Threshold Festival is back in full swing and the Getintothis team hit the Baltic Triangle to see whether it hit the spot, or not.
It’s a nice day for a festival. The mercury is well into double figures on Friday as we head down to the Baltic Triangle for a welcome return to Threshold proper. The first festival of the season.
Last year’s event was described as a fallow year and was re-named Across the Threshold. So, is this year’s version a spring back into action? We’re not entirely sure, looking at the line up.
A lot of the usual suspects return and there are precious few nationally known names. But, let’s reserve judgment until it winds down on Saturday night. Hell, we haven’t even collected our passes yet.
If the bill looks more local focused, then there are still some top quality acts we’re keen to see this weekend as we work our way through the clashfinder. And there’s always the potential for a buzz about finding a band or an act we’ve not encountered before.
Speaking to Getintothis a few weeks ago, festival director Andy Minnis explained the ethos of Threshold: “In 2019, we’ll take it to the streets, literally. We’re planning to project onto buildings along Jamaica Street to break down the traditional ‘white cube’ paradigm even further.
We’ve always been about exhibiting in unusual spaces and we will continue to integrate our exhibition into our performance spaces.
Blending art forms and encouraging collaboration between visual artists and musicians has been a key element of what we do, since the beginning.”
The elephant in the room, of course, is the BBC 6 Music Festival, announced only a few weeks ago and head on competing for punters. We can imagine that news didn’t go down too well in the Threshold offices, although in the event there was a kind of embrace with BBC 6 and Threshold re-branded itself as part of the BBC 6 Festival Fringe. However, with tickets for the 6 Music gigs going for north of £35 a pop set against a weekend Threshold ticket for £15, then we think we have the better deal. We’ve argued before that price is no indicator of quality and we’re hoping Threshold will prove us right again.
We kick off in Hobo Kiosk, that quirkiest of bars, as Daisy Gill is warming up proceedings with an accomplished acoustic set and a really strong voice. A decent intro to Threshold to set the tone. We’ve hit the ground running.
And we carry on with Mersey Wylie in District. Her R&B soul is bringing in the punters and rightly so. This is quality from a Threshold veteran: “This is my sixth year here, it’s one of my favourite weekends of the whole year”, she tells the audience.
92 Degrees were pitching themselves as Threshold’s Friday night venue for rap and grime acts. It’s refreshing to see a genre that’s often under served in the city getting a prime slot on Jamaica street, but the venue had to deal with making the transition from a coffee shop in the day time to a rap club in the evening. With that in mind they could have done with a few tweaks to their marketing and a change in the running order to make things run more smoothly.
First act, Ash the Author started at 7:45, just a few minutes before the program had their set marked to finish. This MC/DJ duo opened with quite a laid-back vibe, channelling the feel of some classic nineties hip hop with some varied beats and samples. They definitely drew in some passers-by after coming on to a sparse crowd after a few technical false starts but they left the place with more energy than they found it.
Next up was LUPUS, a much more energetic and performance. Where Ash styled himself in streetwear as someone you wouldn’t look twice at in the pub, LUPUS bounced on in a spray painted boilersuit and ski mask. This was the point when two tables of older ladies finished their teas and left, but they were soon to be replaced by the more energised crowd. LUPUS kept up the hip hop tone and brought shades of trap and grime that had people dancing.
With that in mind it seemed a risk to follow up such a high energy act with the stripped back sound of KingFast. A soul-influenced singer with an acoustic guitar, he certainly didn’t squander the goodwill left for him by the previous acts. But we were definitely brought back to that coffee shop setting and we wondered why KingFast hadn’t been placed earlier in the lineup. Regardless, the lad was bursting with charisma, playing original songs and nailing a cover of careless whisper.
Rushing over from playing a set in Brick Street as the vocalist for post-punk quartet People in Museums, LÙNA wasted no time getting the crowd under her spell. She started her set from in the crowd and made her way onto the stage, never breaking her flow. LÙNA’s got a confrontational vibe, literally getting in the faces of her audience and showing them what she’s got. And what she’s got is a blistering mix of quick rhymes, poetic bars and a take no shit attitude. Combined with the jerking dance moves of a woman possessed, she’s a talent to be respected.
Next up it was DBA, a multi-genre collective who fused afrobeat, hip hop, soul and grime. These guys were had an infectious sense of fun and a where a real standout in an already stacked lineup for the venue.
Brick Street is having issues but gets going soon after 8. They’re playing catch up. We’ll come back for Emilio Pinchi later.
