Liverpool Sound City 2019 returned to the Baltic Triangle, Getintothis’ Peter Guy delivers his verdict while the team offer an in depth look at the artists and bands of this year’s festival.
It has been 12 years since Liverpool Sound City changed the course of Merseyside music and it’s evolution has seen more highs and lows than Alton Towers.
From the giddy days of 2007-2010 which saw music heads scurrying around Liverpool city centre through to the halcyon Wolstonholme Square period of 2012-2014 and the carnage of the docklands debacle of 2017, the cornerstone of Liverpool’s new music calendar has been eventful to say the least.
However, last year’s Baltic Triangle debut didn’t just realign things logistically, but delivered the festival’s ethos masterfully in bringing the very best in global new music to our doorstep while continuing to nurture new Merseyside music. It felt like a festival reborn – with the sense of discovery at it’s heart.
For the 2019 edition organisers axed the Cains Brewery village element and honed the festivities to the more ‘traditional’ music venue section of the Baltic. And it worked.
The hens, stags and halloumi fries element of the Baltic saw music culture awkwardly battling with Peaky Blinders piss-up behaviour and the relationship didn’t suit either party. This year’s event focused on venues with music and arts at their core: 24 Kitchen Street, District, Constellations, Brick Street, Hangar 34, Birdies and the Hobo Kiosk.
In all 17 spaces provided live music with a myriad of pop up spots also bringing music to the Baltic’s streets – and for the first time since those Wolstenholme Square days, there was a sense of community and a steady flow of regular Mersey gig heads and new faces visiting Liverpool for the very best in new music.
Day two of @SoundCity – and it looks set to be a scorcher! The @LivCathedral basking in the sunshine atop of the main stage with hotly-tipped @justmustard sounding gnarly and very, very good. See you down the front. 🌞 pic.twitter.com/sL4w6hwheo
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) May 4, 2019
The addition of the main outdoor stage on New Bird Street, with Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral basking in the background, lent a sense of occasion and when the likes of headliners Mabel, Loyle Carner and the riotous Shame took their turn Sound City genuinely felt like a special happening.
Yet it wasn’t the bigger names who made Sound City 2019 such a triumph – it was vast global music offerings and backbone of Merseyside’s new music scene which made the festival.
The standard was set early doors with Dundalk’s Just Mustard – fresh off the back of supporting Fontaines D.C. excelling with gnarly dissonance and trading with gloomy post-punk amid Saturday afternoon sunshine.
Nottingham’s Do Nothing, meanwhile, set the bar high (imploring ‘would you pay for dinner with LeBron James?‘ amid a back beat of The Fall induced rhythmics) in Brick Street Garden and there it remained for the entire festival with the likes of Slovakian’s 52 Hertz Whale and Belgrade trio Vizelj wowing the growing crowds with impassioned and visceral displays of isolation and anger dressed up with glorious overdriven riffs.
Stunning & heartwarming performance by @TheFlorrie Guitar Club led by @timotierney in a packed @ConstellationsL Garden – people of all ages/backgrounds in harmony – boss stuff, the best bit of @SoundCity – bringing folks together. Is right. ✊🏻 watch: https://t.co/EVvYGkv5d8 pic.twitter.com/y85nJHNQyv
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) May 4, 2019
Elsewhere, discoveries came thick and fast. Nice Biscuit from Queensland mixed cowboy jumpsuits with astronaut gear and provided Twin Peaks style surrealism with Stereolab meets Beta Band grooves while over in Baltic Social Say Sue Me from South Korea fizzled with effervescent exuberance and Bristol’s Scalping give the nervous system the biggest shock of the weekend with ear-lacerating supersonics akin to Fuck Buttons dueling with Gnod. They were that good.
Hat-trick of heavy hitting masters at work, @nicebiscuitband blending Twin Peaks surrealism with Beta Band/Stereolab, @Ani_Glass swirling pop ambience in @ConstellationsL Garden and @scalpingmusic lacerating ear drums with the biggest noise of the weekend thus far. Incredible. 💥 pic.twitter.com/Y5TcJWEDTE
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) May 5, 2019
So too, Shortparis. A five-piece operatic disco outfit who are both brutal and breakbeat dance-worthy. They’re part Throbbing Gristle, part Erasure and it’s utterly captivating throughout as Danila Kholodkov‘s standing drum kit takes an absolute beating before singer Nikolay Komiagin dishes out some punishment to a standing photographer.
The most heartwarming moment of the weekend arrived when The Florrie served up their massive guitar orchestra – a community project which sees people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds learning guitar under the stewardship of the Tea Street Band‘s Timo Tierney.
In the beautiful setting of the sun-kissed Constellations Garden the throng of 60 or more guitar players strummed as one, sang along and drew a hugely appreciative crowd culminating in a glorious Whiskey In The Jar. You couldn’t help but grin ear to ear.
Said it before, and I’ll definitely say it again, @TeaStreetBand are one of the best live bands this city has ever produced. They live it and love it, and these streets give it back. A tidal wave of good times. So much love in room for Nic, Timo, Lee and Dom. Well in. 💙 pic.twitter.com/LJiz4EEpu9
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) May 5, 2019
Speaking of which, Tea Street Band were one of many Merseysiders to excel – their set may have ended abruptly when some clown decided to pull the plug just as they were beginning their encore – but it couldn’t prevent another characteristically euphoric set which saw Hangar 34 bouncing.
Similarly, Louis Berry did the same the previous evening with Red Rum Club, Katy Alex, Tracky, Big Bambora, Ali Horn, The DSM IV, Aimee Steven, Monks and SPQR each providing talking points amid the Baltic street bluster.
The Tim Peaks provision this year was at it’s very best. With Tim Burgess and his family spending much of their day in the Baltic’s skate-park – the musical provision saw Daniel O’Sullivan impress with his pastoral Canterbury folk with echoes of Syd-era Floyd.
