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Liverpool Sound City 2015: Day 3 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 12th June 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Header photo by Niall Lea

For more of John’s coverage of Liverpool Sound City 2015, read his day 1 and day 2 round-ups.

As people finally got used to the bizarre layout of the new look of this year’s Liverpool Sound City, the third day had crept up. Brains were frazzled from the night before by the orgy for the senses served up by The Flaming Lips. Revellers who had crept into the city centre to keep the party going after the Lips now had hangovers galore from day 2’s festivities, so the bars were still looking bereft of people on Sunday.

As for the bars, I’ve never seen a festival better prepared. The area was about as long as the similar installations at Reading and Leeds Festivals staffed by just as many luminous vest clad volunteers. Problem was, with just a fraction of the expected clientele walking through, the facilities looked hilariously empty for most of the day. Additionally, planning that saw pints pre-poured for quick service, meant that during the dearth of customers, pints were sitting poured in the baking midday sun. Definitely a decision to review, methinks. Nobody wants a warm pint of Strongbow on the third day of festival if they’re paying through the nose for it.

Aside from logistical issues and the numerous punters moaning and groaning about the health of their legs after an hour long trudge back to their hotel in the city centre, the festival site was a hub of activity on the final day, with the corporate sponsorship’s Red Bull-mobile blasting out crap drum ‘n’ bass remixes of classic tracks as you entered the festival It was a reminder that although until quite recently, the festival had a DIY feeling, everyone has to sell their souls in the end to the corporate monsters. Still, you could be at Creamfields, and count your lucky stars you’re not there.

Because at Creamfields, you certainly wouldn’t be treated to the psychedelic grooves of Moon King, who graced the abandoned warehouse of The Baltic Stage around mid-afternoon as the shroud of grey cloud disappeared from over the site. The Canadian duo of Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde exuded energy and all male eyes were transfixed to the baseball cap-cladded shredder providing the trademark ‘buzz-saw’ guitars, as Benjamin did his best Justin Hayward-Young impression, with about 50% of the balls and swagger of the former. (7/10)

Houdini Dax came highly recommended to me, and with a packed out Cavern Stage to greet me as I arrived, it was obvious I wasn’t alone in hearing of the charms of the Welsh three-piece. From start to finish, the boys exuded an infectious energy to the relatively lethargic crowd, and with a few charming smiles and sing-alongs, they laced the kind of hooks you’ll be humming for days, going down as stern favourites for day 3. Their set closed with ‘Get Your Goo On’: in title it sounds utterly ridiculous, but the song brought a lively 30 minutes to a close with a bit of swagger, some Beach Boys-style call and repeat and at least a 100 new likes on Facebook post set! (9/10)

From melt in your mouth harmonies to a complete disaster was sadly what awaited me with Clarence Clarity. The highly-rated Londoners would probably go down great at a smoky acid-house/post-dub night in Brixton. But, after the splendid chords of Houdini Dax, the semi-glitter pop mash-ups they served in the warehouse ended up sounding like an utter sonic catastrophe. The reverb screamed around the enclosed space and within minutes those without earplugs were vacating the area for something less audibly offensive.

They’ve done their best to sound like a 21st century turn on Outkast, but in doing, so it’s just ended up as a bit of a mess,with Eastern influences mashed crudely into your run-of-the-mill British drum ‘n’ bass. Perhaps this sound would work in a different setting and at another time – but as a prelude to Gaz Coombes, Peace and Belle and Sebastian at about 6 o’clock with the sun still shining, they simply jarred and sounded like a mess. (4/10)

Calming things down on The Atlantic Stage were the gentle tones of Bill Ryder-Jones who cut a lonely figure in the middle of the vast stage. He has all the hallmarks of any 18 year-old music fans crush, with sweeping good looks and swishy hair, plus a moody expression cut upon his face permanently. Sadly, Bill was nothing special at Liverpool Sound City, pumping out a couple of mediocre covers, some staggeringly uninventive, along with three chord originals and all at a pace that sent me daydreaming into thoughts about what delectable burger van food I could chomp on and whether the Premiership season had finished yet. With time I’m sure he’ll find his sound, as his songwriting seemed to hold up, but for now he just felt very vanilla on a day which could have done with some rum and raisin. (5/10)

Now while I was trying to escape Clarence Clarity’s sonic bombardment, I bumped into a young German girl who asked me for tips on who would blow her mind (aside from the obvious), to which I replied the next act on the Cargo Stage, “Findlay is nothing short of phenomenal every time I see her”.