When Silent Cities finally started in Brick Street, there was a distinct hint of embarrassment, but confidence built up throughout the set and the crowd soon got on his side. Despite the good will, Simon Madison’s crowdwork between songs was mainly comprised of apologising. When the set was good it was great, a curated and layered sound that hinted at abilities well beyond what was on display here. Not a stellar start to the night for Brick Street unfortunately.
Whatever mojo was holding back Silent Cities was blown away by People in Museums. An absolutely joyful post-punk outfit who gave everything they had to the audience. People in Museums have the feel of a band that need to be seen from deep within a mosh pit. We look forward to them releasing an EP so we can argue with friends about how it’s not as good as seeing them live. These were the first proper surprise of the night. People in Museums are new to us and we’re on board straight away. Lead singer Josefin regales with lyrical poetry set to an increasingly heavy pop punk background. This is music to our ears and we love the kind of She Drew The Gun on speed vibe.
We had then planned to go over to Best Before to catch the intriguing sounding Evil Pink Machine, but an absolute ban on cameras of any description scuppered that idea. We were later to experience more issues in Best Before, of which see below. This venue was clearly not working well and was an unfortunate sore thumb in an otherwise mostly enjoyable event.
Emilio Pinchi goes from strength to strength. He starts off in Brick Street on his own with a guitar and the band joins later. These are songs of anguish – “I’ve had a shitty day”, he tells us. It’s mutual. He speaks our language. It’s blues tinged pop and it works well.
But the real party is going on over at District. We catch the end of The Soulrays jazz funk set and the place is jumping. Theirs is all about having a good time and District is doing just that.
They were followed swiftly by the Capoeira dance troupe who acrobat and somersault across the floor in an impressive display of rhythm and agility. There’s hollering and whooping going on and we’re all loving it.
Chanel and the Circus are whipping up another party, all silver lame hot pants and choreographed moves from Chanel and her pair of high kicking associates. It was a short set, but the District posse absolutely loved it. Liverpool ‘s version of a Madonna / Lady Gaga cross.
One name that was ruffling some feathers on Friday night was Best Before. The venue lost themselves some good will early on by turning away all press photographers. That combined with their location behind an unmarked door past the portaloos at the end of Newhall Street might lead you to wonder if they were actually interested in getting people through the door.
Best Before have been cutting their teeth as the Baltic’s new place to go for a rave vibe and solid dance music; and they’ve been working hard to cultivate their own style of advertising, with a minimal Instagram as their only web presence. While it might be working well for attracting a student crowd there’s definitely been a bit of a culture clash when moving from their own nights to working together with Threshold, who tend to be go for advertising that’s about reaching a lot of people.
To their credit they put up a very strong lineup on Friday, including Baltic Natives FOXTRAP, ethereal experimentalists OVVLS, and electro-dance due The Frixion. These acts put in great sets but it took time to draw crowds into the venue. We were far from blown away by Best Before, but intrigued enough to want to check out what they can do on a night where they’re playing by their own rules.
Kyami close out 92 Degrees in style, eschewing the stage for the lead singer to set up her mic on the floor to deliver a soulful, New York style groove. It was a fine way to top off the evening.
Come Saturday, the sun’s out again and we’re well up for day two of this most eclectic of festivals.
Threshold is not just about music, though, and true to Andy Minnis’ words quoted above we’re curious to see what else there is on offer. The festival has been given a theme for this year – Infinity. Call us cynical, but it was difficult to discern much infinite on offer.
However, it was true they were exploring different spaces. We arrived early on site with the intention of taking a look in St Micheal in the City, which had sportingly been re-branded as The House of GOF by the Gang of Five who were putting on life drawing and sketchbook sessions. There was a series fabulous images of street photography from Jane MacNeil, dubbed “Every Person in Liverpool“. Her clever use of light and shade was drawing favourable comments from those around us.
We catch a bit of Katie Mac doing a solo set in Ditto Coffee – an intimate affair and Katie Mac delivers her folk ditties that feel inspired by Bob Dylan and Martha Wainwright. With her backing band absent, Katie’s voice resonates further. It works a treat, her distinct vocal and heartfelt subjects a collective force of nature.
A short trip over the road to Hobo Kiosk where we’re tipped off about Evie Moran. 17 years old and the voice to light up your life. She plays keyboards and guitar and she will go a long long way. A real gem of a find so early in the day.
