Triumphing against adversity, Liverpool Sound City scrapes over the line, Getintothis’ Peter Guy documents a very Liverpool story.
How many times have we been here before. So much riding on so few. It’s such a Liverpool story. There’s something about this city – its culture, history, music, football and people – a narrative involving peaks, troughs, successes and failures – it happens with alarming regularity. We, a people, build ourselves upon a ride of expectation, belief and excitement – only to see the rug pulled, or some unknown element stop us in our tracks. But then something, something innate pulls us across the line. A will. An unquantifiable energy. A refusal to stop. An innate beat to continue. You will not stop this.
Today, at Liverpool Sound City, everything was about The Coral. Five lads. Five newly regrouped set of lads rebuilding a dream. A dream which began almost two generations ago – maybe even more in musical terms; to James, Nick, Paul and Ian – it must seem like even more. Lads who know this city and know this business like few others – they don’t need to do this, but it all feels right. Starting again is always the hardest thing – and when they entered Parr Street Studio and announced their revival there was a burst of relief and genuine sense of ‘yes‘. They’re writers and restless and there’s no sense they’re going through the motions, so this felt genuine, real as Liverpool and beyond rooted for them to revitalise a certain something which kind of fizzled out uncharacteristically; they should never have been a footnote, or after-thought, to the era that they shaped.
And so to 2016. They’re back. With Paul Molloy in tow. And Distance Inbetween is a swirling, psychedelic groove machine – if the new psychedelic movement can at times appear a dull saturated endgame, then the newly armed Coral are standing apart; doing their thing, sounding themselves yet meatier and fuller, with added rhythmic muscle.
Tonight, amidst the shit-hole setting of ripped up concrete, potholes, muddy waters, ankle-ligament testing rockery and diced up carpet, they truly sound big, ferocious and beastly – the new material rips through the black sky and James Skelly‘s vocal is a warm guttural growl.
Then it stops. The excitement and everything falls apart as the generator blows for the second time in the space of an hour following a shortened Circa Waves set earlier in the evening, as an electrical fault curtails all sense of momentum.
It takes almost 30 minutes to resurrect things. A good quarter of the main site has emptied – but those who stay are treated to a story which will surely be written about like Paris 90 or Earthbeat 87; these aren’t events you look back upon and marvel at the music – you just marvel that it even happened.
Amid the ruination and grey, this happened, it really shouldn’t – somehow, in some fantasy realm, The Coral came back on to the main stage and played 70 minutes of largely, beautiful music. They whisk through Simon Diamond, Pass It On, (a majestic) Calenders and Clocks, In The Morning, a raft of new material – Ian Skelly resembling a Lowry figure back top relentless in his matchstick thwack; Paul Duffy arched and grooving, Nick Power almost unrecognisable in the complete darkness behind his kaleidoscopic keys and James doing that thing he does with his left leg – kinda nodding, prodding and probing like a winger just about the play the perfect through ball.
In the end, they run out with Dreaming Of You. It didn’t really matter what had unfolded previously. The crowd is left in complete raptures. It’s a triumph, not quite the one expected. But to simply get over the line, these five Liverpool lads should be hailed as heroes – tonight will be one reflected upon in years for all manner of strange reasons. But tonight will ultimately be the night when people go ‘I was there when The Coral headlined Liverpool and the whole site blew up and they were great.‘ For that alone. Tonight will live long in the memory.
Earlier, day two belongs also to Liverpool acts. It sounds somewhat easy – this a Liverpool-based website that regularly champions our own – but in truth, day two of the music side of Sound City follows on from day one, an easy-going affair with few *big* stand out moments. Except the Liverpool artists. Trudy and The Romance are indicative of this. Early afternoon, their loose pantaloons – all beige and shiny – reflect upon the North Stage with a vigor and chop akin to Bruce Lee doing the washing up. They ooze recklessness, abandon and star quality and their coupling with Pink Kink for The Beatles‘ Don’t Let Me Down (following the GIT Award debut) is a genuine festival highlight. Pink Kink follow suit straddling dreamy maudlin rock with ecstatic K-pop – we’d go as far to say there hasn’t been two bands in recent years from Liverpool with this much promise. How they build from these beginnings is up them. We’re claiming them as our own.
Bill Ryder-Jones returned home from his European Mumford & Sons tour support looking crisp in beige and blue jeans, and eased us into the day with assured nonchalance – Satellites being the set high with Liam Power dueling understatedly on guitar. Elsewhere, The Stamp, Red Rum Club, She Drew The Gun, Feral Love and sprightly day openers The Night Cafe underline what this city is about – mighty fine new artists with an armoury of tunes waiting to be unleashed should they be given the chance – we’re almost ashamed writing so few words on talent aplenty but really, it’s time for everyone else to invest.
Away from the homegrown talent, The Baltic Warehouse provides once again the finest energy; DJ sets are lapped up – and whether they’re live or not – Hot Chip are on fire. And it’s a pure rush. On the Tall Ship Horsebeach are our nearest nudges towards good; all dreamy and hazy goodness.
Earlier, The Dandy Warhols are both dull below deck in a 50 capacity competition winners ‘treat’ and then swept away in the wind on the main stage, Dilly Dally are gritty but ultimately underwhelming pastiche, Shura is lovely, hugely likeable but tame electronic pop and The Anchoress is sure to sound tremendous in the Radio 2 sit off session room or Jonathon Ross studio but seems rather MoR early doors on the main stage.
We leave Sound City 2016, feeling content in the knowledge that this is a festival genuinely trying to enrich Liverpool with a vast variety of new music, debate and international rising artists – whether their newly tweaked set up worked is again up for debate – but they got over line, just, and we kinda had a ball doing it too.