Getintothis spends two nights legging it round the streets of Liverpool for the inaugural Sound City festival.
The unremarkable emptiness of the streets couldn’t help but serve as a stark contrast as to what was happening below during a particularly grey week in late May.
Deep in the bowels of the Pool everything was happening. For four days and nights Liverpool’s musical underworld was positively alive with the spirit of sound.
Each and everyone of the City’s bars and clubs united to revel under the banner of Sound City while a who’s who of the elite and emerging talent from across the globe descended en masse to dazzle. And for the most part, that they did.
The first leg on our two-day dash saw Laura Marling pull up a stool in Zanzibar as packed-sardine people, clambering onto every bit of available timber eager for a viewing platform, beamed at the teenage cherub.
Clearly touched by the open adoration, Marling was caught between giddy excitement and innocent bashfulness with her porcelain cheeks lighting up with every whoop.
The finger-picking clipperty-clop of Ghosts a particular favourite as the crowd drowned out her angelic coo.
Frustratingly, we miss much of Liverpudlian Ragz‘s set, which given the enthusiastic clamor which greets her finale signals a sure sign of success and the added nag is that we missed her delightful folky charms in favour of enduring the decidedly mundane 28 Costumes up the road in Seel Street’s Barfly.
They ooze dynamism and a punchy guitar clatter but there’s little in the way of memorable tuneage. So while they’re easy on the eyes, the ears quickly tire. A brief interlude of The Displacements in the upstairs loft showcases the tried and tested scallyadelica which became boring in 1998; a decade on and all that comes across is: get a new drummer.
The Mystery Jets ramp proceedings up tenfold. Now in their second phase: Worzel Gummidge-meets-new-romantics (doubt it’ll catch on) and minus singer Blaine Harrison‘s dad, Henry, the boys appears relaxed and jolly, rifling through an effervescent party pop set with classic in waiting Two Doors Down and swinging 60s anthem Young Love peaks of the opening night.
Such is the frenzy of activity our attempts to watch co-headliners Glasvegas proves futile with the Scottish fuzz merchants all-but wrapping up when we head upstairs. However, the final ten minutes of their set is almost a night-stealing display with dissonant guitars bristling in the crackling atmosphere while singer James Allan rounds off proceedings with a solo stint bathed in red and black silhouetting his finely coiffured barnet.
A punishingly late Tuesday night quickly rolls through into Wednesday and given the impossible logistics of attempting to watch bands all over the City again, we decide to put our roots down in The Academy to take in the sounds of Domino Records‘ showcase night.
First off are ones to watch Wild Beasts, whose jumbled influences make for compelling and sometimes difficult listening. Singer Hayden Thorpe‘s perma-sex face doesn’t help either.
Think new-wave pop fronted by Jeff Buckley and you’re in the right ball park while their angular rhythms and tumbling guitar lines make for an attention-grabbing listen. Though one suspects they’re very much an acquired taste.
Liverpool’s Eugene McGuinness, meanwhile, provides probably the biggest disappointment of the two days – it’s not that he’s awful, but, backed by yet another Scouse-beat-pop combo, doing yet more Scouse beat-pop it all equates to something utterly mundane. And compared to the unique baroque oddness of Wild Beasts, it seems like a wasted opportunity for the much-hyped McGuinness.
Lightspeed Champion is about as far away from mundane as you can get. Armed with a glittering array of lyrically sexually-charged folk oddities and backed by violin, rocking lead guitar and keys, the former Test Icicles man is a revelation.
Watching Devonte Hynes, tonight leaving his all in one spiderman suit (phew!) at home, in favour of denim and a fetching grey ushanka, is at once uplifting and yet his tales of woe and disaster leave a mournful afterglow. The effect is a masterclass in showmanship and artistry.
Further, it’s surprising what a great guitarist he is – particularly having witnessed the truly abominable farce that was his previous band when supporting the Arctic Monkeys little under 18 months ago.
Highlights include a sumptuous Dry Lips, the recently re-released Galaxy of the Lost, newie Bad Blues and a tongue-firmly-in-cheek theme to Star Wars.
Following Lightspeed was always going to be hard, but Glasgow’s Sons & Daughters are brimming with heavyweight blows and raw sexuality.
Adele Bethel exudes lusty Debbie Harry charm, thrashing her tambourine, cracking her mic whip, as her sparkly orange neck-tie flaps amid David Gow‘s riffing.
Musically its like the Ronnettes on speed with the spirit of the Stooges pummeling things along before a raucous rare outing of 2004’s debut single Johnny Cash is given the treatment.
It’s a triumphant finish to two magical nights – why can’t every week be like this?
*Stay tuned for more Sound City reviews all week on Getintothis.