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Liverpool Sound City 2015: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Wednesday, 27th May 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Liverpool Sound City is in its seventh year and for the first time has moved from its spiritual home within the centre of the city. Before, the music was irretrievably mixed up in a maze of streets within the heart of Liverpool; the festival turned the already vibrant area into a thronging haven of musical activity, with bands popping up in warehouses and on the street in a metropolitan mezze of musical delicacies to amuse any palate. This year still served up a veritable banquet to satisfy any taste buds, but this time festival-goers needed to travel 20 minutes outside of the centre of Liverpool for the event.

Bizarrely, this report from Liverpool Sound City 2015 comes from the Docklands this year. The setting is quaint, if you manage to block out the industrial sprawl you’ve walked past to get there. One of the unique selling points of Sound City in its earlier guise was its central location. So the decision to plonk it way down the road has left many, including this writer, scratching their heads and with sore feet from walking to the secluded site.

Luckily, I found a solution: Liverpool’s version of the ‘Boris Bike’ to get me from the centre of the city where 99% of the hotels are to the festivals site. Again, the site is a departure from the dotting of venues around the city, as now in a more conventional festival manner, each stage is within a set perimeter.

My first impression of the actual layout of the site was one of confusion, but in such tight confines, after 15 minutes of ambling around with a dazed look on my face I managed to get my bearings on where everything was. The most striking feature was, understandably, the giant disused warehouse that was being used as The Baltic Stage. The first band up in the vast venue were Barberos, a three-piece from Merseyside, but not exactly one straight out of the textbook.

Yes, all dressed head to toe in sparkly silver morph suits, Barberos feel like they’ve been transplanted out of the realms of science fiction and onto a stage where their primary aim is to creep the shit out of you. From almost start to finish, their tribal roars and wave of drums echoed furiously around the disused warehouse, while the screech of their synths worked to either drive people from the venue or numb them into a stupor. Their sonic assault on almost every one of my senses proved too much and after three songs I felt my eardrums literally splitting in two and decided instead to go and sample less screechy and space age music. Perhaps they’re just scores ahead of their time? To quote Marty McFly, “your kids are gonna love it’. (5/10)

At the end of Stanley Docks, where the festival now calls its home, was The Atlantic Stage, which was acting as the Main Stage. Scottish band Neon Waltz, who’ve recently been snapped up by Noel Gallagher’s management, were first on and whilst they drew a good crowd for the first band of the day, their performance was all a bit glib and dry. It felt like for the 30 minutes they were building to something which might be a little more exciting, like the second time you sleep with someone, but in the end you just realise the exciting bit is never going to come, despite how much promise is shown at first. Plus the lead singer, whose mum then tried to banter me off on Twitter, *does* look about 2, despite being 18 or 24. I’m not sure really. (6/10)

Despite a classic seafront breeze chilling everyone on the docklands to the bone, a rather large crowd had amassed at The North Stage for Francopop artist HollySiz, not least because her outfit left little to the imagination. Immediately, HollySiz had the crowd fixated on her, throwing herself around the stage like a ragdoll. Opening with the inflammatory ‘Tricky Game’, she already conjured up images of your early ‘80s Europop with strong synths and a staccato pace.

It wasn’t exactly Kraftwerk but HollySiz had an air of authority that she demanded from square one on The North Stage. The closest mainstream comparison of the last few years I can give to her was Gossip, although I’d argue HollySiz had an air of the rock and rolls about them. She had the presence of Beth Ditto though, but without the hairy armpits. She finished the set by leaping into the crowd and taking a leaf out of the Slipknot / Frank Turner books by getting everyone to sit on the floor and leap up. Now, anyone who can do it as successfully as she did before the sun goes down at around 6 in the evening on a chilly Liverpudlian day has definitely made an impression. (9/10)

Briefly, I stumbled into The Cavern Stage, to catch a glimpse of old-fashioned Derry four-piece The Clameens. It was light-hearted spiky pop guitar riff driven music, with influences like Arctic Monkeys, Two Door Cinema Club and The Undertones shining prominently through. Songs like ‘She’s Got My Heart’ and ‘Follow’ had the crowd swaying and jumping up and down, whilst their happy-go-lucky demeanour meant the audience all had a well needed dose of summery smile injected into them before they faced the gloomy Liverpool skyscape on the way out of the tent. (7/10)

Bad Meds were next on my port of call (get it, I’m at the docklands and I just said ‘port’) in the setting of the Baltic Stage. Within the confines of the giant disused warehouse, their reverb laden rock sounds utterly enormous and the sheer simplicity of their songwriting works to make the unconverted thoroughly converted. I mean, what’s not to like about songs where you remember how you died in 1995, or that one about how you left a cult?

The highlight though is undoubtedly ‘It’s Grim Up North’, their take on the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu song. The concept: a list of lots of cities in the North and how grim they are. It’s just about that offensive that you can probably say its genius, and it’s not half true too: I mean, have you been to Crewe? It’s grim. 10/10 for originality. Probably less for friend-making in the region though… (8/10)

Stay tuned for the second half of John’s day 1 report from Liverpool Sound City tomorrow.

 
 
 

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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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