The first Wrong Festival aimed to deliver a riotous opening hit in Liverpool, Getintothis‘ Peter Guy, Luke Chandley and Guy Nolan ventured to the north docklands.
It’s a precarious time for the UK music festival.
This week saw the cancellation of Southampton’s Downtown, one of the cornerstones of the city’s cultural calendar. It follows on from the likes of Wickerman, Legion, Electric Daisy Carnival, Together The People and most prominently, new for 2017, the holiday camp-style Safe As Milk – all axed citing poor ticket sales despite much anticipation among music fans across the country. There’s simply no safe bet being a festival organiser.
Liverpool, having swept the board two years running at the Festival Awards could be seen as the leading UK city for music festivals, yet there’s a growing sense among some, that for all our superlative options, we could be spreading ourselves too thin. Would it be worth combining some of the smaller festivals into events which are more worth our while? Are we hitting festival fatigue? Are we spoilt for choice?
These questions may have been pondered when new alt-rock event Wrong Festival was announced at the back end of 2016. Eyebrows were surely raised when the first batch of artists were revealed, particularly given it’s late April event date with the monolithic month of May to follow and with it a whole host of firmly-established music happenings. For while the likes of Bo Ningen and some of the other acts on the bill have a dedicated, if cult following, Wrong Festival, on paper, had some (us included), worrying it could well live up to it’s name.
How pleasing it was then to be proved spectacularly incorrect as Wrong Festival turned out to be more than a little alright. In fact, as first-time festivals go, Wrong Festival was an unequivocal delight.
Much of the praise must be awarded to festival organiser Michael Edward. A regular on the Liverpool gig circuit, whether fronting his band Elevant or often seen down the front at gigs lapping up the drama with unabashed abandon. His vision for Wrong Festival was to provide something Merseyside music doesn’t have – and where question marks may have been raised as to whether a noise festival was needed, it was this alternative voice which proved Wrong Festival‘s success story.
Typifying the event, and the stand out set of not just Wrong Festival but perhaps The Invisible Wind Factory‘s short history, were Part Chimp. Long-time favourites on Merseyside since their early 2000s formation, here they blow the place to bits. For 40 minutes they pummel and probe with delirious progressive power pop – it’s insanely melodic, catchy even, but there’s twists and cavernous drops in their rocky road which takes you deep into a invitingly mountainous musical terrain.
Tim Cedar and Iain Hinchliffe lead the attack with crunching, detonating riffs but it’s Jon Hamilton‘s colossal tidal waves of drum rolls which truly thrill – every time he flexes his wrists it feels like the most beautiful jab to the belly you’re ever likely to experience. It’s a pleasure to see The Left Hand and former Kling Klang multi-instrumentalist Scouser Joe McLaughlin back in town; now based in New York, he’s lapping up his role on bass, thwacking and nimbly scooting up the fretboard throughout. They close bringing the crowd to their knees with an extended power chord breakdown and the sea of arms raised to the roof clapping their finale is a joy to see. What a band. What a moment.
Bo Ningen and Bonnacons of Doom‘s theatrics are another huge plus of the event. The former are noted for their extreme on-stage antics but it’s worth noting just how deft their music actually is – while it’s easy to get lost amid the thunderous rock and roll and propulsive rhythmic gymnastics, their music is underscored by catchy hooks and big, juicy melodic motifs. Bonnacons of Doom, meanwhile, are like the 4×4 400m – an utterly, thrillingly exhausting exercise of power and precision. Watching singer Kate Smith deliver her vocal is an eye-popping experience in itself; as the crescendo of noise overspills around her, she pushes herself to the point of combustion, ever increasingly drained as she aims to tip her voice through the cauldron of filthy beats and mechanical monstrous drone around her.
Like Bo Ningen, tonight wrapped in tangerine orange cloaks and six-foot wide maroon pantaloons which sway like curtains in a Chicago window, Bonnacons could be dismissed as somewhat novelty given their mirrored hub-cap masks but only a fool would miss the musicality on show in both bands – they share seismic drumming and like Part Chimp earlier, Wrong Festival‘s sound engineers are pushed to the extreme to control the epic noise but do it with aplomb. The sound in The Invisible Wind Factory truly is remarkable and the case for staging Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia here can’t be ignored.
