Sound City 2020: Why we love Liverpool Sound City and the bands we’re looking forward to seeing

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Sound City fans revelling in the action

Liverpool Sound City 2020 should have unfolded this weekend, however that’s not stopping the Getintothis team looking forward to the rearranged event – here’s why we love it.

We’ve grown up together. Thirteen rollercoaster years.

There’s been drama, fallout, and a sprinkling of controversy but that’s what inevitably happens when passion and music are on the table.

Getintothis has followed the Liverpool Sound City story from its very beginnings in 2007 and the festival has provided some of the finest moments in Merseyside’s contemporary music history.

From those formative showcases, Sound City has grown from a one day event across the city’s Ropewalks to a sprawling three day festival complete with annual conference attracting some of the biggest music businesses and break out live talents the industry has to offer.

From its initial inception adopting the blueprint of Manchester’s In The City, Sound City looped in all that mattered within Merseyside music circles growing to become the festival in the North West and for many the North of England.

By using the regular gig circuit in Liverpool city centre, and throwing into the mix unusual venues like St. Peter’s Church, home of Alma de Cuba, it quickly offered more to the music fan’s palette than simply stacking several gigs together and calling it a festival.

The halcyon years involving Wolstenholme Square proved a turning point as car parks became makeshift venues, abandoned warehouses transformed into bouncing night clubs and spaces such as Liverpool Cathedral‘s crypt hosted artists from either side of the Atlantic.

Liverpool Sound City 2020 rescheduled as live streaming Guest House venture launched

Ed Sheeran played Bumper, The 1975 played The Zanzibar while Florence and the Machine played Korova – all in, their booking fees were probably less than £300.

Perhaps the most eulogised day in Sound City‘s history arrived on Friday May 2013, when the world’s greatest live band Thee Oh Sees saw their plane delayed and gear lost in the baggage collection only for them to career from John Lennon Airport and literally straight on to the stage at The Kazimier minus instruments, let alone soundcheck.

The place erupted into delirium and the set is still talked about in music circles as one of Liverpool’s greatest live moments.

Thee Oh Sees at Sound City 2013

This was on the same day Savages headlined next door in a makeshift storage room, The Walkmen headlined on stage at Liverpool Cathedral‘s altar, Melody’s Echo Chamber wowed The Kazimier, London Grammar and Bill Ryder-Jones pitched in at the Arts Club and an unsigned French artist played to 17 awestruck people in the Kazimier Garden.

Her name was Héloïse Letissier but she’s more popularly known as Christine and the Queens.

This in its purest sense is what makes Liverpool Sound City special. Seeing rising artists in intriguing settings among a fraternity of music lovers – both from the city region and many from across the world.

The music conference adds an added dimension, as industry specialists mix with fresh-faced students and a wide array of Merseyside professionals.

Wayne Coyne of The Flamings Lips has shared a sofa with Julian Cope and Mark E. Smith of The Fall while John Cale of the Velvet Underground has spoken at length alongside The SlitsViv Albertine.

Edwyn Collins, meanwhile, has given an impassioned one-off with a mini orchestra in a conference room in Liverpool’s Hilton.

The backbone of Sound City is of course Liverpool’s musicians, promoters, writers, designers, technicians and music fans. For three days, the majority come together.

We’ve been documenting almost every set across the way.

This weekend should have been their 13th edition but with the COVID-19 pandemic, a new date has been set for September 25-27 when it returns to the Baltic Triangle for the third year.

Sound City was our festival of 2019 – and there’s no reason why it can’t follow suit this year. Here’s a snapshot of why our team love it – and who they’re looking forward to. – Getintothis editor, Peter Guy.

New Bird Street at Sound City

Sound City brings out the best in the city, I love being able to step out of my front door straight into the exciting festival vibes.

As always I’m looking forward to Red Rum Club, because it wouldn’t be the Liverpool music scene without them.

I’m also really looking forward to Marsicans as they always put on a good show. Abi Moss-Coomes

I always look forward to Sound City it’s such a great festival to check out new bands like last year when Nice Biscuit all the way from Australia wowed me and I’ve been listening to their stuff on and off ever since.

