Despite several previous visits the Invisible Wind Factory still impresses on arrival, spectacular in its breadth and scale. Upon entering there is a clear sense that this is a destination venue, a blessed relief to find somewhere where as much love is afforded to the space in which the bands perform as to the bands themselves. The rear stage lighting, the rotating suspended circular logo and the vividly lit red glass all serve to create a sense of occasion.
On paper, at least, all seems set and ready to go. Yet the nagging feeling throughout the night is that something is amiss. The space feels too large, too daunting and too difficult to impose yourself onto. Pity then that The Mysterines, one of the city’s rising young stars, are forced to play to a largely empty room. The reconfigured setting, stage on the left as you enter and a larger space with fewer dampening curtain surrounds, prompts a muddier, echoing sound with sonic clarity coming off a distinct second best.
Yet notwithstanding this The Mysterines cooked up a performance that served to provide an indication of their talents that belied their youthfulness. Led by vocalist and guitarist Lia Metcalfe, whose rich, blues-inflected vocal delivery adds weight and resonance to their meatily varied soundscapes. With a mature and tightly honed performance that would put more well-practised artists in their place, the trio purred through a range of energetic styles from psych-pop and roughly hewn garage rock through to darker, moodier fare in a well-judged and well executed set.
Where The Mysterines excelled Zuzu seemed to miss a trick. For much of their set the edges felt too rounded and smoothed out, the spikily punky angularity too well sanded. The consequence was that much of the set fell flat, saved only by set closer Get Off with its resurgent choppiness providing a timely reminder of much of what had been missing earlier in the set.
Yet this is not to unfairly castigate Zuzu. The large warehouse setting made the sound struggle to find an impact, as the expanses prevented any real connection form forming between band and crowd. In a more suitable and sympathetic venue we’re sure that Zuzu would have fared better.
Blessed of a naturally bigger sound, Rongorongo were more effective, spurred on no doubt by a need to impress singer Mick Chrysalid‘s parents who were in attendance. With three guitarists the band were better able to possess the space and did so with an assured ease. Chrysalid strutted and preened about the stage like a yoga enthusiast in search of an instructor, twisting and contorting his body in often convoluted fashion.
It is easy to solely focus on Chrysalid such is his magnetic stage presence, yet to do so would be to unfairly downplay the band. The music they create is moody, intense and uneasy, laced with a malevolent edge. Brooding and swaggering, there is a hypnotic and mesmeric undertone that builds and grows with unrelenting tension. Unusual and compelling, Rongorongo provided further evidence to suggest they are one of the best of the current crop of Liverpool bands.
It was left to The Vryll Society to headline the night – and everything was turned up a notch. Louder, darker, bathed in red light and shrouded in dry ice it was immediately clear that the band had stepped it up on the back of their recent tour presenting a fuller, robust and more muscular sound.
The one drawback to the beefed-up volume was the stripping of complexity and nuance resulting in, at times, a one-dimensional sound that lacked depth and structure. Not that this seemed to matter to the crowd. From the moment they entered the stage it was abundantly clear that this was The Vryll Society‘s night and very much their gig. They weren’t inclined to share the spotlight with anyone else and the mood changed in an instant.
Immediately the uncomfortably awkward gaps in front of the stage were populated and an exuberant air took hold. The contrast to before was striking, straightaway feeling like a special gig, a proper event. The awakened audience lapped up their riff-heavy swirlingly psychedelic grooves that marry classicism with a progressive Factory Records influenced sound. None more so than on Beautiful Faces with its baggy hints and fluid danceable rhythms, as Michael Ellis bestrode the stage with the rock star’s arrogant swagger.
This was a confident and competent performance that nonetheless felt like something was missing. Something indefinable yet fundamental. Like a monochromatic picture shorn of the contrast between light and shade, the need to produce such a big venue-filling sound had a slight dilutive effect.
In a more intimate setting we might have reached a different conclusion, The Invisible Wind Factory feeling better suited to large events and happenings than it does to gigs. Yet with a bill of such strong homegrown talent playing in a vibrantly progressive venue in an emerging creative hub, tonight ultimately reminded that the Liverpool music scene remains in rude health.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Simon Lewis