BONG BONG! Liverpool’s music scene has flourished over the last three years, but can it continue? Getintothis evaluates the current music landscape.
Getintothis doesn’t do hyperbole. Nor does Getintothis specialise in back-slapping. So, correct me if I’m wide of the mark – but the last three years in Liverpool have been an absolute blast.
Seemingly coinciding with the advent of our Capital of Culture status, Liverpool’s artistic community has raised its game immeasurably; two spectacular Biennials, half a dozen or more homegrown boutique festival successes, the emergence of innumerable young sonic pioneers bearing bounties of potential plus promoters and venue hosts with a seemingly endless supply of passion backed with an effortless verve for serving up dazzling weekly treats to enrich our souls.
Make no mistake, we’ve been lucky. But what now?
As alluded to in our 2010 blockbuster wrap up, Liverpool’s music landscape seemed to plateau during the final quarter of last year, culminating in an almighty, abrupt full-stop at the close of Liverpool Music Week.
Sure, Paul McCartney may have satiated his inner entourage and those with a spare five hundred bob rattling in their biscuits tins to a magnificent finale to see out the year, but elsewhere there was little doing.
This is no negative swipe though.
December is, for obvious reasons always a winding down time in the music calender – students have returned home, bands have all-but run themselves into the ground after long summers and extensive autumn touring, while the release schedules are for the most part concerned with compilations and Christmas stocking fillers.
This sluggish indifference perpetuates into January, as a collective sigh presides over full stomachs and empty wallets, as you half-heartedly train your ears to a new shopping list of stars force-fed to you by so-called experts.
Meanwhile, quietly in the background, plans are being readied for the big kick off that is February – the true ‘beginning’ of the year.
But there are several questions which persist and need asking – what next for Liverpool?
Who are the emerging new musicians? Do those that have cemented their name on the independent scene shuffle along, or show true ambition and purpose? And what of those that dictate the agenda – the promoters, the venue bookers, the creative types behind the scenes putting the mechanics in motion? And most pertinent, can the last three years momentum continue in the city?
Ex-Easter Island Head: Mallet Guitars 1 Excerpt
Let’s start with Getintothis favourites – The Kazimier. It’s almost two years since we championed this magnificent venue and its wonderful hosts who gave birth to a feast of spectacular nights.
But June’s Deconstruct Carnival marked the last chapter in their grand parties, and save for a brief sojourn to Manchester, there’s been only fleeting murmurs of what lies ahead. Restless and imaginative, it’s hard to foresee those that have built Kazimier’s reputation resting on their laurels and allowing their home to become ‘just another gig venue’. But as of yet, there’s little to suggest anything is in the pipeline.
Friday sees the launch of their very own record label, lets hope this is merely just the start of a new exciting chapter.
Leaf Bold Street begins its own new dawn in 2011. Following the sad news of the closure of it’s sister building on Upper Parliament Street, this new venue has the distinct chance of filling a significant hole in Liverpool’s independent music scene.
What with a vast and altogether booming acoustics space available upstairs there’s little reason that Leaf Bold Street can’t capitalise on the vacuum that’s been left since Korova‘s demise. There’s certainly little competition, what with the Shipping Forecast providing one of only a handful of new spaces on the block.
But is this what owner Natalie Haywood wants of her new urban domain? And if so, who can fill these spaces? Who wants to?
Questions were raised last year on Liverpool’s credibilty as a viable music pond, and while Getintothis doesn’t question the quality of what’s out there, there are underlying feelings of can do better.
As is oft the case populist ambition can be sneered at, and in Liverpool aiming for the stars is frowned upon more than most, but we should be quick to disregard this tired, self-serving, lazy attitude.
Indeed crossover appeal is within reach of many of our musicians – the city could easily replicate and indeed emulate faux scenes cobbled together on a whim by the national music press – NME‘s Manchester feature was as laughable as it was contrived – but firstly those that have been carving out exciting platforms have to strive for more.
It’s of little surprise that Sound Of Guns are perhaps the most marmite band in the city – lots love them, lots hate them – yet they’re almost in a league of their own as a new Liverpool band achieving a modicum of mainstream success. And they’ve rightly been supported with a much-earned headline spot at Liverpool Sound City 2011 – if you can’t support your own, what then?