This year looking forward to catching Red Rum Club, Stealing Sheep and Tim Burgess, as well as some new-to-me bands.Warren Millar

Sound City brings the best new acts from Liverpool and further afield.

The reason I love to go is finding new acts I’ve never heard of in the city’s best grassroots venues.

The acts I’m most looking forward to are home town heroes Red Rum Club and the punk stylings of Dream Wife, and of course all the other acts I’ll discover on my journey. – Chris Everett

Sound City 2019

I’m really looking forward to experiencing Sound City back in the city, having missed its return after its exile at the docks.
I can’t wait to see BC Camplight, and am also hoping to catch Marika Hackman, I See Rivers, Peaness and Seazoo.
However, I’m really hoping to make exciting new discoveries like Savages, Youth Hostel and PATiENTS who I found at previous Sound City’s. – Will Neville

When Sound City is good, it’s great and I think a big part of what makes it great is when it feels like ours. Liverpool’s.

Not from an isolationist point of view, not “Liverpool only, the rest of you can sod off”, but more from a standpoint of “this is us, come see what we do – and join in!”. A bit like when you have a really nice pad and want to host a party to show it off.

It brings out the best in the city, whether that’s from the new and exciting bands breaking through, or the ability to turn spaces into fantastic gig venues, before they disappear again.

The Flaming Lips at Sound City 2015

Again, when it’s good, the buzz about the city is palpable, with timetables studied and paths crossing, everyone in search of their next favourite band.

The image that for me sums this up is from my favourite year, 2015, the first year of being down at the docks.

Wayne Coyne, holding an enormous set of balloons that spelt out ‘LIVERPOOL FUCK YEAH

Is right. Sound, that. – Matthew Loughlin

Given my background as an academic, I’ve always looked forward to the Sound City Conference.

It’s an ideal way to gain insights into the latest developments and to hear practitioners talking about what they do always underlines how the music industries are constantly changing.

As far as this year’s artists go, I thought that Crawlers sounded rather splendid – heavy rock with added trumpets. – Nedim Hassan

Paris Youth Foundation at Sound City 2017

Like most people, Sound City is a choose-your-own-adventure type of festival.
While well-known artists steal the headlines, Sound City is a proper breeding ground for emerging talent.
If you don’t come away from the weekend with a host of new bands to listen to then you’ve not looked hard enough and, dare I say it, missed the whole point of the experience. Simon Kirk
It’s hard to think that Liverpool could get more full of life than it is already, but the atmosphere at Sound City is unrivalled.
So excited to catch Paris Youth Foundation this year. – Claire Cook 
For me Sound City is one of the social highlights of Liverpool’s music year. With so many familiar faces bobbing around Baltic Triangle streets and such great musicians to stumble upon, there really is no event quite like it.
Every year there’s something new – along with some firm fan faves – Sound City is the best place to really test your music taste and push it to boundaries you never knew existed.
This year I’m looking forward to seeing The Jacques, Sub Blue, The Mysterines and Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard. Lauren Jones
One distinctive thing about Sound City is its diverse programming.
As part of the Keychange initiative they’re aiming for at least a 50:50 gender balance, a target which they exceeded last year and no doubt will again.
So the bill demonstrates what a gender-balanced festival lineup looks like, hopefully an example that others will follow.
Looking forward to Crawlers having discovered them via Sound City‘s Guest House streaming show, the clown genius of Ugly Bucket Theatre Company and some optimistic grooves from Blurry Futures. – Roy Bayfield

The Florrie Guitar Group at Sound City

The news about Sound City‘s postponement was no surprise, but it’s still managed to hit pretty hard.

For this writer, Sound City marks the start of the summer months, arriving at the time when the weather’s just beginning to approach beer garden temperature, and with it the prospect of summer.