Nik Void served up some subtle cosmic ambience which went down a treat as the evening grew chilly, The Silver Field brought sandstorm instrumental exotica and the Charlatans man himself drew a huge crowd which swayed and sang along to his solo material.
If there were issues, they were minor. Scheduling was a little off. Queues for the main stage put some punters off. This year’s Sound City + Conference, while good, felt a little underwhelming compared to previous high years. The Baltic Triangle still needs more food outlets – thank you secret gem Fodder for their exceptional vegan curry.
Okay. I’m done. @confidencemanTM are doin cartwheels, groove acrobatics & generally just being ridiculous – best way to finish what has been a fucking boss @SoundCity – hats off to the team, especially Ste, Craig, Rhiannon, Nico, Becky & Lois – for my money a Grade A crew. 💙🤘🏻 pic.twitter.com/26XNeqilYd
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) May 5, 2019
However, with the barnstorming grooves of Confidence Man ringing in our ears it was with resounding assurance we can say Sound City is back where it should be.
Playing a pivotal role on the UK festival circuit. A strong, versatile and diverse bill which should be credited to the small in-house team while also providing a key platform for the best music Merseyside has to offer.
There’s so much to build upon here – we just hope they stick to the foundations they’ve built the last two years in the Baltic Triangle – for they are truly back in business. – Getintothis editor Peter Guy.
GETINTOTHIS STAFF WITH THEIR IN DEPTH SOUND CITY REVIEW
Simon Kirk – Brick Street / Constellations / Baltic Social / Hangar 34 (Sunday)
Milk aka Yammerer blow and shake the frost cobwebs off the Brick Street garden.
Essentially, they sound like the bastard offspring of Motörhead and Deep Purple. The best impersonation act ever to grace Sound City, for the real band we know Yammerer, appeared to have successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of most by getting their mates from Cardiff on the bill – even the promoters and sound engineers thought it was Yammerer!
The whole coup was, well, very Yammerer. Memo to Sound City. You got sold a pup. In this case, we don’t mind at all, for Milk are great.
Swansea’s Bandicoot warmed the cockles at Constellations with a grungy swing with echoes of Wild Beasts. It’s a nice set to warm up a cauldron that is quite chilly despite the roaring log fire located at the back of the venue.
In the main venue of Constellations, Warsaw’s Mateusz Franczak‘s slowcore offerings are saturated in emotion and heartbreak. Occupying the stage alone with electric guitar in hand, it feels like the find of the day, for his performance is heartfelt and very much real.
Over at the Baltic Social, Bristol’s Scalping make the walls of the venue shake and shudder with a sound of core-shuddering industrial dance metal. It’s immersive stuff and if anyone needed a hair of the dog on this Sunday, then they were granted a rite of passage here.
Back over at Constellations, Australia’s Nice Biscuit seem like they’ve emerged from the climes of Twin Peaks. Their kraut-like surf pop goes down as smooth (and it really is!) like a bottle of XXXX Gold. Not even this cold weather can stifle their summery soundscapes, as their performance is delivered with a maturity beyond their years.
Hailing from Russia, Shortparis bring a well-polished brand of electro-punk barbed with sprawling moodscapes and off-kilter eastern influences to the ever-expanding crowd in Hangar 34. If Depeche Mode decided to get edgy than they’d sound like this. While the set was assured, the band did themselves no favours with frontman, Nikolai Komyagin, unleashing a unholy dose of aggro on a photographer. Not good business it has to be said.
The vibe at Constellations Garden is much more chilled with Factory Floor lynchpin, Nik Void, warming up the crowd with ambient drones, which pulsate and splinter with an elusive energy reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle and while on earlier than expected it still hits the solar plexus the way it should: fucking hard.
With the alcohol starting to flow, Tim Burgess‘ jangle pop ditties wash over the crowd nicely. It’s the biggest crowd of the day so for arguably the biggest act on the bill and it doesn’t disappoint – the whole set goes down an absolute treat.
Brighton’s The Silver Field follow, presenting an experimental folk not a world away from Six Organs of Admittance. It’s the sound for a dark room and with the current temperature for drone probably not at its premium, despite the current climate, The Silver Field deliver and are undoubtedly the real deal.
With their surf pop rock, South Korea’s Say Sue Me really do epitomise life. They are head and shoulders the best band of day, belting out shoegaze riffs that do nothing but bring a smile to one’s face. It’s like being happy holding an ear to Yo La Tengo and as a listener, you can do nothing but smile like the obligatory Cheshire cat.
Daniel O’Sullivan has worked with a wide array of artists, not limited to Sunn O))) and Ulver, not to mention being a part of the underrated Grumbling Fur. His sparse sonic noodlings from his latest solo affair, Folly, work even better live. His noise hits us deep, to the core.
Local up and comers, Shards, are unlikely headliners of the Constellations garden stage, but an enthusiastic crowd creates a nice vibe for their post-punk Suede echoed incursions. The fact that they dedicate a song to Arya Stark only enhances the love the crowd feel for them and feeds perfectly into the set.
After Baltic temperatures in the Constellations Gardens, in contrast, Hangar 34 is a furnace with sweat dripping down the walls and the queues outside reach fever pitch at the arrival of Confidence Man. And they don’t disappoint the crowd, either, who are yearning for an unbridled form of hedonism and Hanger 34, quite frankly, is pissing the stuff.
It’s hands in the air like you just don’t fucking care business. Leave your worries at the door and just lose your mind. With this ethos, Confidence Man have the crowd eating from the palm of their hand with their flippant brand of electro pop. The set is full of anthemic crowd pleasers.
