FestEVOL Part One review feat Dave McCabe and the Ramifications, The Serpent Power, The Sundowners, The Vryll Society and more: The Kazimier, Liverpool

The Sundowners

The Sundowners in the Kazimier Garden at FestEvol 2015 – part one

With a line up packed with new faces and old favourites, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson and Glyn Ackroyd enjoyed a marathon of music at the first instalment of FestEVOL.

With each passing gig at the Kazimier, the feeling of sadness that in a few months it will be gone becomes greater and greater.

Having become one of the standout weekends on the venue’s annual calendar, there was a heavy dose of nostalgia around this year’s FestEVOL, with a line up packed with bands that have cut their teeth at the festival over the past few years, and an exhibition of brilliant pictures of EVOL’s past shows by resident snapper Michelle Roberts. But if the days events are anything to go by, instead of looking back, there are some hugely encouraging artists in the city to make us look to the future instead.

Despite worrying weather throughout the day leading up to kick off, the downpour abated just in time for Sophie Anderson to take the stage and by the end of her set the sun is shining, both literally and metaphorically. Not that Anderson delivers a bright, shiny set; her rootsy tales of loss and redemption would perfectly soundtrack a Wim Wenders storm ravaged cinescape but her strong, soulful, smoky voice (the odd crack in her delivery adding emotional intensity to songs like Healer Man, Devil Baby Blues and The Doctor) and accomplished guitar playing has a small crowd beaming and applauding. This is a small crowd that Anderson chooses not to see, keeping her eyes closed for most of the set because she “doesn’t want to see people looking” at her. She’d better get used to it.

The afternoon line up alternates broadly between indie rock and pop acts, and for us it’s the poppier acts that really stand out to define the day. Bookended by the well delivered, wall of sound rock posturings of Seprona and Go Fiasco, and after a laughingly dismissed false start, Bathymetry hit their stride with a set of sugary pop grooves, atmospheric, dubby basslines and crisp, tight drumming that gets a growing crowd on the move. Vocal duties are shared between bassist Emily, whose visual style and playing remind us of Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club’s Tina Weymouth, and guitarist Ariel, who mixes an intense, punk angularity with some deftly played, jangly hooks. They are never afraid to change tempo mid song or to incorporate an energising stop – start shuffle into their grooves and, although, in the hubbub of the Garden their quieter passages are almost lost, their set shows a band full of interesting songs and possibilities.

Kicking things off on the Kazimier stage were a pair of new Skeleton Key signings, Tiger Tribe and Spectral Chorus, who at first glance show signs of keeping the label’s purple streak going. The former, a three piece from Blackpool, tore through a half hour set of raucous Parquet Courts esque punk rock with fuzzy riffs and a bass tone which could cause an avalanche. Keep it up and their 17 Twitter followers will surely double in no time. Coming in at the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, the acoustic trio of Spectral Chorus impressed with their stunning, heavenly harmonies and delicately picked guitars. Although slightly one paced throughout the set, when the three band members sang together, pure magic happened. Debut single Old House shows shades of Fleet Foxes, and at times feels quite haunting. A stark contrast to a couple of their other tracks which combine slide guitars and warm melody to give a summery feel. Two great finds by Skeleton Key.

A number of bands throughout the day came to the stage with growing reputations and popularity around the Liverpool scene, and there was keen interest to see whether they had what it takes to make the next step up. Two such bands, The Probes and Etches, both showed off great talent and swagger in equal measures, the former specialising in groove laden post-punk which seamlessly weaved from early Joy Division edginess through to transcendental neo-psych before finishing in a swirl of cosmic disco reminiscent of much-underated also-rans The Music while Etches dabbled in melodic synth pop; all angles and complex time signatures. Each band are befitting of their growing reputations but feel as if they could benefit from a couple of big standout tunes.

Equally impressive were the still relative newcomers The Floormen who entertained the crowd with their driving krautrock inspired sound. Having been on the scene for around a year now, the three piece have built a reputation with their intense live performances, but tonight’s showing sees them reach another level altogether. Their bass lines sounded hookier, their rhythms more driving and their on stage personas more aggressive and gripping. There’s nods to The Grateful Dead, Cocteau Twins, skiffle, MAGMA, shoegaze and Flowered Up – and that’s just in one track. Ones to certainly keep an ear on – much to the delight of the masses and frontman Buddy Keenan‘s father, Bernie Connor, who delayed his DJ set to soak up the youngster’s sounds.

On the other hand, The Jackobins bring a growing online presence, but sadly their music doesn’t back it up. Forced emotion smothers their MoR stadium rock songs which all seem to blend into one long melee of power chords, reverb and contrived posturing.