The Wytches are mild in comparison to what’s unfolded beforehand, and they’re a less convincing proposition in the bigger Wind Factory space than when they last played the city for Hoylake’s Skeleton Coast. Indeed, the crowd’s acquiescent nods is a distinct contrast to the wild lunacy when Wytches played The Kazimier back in 2014. Lunacy is the operative word when describing Evil Blizzard; the four-bassed attack complete with gimp masks, a mummified band member and much filthy romping sees North Shore Troubadour‘s crowd descend into a bouncy thriving mess.
Earlier in Northshore Troubadour we could tell something was afoot as headliner Heck were setting up with mic and guitar leads that were probably 20m long. “We are a band called Heck” they announced before launching into an onslaught of a set that used the stage only as a guide.
Wading into a proper mosh pit the band probably spent as much time off stage as on it. This was full on energy and if there were a band more suited to a noise festival such as this, then we’re struggling to name them.
It may be thought a shame they didn’t get a wider audience, but the height of the stage at IWF probably wouldn’t have suited their antics to quite the same degree. It was top class mayhem.
Early doors Wild Fruit Art Collective deliver a mess of raw rock, with vocals that deaden around the echoing Wind Factory. As the introductory band of the day they face a difficult task to waken the sleepy souls who’ve ventured out of the sunshine and into the massive space and their slower paced tracks, like Fabric, prove an eerie listen. Across in the North Shore Troubadour, Newcastle outfit Bernaccia kick things into shape; opening track No Home For The Buffalo was a foot-tapping romp of guitar-laced-blues which reflected what was to come. Exciting, experimental but all the while accessible. One of the stand out performances during the daytime. Liverpool’s Indigo Moon overcome a difficult start with a faulty amp as the band excel with energetic showmanship twinned with powerful riffs and a ragingly bombastic and commanding vocal from Ashley Colley.
Memories of squat parties in the early 1980s float back to Getintothis inside the confines of Drop The Dumbulls. Like a long forgotten friend, this place is equally arthouse and a shrine. A wonder to your eyes and a well-run machine of a venue. This is a true asset for the Liverpool music and art scene. We loved it and it’s an oft repeated phrase by many who came in saying the same thing.
First on is the Federales – their sound equal parts spasmodic indie and hinting towards the pop sounds of Jonathan Richman. The crowd loves them and deservedly so. Fancy Dress Party sees the crowd thin, it’s a shame as the band merge aspects of shoe-gaze with elements of Slint style post-rock. The place empties while Black Pudding set up and we are alone for 30 minutes. As the place gently fills, garage rock ramblings are presented but for us it’s lacking. Much better are Kapil Seshasayee whose post-industrial abstraction has a nod to Daniel Higgs folk-infused vocal. Chupacabra are simply excellent – a mashup of garage punk, mod revival, razor-sharp wit and art-rock. They play with ease and the crowd love them.
Mums deliver a solid, if uninspired set of loud, in-your-face rock before RongoRongo truly kick start the festival. Drawing a large crowd inside the still day-light bathed North Shore Troubadour, their eerie, fragmented progressive rock proves both warped and spine-chillingly haunted yet balanced by singer Mick’s bewitching yet camped up on stage bravado. Spending as much time in the crowd as on the stage, the band weave a magically dark spell with the bass groove of Faster proving a hard-hitting pop punch contrasted by the epic bleakness of Shitshow. A huge listen.
Another big afternoon thrill are three piece Indian Queens. Blending pop, electric and acoustic drum beats and rock and roll, they’re easier on the ear than much of the festival’s noise while the duel vocals from the guitarist and bassist was an added delight. Single Us Against The World proved a highlight – it was just a shame that so few attendees were there to witness them. One of the most eagerly awaited bands are Manchester-Oxford garage-grunge heads False Advertising. Drawing the biggest, and most up for it crowds thus far, the trio go down a treat with their melodic, yet frazzled power pop.
Back in Dumbulls, Cattle, with their Load Records vibe, interspersed sax blasts – they don’t disappoint. Equally so, Super Luxury deliver swaggering noise rock complete with funny skits and on stage japes. Duo Hyena Kill open with a surly speech which is off-putting to say the least but they win us over with a blasting noise assault which fails to relent until the close. Merseyside loves Cowtown (one of our most memorable experiences was seeing them in Wolstenholme Creative Space alongside Spitting Cobras and Mother Earth – remember them!?) and once again they thrill with their disjointed guitar-warbling wonky pop. It is glorious, the place is packed and jumping for joy.
It’s indicative of the entire day with Wrong Festival proving a joyous shared experience with an appreciative crowd who they themselves add to the easy-going vibe. Is right.
Video by Adam Dickson
Photos by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody, Tom Adam, Phil McAllister and Brian Sayle.