Of course, by doing this, I inevitably delivered the kiss of death to her set.

For an act that normally struts about the stage with an incredible swagger and presence, I was shocked when she delivered a terribly staccato performance, bereft of showmanship and craft. Instead, it just felt like another day at the office. The fierce Debbie Harry-lite figure of Findlay had been neutered and stayed locked behind a set of oversize sunglasses. Whether it was a poorly-thought-out change of tact, to go from ferocious female aggressor to a sultry parlour singer grated on me. Because for the main part, barring from a rousing rendition of ‘On and Off’, she delivered a pedestrian performance stripped of the trademark character I’d promised to my new friend from Central Europe. In fact, it was so disappointing out the corner of my eye I saw the very Fraulein make for the exit after three songs. (6/10) Probably to get a good space for the next band on The Atlantic Stage…

Kings of the indie singalong The Cribs looked every bit the seasoned pros they are compared to some of the green-behind-the-ears acts gracing every one of the stages over the weekend. They easily drew the biggest crowd of the day so far, being probably one of the most recognisable names on the bill, and it’s probably to no surprise as well. Quite easily the three-piece could have turned up, delivered the hits and been on their way with a big smile on their faces – cash in pocket – job done. But instead they threw every bit of themselves into it, to the delight of the Liverpudlian crowd. The three-piece choral harmonies were great and really lifted the entire set, whilst the new poppier material lifted what could have been a bog-standard Cribs set to something far more. (7/10)

In fact, it was the perfect preface to former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes, the penultimate act on The Atlantic Stage. As expected, there were no frills and bells like the night before. No gimmicky matching jackets like Everything Everything and The Vaccines, despite Coombes definitely putting a bid in for Best Dressed Man at the festival with his attire. Instead, one of Britpop’s finest men on stage, guitar in hand, was trying his hand at going solo to good results.

Now, while his second solo album ‘Matador’ may have only debuted at number 18 in the Official UK Albums chart, in circles like Liverpool Sound City he was always going to get far more respect and credence than at another festival. Effortlessly cool and with the gently soaring masterpiece that is ‘Detroit’ in Coombes’ arsenal, he commanded the slowly fading light surrounding The Atlantic Stage. Although there were rumblings of ‘is he going to play ‘Alright’?’, in the crowd after a few of his originals, everyone seemed to settle down to enjoy a true legend of his era going out on his own. (8/10)

From one legend, to another. Belle and Sebastian carry with them the baggage of being cult stars. In fact, it’s difficult to find somebody these days that enjoys alternative music who DOESN’T name an experience watching Stuart Murdoch and co. as one of the crowning moments in their musical history. I waited with trepidation, as I’ve never GOT Belle and Sebastian; they’ve just never managed to excite me in the way I want music to. It’s all just felt like wallpaper–jazzy elevator music to me.

The group of Glaswegians manage to captivate the crowd, myself included, with their phenomenally deep songwriting. ‘Nobody’s Empire’ is a personal highlight, as Murdoch’s intensity is poured into every single lyric, as if he was living the experience right there in front of the crowd. It wasn’t the spectacular of colour The Flaming Lips served up, or the singalong, lad-rock frenzy of The Vaccines. But in their own way, Belle and Sebastian delivered one of the most soulful, warm and encapsulating sets of the weekend. (8/10)

So what did I learn this weekend? Delving into the unknown on highly-tipped acts like The Serpent Power and Clarence Clarity can sometimes be a dangerous endeavour, which can lead to your willy being commented upon on social media alongside pictures of genitals being sent to you. But bands like Houdini Dax, The People and the Poet and Hollysiz can come from left-field sources and end up being the highlights of the festival. That’s the joy of events like Liverpool Sound City and The Great Escape: while you can walk in on some absolute duds, it’s unlikely you’ll have a weekend of it with the sheer glut of musical talent on show. Just work on the stage layout guys, or The People and the Poet won’t be back…

 

Great Escape 2015: Day 3 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Friday, 22nd May 2015 at 11:00 am
 

Saturday at the Great Escape 2015, and the final homestretch is in sight. If you haven’t felt broken already, you probably will have woken up the last day with a sore head and wondering why you have put your body through this again for another year. This year at both stages of the Komedia, the festival offered up something new called Great Day Out, for which you could buy tickets for the two matinee lineups outside of the actual Great Escape. I guess it was an option for those only coming into Brighton for the day and wanting a slice (a very small one) just to get a taste of what the festival had to offer.