Early evening, the smell of the barbie floats out across a now packed Garden and an expectant air awaits the more established talents of Edgar ‘Summertyme’ Jones who, as always, delivers what his name suggests: an upbeat set of varied shuffle/reggae/gospel infused rhythms including new number Hard Act To Follow and old favourites such as Do Doh Dontcha Doh, which are equally well received by fans and newcomers alike.

Enter Zuzu, rhythm guitarist and vocalist, backed by a three piece who deliver a power pop set of punchy guitar riffs and broad, surf washes. There’s a punky delivery to Zuzu’s vocal and with her ripped skinnies and shiny silver boots she cuts a dynamic figure. Tight, harmonic backing vocals add depth to the sound and a B-52’s Cindy Wilson take on the finale is a treat, as darkness descends on another Garden party and the lights come up.

Underneath the shining glitter balls of Rat Alley, Bernie Connor lays down a delicious mix of dub and electro, the constant flow of eclectically clad artists and audience between club and garden adding passing ‘love this’ dancers to the throng.

As the night grew dark and the venue got busier, Liverpool favourites Silent Sleep turned things up a notch with their catchy folk anthems. Minus their usual brass section, Chris McIntosh and Co performed tracks from their recent album Stay The Night, Stay The Morning Too with a darker edge than normal complete with a brilliant cover of LCD Soundsystem’s Someone Great.

Back in the Garden a bunch of kids are sound checking. At this point our jaundiced eye would like to see a more likely source of nailed on satisfaction – how good can a bunch of fifteen year olds be? It is quickly apparent that the answer is very good indeed. Straight from the off Canvas launch into a set of melodic, shimmering pop gems that brings a simmering garden to the boil. Each song is meticulously crafted, and while there are hints of their influences, from the funky guitar of Naked-era Talking Heads in Different Feeling to the Stones like riff of Lovely Day they are woven neatly into the tapestry of Canvas’ overall sound. We find out later that they’re actually seventeen but, whatever, their songs and sound are mature beyond their years. To help matters, darkness seems to put a lid on the sound, stopping it from floating skywards and training it on the ears of a cheering, dancing crowd.

VEYU catch the mood and, although their sound is more densely layered it has a groove that keeps the crowd moving. Washes of synth swirl over a rock steady rhythm and the echo and reverb on Chris Beesley’s vocal gives their sound an epic quality. They showcase some atmospheric soundscaping and build gradually to a big, big finale, soaring vocals, thunderous drum and bass overlain with a sonic barrage of guitars and keys.

The tide of people turns yet again for the club but not that many have returned when We Are Catchers begin a set shot through with CSNY harmonies and laid back West Coast melodies. The mix of keyboards and electric and acoustic guitars, individually well played, is loose and there seems to be a certain tension in the air. One song is brought to a halt and restarted and, despite some nice bluesy guitar lines the atmosphere remains low key throughout.

That changes when the crowds return in anticipation of a late night Sundowners show. The much lauded Wirral band hit the ground running with a rocking, hard driving opener and don’t let up for a second. Vocalists Niamh Rowe and Fiona Skelly harmonise beautifully and individually deliver in spades over flourishing guitar lines and rock steady rhythm. Those who cite Fleetwood Mac aren’t listening, they’re just looking (even then through blinkered eyes) – this is more Slick than Nicks and the crowd are dancing and cheering once more.

The standout band of the day was without a doubt the increasingly impressive Vryll Society. Channeling early Verve through prog infused space rock jams and faraway vocals with tracks such as Deep Blue Skies and Great White’s Fin, the five piece showed again why the rejuvenated Deltasonic Records are putting so much faith in them. Frontman Michael Ellis is a shamanic figure, jolting and jerking across the front of the stage while his soaring float above the band’s hypnotic grooves. These boys are the business, and show with each performance why they’ve been given a headline slot at the venue later this year.

Bringing the indoor festivities to a close was a Zutons/Coral old boys double header, with Ian Skelly and Paul Molloy’s The Serpent Power leading on to Dave McCabe and the Ramifications’ headline set. Along with a host of tunes from their desert-psych self titled debut LP, The Serpent Power brought a Grade A hat game to the stage. The two show a real chemistry between them and a mutual love of early psychedelia which is reflected in their finely crafted music. Dave McCabe continued his new direction with a set of thumping electronica topped off with a cover of the ZutonsWhy Won’t You Give Me Your Love. With his band the Ramifications all decked out in black cloaks and masks, the set felt slightly chaotic, but the energy emitted from McCabe is hard not to get absorbed in.

Cavalry’s anthemic sound, pounding drums, searing guitar tempered by some tight, three part harmonies and sing along melodies brings proceedings to a rousing close. If Part Two throws up the same mix of undiscovered gems and upwardly mobile talent you’d be crazy to miss it.

For a preview of FestEvol Part Two on Saturday August 8 line up read our feature here.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Saleh, Michael Kirkham and Phil Greenhalgh.