The idea of a Friendly Fires set after a day of exploring lesser-known acts on different stages sounds pretty much like a dream right now – and one that’ll keep this writer looking forward to next year. – Max Richardson

For me Sound City is the inner city festival I look forward to the most in the calendar, with some of my most memorable times watching live music in Liverpool being over this weekend.

Sets such as Flaming Lips and Unknown Mortal Orchestra down at the Bramley Moore dock, through to more recent years with the likes The Blinders and Baxter Dury in the current home of the Baltic Triangle in 2018 will always be great memories.

But it’s not always the bigger names who make it special. Stumbling upon someone you’ve never listened to, nor heard of such as the likes of Luxembourg’s electronic act Them Lights or Madrid’s eccentric rockers Los Wilds for the first time was such a joy.

Not to mention the local acts who always seem to raise their game for this one, Tea Street Band‘s astounding set at a packed out Constellations last year is certainly the best performance I’ve seen from them.

For this year’s offering, seeing BC Camplight, The Blinders and Friendly Fires are always good value, but others such L’nee Golay, Zoe Graham and HAiG are a few I’m looking forward to catching. – Kev Barrett

John Cale at Liverpool Sound City 2017

I’ve never been much of a festival fan, but have had some great times at Sound City because it’s always so full of surprises.

Festivals in the city won me over when I used to take my then toddler kids to the Mathew Street festival where they were freaked out by a grown man dressed up as David Bowie.

Sound City 2015 was amazing with the slacker-disco-rock of Fat White Family, Sean Lennon’s Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger and Flaming Lips.

2017 brought John Cale and an ensemble playing Velvet Underground classics. Fat White Family was again in the house. One magic moment was an impromptu soul party in one of the sheds, rammed with punters or all ages dancing to Motown 45s.

It would have been a real loss not to have 2020’s manifestation as it’s always a great platform for local talent. I am hoping to catch the awesome Chupa Cabra, Dream Wife, Beija Flo and check out The Blinders‘ new tunes.

Oh, and Ugly Bucket Theatre Company look worth a visit too. – Jonathan Butters

No matter who’s on the bill, Sound City is the one annual event you don’t want to miss out on in Liverpool.

Come rain or shine great swathes of similarly minded individuals converge to enjoy not just music, but meeting up with friends, eating, drinking and having fun.

It’s the place to see and be seen. Anyone who is anyone on the local music scene is there and if you haven’t seen someone in ages, chances are you will be reunited when you are least expecting it.

With regards to who I am looking forward to seeing, the line up is slightly lower key than previous years if I am being brutally honest.

That aside, I am looking forward to seeing Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, Stealing Sheep , BC Camplight and of course Red Rum Club.

So, providing the current crisis improves dramatically, we will reconvene in September, the month of mists and mellow fruitfulness. – Jane Davies

Last year’s Sound City was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.

Just the chance to wander around and be surprised by things, to bump into friends and to feel part of something big and worthwhile was just magical.

Bristol’s Some Bodies were the surprise of the weekend for me and I am determined to see them again as soon as possible.

I was down to report on happenings in the Hobo Kiosk and some of the bands I saw crammed into the world’s tiniest performance space were just incredible.

This year there seems to be a lot more ‘name’ bands on, so while I can say I was looking forward to Stealing Sheep, The Mysterines and Blinders, in reality I was looking forward to more incredible discoveries, more meetings with friends (doesn’t that sound like an almost impossible thing these days) and another one of the best weekends we can imagine. – Banjo

Mabel

I love Sound City. It’s one of the shining jewels in our huge cultural crown.

So many memories of great gigs, and wandering around meeting mates. Courtney Barnett at the Zanzibar was an incredible show.

One of the best I’ve ever seen. Looking forward to BC Camplight, Red Rum Club and The Mysterines, but for me, it’s more about discovering new boss stuff.

That’s what Sound City does best. Boss stuff.Paul Fitzgerald

Dream Wife would probably have been my pick of the line-up, their aggressive pop-punk is difficult to beat.

Rakel Mjöll‘s vocals in particular just seem to bring an unsettling edge to their gigs. Not always an easy listen, but always the kind of gig that draws you in and spits you out sooner than you think.

