As Liverpool Music Week drew to a close with a docklands party, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman, Rick Leach, Amaan Khan, Lorna Doughty and Matthew Wood rounded up the action.
Whoever it was who said a week is a long time in politics should try experiencing the seven plus days of Liverpool’s own Music Week.
This year’s event has already seen landmark shows from the likes of John Carpenter, Warpaint and Dinosaur Jr. but as always it’s LMW’s commitment to showcasing emerging talent that has shone through with virtually every band currently active in the city making an appearance.
It’s also a great chance for the venues themselves to highlight what a crucial role they play in Liverpool’s ever-evolving music scene and to that end we find ourselves in the middle of a truly dreadful storm walking among the warren of warehouses that make up the prospective North Dockland Creative Zone.
If, as hoped, this area does become a hub for live music, there’s plenty here to work with. In addition to the still developing Invisible Wind Factory, tonight sees new venues North Shore Troubadour and Meraki join the fray, recalling the glory days of Liverpool Sound City, as punters flit from space to space, as the bands play in quick succession and without too many of those oh so annoying clashes.
The North Shore Troubadour II stage is one of the edgiest venues we’ve ever seen. With part of it still looking like a working warehouse, and another part looking like a storage hoarder with old bikes and punch bags hidden behind the bar. However, it was hard to appreciate the art of the room in the beginning of November, with the most prominent thought on all our minds being, “fuck me, it’s cold.” Members of the crowd could be seen using a jacket potato as a hand warmer; not that there’s many venues where one could buy a can of lager and a jacket potato. We love it.
Starting the night was the four piece Wild Fruit Art Collective, who played to a maximum of six people and the barmen. The lead singer’s voice could be heard when walking up the seedy side street to enter the stages, and the whiney screaming tone wasn’t the most inviting. “This next song is about the end of the world“, the lead singer states, and we kind of wished it was.
Down a short corridor to the North Shore’s usual stage and space Youth Hostel christen the Getintothis stage and officially get GIT Award 2017 proceedings underway. The more we get to see the enthusiastic and edgy foursome the better they get. Improving at a rate of knots they showcase the dynamics of Liverpool’s emerging acts which is certainly not just about garage rock, but in this case catchy upbeat tunes that have the potential to be oh so popular.
The Invisible Wind Factory had an interesting start with The AV Society’s short and theatrically interesting set. Stepping in a black suit on a stage with a projector screen, potted plants and furniture resembling a living room, our artist laid guitars and singing on top of pre-recorded sounds synced with a movie being played on the screen.
The video featured a man trying to deliver a mysterious package and getting chased for the same. The flavour of live singing coupled with the intensity of well-shot music video reached new heights when our package-carrying character of the video turned up on the stage and delivered the package to our performer who took out what was inside it: a toy guitar, which was used to play the final comic guitar solo. Yes, things were as weird and interesting as they sound.
Meanwhile, a healthy flock scampered through the torrential rain to the newly established Meraki, a venue which at the moment is nothing more than a leaky shed, but we all know the power of music can transform any venue into somewhere special, and I’m sure with events such as this one, Meraki will soon be a unique, albeit, grotty favourite.
Liverpool surf rockers, The Shipbuilders, christen the stage and seem genuinely honoured to do so. Bringing their organic Merseyside sound that’s easy, cool and bluesy, breaking us in nicely for the night ahead.
One act who thrived in the swirling winds and chaos ensuing outside were the otherworldly duo of OVVLS. At one point during their subtly beautiful and powerful set the hail began to pummel the tin roof above, audible over their melancholy tinted ballads which put a little bit of magic in the air and complemented them perfectly.
Second band on at the Troubadour’s second stage was light and bouncy quartet Danye. They played high toned riffs mixed with a sharp snare drum, and a voice comparable to Harry Koisser‘s. It was hard to give the band the justice they deserved, though, as the sound system was still finding its feet and the high ceilings and flat hard walls created for a fair bit of feedback, consequently making it difficult to discern the vocals.
The first real find of the night at the Troubadour’s other stage is the mysterious Azusena who wows the growing crowd with her dusky and dusty scorched earth ballads. Apparently from the Wirral but now based in the US, Azusena’s stunning voice cuts through the slightly over-polished and polite backing from her guitarist and keyboard player and while the songs are there in a beautifully languid Mazzy Star-esque way, many in the audience were longing for some brushed drums or slide guitar to give these tunes some real bite.
Next door, ever popular modern day psychedelicists The Wicked Whispers, are revelling in a busier crowd and the confidence that this year’s tour with early 90s legends The Stairs has brought. Looking the part and sounding it too, their distinctly English take on the late 60s is full of confidence and tunes which recall the likes of Traffic and Kaleidoscope. The keyboard player was definitely not impressed with the weather though, as he complained about his fingers being freezing. Don’t worry, it didn’t affect your performance.
