Liverpool Sound City 2013 bares its teeth, in one of the finest days of music for some time.
The look on people’s faces is astonishment. Pale, sweaty and giddy with a kind of fear-drenched ecstasy-soaked bafflement.
Savages have just ripped Liverpool apart. In a set lasting little short of an hour, Liverpool music witnesses a defining set from a generation defining band. That this Godzilla egg hatched open in front of their eyes on a Friday night with hundreds of others in a disused Garage in their home town makes the experience all the more special.
From the get go, they go off. A straight-jacketed feral lunacy with lightning bolt riffs, sledgehammer percussion and in Jehnny Beth a frontwoman who dictates the crowds limbs with her thrashing hip movements and swinging left arm; blow after blow, thwack after thwack every head in the steamy room smacks in unison.
Guitarist Gemma Thompson, like a Will Sergeant for the modern age, doesn’t ‘play’ guitar but uses it as an extension for subtle fills, devastating serrated edges or white-noise blade stabs as her partners in force Ayse Hassan (bass) and Fay Milton (drums) exact an executioner’s cutting-block of rhythmic damage.
The ferocity is exact, intentional, brutal and time after time takes the back of your head off. From the glass-cutting punk of No Face, the Velvets improvisational factory snarl of Waiting For A Sign, the rock and roll thrash of Husbands and the end-of-the-world disco of She Will, Savages are the band this world has been waiting for – not since the Arctic Monkeys readied an album of instant winners has a band sounded this vital, this alive, this necessary.
Truly a once in a lifetime moment, in Liverpool’s back yard, Savages toar through rib cages and lifted hearts clean right out.
Thee Oh Sees lifting hearts and minds
Senses shattered, you’d think the only way is down. You’d be wrong. San Fran’s The Oh Sees take minds to a transcendental level – a raw, exotic fist-punching cloud of exuberance as the Kazimier is transformed into a duvet of bouncing bodies, wide-mouthed yelps and unadulterated joy.
Often when a band comes with a reputation for their live outings the anticipation overtakes the reality; not with The Oh Sees, as the band clatter, smash and roll their way through 60 minutes of unbridled glove-tight mania. There’s no warning, no ease in, from the off, it’s going off as the sardine-packed audience build wave after wave of momentum until like salmon their over each others heads limbs trickling near the Kazimier‘s rafters.
Lars Finberg a metronome of drumming might conducts the movement while John Dwyer stirs the pot with his grinning guitar-toting enthusiasm – two world-beating sets in the space of two hours. Yep. Sound City just did that. It doesn’t any better.
Lulu James – body movin
Elsewhere, highlights abound. Witch Hunt are a duo specialising in horror one-twos; bass drum kicks, feminine howls and He-Man six-string chops. It’s the sound of the undead unravelling in Leaf and we’re alive with shudders.
Dan Croll injects Liverpool now-pop beautifully in the Garage while Lulu James applies a Grace Jones on acid aztec charm complete with headdress, figure-hugging bodice and vocal gymnastics.
Concrete Knives – polyrhythmic perfection
Concrete Knives pull in a sizeable crowd early doors and there’s good reason, their polyrhythmic percussion, multi-harmonies and infectious charisma is heart-warming and blood-pumping. Imagine Arcade Fire without the Springsteen overdose – it’s that good.
Equally good are Wolf People. Reimagining Caravan‘s Canterbury prog but applying a Black Sabbath chiselled grind, they blend wistful autumnal folk with fiery time-signature carnage.
The Tea Street Band close day two in the only way they know how; an in-your-face concrete-glossed audio glo-stick to the cerebral vortex. The Epstein Theatre bar transformed to a wash of colour, daft tumbling anoraks drunk with whatever just went down: magic, mania and a city revelling in musical magnificence.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Conor McDonnell, Marie Hazelwood and Sakura.