For editor Mary's coverage of SXSW 2013, go here.
For TGTF team coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2013, go here.
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Bands of the day: Goonam, Ilona, Night Engine
Venue of the day: Mello Mello
The previous two days of Liverpool Sound City 2013 had seen the music kick off around 6 PM, but as a special Saturday treat, the Korean delegation arranged a showcase at the Kazimier Gardens from the unearthly hour of 2 PM. As well as showcasing four of the country’s finest bands, there was a delicious and in-no-way-an-incentive-to-turn-up spread of native Korean food and drink. Marinated and barbecued pork, chicken and beef vyed for attention with the superb kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish flavoured with chilli, ginger and garlic. To wash it down was a unique cinnamon beverage with pine nuts floating in it, and for those that drink in the afternoon (me!), Korea’s version of dry sherry. All utterly delicious and free of charge. As if that wasn’t enough, there were goody bags packed with promotional materials and traditional Korean wave-in-one’s-face fans – not that they were much needed in breezy Liverpool. I’d like to think I would’ve turned up anyway, but who doesn’t find free food always seals the deal?
The music was just as memorable. First up were Galaxy Express, a hard rock power trio whose song titles come translated into English but they actually sing in Korean. No matter, it’s all about the energy with these guys; they know a thing or two about throwing shapes, slinging their vintage guitars all over the place, thrashing their way through their set at top speed. There’s a great deal of skill on offer – anyone remotely interested in rock music should give these guys a listen. Even though I haven’t a clue what they’re on about (a point which holds true for all four Korean bands, for obvious reasons), theirs is a fine, attention-grabbing set.
Goonam are brilliant. First of all, the music is just perfect for the laid-back vibe of the afternoon – the lazy rhythms and mock-Hammond organ recall early ’90s Acid Jazz output, the ideal accompaniment for swaying around in the weak early afternoon sunshine, knocking back Korean fortified wine. But the star of the show is the eccentric, perma-grinning bassist ByungHak Eem. Attired in a woman’s yellow-with-black-polka-dots blouse, heavy black shoes that are literally falling apart at the seams, and sporting a fine example of the classic Chinese emperor beard style, Eem’s presence lends the whole set a quite rare frisson of surreal excitement. His stilted explanation of how he came to play with lead singer Ung Joh is described in a charmingly naive accidental haiku:
We meet in karaoke
He sing well, I love him
We make band
There’s a deep vein of subtle, deadpan humour running through everything Goonam do, making it easy to get right behind them. Eem really is the star of the show, his beams lighting up the stage, his theatrical bass-as-machine-gun genuinely amusing. Memorable stuff.
Apollo 18 (pictured at top) are a bit more conventional – another hard rock trio, mostly instrumental this time, they don’t quite have the same amount of accessible personality as the previous two acts. What they do have is high levels of extremely intense noise, which comes as a bit of a shock to the system after the chilled out Goonam. Not quite my cup of SuJeongGwa, but if shredding is your thing, Apollo 18 are worth checking out.
To wrap up the Korean invasion are Gate Flowers: possibly the most intriguing of all the acts today. They’re another guitar-rock band, but far more mainstream this time: a bit like a heavier Counting Crows, and at times the guitarist’s wah-wah technique adds a touch of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The songs are very competent, and the singer’s bizarre hand movements and “anti-singing” technique are captivating in their own way, but I can’t help but think that if they were British or American they wouldn’t particularly stand out as ones to watch.
After Gate Flowers finish their main set, the crowd are hungry for more, so they kick into a cover of ‘Paint It Black’, at which point the stage is invaded by members of the three previous bands, who proceed to plug in and jam along. As the stage becomes more crowded, things get messier, with singers sharing every available microphone, guitar solos played whilst hoisted on someone else’s shoulders, and our friend Hak standing on a speaker waving an empty sherry bottle and mugging for the multitude of video cameras surrounding him. A drunken outdoor Korean rock supergroup party jam – not something that you see every day.
In between sets of Korean music, I headed for a swift break to Mello Mello, the location of Thursday’s triumph from The Oreoh!s, and dispenser of the finest beer of the festival, a heavily-hopped American-style IPA. At 6% ABV this beer is a special treat, and no sooner had I tucked into my half, the realisation dawned that there was another special treat in the room. Ilona is a Bulgarian-born, London-based singer-songwriter, who stands out from the enormous crowd of similar hopefuls by being tremendous fun to watch and listen to. Being sparsely accompanied by mentor and co-writer Tony Moore is an advantage here, as it lets the natural character in Ilona’s voice shine through. And what a voice – sumptuous and sultry at low volume, powerful and beautifully-toned at normal range, with a buzz-saw intensity rasping through when the song demands it. As for the songs… recent release ‘Love is Stupid’ is clearly gunning for the Radio 2 crowd, but it may be a little too hackneyed even for that ultra-mainstream demographic – by the time the third chorus comes around, I’m switching off. And don’t get me started on the cheap video. Elsewhere, the set is jolly enough to hold the interest, but her Alannah Myles-style voice is crying out for something of the quality of Black Velvet (if she wants to stick with the pop-rock genre), or maybe, since she comes across as Marina Diamandis’ feisty younger sister, something quirky and electro. Either way, it has to be acknowledged that this is very early days for Ilona, and her collaborators are doing their best with limited means to promote her talents. A performer dripping with potential.