Back in the Invisible Wind Factory, which was split in half for the night with one stage in each side, there was still a very thin crowd by the time Big Safari took to the smaller stage towards the bar. The evening’s disaster happened as the power to the stage went out during their second song. With a thin crowd, the atmosphere was pretty relaxed and the crowd didn’t look bothered by the power cut. The recycled rockabilly of Big Safari wasn’t at all bad but still felt less exciting in contrast to the general quality of acts of the night.
It was the electronic pop duo, The Aleph that made us glad to have come. It’s harder to impress general public with instrumental music unlike music with vocal lines. So, when their first tune prompted a cry of ‘yeah!’, we knew this was a quality act. When the simple vocal hooks kicked in from the second tune, we knew we were home and dry. Pure pleasure of Kraftwerk-ish tones, simple hooks and a bit of syncopation.
They were followed by Cavalier Song on the smaller stage. A bit of avant-garde gave the evening more variety. The half-sung and half-prophetically-spoken words with heavy and steady sonic layers supporting them might not have been to everyone’s taste but with a Captain Beefheart t-shirt spotted in the audience, we are sure there were still people in that thin crowd that would have been very impressed by the power of Cavalier Song’s music.
Following Azusena, there was another stand put performance from Rongorongo who feel like just about the best band in Liverpool right now. Icy, sinister and with a whiff of post-punk about them, their three guitarists provoke a storm of Radiohead comparisons but there’s a joy to some of these songs that belies any accusations of miserablism, Crucial to this is frontman Mick Chrysalid whose effortless and original stage craft sees him wander off to shake audience members’ hands, before turning round to enjoy the wondrous music being made from his band. This feels like yet another landmark performance for a band on the up.
Time to concentrate on Meraki where Norwegians I See Rivers are unsurprisingly coping well with the cold. These days they reside with their eyes firmly fixed on the River Mersey and produce an organic blend of eclectic, wistful folk. After meticulous sound alterations, the endearing trio remain patient and appear simply over the moon to be playing for us. Overall, it’s a glittering performance that fills the intimate venue with spiritual, folky calls that would resound fittingly through lofty hills and misty forests; a mightily uplifting set.
Up next, Cavalry, and these boys have done nothing but impress since we became aware of the band’s sophisticated, sentimental rock. Recalling Elbow and The National, this hotly anticipated live show ticks all the boxes with their rich, powerful sound charged with hearty acoustic guitar, slick riffs and an animated frontman with stunning vocal capacity which sadly gets lost within the melee at times, through no fault of his own.
An obvious crowd favourite, Oya Paya are only in the early stages of their musical venture yet they boast a unique stage presence that everyone can latch onto, and they do. Channelling that innovative angsty rap style of Jamie T; funny, lyrically relevant and often riddled with moody undertones, Oya Paya do it well, with far more subtlety than the likes of Rat Boy. This trio like to keep things spicy, and they do just that this evening.
Back to the North Shore where the standard continued to increase as the fourth band, Lying B*st*rds took to the stage. A nervous set from the four went completely unnoticed as it was the drummers first performance, yet he settled in as if he were born to do it.
Headlining the stage were Sugarmen who were definitely worth waiting in the cold for. After signing for Warner in the summer after their Sound City gig, it is clear these lads have an extra bit of professionalism that some of the others tonight don’t possess. Despite the lead singer Luke Fenlon declaring it “the shittest gig they’ve ever played“, they went down a treat. With a sound that could be described as The Kinks crossed with Kasabian; alternating between lead singers solos and harmonies. Fenlon‘s mannerisms uncannily recalled Paul McCartney, but we’re glad, as a Liverpool band, they are not trying to be simply a recreation of The Beatles.
Backtracking to the Invisible Wind Factory’s main stage we were greeted by the arrival on stage of aPAtT. Now, it must be said, they did look like a bunch of rum coves. They were all dressed in white. All four of them, from head to foot. It was if they were auditioning to be in a remake of the Homepride flour advert or in some very odd Persil advertising campaign. A couple of them had big fuck-off rosettes pinned to their chests as well. Like hapless candidates in a by-election or something. As for aPAtT themselves, it was good to know that they made music that sounded as off-kilter as their dress sense. It was all spikey and awkward rhythms, start/stop/start with distinct jazz and prog inflections filtered through a New York No Wave.
There was a fair bit of shouting going on and they weren’t afraid of dancing in a sort of improv-ballet way. They also managed to use a wide range of instruments; flutes, guitars, saxophones, keyboards, drums and electric violins. They wrestled with their instruments as if they had a specific and long-standing grudge against them and produced something akin to Captain Beefheart crossed with Gong. A good thing in our book therefore.
