Seeking shelter in The Zanzibar, Getintothis’ Chris Hughes witnessed a revival and shift in direction from the Liverpool stalwarts.
It’s a truly horrendous December evening, at the end of a day when there have been more hailstorms in Liverpool than scousers. Luckily we can avoid the apocalypse by heading to The Zanzibar, as the increasingly popular Sankofa celebrate the launch of their latest single, Grasp.
Fans of the band will know it’s been a time of upheaval for the lads, playing as a bass-less three-piece for a gig at The Arts Club. Many wondered which direction the group, having been active on the local scene for what seems like forever, will head down – if they chose to carry on at all.
We’ve seen other bands in the past take less hits and fade into obscurity. Yet here they are, fresh from the studio with a shiny new single and a shiny new bassist. Dan Allen made his four-string debut with the band supporting Silver Apples at The Kazimier as part of a stellar support line-up. But this is their first headline slot as a four-piece for some time – the anticipation is tangible.
First up in support are Merseyside newbies The Sky. The band can boast the rare honour of owning the actual drumkit played by legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. No pressure then.
Recording demos with producer Mark Hudson over the summer was only the first step of a whirlwind couple of months, during which the band played no less than nine support slots between here and Manchester. An impressive feat given their two-month existence. They hold the stage like an older, more experienced band, and deliver their own take on Byrds’-esque sixties-pop meets early Stone Roses with calm assurance and a guitar tone straight from the top of Noel Gallagher’s Christmas wish-list.
Catchy and infectious, it’s no wonder they’ve been asked to join psych-beaters The High Learys on their winter tour. Be sure to catch their first headline slot at The Jacaranda on 9 January.
Next to the stage is Kindest Of Thieves, and we’re surprised to see it’s one man, a guitar and a drum machine. Warrington-based Christopher J Fox is the man behind the sounds, straight from recording his soon-to-be-named debut EP.
But it’s not just his jet-age quiff, upturned collar and slick suit that remind us of a young Elvis. His powerful and somewhat unique blast of howlin’ blues rhythm has the whole place moving. His sweet Danelecto guitar has a crunch-clean and reverb laden tone that gives the whole sound its depth. Vocally reminiscent of Jace Everett with a rockabilly edge, he’s surprisingly modest and mild-mannered between songs – and definitely lives up to his stage name.
Final support comes in the kaleidoscopic form of Electroshock Therapy. Inviting us on a journey back in time to the era of West Coast sixties-psych, their music stays true to the likes of Love and Jefferson Airplane while also channelling Stooges and MC5 garage. They’ve got the look – paisley shirts, long hair and big-bodied Gretsch guitars – but they also have the sound.
Their set is tight and relentless, with songs that are raw and robust even through the slower paced and low-key numbers, Singer/guitarist Tom Lockett’s voice is after the style of Anton Newcombe and Ty Segall, giving their music an interesting contemporary update from its early-psychedelic roots. Dan Lockett gives us thick and fuzzy bass, while Nick Simpson demonstrates some nice guitar work with edgy shoe-gaze licks – all to the beat of Tom Thornley’s crashing drums. 2015 is looking to be a big year for these guys.
By the time Sankofa take to the stage, the place is packed out and the local adulation for the band is obvious. Tonight they’re playing as a five-piece with the one-off addition of a live keyboard, and it’s this that leads us in with a droning chord reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Delicate guitar chimes alongside, building up until the eagerness of the crowd is too much and the band break into a set that expertly showcases their new direction.
There are some brilliant melodies here, especially in latest single Grasp, which has a darkly haunting message of a harsh world embezzled in the lyrics.
Moving on from their more bluesy origins, there are hints of Liverpool-legends Echo and the Bunnymen. As always, Ste Wall’s vocals are superb and almost perfectly in sync with the studio versions. New addition Dan Allen looks relaxed and at home on bass, adding a depth to the sounds that was slightly lacking when they played as a three-piece.
Lead guitarist Joel Whitehead (who we’re sure has had a drastic haircut somewhere between gigs) displays some subtly picked notes along with some great screaming solos that perfectly match their dynamic sounds. Josh Perry plays one of the gigs of his life, throwing every bit of strength and effort into each beat.
After the gig, the audience are left to reflect on a tight and inspirational performance that firmly states the bands intentions to crash the national scene. If they keep writing and improving at this rate, we’re sure that it won’t be long.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Tom Adam.