I’ve been looking forward to seeing Willy Moon since reviewing his debut single “I Wanna Be Your Man” in our 10 for 2012 feature, and declaring, “If those dance moves translate well to a stage, he’ll be an unmissable prospect live.” However, the sad truth is that he turns out to be the greatest disappointment of the weekend. It doesn’t help that he’s 40 minutes late, in a roasting hot venue, making the crowd restless and perturbed before a note is played. And when Moon arrives, it becomes clear that his set consists of a handful of stunted backing tracks, overlaid with live drums and guitar, and his gyrating karaoke. More worryingly, he appears to have no personality whatsoever, struggling to string enough words together to thank the audience for sticking around in the equatorial heat, let alone provide a compelling reason why we all should have gathered here in the first place. The final straw is the deep streak of misogyny running through the performance – the two other musicians are women, with the drummer particularly scantily clad in a fishnet top, and he regularly gurns leeringly at them, sometimes mopping his sweat-caked brow on the guitarist’s shoulder. They must have the patience of saints. When the best thing about a music performance is the drummer’s jiggling breasts, you know something has gone seriously wrong, as evidenced by the room steadily emptying as the show progresses. Moon needs to completely rethink his stage show, get some proper songs, proper manners, and a proper personality, otherwise people will increasingly come to view him as a hollow charlatan.
Night Engine, despite only having released their début single (‘Seventeen’, on lovely limited edition red vinyl) just a couple of months ago, have already managed to conjure a reputation for being the next big thing. The Shipping Forecast is hot and humid, and technical problems delay the start of the gig; thus the atmosphere builds feverishly before even a note is played. But when the band finally kick off, it becomes apparent that Night Engine are good. Actually, make that very good indeed. This is sharp, elegant, guitar music with an irresistible, pristine groove from the exquisitely tight rhythm section, overlaid with splurges of fuzzy synth. Phil McDonnell is a disturbingly intense presence on vocals and lead guitar – his selection of glares and stares as the music ratchets up the drama simply add to the intensity of the performance. But it’s not all serious – there’s a gleeful joy in the grooves that prevents everything collapsing under the weight of its own portent. The obvious stylistic reference point is Bowie’s early-80s funk-influenced output; there’s elements of Chic in the clean stabs of electric guitar, and perhaps even Kraftwerk in the metronomic accuracy of the rhythms. But most of all, they simply sound like Night Engine, which for such a young act is an astonishing achievement.
And that, give or take a humdrum Delphic performance here, or the ubiquitous ukulele covers band there, is that. Liverpool Sound City is a world-class place to discover new music, new friends, and new beer. There’s talk of it becoming as important as SXSW on the international music scene, and I see no reason why that should not be the case. That said, SXSW is, by virtue of being on another continent, an event with a completely different promotional demographic, meaning Sound City is an event with few real competitors, despite several other regional music festivals happening around the same time. Add to the mix the superb venues and the warm welcome experienced by every visitor to Liverpool, and you have quite a fine event indeed, and one which deserves to go from strength to strength. See you there in 2014.
More of Martin’s high-res photos from day 2 can be found on his Flickr.
Bands of the day: Concrete Knives, Wolf People, Melody’s Echo Chamber
Venue of the day: Screenadelica
One not-to-be-underestimated benefit of an event being held in Liverpool is the impressive situational architecture. I chose a hotel based entirely on cost and availability, and yet it boasted a fine view of the Mersey estuary and is continuously watched over by that Liver bird which is unfortunate enough not to have a sea view. There’s few things more inclined to soothe a music-induced foggy head than a bracing Atlantic breeze and a frozen berry smoothie, both of which are liberally on offer on the Albert Dock; head duly cleared, there’s still a few hours to kill before play recommences – a tour around the Tate Liverpool and a few frames of World Championship snooker fill the gap admirably.
There’s a distinctly Asian flavour to this year’s event – delegations from Korea (of which more tomorrow) and Taiwan are in town, and are plugging hard. Echo are the first Taiwanese band I come across. They’re technically excellent rock musicians, and enjoyable to watch, but there’s little distinctive personality to be discerned in this brief meeting. Perhaps they’re better at copying a western style than coming up with one of their own. Another slight disappointment is L.A. band Hands – pre-event research had revealed them to a promising, if slightly pretentious act; today, their sound is mostly lost in the cavernous Garage, and no amount of optimistic gyration from Geoff can save the day.