It was cold inside The Invisible Wind Factory, despite the addition of a couple of heaters blasting away at ground level. It’s such a tall building, an old warehouse on the dock road that it must be difficult to get it to be anywhere close to warm in the winter. Those industrial heaters however, were the equivalent of sticking a one-bar fire on in an igloo. Unlike most gigs, people were putting on extra layers as the show went on rather than the other way around. As this is the first winter of hopefully many at the Invisible Wind Factory however, we are sure that they’ve taken note of lips and fingers turning blue and will learn lessons and get it sorted.
This inclement weather probably caused a distinct lack of punters for the return of Clinic which was a bit of a shame. We expected the place to be rammed for what was clearly was the main draw but as they kicked off there must have been a couple of hundred people watching and the place was only two thirds full.
This didn’t stop Clinic playing a blindingly good set. Replete in their trademark scrubs this was the sound of surgical equipment merged with deep pysch. Starting off with a couple of surprisingly mellow tunes, they built things up and up for the hour they played, growing deeper and increasingly more intense until by the end our minds were frazzled.
Thankfully, by the time they closed their set more and more people had drifted in and they’d gone down so well they warranted a well deserved encore. A high point for Liverpool Music Week.
Barberos finished the evening’s live music off with their high volume and intense two drummer/electronic/crazed vocal/full body suit set up. The Invisible Wind Factory certainly did them justice with a spectacular light show that presaged the next evening’s Bonfire Night celebrations. Barberos were very loud and threw everything into their music; a whole lot of things were going on and they had a very receptive audience who loved the Faust/Can/Krautrock stylings mixed with dance elements.
For us however, it all seemed a bit obvious. Beneath all the noise and bluster there wasn’t that much depth. One song merged into another with little variance and unlike Clinic who paced their set well, Barberos kicked it off hard and loud yet there was nowhere else for them to go. It was kind of “you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all“. Still, we were probably a minority dissenting voice bearing in mind the loud whoops, applause and cheers that greeted them at the end.
The Getintothis stage at Troubadour still felt like one of the best places to be on the night with XamVolo the latest act to impress. Having received Radio 1 airtime from the likes Annie Mac, Huw Stephens, and Phil Taggart, new Decca signing XamVolo seems set for big things. At only 21, the Liverpool-based Londoner exudes a cool beyond his years with rich jazz harmonies combining with some unashamedly smooth RnB. Add some flourishes of electronica and XamVolo appears to have most bases covered and just when it all seems too commercial he unleashes the odd bit of jarring sax or loud guitar to mess things up.
As things begin to run far more smoothly than they began, swift band turnovers mean a righteous onslaught of an eclectic mix awaited our lugholes. Sankofa are standout with their soulful psychedelic blues, charismatic frontman Stephen Wall propels his infinite vocal capacity with more soul than early Kings of Leon, screaming his being into the microphone as if it’s the last show he’ll play.
By far the most avant-garde act of the night, Bonnacons of Doom come equipped with ritualistic gongs, sinister capes and perception-altering mirrored masks. With a member of Mugstar (Neil Murphy) among them, it was to be a guaranteed megalith of rumbling, swirling psychedelia not of this world; the crowd begin to let their inner demons leap out.
The penultimate act of the night comes in the form of The Floormen, a talented trio with mega psych solos and heavy grooves that recall Ty Segall’s work with Fuzz and the experimental vocals of Hookworms. They boast almost telepathic understanding as they hide behind masses of hair, and they revel in the role as main support on this special night.
Headlining the Getintothis stage is Veyu. For three years now they’ve been one of our favourite bands with their combination of scouse dream pop and liquid guitars recalling Mersey heroes past like the Lotus Eaters and Echo and the Bunnymen at their sky-scraping best. Dense, reverb-drenched melodies, disarmingly intimate yet profoundly epic, climbing to shimmering heights, and then plunging into deep blue, it’s an absolute mystery why they aren’t receiving the kind of attention afforded to the likes of Blossoms. Until then we’ll revel in the chance to see them in places like this.
To bring us to a mighty close, there’s a real buzz around the magically weird four-piece Strange Collective, as Meraki reaches full capacity. They effortlessly encapsulate everything the night has been about, spanning genres with their Scouse roots, experimental tendencies and their love for the strange. A cracking performance of tricky tempo changes, moody interludes and fuzzy chords that soar these recently christened rafters. Leader of the strange, Alex Wynne sums up the evening, “I wish we could stay all night, it’s all nice and lovely“.
Photos by Getintothis’ Andy Sunley, Vicky Pea, Lucy McLachlan and Brian Sayle.