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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.

 

Video of the Moment #1464: The Kill Van Kulls

 
By on Wednesday, 5th March 2014 at 6:00 pm
 

Manchester’s The Kill Van Kulls have revealed their new video for ‘Wishing’, which is prefaced with the knowledge that they self-recorded this and have never acted before. But that doesn’t really matter for a rock band though as long as the music’s good, yeah? (Well, I guess if you get claustrophobic and don’t like Mancunian in close quarters, this might make you anxious…) Watch it below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAZ6j7_cqYg[/youtube]

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013: Martin’s Day 1 Roundup

 
By on Tuesday, 14th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Martin’s high-res photos from the Thursday can be viewed on his Flickr.

Acts of the day: Moongaï, Findlay, The Oreoh!s (known now as the Orielles as of 26/11/13)

Venue of the day: Kazimier Gardens

It wasn’t until the final night of Liverpool Sound City 2013, whilst tramping up Seel Street for the umpteenth time that weekend, that I had a flash of the blindingly obvious: that people other than music fans are allowed to party in this area of the city as well! The past couple of nights had seen the handful of parallel streets that accommodate the countless music venues which form the heart of LSC13 dominated by so many wristband-toting musos that it was easy to forget that regular Liverpudlians on their well-deserved Saturday night shindig were permitted to use the facilities as well. What they made of the invasion of the weird, wild and wired LSC13 crowd was unclear, but none seemed uncomfortable in the others’ company. From established acts with nothing to prove, via young bucks seemingly teetering on the brink of stardom, to those dipping their toes in the waters of showcasedom for the very first time, such was the quality on offer that one could stick a pin in the LSC13 poster and have every confidence that the randomly-chosen act wouldn’t disappoint. Each person’s itinerary is by definition decided as much by practicalities, happenstance and opportunity than judicious planning, and as such is simply a snapshot of the event as a whole rather than any attempt to unravel the latest and greatest. With that caveat in mind, here’s my take on the Thursday:

Nateley's Whore's Kid Sister Liverpool Sound City 2013

Any thought of easing in gently is discarded in favour of a powerful punch in the ear courtesy of fellow Tynesiders Nateley’s Whore’s Kid Sister (@NWkidsister). Shorn of the stocking masks they were wearing last time I saw them, but lacking none of their previous raw power, Nateley’s deliver an uncompromising set perfectly summed up by their “alternative sludge” bio description. As subtle as slamming your hand in a car door. [Probably one of the weirdest names for a band since Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head too – Ed.]

Moongai Liverpool Sound City 2013

For some light relief, the first trip to the Kazimier Gardens for Moongaï‘s (@moongai) baroque mélange of idiosyncratic Gallic pop. They’re all in retro fancy dress, the music heavy with that combination of style, eccentricity and camp that the French excel at. Eva whoops beautifully over the band’s electronica-tinged upbeat pop; by the time she has scampered through the entire audience, exhorting them to ever higher levels of appreciation and excitement through a loudhailer, everyone is bemused and captivated in equal measure. Brilliant, original, bonkers.

Findlay Liverpool Sound City 2013

Findlay give great show. There’s a fine, guitar-heavy performance from the band, with particular mention to the gentleman guitarist who gamely attempts to compete with his vocalist for the audience’s indulgence. But it would be inaccurate of me to say that very much attention was paid to anyone at all but the eponymous lead singer. Attired in a skinny, clingy leopard skin dress, gyrating and emoting for all she’s worth, Findlay the band are essentially a vehicle for the lead singer’s stage presence. Her voice drips with ’70s new wave punk attitude; recent single ‘Your Sister’ showcases it perfectly: a bitter slice of pop rock, its fiercely snarled refrain demonstrating just how much potential this young act have. In Findlay we may be witnessing the emergence of a genuine rock star.

Reverend and the Makers Liverpool Sound City 2013

Reverend and the Makers are received with rapturous applause, and Jon McClure unashamedly bathes in it, acting for all the world like God’s gift to rock ‘n’ roll, rather than a paunchy Yorkshireman in his thirties. After a brief meeting earlier in the day, he seems like a delightfully down-to-earth chap, who just happens to be held in a position of adulation by a certain type of laddish crowd previously entertained by Oasis and their ilk. This reviewer is far too much of a music snob to be able to enjoy this sort of thing: the songs are all pretty basic, formulaic affairs, and the whole shebang would have little appeal if it weren’t for McClure’s irrepressible personality. Everybody bounce!

AlunaGeorge Liverpool Sound City 2013

BBC Sound of 2013 alums AlunaGeorge are the great new hope of mainstream British urban music, and their live show just about keeps that optimism on track. Aluna Francis has as good a voice live as on record, and the band are highly competent; one might hope for a little bit more soul in the performance, but no doubt that will come with time.