The second French band of the weekend are Concrete Knives, and they continue the French theme of pure excellence. Theirs is a delightfully retro jumble of danceable grooves, funky breakdowns, and singalong choruses. Morgane Colas deadpans into the microphone, breaking into precise little dance moves when the occasion demands it, her slight frame booming out a powerful vocal, dominating the delicious noise the band pumps out. Despite (or perhaps, in an oblique way, because of) their Normandy roots, the band sing and title their songs in English, with just the right amount of evocative Gallic accent to spice their singing with a romantic otherness which suits the material perfectly. Most of recent album ‘Be Your Own King’ is played, climaxing with the swaying Truth, its loping beat building into a kitchen-sink crescendo which brought that rare, unique hair-stands-on-end moment which always happens at some point at a music festival. They played a second set later in the day to a dusky Kazimier Gardens, which managed to be even more funky impressive, with the entire crowd dancing and whooping by the end. These are the band of the festival for me.
My first venture into the Kazimier itself, which turns out to be a superb old-school auditorium with delightfully odd black-and-white handmade woodwork, is for Sheffield surf rock four-piece Best Friends. In the interests of full disclosure, in advance I decide I’m predisposed to feel an affinity for the band because the lead singer shares my surname of Sharman, but there’s plenty more to like about them besides that. There’s an endearing warmth to their ocean breeze of fuzzy guitars and circular chord sequences that charms the crowd and enchants the neutral observer. Wasting Time, with its memorable riffs and football-terrace chorus demonstrates just how tuneful their arrangements can be, but elsewhere there’s a sour undertow of dissonance that prevents everything getting too sickly, like a slice of lime rammed into a bottle of lager. Take your Best Friends to the beach.
The Kazimier, with its slightly tired retro ambience, is the perfect environ in which to experience Wolf People, who, from their first note to the last, transport everybody to an incense-fugged basement club in west London, circa 1971. Theirs is the world of paisley kaftans, flared jeans and beards; their sound is that of the classic folk-prog-rock power quartet, guitars intertwining – sometimes harmonising, sometimes octaving, sometimes complementary, sometimes in battle. Vintage fuzz tones abound, guitar solos are long and unashamed, the rhythm section grooves like a bastard, and the lyrics… whilst there’s a possibility that they’re not about goblins, wizards and faire maidens, by rights they really should be. Wolf People are one of the finest rock bands I’ve ever seen, and a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in the influential late-60s/early-70s psychedelic scene. A song like the superbly-named ‘When the Fire is Dead in the Grate’ encapsulates practically an entire genre in one brilliant many-movemented beast. A great opportunity to experience one of rock music’s finest hours for those who missed it the first time around.
Still in the Kazimier is the third and final French act of the weekend: Melody’s Echo Chamber (pictured at top) trade in beautiful, dreamy ditties in the vein of classic French chanteuses such as Francois Hardy, updated with modern arrangements; there’s bits of electronica in there, some found noises, and a persistent, driving guitar. Sometimes they descend into beat-infused chaos, but always maintaining the pretty, ’60s-tinged melodies. I should have stayed for the whole set, but Melody’s lament at missing Unknown Mortal Orchestra got the better of me so I crossed the road to catch the end of their performance. I’m not sure whether my expectations were unfairly high, but the subtleties of their act were either lost on me, or not present at all, comprising as it did long episodes of Ruban Nielson rocking out on his Fender Jag-Stang and not a great deal else. Possibly a deep-seated familiarity with latest album II would have helped decipher it all, but at this late hour none of it seemed very impressive.
To Screenadelica, and what is basically an unused low-ceilinged office building housing a music poster exhibition, with a stage seemingly plonked in one corner. The ceiling is of low, broken tiling, the lighting is exposed fluorescent tubes which conspire to bathe the room in an unflattering, green-tinged blankness. Such a disconcerting environment makes a perfect post-apocalyptic backdrop for the heavy rock bands which are in residence all weekend. An impromptu meetup with Mary and John of this parish meant we all had the good fortune to catch a mental set from Arcane Roots. You never know where you are with these guys – one minute they’re all sweet, delicate vocals over a charming, chiming guitar line – but in the blink of a distortion pedal later, they’re shredding your face off and roaring down your throat. Comparisons with Biffy are unenviably inevitable, but Arcane Roots do carve a niche all of their own, and their directness and energy is a welcome change from the more cerebral fare on offer earlier. As an aside, what gives with what bands are playing and wearing these days? All the pop acts are wearing rock band T-shirts (viz Bastille, Ilona et al.), and the rock acts are wearing suits and shirts and playing Fender Telecasters. When did a Tele become a heavy metal guitar? How I long for the days of the bepointed Japanese Superstrat to return. Perhaps a fashion revival waiting to happen?