It’s like a bunch of modern-day pleasure seekers listening to Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica. Suffice to say, morose souls in Hangar 34 are as rare as hen’s teeth. Confidence Man – pop music for mass culture circa 2019, people. Love it or do one!
Max Richardson – Constellations Outdoors (Saturday), Ditto Coffee / Baltic Roastery (Sunday)
Given the unpredictable, and often unforgiving climate of the UK, outdoor stages at mainly indoor festivals can often be a gamble.
Luckily for Sound City, the outdoor stage at Constellations proved one of the highlights of Saturday, with a great blend of stylistically varied talent.
With festival-goers enjoying the sporadic sun with intermittent clouds, many with a cold drink in hand – for much of the day the stage felt really summery, with great vibes provided as a result of many excellent bands.
A real personal highlight were undoubtedly the phenomenal South Korean outfit Dabda, whose complex blend of styles wowed crowds, with a beautifully ethereal voice suitably complimenting the ferociously tight backing of the rest of the band.
The set from Florrie Guitar Club was another memorable moment of the day, with a great community spirit as the group blasted through iconic covers including Ticket To Ride, Whisky in the Jar, and Stuck In The Middle With You.
The sprawl of guitarists proved too much for the small stage to handle, with the majority of performers sat just in front of the stage. The scale of the ensemble was great to witness, with the crowds happily singing along to classic tunes performed to a high standard.
As the night drew on, and the fire pit was lit, revellers enjoyed a stunning set courtesy of Flat Cap Brass, whose uniquely energetic rhythms left crowds demanding more as their set drew to a close. A truly top performers.
Ultimately, with a great blend of talent across a wide range of styles, Constellations’ outdoor stage certainly proved one of the highlights of the festival on Saturday, which combined with the top weather to bring the feel of a sunny summer festival to Liverpool in May.
The intimate performance space of the effortlessly cool Ditto Coffee played host to a selection of stripped back acoustic sets on Sunday, with some top-quality performers treating the crammed crowds to some cracking entertainment.
Early favourites Vigilantes wowed the jam-packed audience with impeccably smooth harmonies, leaving a trail of punters queuing outside the cramped venue, desperate to get a slice of the action.
Later, consecutively programmed crowdpleasers The Shipbuilders and Mersey Wylie delivered stripped-back performances which eased the afternoon away, both performers clearly going down well with the once again rammed crowd.
Perhaps oddly for a Liverpool crowd, the atmosphere for The Shipbuilders’ was amazingly attentive, drawing comments from vocalist Matty Loughlin who was simultaneously flattered and unnerved.
Next, Mersey Wylie’s velvet vocals were a true treat for the ears, performing tunes from her debut EP to keen ears.
The calm, subdued setting of Baltic Roastery played host to a great day of varied acts in a warm, intimate space.
Among the highlights of this stage were the exquisite The Pages, whose tight close-knit harmonies mixed with a dash of Liverpudlian charm to entertain audiences over a coffee. Charismatic frontman Jay Murray’s unique stage mannerisms were easy on the eye, with the vocals equally easy on the ear.
Next, Elson treated crowds to a smooth set, with shimmering guitars melding with sharp keys to produce indie rock at a top level. The gorgeous vocals of Elson himself fused exquisitely with the backing band, with that inimitable chemistry so hard to come by.
Warren Millar – Kitchen Street (Saturday)
Kitchen Street might have been one of the smaller venues at Sound City but if you could find it was well worth the visit and it seemed to have plenty of willing punters going in and out on the Saturday.
Not that bad really when you consider that it’s on the edge of the Baltic Triangle tucked away and hard to find if you don’t know where it is.
We were impressed with Ennio The Little Brother and his chilled-out dream hop/spoken word set as well as The Pitchforks giving us a full on rock sound. Worth an honourable mention were the three-piece Leeds outfit We Are Southpaw for a tight indie set.
Lewis Ridley- Kitchen Street (Friday), Constellations / Hangar 34 / Cavern Stage(Saturday/Sunday)
Over at 24 Kitchen Street, Sound City kicked off with a little help from the Lithuanian Culture Institute. They showcased two performances, from Ingaja and Timid Kooky amongst a lineup of other talent.
The first of those is a female soloist, who’s haunting yet enchanting acoustic melodies cut through Kitchen Street’s airwaves. Ingaja builds a tension in her sound, which is pierced by single word emphasis against a slight and soft background.
She released her debut EP, Darkness, last year, and certainly has an air of confidence that would lead one to expect that the apparent upcoming album will show her exhibit more of her style of dark acoustic indie rock.
By the time the second have arrived, the venue had filled out somewhat: “There’s no seat on the toilet in the men’s bathroom, we thought you should know. It’s still useable, but yeah, we hope you enjoy the show.” We did, pure scuzz and crashing guitar rock from the Lithuanians gave the crowd the hairdryer treatment.
The toilet humour wasn’t the end of their antics, when, at the bands request the crowd squatted to the floor in anticipation of a “huge drop”, a few chords from a sort of nursery rhyme followed, then laughs.
Less funny, though, a cover of Britney Spears’ Toxic, which was perhaps well intended, but we were much preferring their own arsenal. The only blot on an otherwise filthy clean copybook.
Next up was Casey Lowry and his band. A pure pop session, Lowry’s energy is a different sort from the previous few sets. One of his numbers, a track about a mate of his whose girlfriend looks like him. It’s daft, but really likeable.
And, to an extent, that’s him. A likeable musician, and an ideal set to finish Friday off.
Coming inside Constellations on Saturday following DENIO’s set in the garden, punters were treated to a fine tooth combed tune up from road trippers Tempesst. London based, Aussie exiles are here via a trip across the US, a five-piece with a twanging psych pop sound, led from the front by a triple threat of guitarists. Scarf and boot clad, they look and play the part.