And then it’s all done. There’s a new album that should be released in July 2020 and that’s already on our wish list.

The second pick from a scan down of the line up is Wargasm UK.

A relatively new project from the London duo and a band who, despite being a support slot, completely blew us away at The Zanzibar late last year.

There’s full-on aggression as Sam and Milkie trade vocal duties while sawing at their guitars at full speed.

This will be one of those “I was there” moments. Don’t miss them. Peter Goodbody

I’ve written about it, worked on it and lived it since its inception and it remains one of the highlights of Liverpool’s musical calendar even if recent years have failed (for me) to live up to its glory years.

Back then the sheer joy of wandering the city’s streets, ducking in and out of clubs, cafes and even car parks and knowing you might just chance upon your new favourite band was simply irresistible.

Of course the prospect of walking anywhere this year, yet alone sipping a beer in a darkened basement or cordoned off a cul-de-sac, makes its loss felt more keenly than ever.

But come September I’ll be there enjoying local heroes Stealing Sheep and The Mysterines and also checking out BC Camplight whose new album is sure to be regarded as one of the year’s best. – Jamie Bowman

She Drew The Gun at Sound City 2015

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked the inside of this as a volunteer – managed an acoustic stage at the conference, had that Gerry Cinnamon on, She Drew The Gun were kind enough to show me how to use the mixing desk properly, got to grab a quick chat to Wayne Coyne.

It’s invaluable, it creates an event for the city and gives exposure to those we may not realise are up and coming.

This year for me would have been some of the theatre stuff: my friend and director, Mike Dickinson of Naughty Corner Productions will be bringing his and Adam Nicholls’ Glastonbury hit ‘Raves’R’Us’ to Sound City – a show so good it made me actually enjoy dance music for an hour.

I danced. There were hotly tipped companies on the same slice of the bill.

I recall none of them at the moment but I would have been watching them on recommendation alone.  And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?Ian Salmon

I love Sound City because it brings together the best of the local music and creative scenes and some of the best artists nationally.

It’s had a great atmosphere when I’ve been in this past and the fact it’s so close to home is a big plus, too.

Looking forward to so much of this year’s line-up but especially Pale Waves, Dream Wife, Marika Hackman, Spector, and The Mysterines. Mia Hind

Sound City is an incredible festival, and as a city, we’re unbelievably lucky to host such a spectacle year in year out.

I was fortunate enough to review the festival for Getintothis on numerous occasions and honestly, they’re some of the most memorable and influential moments I’ve had since coming to Liverpool in 2013.

Iconic sets like Albert Hammond Jr in the Anglican Cathedral, The Cribs‘ electric set on The Baltic stage at Clarence Dock, and Wayne Michael Coyne (Flaming Lips) zorbing across the crowd will live long in the memory, along with a raft of intimate sets including Gengahr, Yak, Xam Volo and Strange Collective that truly blew me away.

Thurston Moore at Sound City 2015

Sound City also gave me the opportunity to interview a living legend and a personal hero, Thurston Moore ahead of his performance at Sound City 2015, where we chatted about Liverpool’s alluring history, Adrian Henri and the Mersey Sound beat poetry.

An accolade you attribute to Sound City is that it knows no boundaries, it’s so wonderfully eclectic and full of surprises and in that, it truly aligns with the strong philosophy and collective mentality of the city of Liverpool.

Long live Sound City. My ones to watch at 2020: S.P.Q.R, Mamatung and The Blinders. – Matthew Wood

Sound City

There’s no doubt for me that Sound City is the key fixture in the Liverpool music calendar.

It’s the weekend bands and music fans alike look forward to as soon as the year turns.

Having moved back to the multi-venue format in the Baltic Triangle, the festival represents the city in its togetherness and vibrancy.

Charging between venues seeing familiar faces at every set, performance and installation makes it a special weekend to be involved in Liverpool music.

This year, we hope, the festival will see everyone get back together after a tough few months.