It falls to Future of the Left to finish the night. It’s past 1am before they even start setting up, which may be why Andy Falkous is even more grumpy than usual; the sardonic wit which often lifts their uncompromising set is buried deep under a layer of gritty condescension tonight. Even though on record their well-crafted, often surreal lyrics lighten the heft of the music somewhat, tonight subtlety is exchanged for impact, which matches the raucous crowd’s mood perfectly. The Thatcher-baiting is getting old now, however – if this is the future of the left, then it looks and sounds very much like a repeat of the past couple of decades – and the ensuing yawns are too emphatic for your correspondent to resist. I retire home to rest in peace.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 16th May 2013 at 3:00 pm
Third day at Sound City 2013, and I was flagging. Martin made the perfect suggestion that we should check out the Korean bands day showcase, where there would also be free food and booze on offer. Besides, I’d not been to the Kazimier Gardens yet, which both him and John had waxed philosophical on their home brew and laid-back atmosphere. Afternoon sorted then. I didn’t photograph any of the bands, as we had Martin with us there, so check out his review of day 3 for those. What I mostly recall was that the atmosphere was loud, fun and just what you needed on a sunny Saturday afternoon. (This is where I should probably point out that while some of the evenings were chilly, not a drop of rain fell the entire weekend. So take that, Brighton!) After being plied with sufficient food and drink – and running into Delphic of all people in the barbecue line! – it was then off to see the next band.
Common Tongues are a folk pop band from Brighton. Folk pop may seem such a cliche these days but I can assure you that they are worth seeing for the beautiful harmonies alone. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to see a band who describes themselves on Facebook with the following: “Common Tongues are a Brighton based 5 piece that combine the belly fruit of Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys to tell compelling stories of their lives and loves. The band bring real gravitas to the folk scene with expansive instrumentation, cinematic arrangement and luscious 5-part harmony.” I’m always up for a bit of musical belly fruit. They just released an EP, ‘Tether and Twine’, which I’ve purchased to bring home with me to America, but if you fancy watching the band perform all the songs from the release, you can do so here. They will also be appearing at the Alternative Escape in Brighton on Thursday afternoon, so they are a band not to be missed.
There’s just not enough bands named with adjectives, I say. This is where the next band comes in. I returned to the Brink Saturday afternoon, as it was May the 4th Be With You Day and they were offering up a C3 PO Boy sandwich (a joke probably lost on most Brits but I totally got it, having had many a po’ boy in my time and having once visited New Orleans). Redolent, a very young band from Edinburgh, is one I came across in my Sound City preview research, on the strength of their guitar playing in the many acoustic videos they’ve put on their YouTube account. I don’t think their songwriting craft is fully formed yet, but on the basis of how good they are on their instruments, I can see them being the Two Door Cinema Club of Edinburgh soon enough. Just you watch.
Now is the time that I can reveal my shining stardom moment of the weekend. Shining stardom moment not in a “oh my god, I’ve met *insert band name here* and I can die happy now” way. No, as in “wow, I’ve made it!” While I speaking to the band members of Redolent after their set, I was approached soon after by Sid and Esme of the Oreohs, the young Halifax band who Martin had nothing but compliments for from the Thursday. “Are you Mary Chang? Do you run There Goes the Fear?” I was incredulous. And to be honest, pretty nervous and taken aback at having been identified. I am sure I was blushing. Sid explained that they had toured as support for the Crookes previously and she’d read my review of the Crookes’ ‘Bear’s Blood’ single and thought it was “absolutely amazing”. When you put your heart and soul into something, it is always heartwarming to hear that what you do is appreciated by someone else. It is also lovely to be reminded of good friends; even if you are hundreds of miles away from them, they will always be in your heart. I was absolutely beaming from this interaction.
I whinged initially at the lack of true dance bands at this year’s Sound City, so the salve of Dublin’s Last Days of 1984 at the Garage was more than welcome. Ever since Daft Punk made that pronouncement that they thought dance music was going in the wrong direction while they’d been away, I’ve been analysing and overanalysing what they perceive as going wrong in this genre. Charismatic frontman? Check. Mad beats? Check. Beautiful sonicscapes? Check. It’s a shame that more punters were out here earlier to catch them, but I thought they sounded fantastic, their music easily filling the cavernous Garage.
I won’t speak about Willy Moon in my review, as Martin photographed him. I tried to be a trooper and squeeze my way into the crowded floor where he was playing at the East Village Arts Club but it was just too hot and claustrophobic, so I had to leave to catch my breath. And sit down with a cider. Smile.