Young outfit Oddity Road brought with them a few keen fans down the front, and despite being apparent mates with The Sherlocks, their sound and manner is more mature than their Sheffield counterparts. It’s cut from the same cloth, but you’d back these over them.
In the darkness of Hangar 34, Widnes’ The Racket dealt their Queen of Hearts, before Come Another Day saw frontman Callum Codd shares his mic with guitarist Mike White. It’s the lightest of their set and the cleanest, too.
Later, Paris Youth Foundation filled out the venue for their 5 o’clock slot. Lots of fans will have skipped across after Red Rum Club’s District set. PYF will hope to follow a similar trajectory with their likeable brand of indie rock. Red-lit, they played the room as if it were a venue, a quality which the festival themselves will be particularly pleased with. It worked for Catfish.
Closing the night in the Hangar 34 was Liverpool’s own Louis Berry.
Berry took a second wind with single Stumbling last year, and on Saturday night he brought new material to Sound City: ‘I’ve got no time for that indie shit everyone’s playing,’ he says after a RHCP/Rage Against The Machine inspired track, perhaps called Cornerstone.
It is clear Berry has taken a turn, perhaps a sidestep in terms of progression, but a personal step forward in terms of output.
An album is on its way, yes, but not until after a Celtic-inspired EP. Despite that supposed indie shit getting the best response from the Sound City crowd, Louis Berry is doing things his way now.
Blackpool’s Jekyll enjoyed a sunsoaked Cavern Stage on New Bird Street, and they’ll have been glad the skies cleared to allow a healthy audience to listen to their Radiohead and Muse inspired wobbling high notes.
But the highlight was ‘Yeah, we’ll do the riff.’ A monster of a riff at that, leading into big tune So Long. While they may be testing ground trodden by bands that divide opinion, they’re giving it a hell of a go.
Closing Constellations were Liverpool’s band of a generation, The Tea Street Band.
Still tipped as the best live band the city has ever produced, they did indeed come up with a sparkling set of riffs and disco lights.
However, the most notable moment was to come at the very end, where the band were forced to cut their set short. House lights on, mic’s off, and two fingers to the Sound City backdrop. An unsavoury end to what was a fantastic set.
Lucy McLachlan – District/New Bird St/Best Before (Saturday). Baltic Social/ Baltic Roastery (Sunday)
Kicking things off in District, SPQR smashed away any sleepy vibes by rocking the venue and the crowd to their cores.
Do we really have to be searched every time we go to the New Bird St Stage? Also, we feel it’s a very small enclosed area, with the majority of space filled with metal fencing and food stands.
Next, on the main stage are Just Mustard, sounding like a much heavier My Bloody Valentine, only singer Katie Ball can give out such menacing stares whilst brandishing a tambourine.
Life were our new find of the day, compelling loud, proud, in your face punk and rarely actually on the stage which provided a fitting opener to afternoon headliners, Shame.
Shame finally brought the crowds to New Bird St along with THAT Tommy Robinson milkshake photo as a backdrop and the words SHAME emblazoned in pink underneath.
From somersaulting bass players, to walking on top of the crowd the set was a whirlwind of a show. At one point the bass cuts out and a whole stack of amplifiers and effects units topples over onto the stage, but the band soldier on like nothing was going on. Who cares about technical difficulties, fuck the fascists!
Following Shame, the main stage gets a bit quiet and we hear people complaining that having to go through security and bag checks every time through a snaking fence is annoying. The area only really filled up again for headliner Mabel.
The crowd has completely changed and people are watching the football on their phones. After a long 15-minute wait Mabel appears. It’s a Top 40 show and great to watch, plus we recognise Don’t Call Me Up from the radio! Ok, we had fun with that one.
Stella Donnelly brings some charming dreamy pop to District, fun and summery and one of the best sets all day.
The Gwenno lead group Lapskaus Orchestra are on last at District. We were told you need to wear headphones to enjoy the set which was played live like a silent disco.
However, we didn’t actually get given any, along with the majority of the front row and with a few others around us not being able to find the right channel. You could see people playing on stage, but hear nothing. A bit frustrating. This was something we’re guessing would have sounded spectacular and pretty magical if you were set up correctly.
Our last stop of the night was to a secret gig at Best Before. The mighty Queen Zee step out introducing themselves as Miles Kane and blast off a high energy set. With Zee attempting to climb a PA stack and managing to cut off all power to the stage, the night ends with a mass sing along to I Hate Your New Boyfriend, prosthetic legs in the air and all.
Sunday morning. We’re on our way to the Baltic Social and we pass Tim Burgess doing some midday family skateboarding in the skate park. Yes, the weather is Baltic again, cold and windy and it feels more like October than May.
Thankfully the Baltic Social has a coffee machine.
But before we can get to the coffee we stumble into the sonic explosion that is Bristol band Scalping. Who needs coffee when these are onstage? It’s too early for this and it’s brilliant. The stage is black apart from intense visuals and their loud industrial dance fuzz wakes us up straight away.
For so early on in the day they drew in a large crowd. Maybe a bigger stage next time?
Sky Valley mistress are the next to bring in a decent crowd to the Social. It’s huge blues rock with a bill that stating they’re ‘so electric NASA is already claiming it may have to be played from the moon and shot back to earth via lazer beam.’ OK then…
From Another Mother are a Croatian punk band that shook the Baltic Social to the point that it seemed some customers didn’t know what had hit them. “This is our last song and we’re about to fuck your venue up’’ said their guitarist while running frantically around the tables and doing handstands on the stage.
Shaodow brought some hip hop and grime from South London by way of China, getting the audience involved straight away learning lyrics and call and response in a stand-out set. Even better, we learnt that his new album comes with a manga comic book and we’re kinda sold.
