prog territory I vainly hope for, although they come close with the singers soaring vocals during closer ‘Save.’
It’s dedicated to “anyone Welsh, and anyone who had tickets for Clinic,” a statement that somehow adds to their charm.

The Sand Band
Another jog back up the road yields Black Eyes and Neckties, and it’s like wandering into the wrong hotel room and seeing something dead sleazy.
As I join them half way through the set, the keyboardist is perched on the barrier, removing her tights and losing much of her dignity, as a goth synth blues scale drones in the background.
And when they kick in, it’s like Queens of the Stone Age have been possessed my zombies and are starring in an obscure 70s cannibal exploitation film. The cavernous silence that SSS encountered is gone, because the paths between songs are seamless, and there’s always something going on, like the bassist baring his chest and climbing up the speakers to that little enclave above the door.
Or that keyboardist again, spitting on the singer’s back. He didn’t even notice, and I bet no-one told him.
In fact, I bet it’s a game, and they do it every night and he doesn’t have a clue.
The Sand Band, back in the Zanzibar, can only suffer in comparison. They’re a bit too serious, and there’s a hint of hostility from the singer to the soundman, complaining in terse grunts about the vocals feeding back. It doesn’t help that the first song veers into Country and Western territory, with the bottle necked guitar and lyrics edging in on trite.
But things get back on track with the second tune, a hovering bassline over a tribal tom-centric drum beat, a darker, minor key approach spurring on the rhythm section, and the next one features a sterling contribution from the lead guitarist.
But it’s too late – Black Eyes and Neckties have ruined my night. I’m excited from having run about so much and then seen their madness, and it’s unlikely that the Sand Band are going to do anything silly, like launch drumsticks at their guitarist, with genuine malice, to see if he’ll fall off the speakers on to his head.

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