Heavenly 25 feat The Wytches, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Hooton Tennis Club, Stealing Sheep: The Kazimier, Liverpool

Hooton Tennis Club

Hooton Tennis Club

As Heavenly Recordings celebrated their 25th birthday with an all day party showcasing their best acts, Getintothis’ Jamie Bowman and Adam Lowerson discovered just what makes the label special.

In the 25 years since Jeff Barrett founded Heavenly Recordings, he has launched the careers of some notable names such as Manic Street Preachers, Doves and Saint Etienne. Now in this anniversary year, the label have celebrated in many ways, curating stages at festivals from Glastonbury to Green Man and hosting parties at venues across the country. Although today’s all day event at the Kazimier is very much a part of a celebration of Heavenly’s iconic past, it certainly feels like a nod to it’s future. The newest and youngest acts on their roster are the centrepiece, while Jeff Barrett slips unreleased Hooton Tennis Club tracks into his DJ set throughout the day. Today is very much about showcasing how, 25 years on, Heavenly is still a hugely important label.

Despite the increasingly miserable weather, Duke Garwood transported the Kazimier Garden crowd to the Deep South of America with his soul-baring, blues tinged folk. Performing tracks from his fifth solo record, Heavy Love, the former Mark Lanegan collaborator was raw and oozing emotion. Accompanied only by delicately picked guitar, Garwood was softly spoken with deep, husky vocals, almost whispering at his audience between tracks about the rain, easing the day in gently before the long night ahead.

In contrast, ex-Pippettes vocalist Gwenno lit up the Garden with her energetic electronic pop, despite the Kazimier staff’s best efforts of repairing a bulging drain pipe with mic stands going on behind her, which made for a very entertaining back drop. They fixed it in the end as well, top effort. With her lyrics being solely in the Welsh language, we had to take her word for it that her songs tackled themes from robots taking over the world to our obsession with technology killing us all. We couldn’t tell from the lyrics if this was true, but going from her performance, the upbeat songs sounded much less grim than these descriptions suggest.

Kid Wave took things up a notch with their Breeders-esque jangly rock with pop melodies. The fuzzy, raucous guitar sounds are backed up by some of the most impressive live drumming you’ll see to create melee of sound, yet still allow for shining pop melodies with dreamy harmonies to glow through the noise.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

As the mid-afternoon rain changes to early evening sunshine, the Kazimier Gardens are undoubtedly a good place to be: steak sizzles on the open air BBQ, the bar is doing a roaring trade in real ale and various Liverpool hipsters lounge around the soon-to-be-gone venue in various states of relaxation and anticipation.

In the midst of all this, the appearance of a troupe of leotard wearing dancers, moving in time to some beautifully pulsating Balearic beats, seems only natural if undoubtedly surreal. The music emanating from the Kazimier’s outdoor stage is being created by Liverpool art-poppers Stealing Sheep whose early standing as quasi-pagan folksters seems to have taken a deliciously wonky diversion into electro house if this debut performance of new 25 minute opus LEGS is anything to go by.

As the female three piece manipulate and tweak various items of retro technology, the accompanying dancers perform a deadpan routine intertwined with shimmering keyboards and eye catching pastels. The combination of entangled legs with entangled beats is overwhelmingly hypnotic and although it would have been nice to have heard Stealing Sheep’s characteristic harmonies it’s impossible not to revel in the smiley oddness of it all, especially when Becky, Lucy and Emily depart the stage sipping the kind of cocktails last seen being made by Tom Cruise in the late 80s.

A move indoors ushers in a very different vibe as London scuzz rockers The Voyeurs take to the stage. Formerly known as Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs, the band have begun to move away from the slavish appropriation of CBGBs-era New York with a new glammier sound that adds a far more interesting element to their attempts to sound as much like Television as they possibly can. Ross Kristian’s keyboards certainly help matters as they bring out a pleasing Modern Lovers to proceedings. But unlike so many of the other bands on tonight’s bill there’s a suspicion that the Voyeurs are trying a little too hard at this music lark – a thought confirmed by Boyer’s rather desperate dog collar which is surely an affectation too far.

If the Voyeurs are a partial misfire, the by-now well-oiled crowd welcome Australian psych stars King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard as returning heroes and are rewarded with a thrilling set of foot to the floor psych rock. Liverpool has always loved this kind of thing of course and as the seven piece begin their long and tangled trip into the ether with an opening salvo of whacked out wah-guitar, slow bass grooves, melodic synth and incredibly tight beats from two drummers (one above the other) who incredibly seem to be playing  an exact carbon copy of eachothers patterns, the hype about these Melbourne oddballs seems utterly justified.

Kraut rock, Canned Heat-esque blues jamming and even the flute-infused prog rock of Focus and Jethro Tull are all thrown into the heady brew as tempos rarely fall below frenetic and frontman Ambrose Kenny Smith screams and shakes his head like man possessed. With apologies to all other bands on the bill, it’s an absolute scene stealer of a performance. 

A glowing example of how labels like Heavenly can help new bands develop are Hooton Tennis Club, whose progress over the past 18 months or so is remarkable. Fresh from a handful of performances at Glastonbury, the Ellesmere Port four piece are set to release their debut album Highest Point in Cliff Town next month, a preview of which was spun during Jeff Barrett’s DJ set, and the band continue to go from strength to strength. Tonight they were on fine form, with unreleased tracks such as Powerful Pierre already showing signs of becoming fan favourites alongside singles Jasper and Kathleen Sat on the Arm of Her Favourite Chair. They sound energised, raucous and like they’re loving every second of being in a band, making the set incredibly fun to watch. Many big bands have emerged through Heavenly Recordings before them, and it’s quite easy to imagine that they could very well be the next.

Headliners, The Wytches have a tough act to follow King Gizzard’s devastating two drum attack but with a flurry of low slung guitars and eye masking fringes they certainly give as good as they’ve got. Which is very good indeed. Initially hyped as a psych band it’s now impossible to listen to them without thinking of Nirvana, such is the sheer power of frontman Kristian Bell’s scream and the scabrous scrawl of their grungy guitars. Add in some surf guitar and White Stripes-esque garage blues and the Brighton three piece are certainly making something  far more thrashy and thrilling than their sixties obsessed contemporaries.

It’s a wonderful and energising way to end a brilliant day’s music. Do we still believe in magic? Almost certainly.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Chris Flack and John Johnson.