Liverpool Sound City 2015 review: Flaming Lips, All We Are, The Serpent Power, Cavalry


The spectacular Flaming Lips

With a life-affirming conclusion from The Flaming Lips and Liverpool’s best and brightest bands out in force, Getintothis’ Patrick Clarke gets stuck in to day two of his Sound City adventures.

It’s been an emotional day. As Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne floats into the sunset in his trademark zorb amongst the final main stage crowd of the day, he does so on a wave both of hands and of passion, hoisted atop an enraptured throng who’re halfway through their treatment of utter, complete, euphoric bliss.

For the headliners to have arrived with their reputation preceding them as the best live band in existence and to still live up to every inch of expectation says it all. Coyne donning a frog costume – and for a brief stint a Dora the Explorer ukulele – it’s an utterly ecstatic ninety minutes of dementia.

The collapse of an older gig-goer directly next to us toward the end of the gig is of course an extremely worrying one, but with due medical attention soon on the scene and a brief break from the band to let the paramedics do their job, Coyne informs us that her situation looks good, and his band duly launch into a monumental Do You Realize, fronted by giant psychedelic neon puppets, for the most indefatigably pristine of conclusions.

So incredible are the group that it soon becomes irrelevant that there’s some bellpiece who can’t handle his drugs elbowing our faces, that I’m desperate for a piss, nor even that I’m not supposed to use the first person in these reviews; The Flaming Lips are one of the best gigs this writer’s ever seen.

In retrospect our start to the day was the perfect precursor. Though Jimmy Pe‘s pneumatic electronica would perhaps be something phenomenal 12 hours (and as many pints) later, at midday in an empty tent it simply misses the vibe – for no fault of his own, it must be added – yet it’s a wistful, starry-eyed Silent Sleep main stage opener that’s the ideal induction for a sunny Saturday by the sea.

A wander toward the Mail Chimp to catch a glimpse of Getintothis favourites The Floormen sees us greeted with a sea of eager heads to deny our entry, yet a dive into The Cavern in search of an alternative is a quite spectacularly silver lining in the form of Japanese thrashers Moja.

As Haru hammers out monolithic distortion from his bass with the occasional scream of vocal, the sheer ferocity of Masumi‘s drumming leaves her kit in pieces before her – much to the chagrin of a beleagured roadie and the enraptured glee of those present.

Countering their set with infectious personality they’re the perfect progenitors for Strange Collective over at the Baltic Stage, who prove their worth to a scattered crowd. Though by the very nature of the early afternoon they’re robbed of the raucous debauchery that’s characterised most of their late night sets of late, that they still deliver something objectively fantastic regardless is testament to their undeniable avail.

For fellow scousers The Vryll Society back at the main stage it’s a similar story. Though a sunny 2pm crowd might be the antithesis of their midnight-marauding regulars, they’re their usual exceptional selves, a closing instrumental freak out a particular delight.

Back at Baltic, meanwhile, Welsh electro-king R. Seiliog has been spending his day flitting in and out of the warehouse on perpetual fag breaks. When he finally takes to his set, however, it’s one of the day’s true highlights – a colossal, irresistible churn of hypnotic electronic grooves and live drums, dovetailing at the conclusion to a colossal Hacienda-worthy rave.

Serpent Power are all the while keeping up Liverpudlian appearances with aplomb at the Atlantic Stage with a shimmering soft-psych odyssey to keep a considerable crowd in check, while QOTSA-esque Aussies Service Bells lend a hard-riffing, if unremarkable set to the Kraken.

And then, there’s All We Are. Any who’ve seen their myriad appearances on the local circuit would be in no doubt as to the assured eminence of their appearance, yet with the sun behind them and their love for their adopted home reciprocated they surpass even their own high standards for a simply sublime half hour.

Cavalry, a short jaunt away at the North Stage, more than hold their own amidst the invasive sonic overspill of their surrounding stages, an added electric bite to their charismatic guitars enough to overcome a soundman apparently more interested in his phone and cigarette than a difficult mix, their sweeping vocal harmonies as completely captivating as ever.

At the other end of the site Fossa‘s Cargo set sees the room alight in the wake of art-pop at it’s best, while back at the Baltic Edge Hill university’s Edge Forward collective treat a more than substantial throng to some politicised (as far as we can gather) interpretative dance that, though it goes over our uneducated heads a little, is undeniably absorbing as we wait for The Membranes.

When the post-punk veterans do take to the stage, they’re completely captivating; sleeveless, sweaty and mohawked frontman John Robb whips his horde into a fervour as they close. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for an underwhelming Fvnerals at the North stage, who though blessed with a sartorial cool to set any to shame and some colossal vocals never quite overcome the interfering thuds from other stages. It’s easy to see them killing it, but this just isn’t their evening.

Before we take our place for The Flaming Lips there’s just time to stick our head round the Mail Chimp stage to catch the mighty Beach Skulls in close-quarters. Expectatons are dashed however when it becomes apparent that the stage’s schedule seems to have gone out the window, and we instead catch an intimate, if utterly unremarkable set from an unnamed American three-piece.

Such minor disagreements are nothing, however – infinitesimally small gripes when set against the absolute faultlessness of The Flaming Lips‘ headline slot, a truly singular end to one hell of a day two.

Photos by Getintothis’ Martin Waters, Martin Saleh, Michael Hegarty, Jack Thompson, Tom Adam, Vicky Pea, Chris Flack: