Liverpool Sound City 2012 boots into action in grand style as record numbers swamp the Pool – but it’s the lone sorcery of a Chicago wizard-cum-warrior that leaves Getintothis’ Peter Guy breathless.
Sound City is a special event for Liverpool – and in its fifth year it was fitting that something extra special was served up for it’s people.
One the day the Queen and Paul McCartney visited Liverpool, it was left to Willis Earl Beal, a name on few people’s radars, to make the big, lasting impression.
The Chicago beatnik, discharged from the Navy due to illness, rocked up to Liverpool and stationed himself outside Bold Street Coffee for much of yesterday – donning fitted grey leathers and Ray Ban’s, with legs straddled wide apart, and tooth pick unwavering in the corner of his mouth – he cut a striking figure to the many that passed him by.
Later that evening, he left an indelible imprint on Liverpool music which has rarely been equalled in five years of this momentous festival.
Climbing atop a chair in a suffocatingly packed Zanzibar, he unleashed the ghost of a young Cassius Clay married with the soulful spirit of Ray Charles – part preacherman, part pummelling powerhouse – fragility and ferocity embedding into your heart.
His lovelorn, killer blues – which saw him wrapped in a sheet howling and fist-thwacking a one-fist leather glove culminated with him grinding on the floor before whipping off his belt and cracking it into the steel chair. A festival defining set.
Elsewhere, the Australians were out in force showcasing their heavy duty guitar chops matched only by their heavy duty facial chops.
Head band-sporters Jackson Firebird were part Bjorn Borg imbued with the Queens of the Stone Age sledgehammer 70s clangs while Wolf Creek pirates Ironside bled all over Mello Mello‘s stage before unleashing hell in the form of aural carnage. The in-between banter revealed they’re actually all rather polite and lovely.
The overseas connection continued with an early Deerhoof pop pick in Bumper as People In the Box segued into the sweet smell of Cologne as COMA plied a Daft Punk meets Fuck Buttons groove to the Shipping Forecast‘s dungeon.
While Death In Vegas, despite their expansive fuse-testing lighting rig, in the Kazimier were decidedly strung out Deadbeat‘s techno-drone-dub was a late night high as the Berliner threw in a timely, and fitting ode to the sad passing of Donna Summer – I Feel Love blurring out into Wolstenholme’s courtyard, one of many highs of Day One of Sound City.
Tim Hecker (very dark) and Clutter (lovely and light) added some textured shade to proceedings, but it was left to Matthew Barnes – aka Forest Swords to turn in the late-night set winner.
Forest Swords live at Screenadelica – picture by Sakura Zilla.
Making his long-awaited live debut in Liverpool – the GIT Award nominee didn’t just deliver, he revelled – displaying a confidence and verve which justified the lengthy wait for his first live outing.
Barnes joined by Loved Ones‘ bass player Jay Freeman delighted with a variety of tricks including Spaghetti Western guitar, howling vocals and deep, deep, deep abyss-like beats from his superlative debut Dagger Paths. Glory Gongs the set high sounding ultra epic.
Oh, and he even dressed up with a river of golden chains raining down from his neck. Only fitting for right royal display.
Willis Earl Beal by Conor McDonnell.