As laudable this idea was, it was a small nightmare for the door staff to cope with. The kind bouncer I chatted with actually apologised for the situation, explaining that because tickets were being sold for the event taking place in the two performance spaces, they had to limit the count of people inside more than they might normally do. He had the unenviable task of asking everyone in the badge queue who they had intended to see inside. Unfortunately for one very hung over person in our queue, he had no idea what he was queueing for, grabbing his programme from his back pocket and frantically checking who was actually on inside. Oops. When it came my turn, I was prepared. My answer was short and sweet. “Get Inuit.” After promising I was only going to stay in there for them, I was finally let in, albeit mid-set, after stepping into the main room for a bit to see how 2011 Great Escape TGTF stage alum K. Flay was getting on. The crowd were loving her. Good.

Get Inuit @ Komedia Studio Bar (Great Day Out)

Apparently the Pav Tav has a bad reputation among bands for their not so great soundsystem. So after seeing Get Inuit there the night before, I wanted to give them another try in a supposedly aurally better location. Interestingly, I didn’t hear much difference between the two shows, except maybe that the band felt even less inhibited by the situation than they had playing in a pub, the Komedia Studio Bar being a more intimate, lower-ceilinged place.

Get Inuit at the Great Escape 2015

Diving headfirst into a series of tunes that seem incredibly tight for a band that as only just released their first EP this year, their confidence shone through, and compared to the night before at the Pav Tav, it was the music that was front and centre and wildly, crazily enjoyable and not necessarily frontman Jamie Glass’ sometimes groan-worthy stage patter (sorry, Jamie). The punishing rock of ‘I Would’ was peerless, and despite its verbose, ominous title, ‘Coping with Death in a Nutshell’ has an awesomely melodic guitar I still have in my head to this day. Amusingly, a middle-aged American man came up to the band after, exclaiming, “you’re like the love child of Nirvana and Weezer!” I just stepped back and laughed. Huh, really? I don’t hear that at all. But if it leads to a record deal (as I assume it will) then I am all for it.

SLUG @ Dome Studio Theatre (Generator)

Our North East friends at the incredibly supportive to the UK music industry Generator were putting on an afternoon showcase at the Brighton Dome Theatre, and I for one was not going to miss it. Jagaara, whose set I’d seen the tail end of at Live at Leeds 2015, went over extremely well with the punters. But I was here for something…a bit off-kilter. I have always been amazed by the inventiveness and indeed the heart of the music coming out of Sunderland, especially anything touched by brothers David and Peter Brewis, whether it be Field Music, either of their solo projects, and anything in between. Both brothers and other local musicians Andrew Lowther and Rhys Patterson are part of the live backing band of gastropod-named SLUG, aka the project of Sunderland’s Ian Black.

SLUG at the Great Escape 2015

You know you’re in for something special when the frontman of a band appears onstage looking all formal in a suit and a white bowtie, as if he should be performing in front of a philharmonic, not in a venue at the Great Escape 2015. He’s also ginger, so the look goes a long way of softening any thoughts that you’re in for a hard rock onslaught by a real live Viking. That would be boring though. And entirely inappropriate for creative Mackems. A quick read down the tracklisting for Black’s debut album with Memphis Industries released in mid-April, ‘RIPE’, makes it clear this is music that couldn’t be further from the mainstream (‘Grimacing Mask’, ‘Kill Your Darlings’ and ‘Shake Your Loose Teeth’ are especially of note).