It will be a celebration of music and culture in Liverpool and I’m personally looking forward to catching Glasto long listed band CourtingBuzzard Buzzard BuzzardLucy GaffneyAsk Elliot and The Snuts.

As well as what is going to be a huge performance for Red Rum Club at their hometowns biggest music weekend. – Lewis Ridley

Most of us working in the music industry, including myself as an artist manager, relish an opportunity to get together; the whole industry is based on relationships which are largely forged and reinforced at events like Sound City’s conference day, it’s such an asset to have an event like this on our doorstep.

It’s open to anyone and access is included for the bands who have been invited to play the festival many, by the nature of the event, are independent, emerging acts.

The chance for them to attend the conference is as, if not more, valuable to them as being given the chance to perform, I’d definitely recommend it.

The bands and artists I have spoken to all cite playing Sound City as a really positive experience.

Two of the bands I represent, The Zangwills and 32 Tens played Sound City 2019 and they go all misty eyed when they think back to what a great weekend they had.

It’s always a slightly anxious time playing a multi-stage festival as you have no idea of your audience in advance. Everyone will have one eye on which other artist’s clash with their slot and with no direct ticket sales, it adds an extra level of nervousness virtually until the moment they step onstage.

For Warrington-based 32 tens who played Birdie’s Live Room, it was a really touching moment when, in the minutes leading up to their set, we watched people begin to pour in, the venue had to jump onto opening extra doors and reported to us later that it was the biggest crowd they saw for a set there across the whole weekend.

Purely from an audience perspective, there is such a lot to get round, the whole vibe is brilliant and there is music coming at you from all directions – what’s not to love. For Sound City 2020, as always, it’s tough to choose just a few bands, many of them I’m not yet familiar with and checking out the ones that are new to me is always part of the fun and the voyage of discovery that Sound City brings.

However, Red Rum Club never disappoint so I’d have to start with them, their set in 2019 was packed with a lengthy queue and a, ‘one out, one in’ policy in place long before they went onstage so if you’re planning to catch them this year, I’d advise getting there early.

The Post Romantics would be on my list along with Marsicans who I keep missing, and Hoofa.

Eyre Llew are, by all accounts, something very special and I’d also be aiming to catch Germany’s Blurry Futures.

I first saw The Night Café supporting Blaenavon in 2017 while writing a review for Getintothis so would be keen to see them play again, especially in front of a home crowd.

As always, my strategy would be to cram in as many bands as I possibly could and come away after three full days, knackered, happy and looking forward to the next one. – Jackie Lees

Pale Waves

It feels like there’s a friendly face around every corner at Sound City and there’s a real love hate relationship of spending a weekend literally running around the Baltic triangle to try and catch everything in every venue.

It’s exhausting but well worth the aching legs from all the miles covered.

I’m looking forward to Pale Waves, I last saw them in Feb 2018 and they’ve come such a long way in two and a half years.

Also in desperate need to hear Kiss from debut album My Mind Makes Noises live, such an angsty anthem. – Lucy McLachlan

Sound City is not just about the festival itself, it’s the months before, going through the bill trying to find great new bands, making a playlist, trying to plan a route as soon as the set times come out.

And then, come the weekend itself, it all going out the window, as the mood of the festival takes over and you end up mooching in and out of venues watching all sorts of other stuff instead.

I’m looking forward to Spector, The Blinders, JOHN, Courting, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and the recently announced Red Rum Club. – Steven Doherty

Tea Street Band at Sound City 2019

I am looking forward to Sound City 2020 as it will likely be one of the first local festivals to run after everything gradually gets back to normal, so the atmosphere will be electric.

I am especially looking forward to seeing Lucy Gaffney, her delicate songs soothe the soul. – Naomi Campbell

I love Sound City because it showcases how much original talent flourishes in the city of Liverpool and beyond.

I am particularly excited to see Jamie Webster this year. I saw him back in December supporting The Tea Street Band and his original songs where amazing.

I love his LFC songs, but I’m looking forward to seeing him prove that his talent goes way beyond football singalongs. – Sian Ellis

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