Brick Street has been converted into the Secret Circus for Saturday with all manner of freaks, drag queens, and misfits. There was pole dancing from Rowena Gander and burlesque from Claire de Lunacy. Beija Flo had a short 10 minute set, which will always go down well with Getintothis. “It’s me!” she says, before giving us just the four songs, but including the brilliant radio ready Mary. Flo’s tracks drip with a soulful intelligence for the Brick Street dwellers and highlights that she is very much one of the shining beacons of the Liverpool live scene. These songs are well and truly ready for the pop parish of a higher institution.
We could probably have stayed here all night, the vibe was great and all inclusive. But needs must and we move on. But we will be back later in the evening to see what other madness is happening in here from time to time.
In Best Before Niki And The Waves are playing to a thin crowd. The six-piece present breezy glow-wave flourishes with trumpet and trombone injecting an soft anthemic vibe to round out their sound. You could imagine Niki And The Waves as the world’s most raucous wedding band.
Not only that, Niki And The Waves show that they can crank it up too, rendering a stripped back offering which is occupied on the right side of what we define as indie rock, backed by a solid rhythm section. They also dabble on the fringes of funk which suggests they aren’t afraid to genre hop as they move through the set. It will be interesting to see where this band goes in the future. It’s non-intrusive pop music which warms the soul. Everyone needs a band like this in their lives.
92 Degrees is delivering some quality material. We arrive half way through Jazamin Sinclair’s bluesy acoustic set to find her being accompanied on stage by Mersey Wylie. Bonus. This is a match that won’t go anywhere near wrong. And it doesn’t. Jazamin should play more often. She was one of our picks from last year and this set again shows her class.
Rachel Jean Harris is sublime as always, with her stripped back jazzy funky style. We could listen to this all night.
Over in District Gen and the Degenerates are living up to their name. Kind of. They haven’t ripped the place apart, but their anarchic take on proceedings has an appreciative crowd smiling and bobbing along. It’s more fun rather than kicking a foot in the face of The Man, but we enjoyed it. There were some tech issues before we arrived, but that didn’t diminish their enthusiasm.
As Berries are getting ready in District, we’re hearing of more trouble over at the, by now, clearly inappropriately named Best Before. The acts in Best Before are having to work extra hard to bring life into the room, which otherwise feels completely devoid of soul. Not only are the crowds thin, largely due to the stringent and utterly ridiculous policy of no film or photography, even going to lengths to apply “Best Before” tags over phone cameras. It totally opposes the party spirit created by other venues at the festival, in particular at Brick Street. It’s absolute nonsense.
Yammerer capture this anger perfectly, as frontman Jason Corbett is visibly irked by the circumstances surrounding the venue. He flails his arms and legs off stage crashing into the crowd with unhinged lunacy. Snarling with microphone stand aloft, his antics draw disgust from the sound staff. It’s antagonistic bare-chested primal blues from another planet. For all of four minutes…
Further anger is forthcoming as the microphones are seemingly turned off and after an argument between band and sound engineer, the show is abruptly over. Mutterings of “fuckin’ shambles” are audible, finally bringing the venue itself to life in ironic fashion. The elephant in the room has made itself heard. Perhaps the shortest set in Liverpool music history as it we know it. All Best Before needs now is a priest. It’s turning into a mini Hope and Glory over there. Something has gone seriously wrong with that venue.
Berries, on the other hand are kicking up a storm in District. The all female trio are a riot of rock done absolutely right. They remind us of the Berlin Blackouts from Rebellion last year. It’s difficult to see how this could be done any better. The energy was infectious and it was clear by the way the band were looking at each other they have a tight bond.
In Ditto Coffee, Charity Shop Pop breaks free from bedroom-pop dance floor occupiers in favour of stripped back versions of his songs which reveal a liberal dose of tender twee-pop. The contrast is startling and in a very good way.
The Tosin Trio guide the 24 Kitchen Street audience through a journey of soul infused hard-rock with chunky chords and wah-wah fuzz, razor sharp bass and liberal-swing drumming. It’s a shame that the set has been cut short, with the band only playing three songs, again in an attempt at catch up for the others on the bill.
After the set, frontman, Tosin Salako, is visibly frustrated and we don’t blame him. Three tracks and each of them were met with standing ovations from some in the building. The Tosin Trio were very much in the zone. Best burn out than fade away? Not in this case. The earth scorching performances makes us want to end the night right here in search of Blue Oyster Cult’s Secret Treaties. No bad thing at all.
We close out the evening in District with Bang Bang Romeo who deliver a really powerful soul infused set. “Has anyone here been to a Bang Bang Romeo show before?” asks Anastasia. “Well, we’re loving Liverpool” and on this showing Liverpool loves BBR.
