Liverpool Sound City 2014: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

By on Monday, 12th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

For all my photos from Sound City 2014, head this way; for all my Sound City 2014 coverage from Liverpool, use this link.

This year, I covered Liverpool Sound City alone without John or Martin, so I felt the full pressure of reviewing pop, dance, rock and everything in between all by my lonesome. I think as a music writer, you always go into a music festival having these delusions of grandeur that you’re going to be Superman and will actually see every single band, every single act you’ve got on your colour-coded schedule. When it comes to multi-day festivals, I think the stress is compounded because you’ve got to be ‘on’ for more than 1 day and inevitably, your relative freshness (and I’m not just referring to the state of your clothes, but of your mental state as well) starts to go progressively downhill as the event wears on.

Thursday night was my most productive night, and I’m guessing this was the case because the day before, hopes were high for a far too long awaited Premier League cup win as I’d visited Anfield on a sunny day, and it just doesn’t get much better than that for a Liverpool fan. After a couple of conference sessions, including a truly informative q&a with Michael Kiwanuka and his manager Rob Swerdlow and a less interesting one with interviewer John Robb trying to engage Gruff Rhys and his John Evans character puppet of now ‘American Interior’ fame, I was raring to go see all the bands on my list.

Prides @ Nation
I’m not sure which Sound City bod’s bright idea it was to put a rave-inducing band like Prides on at 7 PM at the cavernous Nation, but whoever it was, I don’t think they understand how dance music works. Prides, whose fun, New Wave-y dance pop, would have worked much better in front of more people and much later in the night. It seemed so strange to see their three band members on a massive stage, but if my feelers are correct, they’ll play festivals like this and pack them in soon enough. Still, they broke out an impressive set in this brand new for Sound City venue that included upcoming single ‘Messiah’ check to see if current or future and irrepressible past single ‘The Seeds You Sow’. Funny how hearing ‘Let It Go’ in this setting reminded me of Savoir Adore’s ‘Sea of Gold’, as I’d not previously associated the two bands’ sounds like that before.

The Kill Van Kulls @ Heebie Jeebies (did not appear) / Kaves @ Heebie Jeebies
The Kill van Kulls must have pulled out of Sound City last minute, as when I arrived at the subterranean Heebie Jeebies with its low archways (so low that even I, an already short woman, had to duck to not hit my head on the ceiling bricks), I counted the number of band members (too many), noticed the complete lack of synthesiser and guessed Gareth Bartlett of the Manchester band would not be wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses, looking like he’d stepped off the set of Miami Vice. The sunnies should have been a dead giveaway – they were more Ric Ocasek and Cars with the good time rock sound of Springsteen, but nothing terribly original. Disappointed, I cut my losses and walked next door to find something else to listen to.

Patients @ Brooklyn Mixer
Americans: if you really want something to do your head in while you’re in Liverpool, visit the Brooklyn Mixer, a bar that I guess has modeled itself off great watering holes of that NYC neighbourhood and has New York subway-styled signs telling you where to go. It’s the last thing I want to see in Liverpool when I’m visiting. Nevertheless, the parqueted wood flooring on the second level where they hosted bands all weekend was a nice space. Patients were exactly how you’d imagine a Korean Ramones tribute band to sound. However, since when did a rock band have a keyboardist, yet no guitarist? Rather disappointingly, they weren’t dressed as colourfully as their press photos on their Facebook, which would have added another unique layer to their presence.

Youth Man @ Factory
Earlier in the day, I’d been advised incorrectly to pick up my press pass at the Hilton delegates hotel and to traipse back up to Seel Street to retrieve my accreditation. At least I then knew where the Factory venue was. Oddly set up with a beer garden that wasn’t at all conducive to watching the band performing on its indoor stage, I could see it working for a band like Brummie trio Youth Man, with elements of punk and thrash, as if thrown into a blender with Bloc Party, as singer and guitarist Kaila Whyte brought along the riot grrrl vibes. Grab your free copy of their EP ‘Bad Weather’ from their Bandcamp.

PØRTS @ Kazimier Gardens
The outdoor venue John likened to stepping inside any scene in the Shire of The Lord of the Rings, Kazimier Gardens played host to several great showcases during Sound City, including Generator NI’s on Thursday night. After saying my hellos to our mates from the original mother ship Generator based in Newcastle, I blew Carrie’s mind when I messaged her I was stood down the front for Derry’s PØRTS when I told her I was stood next to Travis is a Tourist, who we’d met and she had interviewed in Austin during SXSW 2014. Even more mind-blowing I think was Travis’ own reaction to see me stood there, unable to believe I’d come all the way over from America for Sound City. But back to PØRTS, who were formerly known as Little Bear. I am not sure what their singer/bassist was doing with two iPhones, but it appeared that he was playing virtual harmonica with them? Not sure what was going on there. Think folk-y, gorgeous Fleet Foxes-ey type good stuff that has already caught the attention of the likes of 6music’s Cerys Matthews and the bods at Radio Ulster.

Marika Hackman @ East Village Arts Club Loft (did not appear) / Hot Soles @ Mello Mello
I left Kazimier Gardens early to have another crack at the top floor room of the East Village Arts Club, which by the way has one of my favourite restaurants and lounge areas in the city. Last year, I let Martin do the honours of covering Willy Moon on the loft stage when my claustrophobia, combined by the extreme heat of just too many bodies, were crammed in on the floor and I sat in the lounge with a cider. However, I was thwarted, which was quickly apparent as I walked upstairs and heard insipid elevator music playing and clearly not the gloom of Marika Hackman’s goth-folk. Many punters, made into involuntary, awkward wallflowers with drink in hand in search of someone else to see, were truly gutted about her non-appearance in Liverpool. (I would also like to note that while I was on the tour of Anfield the day before, I’d explained to a no nonsense type bald security guard at the ground I was in town for the festival. At first I was intimidated by him, until the surface cracked and it was clear he was just like us. A music fan! He said unequivocally she was the number one artist to see at Sound City. So…Marika, I think you have some serious ground to make up for with your fans in Liverpool. I hate the idea of this kindly man who works hard at Anfield every day crying into his pint because you didn’t show up.)

I had plenty of time to chill back down in the downstairs lounge with my new favourite flavour of cider – passion fruit! (yes, Rekordelig, I’d be happy to take a sponsorship from you) – before making my way to corner bar Mello Mello, whose sound was peerless all weekend and intimate nature of the rectangular box shape of the place made for what would become my favourite venue of this year’s festival. Thursday night, the venue played host to the Sheffield’s Darnell Music Factory (DMF) record label‘s Digital showcase straight from the heart of Yorkshire. My ears sensed this immediately as I entered the place: the raucous, up for it deep male voices that sound like the ringing of bells to me, were no doubt lubricated with countless pints, cheering on the band onstage.

Sheffield’s Hot Soles had been recommended to me by a friend from the Steel City. While they’re not my thing, I can see why they are a popular draw at Tramlines: the likes of Drenge and Royal Blood prove that hard rock duos can be successful, and in the case of Hot Soles, it’s not necessarily blow out your ears kind of hard rock they do but a boisterous garage sound that is probably somewhere between Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and the Jim Jones Revue. Their singer (whose name I am not sure of, nor do I know if he’s Sole Brother A or Sole Brother B – see their Facebook, I’m not kidding) is most definitely the showman: with his wireless guitar, in Chuck Berry style he crashed his way around the whole of the Mello Mello venue, including the café portion of the place, which I’m sure either terrified or bemused the customers!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Thursday coverage of Sound City, which will post tomorrow.

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