Drinking Boys and Girls Choir blast out pure pop punk from South Korea that was filled with so much energy their guitarist was bouncing from the pillars.
Heading over to the Baltic Roastery we catch The Floormen squeezing in a few songs to a schedule running very late. Their drummer was sporting a Donald Trump mask and the faces of the Loyle Carner fans queuing up for the bathrooms behind the stage were a picture to behold as Buddy Keenan threw his guitar around the stage to psychedelic jazz jams.
Chris Flack – Brick Street/Hobo Kiosk (Saturday), On Air (Sunday)
The Zangwills were our first band of Saturday in Brick Street, a proper start they were too, if you don’t start with a bit of tang infused rock and roll are you even awake? They threw themselves around with utter abandon and delivered a perfect set.
We managed to catch a bit of Rivet City in Brick Street garden, they sang about the weather and made a few dance with their funk rock, quite the feat for this hour on what is a building site. Bless.
Persian Hugs got the award for finest band name, granted we’d only seen three bands but we were impressed. They played in a darkened Brick Street and delivered thumping bass led lyrically witty and political (ish) set that brought stragglers in, impressive too.
The last time we saw The DSM IV they brought their 80s synth chaos to Deep Cuts, and their spot at Brick Street was no different.
Punishing riffs, beats and singing from the bar. They slagged off Sound City, broke mics, stalked around like loons and soaked everyone with water. Standard The DSM IV form that. The performance certainly helped bring the punters and helped them hang around. We imagine had you not seen them before it would be an eye opener.
We were drawn back into Brick Street by what sounded like a cross between a Tarantino soundtrack and The Beatles to be greeted by a Madrid based five piece called Los Wilds who’s lead singer had lost his trousers.
He then went on to lose his shirt – a tad careless really. They were sublime, chaotic, half naked and managed to attract the biggest crowd into the garden yet. An interesting prospect given that we’d talked about the lack of real characters not five minutes previously.
After the madness we popped into Hobo Kiosk for some respite, catching Shebeat, singing songs about Marilyn Monroe and LSD. She played a gentle and welcome set of clever, funny tunes. She told a few unprintable jokes too. Lovely.
We headed back to the Garden to catch a bit of Track Not Found as they had caught our attention earlier and we’re back into the mayhem.
The trio were a tough one to nail down, somewhere between Bjork, Blondie and Pantera, all grungy rock with screeching vocals and snippets of pop. They were great though we imagine their name could be their downfall. We dare you to try and find any music from Belfast outfit .co.uk, double dare you.
The sun kept us in the Garden which was appropriate as Do Nothing were up next. The Nottingham four piece are part The Fall/ part sixties skiffle band, all polemics and anger delivered by a suited and booted singer preaching as though he were in a pulpit. Perfect. James Lee Bron was a particular highlight for us.
We went back indoors to catch Swedish act Loving Embers, their set was slow and gentle, which, frankly, was what the doctor ordered after Do Nothing. It was a little too 80s balladry for us but a welcome rest from the lunacy of the previous couple of acts.
We headed to the Garden for Calva Louise partly because we saw everyone else heading in, were greeted by a punk pop crew who played absolute blinders. The London based trio have been the darlings of Fred Perry and a host of others and it’s easy to see why, catchy, singalongable songs and a lot of smiles.
Brick Street was bunged to bursting for a set of belters and bangers from TRACKY. He pulled the biggest crowd we’ve seen all day, one out one in, and full of dancers. TRACKY gave his set everything, every rhyme, every gag, every line was delivered with as much energy as he could muster. If today is anything to go by the future is bright for Ormskirk’s favourite son.
We needed a rest so we headed back to Hobo Kiosk to catch a snippet of Kojo. The Pennsylvanian was walking around the room singing sans microphone when we arrived and he had managed to get everyone to join in. Hell, we even joined in on We Shall Overcome, heart-warming stuff for a Saturday evening from a talented lad.
We went indoors to find Bobby West singing in his usual baritone, ploughing the depths of your soul and his with a set of lungs that sound like there’s a cheese grater involved somewhere. It’s bits of Nick Cave mixed with Cohen, lashed through a Brooklyn blues bar, bathed in a whiskey, ran through a gravel pit and dammed to spend eternity in hell. Heavy.
We went back inside as the chill factor had decided to laugh at us.
Golden Dregs was just taking to the stage, are a hard one to pin down, a little bit of Nick Cave, a little bit of John Grant, a hint of Dick Dale, a bit of country and a lot of soul.
To be honest, it was fucking hard work figuring it out over the noise level in the room, and none of the shushing worked. What we did hear suggests we need to do a little more listening, as it was sublime stuff. Troopers though, for putting up with that.
The trio of Little Thief managed to gather quite the crowd given the competition at 10, it was especially good given how hideously cold everyone looked, bands included. They are a snappy little pop rock outfit with tons of energy, all the better to generate heat
October Drift were up next, a thrashy, noisy frenetic four piece who delivered a set with more intensity than we’d seen all day, all screaming guitars, punishing bass, thunderous drums. Pretty much what a Saturday night calls for.
Indoors, La Fontaine were probably the only other act in Brick Street who commanded the same kind of crowds as TRACKY. These punters had a lot of love for them, they brought their rap pop rock ruckus in all its glory, laced with a acerbic wit, Scottish humour and a lot of love. Huge laughs, dancing and tons of fun. That’s how you see a Saturday night off.
Sunday started in On Air with Motherhood, an art rock three piece from the wilds of the east coast of Canada, it tells in their sound. Part Garage, part melodic ongoing art project, each track has its own soul, its own sound. Four albums and a lot of stateside touring suggest they’re one to look out for in this side of the Atlantic.