The Oreohs Liverpool Sound City 2013

Next up are one of the most surreal and surprising acts of the festival: The Oreoh!s hail from Halifax and trade in delightful 3-minute punk-pop ditties which sound far more mature than their age would suggest. Did I mention their age? They barely look old enough to have taken their GCSEs, let alone be knocking out some very cool songs at midnight at a music festival. I know appearances can be deceptive, but there’s no way any of them would get served for a much-needed post-gig beer without proffering ID, poor things. The natural conclusion is: if they’re this good at such a tender age, where will they be in a couple of years? Ones to keep an eye on.

The Kill Van Kulls Liverpool Sound City 2013

As if to prove the fickleness of the music biz, Manchester’s The Kill Van Kulls bring their intelligent, well-honed set of catchy, poppy, guitar epics to a mere handful of people. They were admittedly ear-splittingly loud for such a small venue, but still it sticks in the throat a bit, with memories of the Makers’ enormo-rabble fresh in the memory – the KVKs are leagues ahead in the musical department. Still, the band give it their all, with guitar histrionics aplenty. I need to see them again, in a proper venue, and a proper crowd, which is presumably what they get most other days of the week.

Bastille Liverpool Sound City 2013

Rumours abound that Bastille is full to capacity, but the opportunity to catch the man of the moment is too good to pass up, so I took a chance and headed over. Even though the room was busy, it wasn’t full – shame the same couldn’t be said for the photo pit, which was rammed with photographers trying to catch that iconic shot which could propel them out of a sweaty pit and into the catwalks of the South of France. The crowd are pretty mad for the well-crafted pop, which catches just enough of the zeitgeist to be cool, but is traditional enough to appear unthreatening to enough people to fill a sizeable venue such as tonight’s disused car park. Bastille Dan takes it all in his stride, despite his trademark gravity-defying hairstyle taking a beating. A competent performance, but I still prefer the record.

Tired of foot and exhilarated of brain, a quick peek into the delegate after party at the Epstein Theatre reveals – in amongst the scattered bodies of industry heads and liggers who’ve indulged in one too many sweet sherries throughout the evening – the final gem of the night. MiC LOWRY (pictured at top) are a five-piece self-described “boy band” who trade in the sweetest harmonies this side of the Jackson 5. Cast in the classic mould of an act like Boyz II Men, for a few brief numbers the Epstein is alive with buttery-smooth soulful sounds from these five cheeky Scouse lads. They’re so eminently ripe for the plucking by a Cowell-style ‘mentor’, you can almost s the X-Factor breathing down their necks. One can only hope they get proper, sympathetic advice that sees them grow their career in a steady, long-term fashion, rather than chewed up and spat out by the industry machine; the world needs to hear MiC LOWRY.

 

Video of the Moment #1116: The Kill Van Kulls

 
By on Tuesday, 5th February 2013 at 6:19 pm
 

Manchester’s Kill Van Kulls have released a new video for ‘Wooden Heart’, the title track of their forthcoming EP to be released on the 18th of March on Manchester’s newest independent record label, simply entitled Label. Filmed in the stunning confines of St. Philip’s Church, it’s atmospheric to a T. Watch it below.

The band will be touring in March with TGTF 10 for 2012 alums (#2) Strangers; all the details are under the video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUs6vtrBylQ[/youtube]

Friday 22nd March 2013 – Northampton Labour Club
Wednesday 27th March 2013 – London Babble Jar
Friday 29th March 2013 – Manchester Soup Kitchen

 

Video of the Moment #749: The Kill Van Kulls

 
By on Thursday, 29th March 2012 at 6:00 pm
 

I introduced the Kill Van Kulls to you last summer in this Bands to Watch. The Manchester band have now released a promo video for the anthemic ‘Impossible Man’, released as a digital download on KVK Records. I find the words “I can’t get you out of my mind / ooh woman, forget me / I’m an impossible man” fragile and sad. Watch the video below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEApozi3_84[/youtube]

 

Bands to Watch #224: The Kill Van Kulls

 
By on Wednesday, 24th August 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

Does Manchester really need another electropop band? Between Delphic and the Whip…err…probably not. Anyone who dares to do it now is also going to get the unfair New Order comparison. But I think this one, the oddly-named Kill Van Kulls, deserves a moment of your time. The bouncy bass line and gentle synths at the start of their song ‘Lost and Found’? Very new wave ’80s. (HELLO. Based on these two things alone, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion I’d love this. Have a listen to ‘Fools Wish’…uhhh…there goes my heart on the floor. Think Simple Minds. Watch them perform the song pretty much acoustically below, with the iconic wallpaper at Manchester Deaf Institute as a backdrop, filmed by Manchester Scenewipe.)

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/19661890[/vimeo]

The vocals? MGMT, or possibly current darlings Foster the People. The happiness? The Naked and Famous. I can’t find much about these guys at all on the Web, so if you represent them or something, get in touch, because they seem to be the most mysterious thing to come out of MCR since WU LYF.

And if you really need more persuading, consider that this Manchester quartet will help drown out the noise of those other famous sons of the city yelling at each other. So let’s stop squabbling and enjoy the music eh, Gallaghers?

 
 
 

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