It just wouldn’t be Sound City for me if I didn’t see the Hummingbirds. The six man band are known for their incredibly melodic, skiffle-esque, early Beatles sound and it’s easy to see why they are fast favourites with locals young and old. I met them last year, after a considerable amount of time had passed since I had done a Bands to Watch on them. I’m a Liverpool FC supporter, and though my support for the club has been wavering with all this recent Suarez nonsense, it was with much appreciation that lead singer Jay Davies came out with a bright red club scarf around his neck with the word “Justice” emblazoned on it, laying it across an amp on the front of the stage, right in front of the band so everyone could see. Any true footy fan will never forget Hillsborough and especially for Liverpool fans, while that dreadful day will always stir up bad memories, it is also a reminder of the strength and solidarity of the city and its people coming together to demand justice for those whose lives were lost.
Maybe that is why ‘Back in Liverpool’ brings tears to my eyes when I hear it, and why I had that reaction Saturday night watching them play it. The song itself is about a man who’s wanting to have a serious conversation with a woman he was involved with, but he can’t do it until she returns to town because she’s left and gone away (to Cambridge, if you were wondering…I guess she went to uni?). In this overly social media-ed world, the fact that he’s not texting or WhatsApp-ing her is refreshing. “It’s not about me or you, or the things we used to do, like watching movies in the dark. All the places that we’d meet, all the scuffles under sheets that makes it hard to be apart. There’s things I’d like to say to you, when you’re back in Liverpool.” That is just about the most perfect chorus you could ever write, and I never could have predicted I would hear the song again later on that night.
The band will be releasing a new single ‘Emma’ in July, but that didn’t stop them from doing a raucous cover of ‘Day Tripper’ to pay homage to the Fabs. Check ‘em out if you haven’t already, you won’t be disappointed.
If you have been keeping up with the TGTF story since 2010, you will recall that Delphic‘s debut ‘Acolyte’ was my favourite album of 2010. Fast forward 3 years and they’ve released the follow-up, a r&b infused one called ‘Collections’, that neither John or I particularly liked. While I entirely understand the need to broaden your horizons and the desire not to stay in the same place musically, it was clearly evident at the Manchester quartet’s appearance Saturday night at the Arts Academy – now augmented live by a touring bass player, with singer James Cook now playing guitar instead – that the set suffered from the lack of cohesion between the two albums, and this was apparent to the punters as well. I’d seen Delphic several times in 2010 and every time I saw them I’d be surrounded by people who were singing along to the songs, and this just didn’t happen in Liverpool. I found myself not enjoying being pressed up against seriously pissed people down the front ended up extricating myself from the barrier to join John further back.
Starting with newer single ‘Baiya’ was a wise choice, as it is the song of theirs that’s gotten most airplay recently, but other tracks like ‘Freedom Found’ and ‘Atlas’ lumbered uncomfortably alongside the sheer pop goodness of ‘Doubt’ and the admirable ravey qualities of ‘Red Lights’. The pacing just wasn’t right; as soon as you thought the momentum was building in the set, a newer song would come into the mix and throw things off again. I don’t know if it was because they honestly had other bands to see or other places to go, but people would come into the venue for a couple songs, and then make a beeline to the door to leave. We stayed through the whole set, hoping for a build-up at the end, which didn’t come. Seeing them live confirmed to me my biggest worry for them, that in reinventing their sound, they managed to lose a good chunk of their fanbase who was into their electropop / rock sound they began with. Unfortunately, their new material is just not for me at all.
When we stumbled into the delegates bar at the Epstein Theatre at the end of the night to have a few celebratory brews that TGTF had come through the other side of Sound City, a local orchestra was playing in the main area and they ended their set with a splendid rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. John and Martin, knowing my team affiliation, both smiled and said, “it’s your song!” Grin. The orchestra was followed by Splintered Ukes, a 12-piece ukulele band. You really haven’t lived until you’ve heard a ukulele version of Radiohead‘s ‘Creep’. Haha. And they paid respect to fellow Liverpudlians the Hummingbirds by covering ‘Back in Liverpool’. What a fitting ending to our Liverpool Sound City. God and funds willing, we’ll see you all next year.
Header photo by TGTF Head Photographer Martin Sharman
Saturday’s frivolities at Sound City 2013 began at the naturally striking Kazimier Gardens, where the Korean day showcase was taking place. You can hear about and see great photos of the bands from Martin, but for one, the food and atmosphere was exactly what you wanted at around three in the afternoon, when your football team has just been mercilessly relegated from the Championship (yes, I’m bitter). That being that the booze was gently flowing, the sun was beating down on the exposed venue and everyone was in good cheer. Imagine the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Bilbo’s party, then make everyone grow by a foot and a half, and presto, you’ve got how the Kazimier Gardens looked. And no, Gandalf wasn’t there.