Scottish five-piece Dancing On Tables are another one of those band names that will give Google a run for its money, but this lot are a pretty good reason to try. Rock and Roll, pacy ballads, they attracted a good few punters over Upper Parliament Street. Not easy if you’ve seen the state of that road.
Warrington four piece, 32 Tens, named after the much-maligned Nokia phone, were quite the treat, they brought a few pals with them too, the place was bouncing. They sit somewhere between Jack White and Jamie T, plenty of punch and a raft of great tracks gave their mates something to dance to, splendid.
Patawawa hail from Matlock in Derbyshire but it wouldn’t take a genius to guess their influences lie elsewhere, a cross between The Go Team and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and their energy is infectious. It was just what was needed given the Sunday slump that had slapped up just before they got onstage. There was a lot of dancing, and that’s just us.
Liverpool quartet, Polar States were spotted handing out flyers around the festival site prior to their slot, but they shouldn’t have worried.
There was a buzz before they even landed onstage, they played a set of melodic, chorus driven, anthemic rock tunes, they’ve done the leg work, literally, and it sounds like it’s paying off. Most of the crowd knew most of the songs so they’re doing something right.
Altopalo aren’t so much a band as an aural experience, an experimental almost visceral exploration of sound, noise and depth. It’s an interesting thing to hear, more interesting to witness as singer Rahm Silverglade plays with an assortment of tech, pitch and his voice. Worth chasing them down, we’d say.
If there was a lull in our energies, and there was, Lennie Dies certainly put that to ground. They are a garagey, gnarly, grungy, gritty, almost gratuitous three-piece specialising in melodies drowned in noise, noise and more noise. There was a mosh pit at one point, a small one but it was there. What energy it had was dampened somewhat by the On Air bouncers.
After the run-in with Brand New Friend over their youthful good looks and lack of IDs, pulling DSM IV over their choice of trousers and general attire and then this business of stopping people dancing, enjoying themselves, we have to wonder if they’ve done this before? Nice lads in the main, but they were just a little too edgy and easily upset for our taste.
It’s worth noting that the soundman played I Predict A Riot as Lennie Dies left the stage. That was not lost on us.
Peter Goodbody – Queen Avenue (Friday), Birdies / Baltic Social (Saturday), Brick Street / Brick Street Garden (Sunday)
Although Queen Avenue is almost directly opposite the Town Hall, there were plenty on Twitter and Facebook asking how to find the location of this Liverpool showcase. Paris Youth Foundation, Silent K and Ali Horn were all on this bill. This was a chance to give the conference delegates a taste of local talent. Ali Horn: “I hope you all have a good festival. Look after each other and keep everyone safe. If you see anyone freaking out, smile, wave and say It’s gonna be alright”. It’s just him and, let’s be frank, a guitar that’s been around the block, but he’s drawing lots of love from the crowd with his solo acoustic show.
Silent K ramp it up a notch, albeit sans Dave McCabe. It must be good fun making a racket in this otherwise usually quiet corner of town. The band certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.
So too are Paris Youth Foundation who have brought a loyal crowd for their polished set of bangers.
It was an interesting experiment to use this Harry Potter esque version of Diagon Alley in the centre of town. When the gig was announced we’d thought it may have been pretty packed given the line up. That wasn’t to be, but the ones who did search it out got well rewarded.
Both Birdies and Baltic Social are running late, which is throwing our planning off track. We thought we’d arrived at Birdies in time to see Laura Oakes, but there’s no sign of her. There’s an unidentified male four piece checking instead. Best move on. We get to Baltic Social in time to see Foundlings, who impressed at Deep Cuts earlier in the week, only to find the Left Indicators sound checking. We stick around anyway.
We really like Foundlings’ scuzzy psych pop style. It’s just a pity there weren’t more to see it.
Birdies Bar is having a bit of a weird relationship with the schedule, so it’s a bit of a lottery as to what we’ll find on stage when we go in there. We do manage to get the end of Laura Oakes’ rather delicious country set. Then there’s the post punk of Talk Show, of whom we’d heard good things. And they lived up to the hype in spades with their anger and energy. It’s definitely our thing.
So are Berries in Baltic Social with their riff laden rock. They played Sound City last year and Threshold a few weeks ago. They’re getting noticed and the room is busy for this one as the trio rattle through a set of powerful punches. This is quality rock and roll.
Dutch three piece, The Homesick, have a proggy Television, Marquee Moon feel about them. It’s infectious and gets the heads swaying.
We head back to Birdies to see Husky Loops and arrive just as Indigo Lo are winding up. We’re getting better at guessing the revised timings, but there’s been a hell of a lot of slippage in here. No worries, Indigo Lo were an added bonus with their moody riffs, long hair and a nod back to early Mission or Sisters of Mercy type goth.
Husky Loops are familiar territory with their Devo meets The Fall style of slightly disjointed melody and rhythm. It’s a bit Beefheart in a way, but with added punch.
Back over the road for South Korean noise merchants, Wetter. They come highly recommended by someone we spoke to along the way. Not wrong. This East Asian version of Jesus and Mary Chain was easily the loudest band to hit Baltic Social and the best so far. There’s a lot going on in their sound from punk funk to psych grunge and much in between. Suffice to say we loved it.
Birdies Bar has by now had a complete falling out with the schedule. We simply have no idea who’s on when anymore, with bands not only playing otherwise than their advertised time, but also out of order. Still it keeps us on our toes. Ren Harvieu will be the last act we see in here tonight, because the cold that’s been brewing in our head the last few days has now decided to kick in fine style. The Lemsip is helping, but we need to regroup for tomorrow.
Nashville based Ruston Kelly is wowing Hobo Kiosk. “This is a cool bar” he says, “I’d definitely hang out here”. “Has anyone here ever been arrested? I was once, so I wrote a song about it. It’s called Asshole”. The song contains the wonderful line: “He pulled out his taser, because he has no cock …”
The bar has been set high for the rest of the day.