The final act of the festival for us was Unstoppable Sweeties Show, a noise-pop five-piece, they are an infectious rabid animal, who combine the origins off-kilter noise-pop with anarchic spirit. Think Deerhoof and X-Ray Spex in a pub scrap and you’d be close to the mark. Or Melt Banana. The crowd in Brick Street, which for the most of the day is made up of various oddities, are well into this and it’s no wonder because this band encapsulates everything about them. The transparency is great and an appropriate way to end the night and the festival.
What did we learn?
Threshold is in rude health for the most part. It’s DIY ethos is part of its charm and the reason many people told us it was one of their favourite weekends of the year.
But on the other hand tech issues in Brick Street and 92 Degrees on Friday evening were irritating, albeit there was no repeat on Saturday – both venues were running to time on the second day. District worked as planned throughout. But none of that compares to the utter shambles that was going down in Best Before. Hidden away such that few people even knew where it was albeit with a strong line up. It was a masterclass in how to alienate the audience.
That said, we hate to leave on a bad word and this year seemed like a welcome return to a much loved festival.
The Getintothis Top picks of the weekend
She was pretty much the first act of the whole festival, which is never a good place to be. But she won over The 20 or so heads in Hobo Kiosk with ease. Her voice is stunning and powerful- straight out of Nashville. Peter Goodbody
People in Museums
We’ll just crack on says singer Josefin half way through the band’s belter of a high energy poetry / punk mash up. A new discovery but a seriously good highlight of Friday night. Peter Goodbody
Roxanne de Bastion
92˚ Coffee has been something of a hub during Threshold. Lots of exchanges, people traffic, hellos and goodbyes. Then Roxanne de Bastion turns up. Sporting her trademark Rickenbacker. Moving with ease between guitar and keyboard. Accompanied by the fantastic Stephanie Kearley on cello. Although the instruments are somewhat incidental to the words. Suddenly this venue is silenced. Every soul locked in on every word. We needed this oasis of tranquillity in a frantic weekend. Roxanne allowed us to breathe. Marty Saleh
Gang of Five
Life drawing with Paddy Steer and John Everett Millaisʼ pre Raphaelite doomed heroine, Ophelia.
Thatʼs not a sentence I ever expected to write. Let alone observe nay immerse myself in. The stage was dressed. The models were, too. I hasten to add. We were invited to draw, sketch or crayon an artistic impression of the above scene. All to the soundtrack of a punk song. What is not to like. Art can appear exclusive, stuffy not welcoming. Well the Gang of Five break down those barriers with with one hell of a Doc Marten boot. A genius concept. The only downside was St Michaelʼs Church is off the beaten track, so footfall was light.I t
was shamefully overlooked and under utilised. Marty Saleh
Yammerer capture the mood in Best Before perfectly, as frontman Jason Corbett is visibly angered by the circumstances surrounding the venue. He flails his arms and legs off stage crashing into the crowd with unhinged lunacy. Snarling with microphone stand aloft, his antics draw disgust from the sound staff. It’s antagonistic bare-chested primal blues from another planet. For all of four minutes…
The elephant in the room has made itself heard. Perhaps the shortest set in Liverpool music history as it we know it. Simon Kirk
The Tosin Trio
The Tosin Trio guide the 24 Kitchen Street audience through a journey of soul infused hard-rock with chunky chords and wah-wah fuzz, razor sharp bass and liberal-swing drumming. After the set, frontman, Tosin Salako, is visibly frustrated and we don’t blame him. Three tracks and each of them were met with standing ovations from some in the building. The Tosin Trio were very much in the zone. Simon Kirk
Mica Jane has a melodic, near angelic voice that would stand alone without the support of a band. On this occasion, she played with the full support of tight-knitted backing band and was all the better for it. Elephant was the stand out song in her well-crafted set, with a chorus ready for the radio. Mica made up for the atmosphere that was lacking from the limited crowd, with an energetic performance that sat in line with her witty lyricism, and summery guitar riffs. Conor Baxter
A performance centered around energy, from the three lead vocalists bouncing off each other for the entire set with smiles from ear to ear, to the clearly well crafted beats that delivered a sound that is very much in fashion. It seemed, at times like a mix between J-Hus and Yungen. Upbeat, danceable beats with feel good lyrics that occasionally had the potential to hit home a harder message. Conor Baxter
Reporting and images by the Getintothis team of Peter Goodbody, Simon Kirk, Marty Saleh, Abi Moss Coomes, Conor Baxter and Mostyn Jones