Fantasy whimsy aside, the first band of the day for me were Marmozets, a post-hardcore act who’ve been hotly tipped by Kerrang!, Front and everyone in between, so it was to no surprise that they’d proved a big draw at Liverpool’s O2 Academy. Their youthful vitality was a stark contrast to some of the dusty indie on show this weekend, and as frontwoman Becca Macintyre bounded and roared her way across the stage the wholesome, yet raw riffage on show from her conspiring band members brought a new level of chaos to proceedings. Their youthful charm came across articulately and the largely partisan crowd who were their primarily for headliners Enter Shikari had definitely found a new favourite band. Expect more than noise from this fivesome in the future. (9/10)
How else do you follow up a youthful post-hardcore act in a sweaty O2 Academy? With a Taiwanese rap-reggae outfit of course, called Matzka. Matzka drive a bulldozer of funky fresh sound through the language barrier, immediately encapsulating the aboriginal charm that their music draws from. The largely oriental audience sing along to every verse and chorus whilst those who unfortunately aren’t able to understand cheerily bop along to the more user-friendly call and repeat choruses.
The band strums on through a short set in The Attic, which has me (probably on my own on this one) thinking about tropical holidays and that film with Adam Sandler in where the girl keeps forgetting who he is. Its good honest. I think it’s called 50 First Dates! That’s the one and it’s set on a beautiful island which is where Matzka take you.
You’ve got a cocktail in one hand, and Matzka are playing in front of you as you leisurely recline on a deck chair with the midday sun beating down on you. Even in the middle of Liverpool that feeling was what I was awash with, and it most definitely was not the cider noodling with my brain… I think. (8/10)
From an almost samba weirdness to just plain weirdness was the move to see Delphic at the Arts Academy. The UK three-piece (pictured at top) opened with single ‘Baiya’ from their latest album ‘Collections’ and proceeded to dart from between their debut effort and their 2013 release in a set which felt a bit scatty if not laboured.
Even the seemingly safe bet of ‘Doubt’ falls flat in the Arts Academy; however, merit could be found as the set drew to a conclusion with a suitable buzz created by frontman James Cook as the set ended. (6/10)
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 15th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
Sound City 2013, day 2, began with me waking up to the strains of a Reverend and the Makers‘ YouTube playlist blaring out of John’s iPad. Mission accomplished from the previous night, I’d say. We headed into the convention portion of the festival and my first stop was a radio pluggers’ panel with heavyweights of the radio industry, including 6music’s Chris Hawkins, Radio2′s Janice Long, and 6music producer Julie Cullen. As a regular BBC Radio music listener, it was really interesting to hear the presenters and producers’ takes on why radio is still so strong in Britain.
Janice Long said, “people love the intimacy of radio…[the fact that] they’re being offered something”, and I agree. Getting to know your presenters, I find, is especially important on whether or not I trust or would listen to that person’s recommendations. While by no means do I enjoy every single band that Lammo has trotted out on his New Favourite Band weekly feature, or in the same respect Huw Stephens on his specialist show, there are so many bands I never would have of heard of if either hadn’t played them on their shows. It was also heartening to hear that the panelists all welcome hearing demos from bands, just asking that the CDRs be labelled clearly and properly with the band name and song title, or even better, be provided a Soundcloud downloadable link that can be shared and spread between colleagues, should the song take their fancy and they want to actually play it on radio. I also had a chat with Chris Hawkins and that feature on TGTF is forthcoming soon.
After having some food and drink at a very cool, nonalcoholic cafe called the Brink, it was time to split up again, and then I was off to see Vasco da Gama, named after the Portuguese explorer who circumnavigated around the tip of Africa, not to be confused with the strange typo on the programme of Vasco da Gamma, as if they had some Greek relations. They play a wonky, punky, art rock kind of style that is not all unlike their fellow DIY Liverpudlians Hot Club de Paris, who’ve gone quiet. Vasco benefitted from the delay of the start of Taiwanese band Echo, who were having trouble with their soundcheck just across the way at the Garage. Watch a bit of their performance below.
The singer of Taiwan’s Echo certainly wins, hands down, the longest note held during this year’s Sound City. Check out the video below. When you’re an unknown band to the city you’re in, you’ve got to really bring it, and Echo’s singer jumped onto the barrier and into the sparse crowd and just let loose this amazing scream. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, there is no denying that the band sound great instrumentally and have a good command of melody, as you will see in the video. Now if they could just record one song in English language…
Funnily enough, next John and I ended up at the same place, with John not even knowing I was in the same room. In a true example of regional representation, a selection of Norwich bands appeared at Sound Food and Drink, a cafe that oddly did not vacate its tables and move them in time for the evening’s performances. Bad form. Or maybe they just wanted to discourage people from cramming themselves in there. The premise of Wooden Arms was promising: a band made of mostly classical string instrument-playing members, singing in multi-part harmony. Unfortunately, live they translated to something far more boring than I would have guessed.