Slovak noise punks 52 Herz Whale shatter the calm in Brick Street Garden. It’s an intense, compelling, no messing about thrash. So, too Serbian band Vizelj may have been forgiven for thinking they’d have a tough job following 52 Hertz Whale, but if they did, they didn’t show it. Heavy, riff driven old school, almost “Oi” style, punk is belted out with venom. Top stuff.
There’s a complete change of pace in Brick Street for H A VV K. It’s a curious mix of shimmering Portishead / Cocteau Twins type melodies in some songs and more angular scratchy guitar on others. The effect is a bit like a punked up Kate Bush from Julie Hough’s extraordinarily versatile voice.
Ali Horn has packed out Brick Street, such that when we arrive there’s only room at the back. He plays a tight set with his band and it goes down a storm with this appreciative audience.
Londoner, Meggie Brown and her strange family of a band are in full swing at Brick Street Garden. Something of an enigmatic presence is Meggie with tunes that are part rap, part sea shanty with a bit of Rod Stewart thrown in for good measure. It’s all a bit tongue in cheek and good fun.
We need to try and get in position for the next band on the bill in Brick Street. With a name like No Party For Cao Dong, they’re bound to be worth checking out for that reason alone. But we’ve also had a tip-off earlier in the day to make sure we catch this lot.
This Taiwanese band are incredibly popular. They emerge to do the soundcheck to screams and cheers from the front few rows.
From the first chord, this crowd knows all the words to all the songs and is bouncing along enthusiastically, shouting the lyrics back at the band. So much for “No Party”, this the complete opposite. It’s searingly good, too and the metal / indie description we read earlier is pretty much on it. Yup, we’re buying into this one.
Just as with Wetter last night, there does seem to be an emerging scene of credible psych / rock bands from the Far East. Of course, bands such as Bo Ningen and Acid Mother’s Temple have been around for a while, but this an exciting new breed.
The unenviable task of the follow on goes to Lemonade Fix. To be fair some of the NPCD crowd have stayed around, but we have no issues getting to the front for photos. It’s guitar driven bluesy pop. Just the job. We finish our Sound City in the company of Big Bambora and their huge disco driven beats.
Until next year Sound City. Keep it up.
Conor Baxter – Baltic Creative Car Park / Baltic Roastery (Saturday), District / New Bird Street (Sunday)
You wouldn’t expect a car park to be a hub for budding artists, but this is exactly what the Baltic Creative Car Park was designed for. With the festival seeing more outdoor action this year, it was always going to be weather dependant. The rain held off, but the wind made it a struggle for people to enjoy the acts. More were seemingly there for the street food rather than the acts themselves, which was somewhat of a shame as there was good, local music to enjoy throughout the day.
The Baltic Roastery played host to some real talent over the first day of Sound City. It’s hard to get the vibe right for a venue that usually serves coffee and croissants and that showed with people sat around tables throughout the performances. Although the crowd were certainly attentive, such energetic performances from bands like Hot Soles and Jennings Couch deserved more audience participation.
An unexpected highlight of the day came from Sketches on Duality. Lyrics full of purpose and meaning, it was hard not to feel like the Vienna jazz quintet won’t go on to much bigger and better things in the near future.
Bines added energy to the room, and bucketloads of it too. “I Try” being the single of choice to listen to in order to get a real flavour of what the band are about.
As the night progressed, it ended on a high with Pip Blom performing a set full of all the songs that have put them into a promising position for 2019. Songs including Daddy Issues and I Think I’m in Love all went down well with an audience now much more ready to play their part in the act.
The Pirate Studios supported District stage was teeming with talent from the first act to the last throughout the day. At a festival so spread out across multiple venues and buildings, it can be easy to feel lost at times without a concrete plan for who to see. However, one of the upsides of this is the opportunity to stumble across some really good acts. Heavy Lungs were one of those such acts.
Heavy Lungs, not to be confused with Honey Lung who played the same stage later in the evening are a force to be reckoned with on stage. Both drums and vocals hit the audience with full force, some audience members took a few steps back, while most of the others took a few step forward. They were here for Heavy Lungs, and they definitely got their money’s worth.
Hype has been gathering around Valeras over the past few months and the crowd reflected that as they were treated to a performance full of strong attitude and stronger baselines.
There was a good mix of artists throughout the day, Pirate Studios spoilt us for choice . What was most noticeable at District, however was the presence of a strong crowd for one act, followed by the lack of an audience for the next. Festival goers clearly knew who they came to see on one of the larger stages over the weekend.
Sunday at the main stage on New Bird Street saw a few heavy hitters from Liverpool – Spinn and Clean Cut Kid warm the stage up for the headline act of the evening Loyle Carner. However, we should be clear here that both Clean Cut Kid and Spinn seemed so well polished that either one of them could have headlined the stage with ease.
Spinn were on fine form, performing in front of a well turned out crowd, considering the blustery conditions. Every time we see them, they appear sharper, I guess that’s to be expected when you’ve already toured Japan before your debut album has been released.
Drawing a “Loyle Carner sized” crowd might still be a touch out of reach for Spinn but with their debut album just released in time for summer, you can’t help but feel it’s only a matter of time until a festival makes room at the top of the order for Spinn.
The Levi’s Music Project, based in the heart of Anfield has given a platform to a diverse range of incredible talent, and that was not only on display at the smaller stages, but also on the main stage. Loyle, their personal mentor is clearly been invested in shaping these artists career. He joined them on stage and offered more than a few words of support before, during, and after.
Loyle rounded off an amazing display of talent from the Levi’s Music Project. Bringing all of the tunes we know and love, with an especially touching moment when he played Dear Jean, an open song to his beloved mother.
