Liverpool Sound City begins with an almighty hammer from the gods, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke basks in the thunder down at the docks.
To open a festival is a double-edged sword; though John O’Groats alt-poppers Neon Waltz have the main stage to themselves with just a slew of demos to their name, they’re still to be greeted by a sea of un-warmed-up expectants, shivering in the overcast afternoon in search of the group to kick them into festival gear.
Fortunately enough they’re just that, lurches of psych greeted with a counterpoint of smooth pop that punches and shimmers in equal force thanks to an impeccable mix on the Atlantic Stage that lends every punch it’s due space.
A sojourn toward the other end of the site for Bad Meds sees our first experience of the elephant-in-the-docks that is the North Stage, situated inconveniently enough in the middle of the main thoroughfare, though a push through the middle of these sparser early crowds is with relative ease compared with the slog that’s to follow as capacity swells.
Once we arrive at the Baltic it’s apparent that the punks are having a little less luck when it comes to conjuring that elusive festival vibe, though it must be said that they perform with admirable intensity; a raucous Grim Up North featuring a human music stand a particular highlight of the day.
Their successors to the stage YAK, however, see the warehouse undeniably alight. Lurching and punching through concussive grooves of pulsing bass, the threesome power through a breathless, charismatic punk-rock set of ferocious twists of pace that’s the first to ignite the afternoon.
If YAK brought infectious personality to their set, Iceage, who directly follow, do the opposite. “We were gonna play for longer but we’ve been cut short…” frontman Elias Rønnenfelt snarls with a discontented drawl, and it’s soon apparent that the Danes’ are even more morose than their usual.
An impossibly louche Rønnenfelt takes centre stage with his usual intimidating swagger, and a sporadic mosh or two breaks out towards the front seeing ears irreparably bludgeoned, yet it’s debatable whether the band’s hearts are really in it. On the basis of a pissed-off, wordless departure, seemingly in the middle of their flow, apparently not.
Fortunateley, quite simply euphoric Israeli outfit Tiny Fingers pick things up with a jaw-dropping set of colossal psychedelic punk which it’s a shame to see conclude as we depart in search of Louis Baker‘s acoustic Kraken Stage show.
He’s an extraordinarily gifted vocalist, and an infectious personality, yet with the far louder Circa Waves kicking off next door it’s just impossible to hear him; a real shame, though to his credit he still gets a singalong on the go against the tide of invasive bass elsewhere.
So then, to Swans – a marathon of relentless noise-rock bludgeons to the brain. They’re nothing but gargantuan, tidal waves of wrenching noise crashing forth with titanic force.
Michael Gira commands centre stage with shamanic ease, every flick of his weathered wrist cuing the next phenomenal rush, gongs, violins and squalls of indeterminate texture all raising their heads across a marathon set that, it must be said, is something of an endurance test for the faithful – a distinct swathe turning their backs after a scorching chord too many.
Yet though the crowd begins to thin, for the core this is something truly special, a euphoric, relentless chug to leave all who stick it out reeling with cataclysmic delight.
Photos by Getintothis’ Jack Thompson, Martin Waters, Martin Saleh, Tom Adam, Vicky Pea, Michael Hegarty.