Forget the big boys – it’s the wee ‘uns you want to keep an eye on.
Strength in depth – that oft-used cliche in football seems most appropriate sifting through the hundreds of artists at this year’s Liverpool Sound City.
From the big guns of White Lies, The Zutons, Patrick Wolf and one-woman hype machine Little Boots, there’s plenty to whet the appetite of the casual music fan.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll be overwhelmed by the wealth of class in the lower reaches of the festival’s underbelly.
Here’s Getintothis’ guide to the cream of those deserving your attention.
1. Phantom Band & The Invisible
Performing at Korova on Wed May 20, 8pm.
The prospect of this double-header was making us wet the moment the festival’s line up was announced.
Two bands which share little in common but a maverick approach to making first-rate tuneage.
In the red corner you’ve former Getintothis album of the week favourites, The Invisible, who infuse hard funk with dystopian alt-rock guaranteed to get the feet moving. Frontman Dave Okumu may just provide the voice of the festival.
In the blue corner, and a whole world away are Scots Phantom Band; a six-piece campfire Krautrock explosion of motorik soul and rhythmic revelation.
When a band captures the spirit of The Beta Band and infuses the dynamic propulsion of Neu! you know you’re on to a winner. The eight-minute Islands has every right to be the festival’s anthem in waiting.
Korova has witnessed many a fine night in it’s five years, but this one has the potential to top the lot.
Zanzibar, Thurs May 21.
Regular readers of Getintothis will be fully aware of our love for the City’s finest pop trio.
It’s easy to make a dense racket of noise, much harder to pen three minute pop gems. Voo have them in spades. And with the addition of several newies in their armoury, including regular set closer, the mini spacerock instrumental Schick, Schnack, Schuck, we’re more than ready for another portion of Voo.
3. Titus Andronicus & Crystal Antlers.
Barfly, Thurs May 21.
Cool has switched firmly to the states in the last 18 months, and in some kind of act of fishing for cool, Evol and Clash Magazine seemed to have made a massive catch.
Topping the bill are Georgian loons Black Lips with the much-hyped Telepathe and The Soft Pack supporting this all-area Barfly bonanza.
But cast your eye down the bill and you’ll see it’s brimming with brilliance, mostly in the shape of Titus Andronicus and Crystal Antlers. Noise is their game, and they excel in bringing it. The former revel in dirty, New Jersey bar room riot-rock. As we eluded to when their debut, The Airing Of Grievances, dropped in January, it’s the type of record which conjours up images of The Wire‘s McNulty lying face down in his own vomit as Bunk sets fire to his clothes in the bath.
Crystal Antlers are on Touch & Go Records. That should say it all.
If you want more, think psyche out-rock with woodwind solos and plumes of gaseous guitar histrionics – heady and heavy this lot should suit dedicated followers of Comets on Fire and their ilk.
4. Robin Guthrie
Leggate Autopsy Theatre, Thurs May 21
EX-COCTEAU TWIN PLAYING IN AN AUTOPSY THEATRE.
Surely they’ve made this up?!?
There will be blood.
5. Maps & Kyte
Static Gallery, Fri May 22
On record these two specialise in electronic mind-melting – I’m hoping live they ramp it up and turn Static into a luscious warehouse rave.
Perhaps gallery director Paul could open up all the units and let punters paint their faces?
6. Sky Larkin
Korova, Sat May 23.
Right now we’re admiring Christine Bleakley off the One Show and listening to Sky Larkin. It’s a fine combination.
We love their debut record, but are hoping for even bigger things from this lot live.
Fans of Electrelane, Sleeter Kinney and The Breeders should listen up.
7. Dan Black
Barfly, Fri May 22
If he wants to Dan Black could own Sound City. He has enough charismic cool and Prince funk to blow up Barfly.
For Pete’s sake, he wears white jeans and actually looks fine.
If there’s a dearth of classic pop beauties at the festival, Mr Black makes up for it in spades.
Need convincing? Dig this:
Dan Black: Yours.
Korova, Thurs May 21.
Proving post-rock aint jumped the shark, we’ve been waiting for Vessels for quite some time. Live they could well be the loudest band of the festival, those mirrors in Korova best be reinforced.
With it’s intricate time signatures, neumatic drumming and soaring melodies, debut White Fields & Open Devices finished up in sixth spot in Getintothis’ top 100 of 2008.
9. Wave Machines & Sex Education
Static Gallery, Thurs May 21
Sound City should really break Wave Machines. They were the undisputed Kings of Latitude’s BBC Introducing Stage last year holding the crowd in the palm of their hands; strange for a band which hid behind creepy masks and came dressed in Dickensian gentlemen’s costumes. But then it’s all about the tunes – and when a small field of newcomers are singing the words back at you on the first time of hearing, you know Wave Machines are a class act.
All together now: ‘Where’s my punk spirit, when I need it!‘
The same goes for fellow Scousers, Sex Education, whose approach is darker and rooted in neon, leather and glam. Fans of Roxy, Bowie and back-street debauchery may just discover their favourite new band.
As if this isn’t enough a certain John Foxx is heading the bill. Getintothat.
Zanzibar, Sat May 23
Hardly an undiscovered talent, but impossible to ignore, Bradford Cox‘s Deerhunter are a seminal live band with a back catalogue to die for.
Last year’s Microcastle topped many critics end of year polls, and this is a show guaranteed to set the Zanzi on fire.
Just wait for them to drop the eight minute beat bomb Octet and watch the walls start sweating.