Banjo – Love Lane, Ditto Coffee (Saturday), Love Lane / Hobo Kiosk (Sunday)
I’m late of course. Partly because the trek to pick up a press pass is almost worthy of being the subject of the next Indiana Jones movie and partly because Sound City is the kind of place where you bump into friends every few feet.
By the time I get to Love Lane I have apparently missed an early set from local favourites Red Rum Club, which is a shame. I do however arrive in time to see the next act, the splendidly named Hana Demons and Lies turn in an impressive set comprising of soaring vocals and a guitarist who has mastered the difficult task of knowing when not to play guitar.
Apparently this was their first gig. It certainly didn’t sound like it.
Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres followed, giving a very entertaining interview. We heard how that, without the legendary Eric’s club and the creative freedom it engendered, OMD would never have come into being.
McCluskey is a music veteran with a million tales, such as a quite shocking story about OMD being given such a small percentage on their record deal that, after selling 10 million albums and 20 million singles the band were a million pounds in debt to Virgin!
Love Lane’s organiser’s described the venue as being ‘an oasis’ of calm in Sound City and that pretty much sums it up. It was never packed out, there were never queues and there was always a good view and congenial company.
It also had a pleasingly eclectic lineup. From the smiley hip hop of Safario to the more mature, grown up version from Vital taking in DJs interview acoustic performances and full bands, Love Lane was a lovely place to hang out on day one.
One of Sound City’s strengths is that it doesn’t just focus on larger venues and big stages, but it includes smaller, less obvious places. This is however also one of the more frustrating aspects of the festival.
Ditto Coffee is, as you would expect from the name, a coffee shop. It is, to be more accurate, a small coffee shop.
When you take away a small section at the shop front for acts to play, it’s capacity must be somewhere around 20 people. If you are one of those lucky enough to gain entry, you can expect to find a Sound City gem.
Such a gem was Huyton’s own Katie Mac, with every nook and cranny of Ditto taken to hear her rich, melodic tones. With glorious ease, Katie allows the deep flow of her luscious voice, to grow and carry, each emotion filled story to the hearts of the crowd. With each telling of the songs, the stories become more and more real. As if they have always been there. Themes to memories and the soundtrack to your life.
Heading to the Unusual Arts Sourcing Company stage, I somehow found myself on stage in a panel with OMD’s Andy McCluskey, Liverpool legend Doreen Allen, Eric’s DJ Norman Killen and others. How this happened is still unclear in my mind, but people still have questions to ask about Eric’s and I was happy to be a part of it then and now. It was pleasing to see the small stage so busy throughout the day, especially given that it was the 20th anniversary of the passing of Eric’s founder Roger Eagle.
The Eric’s Classical set of orchestral renderings of punk and post punk classics was incredible.
Following another unsuccessful attempt to prise myself into Ditto’s tiny space, I instead headed off to the Hobo Kiosk.
Where Sound City really excels is in giving people the chance to stumble across some incredible music, and this is exactly what happened here. Old Sea Brigade took to the Kiosk’s performance area and delivered the undisputed highlight of the day.
Their acoustic performance reminded me of American Music Club with a hint of Simon & Garfunkel. Fresh from playing in Nashville the night before, they confessed to being jetlagged, but the heartfelt confessionals warmed the heart and brought a tear to the eye. Incredible stuff.
Day two at Sound City understandably started off with a calmer, more subdued tone. In Love Lane, which was calmer than most places at Sound City, this means more interviews and spoken word than yesterday, but still a strong and varied lineup.
The first act I saw was Mathilda, an acoustic singer songwriter who has a modern feel to her songs and a fine voice.
Mathilda was followed by a poet who brought a smile to the assembled faces with a dry sense of humour and his observational takes on life. To be honest, I’m not generally a fan of this kind of thing, but he played to a good-sized crowd and elicited as good a response as any band here over the weekend.
Sic Nis decided to set up their two-guitar act in the middle of Love Lane’s floor, which was a clever move and brought them closer to their audience. A superb voice and gentle music made them the perfect act for this time of the second day.
Next up was a surprise interview with actor and director Paddy Considine, who was playing Sound City with his band. We heard about how he has ‘never been a musical snob’ and how he came to be in a band when his day job takes up so much of his life. Well played Love Lane.
Overall, I think we can say that Love Lane fulfilled their brief of providing a calm space perfectly and it was a good move to be based here for the weekend. Pleasant surprises and a relaxed atmosphere were the order of the day and I would happily do this again next year if that were possible.
Hobo Kiosk is an odd treasure. A tiny bar, every inch of wall and shelf space is cluttered with kitsch nick nacks and cultural ephemera. The impression is that of standing in a mystical second hand shop at the beginning of a Tim Burton movie. Hobo Kiosk is one of the Baltic District’s gems and played an essential part in this year’s Sound City.
The acts set up in a tiny space in the corner, with a standard lamp on one side and a bookcase on the other, which gives the impression that they are playing in somebody’s front room. The Kiosk can get full quickly, with a one out, one in policy for parts of the day.
The first act on today was Eve Belle, who played an acoustic guitar while a friend played keyboards and drum pads. Belle has an incredible voice and today came across as where London Grammar meets Lucy Rose. I left wanting to hear more of this incredible singer.
Ruston Kelly again brought an acoustic guitar and also his sense of humour, which meant he had the Kiosk laughing along with him.
AK Patterson were a band of multi instrumentalists with much swapping of instruments. Their main set up of bowed double bass, cello and violin worked perfectly with Hobo Kiosk’s homespun charm. A clever set well played and delivered with charm.
Words and images by the Getintothis team of Chris Flack, Max Richardson, James Baker, Lucy MacLachlan, Warren Millar, Peter Goodbody, Conor Baxter and Kevin Barrett.