Leaf Bold Street
Heading into 2011, The Sand Band and The Red Suns are two bands that have received sizeable backing, through Alan Wills‘ Deltasonic in conjunction with Co-Op, but it will be further intriguing to see what our fledgling talents achieve.
What next for bright young things Owls*, Sun Drums, Dire Wolfe, The Temps, Mother Earth, Shadow Cabinet, We Came Out Like Tigers, Dogshow, Ex-Easter Island Head and a whole host of others that picked up the baton during a productive 2010?
All eyes will of course be on Matt Barnes‘ Forest Swords, cover star of this month’s Bido Lito! and among the first names announced for Liverpool Sound City 2011 – but remember he’s yet to even play live, so maybe let’s ease up on the expectation.
Whispers of high profile remixes and collaborations are hopefully just the start of a special 12 months for the young Wirral artist.
Wave Machines are another band with a credible profile outside the city, and a return slot at Sound City, you would hope would provide a platform to try out new material and garner a wider fanbase.
Mother Earth: Captain Planet
There are of course a number of exciting propositions already lined up. The promo supergroup Wingwalker (consisting of Evol‘s Revo, Samizdat‘s Ellis and Meshuggy‘s Darren Roper) have pulled a rabbit out the hat with Les Savy Fav headling their first birthday party – again at the Kazimier on Saturday February 26.
Before then, Evol hosts Chilly Gonzalez at Liverpool Hope University’s Capstone Theatre on February 9 while Harvest Sun welcome Getintothis favourites The Phantom Band on Friday March 11.
Further into the future, perhaps Spring’s diamond-in-the-crown event, is at the Bluecoat on March 26 where Arthur Russell, Sonic Youth and Steve Reich collaborator Rhys Chatham will be showcasing his legendary skills with the guitar. One certainly not to miss.
Rhys Chatham: Die DonnergÃ¶tter (The Thundergods)
And what of the festivals? Creamfields, despite once again winning Best Dance Festival in 2010, seemed to take stock, opting away from the more rockist fields of previous years where Kasabian et al boosted the line-up, only to be replaced by safe bets Tiesto and co. Disappointingly, the leftfield, more avant-dance tents were lacklustre affairs so we’d hope for a return to the more experimental, diverse leanings of passed events.
Liverpool’s big two, Sound City and Music Week succeeded where many smaller festivals have failed in recent years by blending a handful of household names with a whole host of musicians set for bigger things they continued their upward curve.
But 2011 will be a greater test. Financial pressures are sure to take their toll – don’t be fooled, this is the year the recession will take hold and funding cuts across the board may too have an impact – so imaginative line-ups, hard-nosed deals and creative showcases may be the order of the day.
Already the announcement of Miles Kane as Sound City opening party headliner was met with shrugs of indifference.
Sure, it’s another backing for a home-turf talent, but given he played a muted at best, wildly dull at worst, Music Week set back in November, and compare it to previous Sound City opening party headliners Gil Scott-Heron and Animal Collective and it puts things in perspective.
Perhaps it will be in the added extras; the exhibitions, the keynote speakers – Brian Eno is one name circulating the rumour mill, the films and of course the bands no-one has yet to hear of that will ignite this year’s festival – Getintothis has every faith of those in charge.
The biggest unknown of this year, remains the people. There seems to have been an all-embracing spirit since Capital of Culture, a renewed zest for getting involved. When I started Getintothis in 2007, Kate Price, now of head of press at Work It Media, asked me to hunt around the city for fanzines to send her so she could not only talent scout for a who’s who of Liverpool but get a feel for its artistic spirit – there was only one, Spoonboy‘s Slacker Sounds.
Fast-forward to 2011, Slacker’s still slacking and been boosted by the likes of Bido Lito!, Waxx, Versus, Uberzine, a dozen or more regular bloggers and a whole host of writers contributing to these publications – all because of Liverpool’s musical renaissance.
It shows the artistic progress the city has made – can we keep it up – here’s hoping.