So I was off again and to the east to the East Village Arts Club, where the bouncer inconveniently directed me to the wrong place for Manchester’s NO CEREMONY///. Like fellow Mancunians WU LYF, NO CEREMONY/// have tried to maintain a mysterious vibe about themselves, with overly dark, goth-y videos that show no hint of what the band actually look like. So I just assumed the band must be two blokes with oodles of synthesisers. Not exactly. The band live is fronted by a bass-toting woman and while there are two men with synths in front of them, one of them does play guitar. As I did suspect, there isn’t a
It was a bit of a hike from where I was to the Black-E, with 3 nights being curated by local Liverpool-centric football, music and culture Web site the Anfield Wrap and featuring only Merseyside-based bands. But being an Liverpool FC fan, I knew I just had to be there at some point in the weekend. I was not disappointed with the Thespians, with a lead singer that looks eerily like Carl Barat. The band even wear black leather jackets and sound at times very Libertines-esque, including abruptly ending some of their songs in that sort of punky, ‘up yours’ kind of way. They explained that their album had already been put out in Japan and all physical copies had been snapped by the record-buying public over there. If that is truly the case, then we should all probably get on this bandwagon now before it turns into a steamroller.
Then it was back west and into the centre of the clubbing life for the Chapman Family at Leaf Cafe. I have a couple friends who are massive fans of theirs, so colour me curious, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They can be depressing topic-wise, but the sheer power of their live performance, not to mention the incredible magnetism of their frontman Kingsley Chapman, make their live set a sight to behold. A hipster couple who quickly took their places right in front of the stage threw their band tote bags under the stage and proceeded to mosh (is that the right word?) to every Chapman Family song, arms and legs flailing in every which way. At some point I was sure one of them would slip and fall but it didn’t happen, they were just so excited to be there.
And then it was back to Wolstenholme Square, where I thought I had arrived just in time for Marple’s Dutch Uncles. Cripes. I am very careful about making sure I don’t have clashes in schedule, so I am positive they must have moved up the Duncles’ set by an hour because when I arrived, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was setting up. To say I was upset by the turn of events, especially after loving the new album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’, is putting it mildly. I was on the verge of tears. But, when in Liverpool, you carry on. I didn’t feel like running to another venue, so I just hung tight at the Arts Academy for the one major band I definitely wanted to see there, Dutch Uncles’ mates Everything Everything.
When you’re thousands of miles away from home, I don’t care who you are, it is an important and touching moment when a band you have supported and followed for a long time acknowledges your presence. Everything Everything’s bassist Jeremy Pritchard, who has always been extremely kind and nice to me every time I have had the pleasure to meet him, only waved to me down in the pit, but it truly meant the world to me. Prior to this, I had only seen them live once, and in an acoustic setting for a charity show 2 days after my birthday in 2011, so I was raring to go to see them play with their full setup. While I still think new album ‘Arc’ is not as strong as ‘Man Alive’, there were plenty of punters willing to disagree with me at the Arts Academy. I thought it was quite strange that they didn’t play ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, but perhaps they are trying to wean themselves away from their past? Possibly. With singles like ‘Kemosabe’ and ‘Cough Cough’, they can afford to do that.
The TGTF crew ended up, rather accidentally, together at Screenadelica at the end of the night, and you can read John’s descriptions of Arcane Roots and Future of the Left in his day 2 roundup. While we were waiting between sets, Duologue, who I recognised from seeing them in a beer garden at this year’s SXSW, bounded out from backstage at the Arts Academy and into Screendelica, the venue directly in the back of it. This Twitter exchange ensued. And yes, Tim, I will touch your face the next time I’m in your proximity!
Header photo by TGTF Head Photographer Martin Sharman
Home-grown boys Alpha Male Tea Party’s set started abruptly, causing the amassed gaggle of hipsters to spill their cans of Tuborg. The three-piece. who could only be described as being dressed like male ejaculate, ripped into their set with a wave of screeching guitars passing over the crowd in Screenadelica, a venue which did its best to remind you of a scene from any poor horror film, but with more attractive artwork.
They busted out the hits, including that well-known tune ‘Bill Paxton is a Fucking Clogger’, which saw the band’s bassist pull an assortment of serial-killerish faces which the arrayed photographers ate up glutinously. The instrumental heaviness seemed to translate well on the audience that had gathered and for a band with obviously very little touring experience; they acquitted themselves well with some well-crafted riffs from their diminutive Alex Pettyfer-lookalike frontman. Their live set is similar to the frantic chaos of a Pulled Apart by Horses set, but the tunes unlike PABH aren’t there yet. Ones for the future, perhaps? (7/10)
Struggling to follow up to the lunacy of Alpha Male Tea Party were Luxembourg’s (supposed) finest Mutiny on the Bounty whose opener can only be described as an overegged tribute to the original Power Rangers theme tune. Normally from me that would be a compliment, especially if the band were looking for that kind of nostalgic comedy. Alas, MOTB were not aiming for that level of self-depreciating comedy and instead embarked upon an almost entirely instrumental set of wonky riffs and constant panning to the crowd.
