Multi-venue festival Liverpool Calling takes over part of the city for its third year, Getintothis’ men at the scene Tom Konstantynowicz, Peter Guy and Del Pike absorb all the goings on.
Liverpool’s beautiful Bombed Out Church once again provided the hub of this year’s Liverpool Calling event on a perfect day. The sun intermittently peers from behind the war ravaged clock tower as the breeze blowing through windowless arches offers an easy summer setting for a mix of bands that ensure there’s something for everyone.
As is the nature of such events with multiple venues, the crowd appears to swell and diminish throughout the session working in the favour of some bands, particularly returning Londoners Dexters, who hit the stage at the exact same time as the golden rays of sunshine hit the crowd and lift what has far been a soft, chilled out event with a full blown thirty minutes of air punching bliss. The Southerners undoubtedly stole the show today, possibly due to the scheduling or perhaps because they’ve grasped the festival ethos a little more effectively than some of our guys.
Dexters have brought their family up North, transforming the centre of the audience into a ‘right old cockney knees up’ and their enthusiasm is certainly infectious; they get the Liverpool welcome they deserve, rather than Northern disdain. Their delivery of Recovery, a clear favourite among2 fans, is a high point of the afternoon and its smiles all round.
Similarly, Essex folky Beans on Toast knows how to work a festival crowd, unsurprising after playing such events for 10 years now, culminating in headlining against The Who and Kanye West at Glastonbury this year. Two songs in and he’s bang in the middle of the crowd, borrowing sunglasses and singing about his not so happy Glastonbury experience. A guy from Manchester shared his view with us; “He likes his drugs and he votes Labour, get over it”, a point noted but his rebel rousing cries of “I’m going to kill David Cameron” don’t go unappreciated with the Liverpool punters.
Earlier acts suffered from early festival slot syndrome including the able and promising Liverpool four piece, Vynce, sounding a little too often like Arctic Monkeys without the lyrical dexterity, but still ones to watch with their chart friendly catchiness and memorable songs, Lust and Waves. The stadium rock of the Jackobins struggled to contain itself on the small stage, not helped by OTT theatricals and Ken Barlow kimono from vocalist Dom. Perfectly able and undoubtedly heading for bigger things but to our ears – out of place at this most intimate of venues.
The relaxing mood of the day was key and apart from Beans on Toast’s frank views turning the air a little blue, this was a family day and as always it’s good to see kids enjoying music with their folks. For us, the heroes of the day were Liverpool folk rockers Silent Sleep who, unfortunately, played to a minimal group of onlookers. Apt that they should be here due to their wondrous single On The Steps Of The Bombed Out Church (check the ace video), which whipped the small gathering into a creamy frappe at the end of a perfect laid back set of West Coast meets Merseyside love songs. A talented lady sat sketching the band as they performed, creating brilliant portraits which was almost as entertaining as the band themselves and in some ways typified what these days should embrace and what our former City of Culture is about.
Many came for the headlining Reverend and the Makers but we were keen to discover some of the heavier, low key delights hidden away in Maguires Pizza Bar as part of the Yeah Buddy set of Liverpool Calling. This most unusual of venues is a stark contrast to the sun-drenched afternoon spent at the church with its hidden room at the rear end of the pizza parlour. The size of a generous living room with no discernible stage, sound deck or effective lights, this is taking live music right back to basics and is refreshing as a result.
We arrive as Doppelgangers are setting up and hesitating whether or not to make their (already late) start due to an audience that is ambitious to get into double figures. Once motivated, more metal-heads drift in and by the end of the set there is enough people for a party. Doppelgangers are young and willing but still feel a bit like the runners up of a school rock challenge. Talented but lacking in maturity, no doubt this is something they are working on and in fairness they cope well with such a limited audience. The squashed and darkened confines means that on a balmy night like this most people leave for air between acts, which is a problem as each band is then faced with an empty room at the start of each set.
Falls, a thrash-metal foursome who describe themselves on Facebook as Fuck Rock, fill the room quickly with an audience that can best be described as scared. Their noise is extreme and to them a stage is another country as they rampage, ramming into the audience with playful aggression and make the crowd space their performance space, all three guitarists back to back in the centre taking turns to raid the pizza shop and attack various fans with loving fervour. Perhaps the sight of a particularly hairy band member sat on the floor with a horse head mask thrumming out a riff that would batter down the gates of hell may have been the icing on the cake, or maybe it was just a dream induced by watching too much David Lynch.
This is the most polite and charming bunch of metal fans imaginable and between acts people are getting to know each other over pizza slices and reasonably priced bottles of real ale. The agreeable atmosphere probably saved solo guitarist / vocalist Creeps from being bottled off the stage (floor??). Imagine a video of a car crash being slowed down to 30 minutes and you get some idea of the set. Bless him, he could play but could he work a mixer? No. A parade of random do-gooders attempted to get his vocals heard over his iPod backing tracks but to no avail and after four false starts, he sounded like a mouse in a wind tunnel. When his family turned up en-masse at the end dressed for a night at The Savoy it was a re-enactment of Neil the hippy’s family coming to visit in The Young Ones. Natural comedy at its finest.