The percussive funk of LP standout track ‘Greasy Mind’ is inescapably catchy, while the almost down and dirty ‘Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped in Plastic’, with the falsettos by Black and his onstage compadres is another earworm that won’t be denied. The live performance, with tambourine, bongos, melodica and empty beer bottles (to be hit, naturally) augmenting the more usual rock band elements, was also hugely entertaining, with Black’s backing band all dressed in black turtlenecks and jeans, like they were a bunch of bohemians flown in from France. My guess that there were either large numbers of exiled North Easters and/or massive fans of SLUG in attendance at the Generator showcase, as the applause and whoops of delight at 3 in the afternoon for the band were as enthusiastic as one might expect for a dance band at midnight at the Great Escape. In any event, the SLUG performance was stunningly brilliant.

Orla Gartland @ Brighthelm Centre (Amazon Student UK)

Having seen Slaves in a sweaty, hilarious show at Coalition Friday night, I needed not to queue up with everyone else for the NME evening showcase at the Corn Exchange for the Kent punks but was now free to do as I pleased. And what would please me more than see one of the brightest stars of young Ireland I had the pleasure of seeing twice at SXSW 2015. Orla Gartland opened the Amazon Student UK show as the Brighthelm Centre, wearing what I think must be her lucky dress, a cute black and white number I recognised from Austin. I can’t imagine this spunky young lady ever being mad or angry. All three times I’ve seen her play now, she’s been this irrepressible ball of energy, like a ginger bolt of sunshine in human form and exactly the boost I needed after what felt like a very long Saturday that was making feel like I was going to cry.

Orla Gartland at the Great Escape 2015

Several punters down the front had trained their cameras on the young Gartland. For the entire show. Then they grabbed her set lists off the stage before I could even blink. Your time has come, Orla. Fanboys are a sure sign of success. Me, I was content snapping a couple of photos but I really just wanted to enjoy the show. Beginning with ‘Souvenirs’, Gartland breezed through an all too short set of her pop gems and as in Austin, she peppered the time with her audience with short stories that made her laugh and indeed, reminded us that she’s a normal young woman…except she leaves her friends’ house parties early when she’s come up with an idea for a new song. Needs must, eh? To close our her set, she played ‘Lonely People’, which has gone massive on Hype Machine, having over 300K plays on Spotify since it was released earlier this year. Positivity begets positivity. And Orla Gartland has nowhere to go but up.

Houdini Dax @ Mesmerist (Alternative Escape / This is Now Agency)

Houdini Dax are a Welsh band I have seen on many a festival list we’ve attended but somehow I never managed to fit them into a schedule (I recall one Liverpool Sound City where I had them written down, but I ended up missing them, not able to arrive in time at the venue). Saturday night in Brighton, I finally got my chance at the This is Now Agency showcase at the Mesmerist, familiar to me as being the locale for past Blog Up get-togethers. I don’t know if the place has been gentrified or what, but I don’t remember people being in line to get bespoke cocktails. The mojito doesn’t sound like something that should be native to Brighton.

After I had settled in at the bar with a Kiwi cider, Houdini Dax started up with their assault on our ears. I totally get now why I was never able to see this band before. I wasn’t ready. Until now. I don’t think I would have appreciated them 2, 3 years ago. You can tell the Cardiff trio’s roots are based in classic guitar bands like the Beatles, which is always a good start, because a good handle on the basics and being able to write a song that is catchy and being memorable are important keys to being successful in this business. But when you listen to them, as the guitar squeals and the bass and drums thump on a track like ‘Good Old Fashioned Maniac’, there it is, the heart and soul of a band who are in it for the right reasons. It is bands like Houdini Dax that make me want to keep going with what I’m doing. Older song ‘Our Boy Billy’ shows the group’s darker, bluesier side and their adeptness for playing in spades.

Houdini Dax at the Great Escape 2015

I’ve read that they’ve been playing together since they were in school, and that tightness as a unit shows when they play live. Even though I didn’t know the songs before I came into the room, I left with the definite feeling that I want to keep an eye on these lads because they’re entertaining live and they’re good songwriters. The band suffered a major setback back in March when their parked van was broken into in Manchester and all their gear was stolen. (Thanks to a grant by the Arts Council of Wales and Horizons / Gorwelion, they were given money to buy a new van. Yay, art councils!) But you’d never have even known anything had happened by the way they attacked their instruments Saturday night. If you have a heart and want to support a band worth supporting, donate what you can to their stolen gear fund here on GoFundMe.

Hold your horses, part 2 of my Saturday coverage of the Great Escape 2015 follows this afternoon.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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