At one point the band’s lead guitarist who was sporting the look of the day, a well-coiffed boutique moustache, pled for the crowd to come closer. A few obliged, but it was an indicator of how little the band’s peculiar metal-math-rock stylings were endearing them to the Sound City punters. (5/10)
A change of scenery then to Liverpool Sound and Vision, where alongside watching the acts, you can get a freshly made stone-baked pizza, as if the music wasn’t enough! This was to see The Pukes who are an 11-piece band, fronted by eight female ukulele players who played a hilarious assortment of punk covers and their own material.
They freely admitted that the gaggle of people standing between tables and by the bar were in fact the youngest crowd they had played to ever. The lasses fronting the unique outlet emitted a very ‘70s punk revival feel, whilst the crowd really got on board with what they were trying to do. The band didn’t exactly cover any untouched ground, no boundaries were broken and the time signatures were as ordinary as Jeff down the pub on a Saturday. But it was good fun, nothing sordid, seedy or particularly rude. Just a ruddy good time and some punk rock. (8/10)
To close the stage at Sound and Vision were a personal favourite of mine, Dingus Khan from Essex, whose music was first billed to me as “the missing link between Blur and Slipknot”. With a billing like that, it was obvious that their live show was something to behold. And with three bassists and three drummers in such a small space, the sound they made was nothing short of catastrophic. For one I was surprised that the building held up under the aural assault it was being pelted with.
Sound problems dogged them at the start, but instead of going all diva on the soundman the affable chaps of Dingus took it in their stride and powered on through a half hour set of immense bass chugs and oddly relatable songs. From the start lead singer Ben Brown relays to the crowd, “if this sounds abrasive and weird, we’ll have done it just right”. Weird, it does sound and abrasive, well, it’s not the kindest on the ear I suppose, but the songs and the pure rock ‘n’ roll attitude of the boys combines for a show of unknown excitement. Songs like ‘Knifey Spooney’ from their new record ‘Support Mistley Swan’ were barrels of fun, whilst frontman Brown continued to accentuate their eccentricity by climbing tables and singing without a microphone. To finish the gig of a bout of coordinated dance moves from the Khan boys was a classy end to a genuinely fun, over-the-top gig, with the best bit of whistling since Peter, Bjorn and John’s ‘Young Folks’, which whilst not being tunefully spectacular, left everyone with a firm grin affixed to their chops. (9/10)
The less said about Unknown Mortal Orchestra (pictured at top) at the Garage really is the better. For a band so hotly tipped to fall so flat, really is a surprise. What’s likeable about them is a mysterious factor to me and it seemed anybody in the half-filled Garage as when each song ended their seemed to be a pause to look around to see if anybody else was going to gratify them with applause. To me that is not right, but further investigation may be necessary to discover to what extent this band blows. (4/10)
As the night entered the wee hours and the 3rd turned to the 4th, attentions turned to Screenadelica again for Arcane Roots, whose new album ‘Blood & Chemistry’ is pulling up trees for their brilliant take on alternative rock. Arguably, they are the first band who properly gets the crowd into what you would expect from a rock band, which is of course a swaying mass of flailing limbs, windmills and the occasional mosh pit.
Frontman Andrew Groves is resplendent in an elegant suit jacket and his almost soprano tones are close to a screech as he channels all his energy into a wild riff ridden set, intermittent with screams from hairless bassist Daryl Atkins. Their frenetic set features big hits like ‘You Are’ and caters for the casual audience well enough for them to have earned a good few new supporters as they leave the stage to be replaced by the behemoth that are Future of the Left. (8/10)
Future of the Left are outstanding from start to finish, with ‘Small Bones, Small Bodies’ apparent as one of the biggest tunes of the entire festival, even in one of the smaller venues that the festival is being hosted at. The fans throughout go utterly ballistic, even to the point that one of the members of Dingus Khan who shall remain unnamed gets a little too excited, crowdsurfed then almost pulled a light fitting off, before being restrained by security and knocking one of them over.
As the hordes in front of the stage get within touching distance of ‘the talent’ on the pedestal, lead singer and post-hardcore hero of banter Andy “Falco” Falkous diffuses the crowd with his indescribable wit and guile. The set overall was a triumph, with the band’s stock as diehards of the scene truly nailed down in front of the swirling mosh pit. (9/10)
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