Castleford’s Allusondrugs, are the Yeah Buddy headliners and rightly so, as they had all the tunes tonight. It is unavoidable not to mention the visual similarity between Jason Moules and Kurt Cobain, and he plays on it to the max. The crowd-pleasing I Should Have Gone To Uni has more nods to Smells Like Teen Spirit than you can wave a janitor’s mop at and in fairness, it is a fond homage. Moules is a great vocalist bringing character to this heavy as lead band whilst three guitarists leap around like kids on Lucozade at a wedding. Drummer Connor is incredible, we’re talking 80% Keith Moon 20% Animal from The Muppets, and his final assault at the end of the gig climaxes with him falling over the drums into a collapsed, sweaty mess on the floor.
Such is the nature of metal gigs in intimate surroundings and the undeniably childish nature of your average metal fan (not necessarily a bad thing, in moderation), but the session ended in boys club antics that either thrilled or alienated the bewildered crowd. Falls invading Allusondrugs’ space to the point of picking band members up, squashing them against the ceiling and hurling them into the crowd, with guitars intact, ended in a girl with a boot in her eye and she hastily fled.
What Liverpool Calling revealed to the Getintothis guys on the Church and Maguire’s shift was the diversity of music on offer today and how we as Liverpool music fans are willing to listen with an open mind to a range of genres. Both Liverpool bands and visitors were received with loving arms today regardless of hair-length or level of amplification and this is how it should be. A resounding success and a great day that left us inspired, exhausted and at times terrified. Nightmares of horses heads to follow. [DP]
Last Line Out are a band we like, fresh from a quick jam in Central Station earlier in the day as part of Merseyrail Sound Station, they’re more at home here in The Magnet. Antony Seddon’s vocals are velvet against a backdrop of gritty blues-stained rock as they race through tracks from their new EP, recorded in the iconic Parr Street Studios.
The glorious weather outside is having a knock on effect on the indoor venues with many preferring to bask in the grounds of St Luke’s than lurk in lightless realms elsewhere. Antidotes may be grateful for the lack of rays as they, by their own admission, had a heavy one the previous night. It affects them little and the hype around them and storming new single Jigsaw is well founded. Jangly guitars, amiable stage presence and a penchant for an infectious chorus mean they can go as far as they wish.
Coordinated by Liverpool Noise, the stage at The Magnet is home to some of Merseyside’s brightest new talent. Sadly, but perhaps unavoidably, Organ Freeman and Scarlet suffer a little from popular sets over at the Bombed Out Church courtesy of Beans on Toast and festival headliners Reverend and The Makers. Merseyside-based self proclaimed ‘alien-synth rockers‘ Organ Freeman reject the confines of the stage and the concept of audience personal space. It’s all pretty oddball but an enjoyable show nonetheless. Scarlet sound stunning with their brand of shoegazey rhythms coupled with nice as pie vocals full of indie-pop angst, they look and sound a band who are ready to take a step up and get some national recognition. Their PledgeMusic project to record their debut album is nearing its target and is well worth keeping an eye on.
What Liverpool Calling organisers have done very well, which bodes well for the future, is their clever matching up of acts to the diverse range of venues. The serenity of an afternoon at St Luke’s with sun peering through holes in the blitzed brick work is perfect disparity to a shirtless man wearing a horse head mask shredding on the floor of the back room in a pizza parlour. In another location, Studio 2, The Sneaky Nixons play the Ocean Waves stage, banned in places across the city due to their notorious stage smashing ways, they demonstrate how they do actually have some tunes, most notably Sex, a provocative number with more than a hint of The Libertines.
Back to The Magnet and Broken Men, of all the Liverpool talent on show here, have the hardest edge about them, maybe even more so now they’ve stripped back to a four-piece in order to, as they state: ‘get back to doing what we do best, making some fucking noise’. Dressed dapper as always, their sound is gritty and intense, tailor made for up close and personal, sweaty basement gigs. A perfect way to set the scene for the highly anticipated Tea Street Band headline slot. [TK]
It’s taken an age for the Tea Street Band to reach the second album stage, and whether you’re firmly in the ‘for’ or ‘against’ camp for perhaps Liverpool’s most Marmite band, you can’t help but admire their resilience and fervour to keep on keeping on. It’s a braver, darker, harder sound that the now-four piece – shorn of keyboardist James Albertina – deliver, recalling the transition that New Order made from Joy Division, there’s a mechanical steely edge to their sound, which is in part due to the sequenced synths but primarily due to Dominic Allen‘s incredible freneticism behind the kit.
A brace of new tracks follow set opener Dance With Me (very much a scene setter) and it’s striking that the now buoyant crowd don’t quite know what to make of this neo-industrial pop; sure there’s the characteristic pop melodicism – a strength the band have had in spades since their early Maybes? days – but with these new tracks they demand more from the listener. This isn’t escapist summer anthems to soundtrack your evenings with the Mediterranean sea in the background, this is cold, grey and slightly spiky.
It takes several rallying calls from vocalist Timo Tierney to induce the usual hometown enthusiasm as Disco Lights is tossed out with casual abandon and a triumphant Fiesta ensures the sweaty masses are satiated. They save their best new track for last with bass player Nicholas Otaegui joining in on harmonies as Lee Smith doubles up on looping cyclonic guitar and keys before Summer Dreaming wraps proceedings up.
While the usual euphoria you associate with their sets may be absent tonight, you can’t help but salute the band’s intent to push things forward in what is a fitting end to a day celebrating the talent in this city and surrounding areas, as well as its wealth of one of a kind venues. [PG]
Photos by Getintothis‘ Martin Waters and Simon Lewis