While issues stand, Liverpool Sound City triumphs with their return to the city, as Sound City takes over the Baltic Triangle for the weekend.
Last year, Liverpool Sound City brought their signature Liverpool festival to the docklands at Clarence Docks, however this year it seems as-if they’ve partially retreated to the budding Baltic Triangle outside of the city centre.
Usually home to Threshold and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, who have both either fallen behind or aren’t running 2018, the Baltic Triangle is the warehouse-by-day, party-by-night area of Liverpool that houses several incredible venues in-use this weekend.
While Sound City becomes more homely and seems to suit the depths of the Baltic better, several issues have arose this year.
Firstly, the bill has seemingly taken a dive from previous years. Instead of headliners like Metronomy, Flaming Lips, The Vaccines, Belle & Sebastian etc. we see DMA’S and Peace take the headline spot.
After last year, with John Cale, The Human League, Gary Numan and Brian Wilson taking sideshows, our thoughts are where has the grandness gone?
There are far less attractive acts this year than previous years. However, it is a double-edged sword in itself. While the big names aren’t here, Liverpool Sound City have brought two days of fantastic, brand new and rising names.
Another major issue we found was general security and logistics, while Saturday was full of drinkers watching the match rather than Sound City, and we were checked for our wristbands twice over the two days. Especially at the likes of Birdie’s and On Air, we saw many sneak-in without passes.
Arriving Saturday to a sun-filled Sound City was a true initiation, and the area was packed.
After glimpsing different venues and catching bearings, the first act on our list were The Fernweh.
The Skeleton Key band easily went through their half-an-hour slot leaving a great impression on those at Constellations’ Garden. The Fernweh sound as-if they’re Love ran-through a great English coal-mine, with their deep wandering sounds that are made for this weather.
The Fernweh, photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe.
Moving over to District, which got full very easily, Modern Sky UK held their showcase of talent, but we were here namely for the hype surrounding The Blinders.
Very rarely does hyperbole live-up, but on this occasion it does. The Blinders tore through their slot like a pack of dogs.
The Blinders, photography by Pip Johnson.
The room certainly shows that the kids are alright and they’re still into rock n’ roll, throwing themselves around, forcing Sound City to issue a full-capacity warning on their app.
The Blinders were tight, crashing through “Gotta Get Through“, “Brave New World“, “Ramona Flowers” and others. The ending of their performance was chaotic glory, as a young-man from the crowd flung onto the stage, and before he’s thrown-out, he is embraced by The Blinders, and armed with a mic to yell “fuck the Tories” to uproar. It’s only early, but we’ve got a feeling this is the best of Sound City right here.
Meanwhile, On Air was a pleasure all weekend, gaining softer sounds over brash noise, and what a lovely venue.
Wild Front were finishing-up as we arrived, their indie-pop sound was nice, but from little we saw, not enough to stand-out from the crowd.
Zuzu was up next, the hometown artist and current Bido Lito! cover-star has fine anticipation, and unfortunately it has been a while since we last saw her.
Zuzu, photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe.
Zuzu brings her scouse-toned pop-rock to the table and impresses across the board, lyrically winsome and musically catchy, there’s no flaws. “What You Want“, “Get Off” and latest single “Beauty Queen” show-off the resilient sound portrayed by Zuzu and her band.
Outside at Birdies, Boston‘s Vunderbar lay down their darkened post-punk voice, and it sounds perfect for the slowing darkening sky.
We reach Hangar34, across from Constellations, looking for something other than monotonous DMA’s and we found it.
The Slow Readers Club are in the midst of their set, with a huge atmosphere. The room is full of those thinking similar, and dancing the night away with another Modern Sky band.
The Slow Readers Club, photography by Pip Johnson.
The Slow Readers Club, for those who don’t know, are Manchester‘s latest great band. Armed with a sound that strikes familiar with the movements of part Manchester icons, The Slow Readers Club bolster dark electro-rock that insures a good time and atmosphere.
They’re on-fire too, we’re very aware that one-day attendees have packed Furnace to see their first and last band of the day, but as the direct opposite, The Slow Readers Club have captured Hangar34 to the brim and everyone is in-love with them.
Why wouldn’t they be? They’re most certainly a band who knows how to put on a show, and they don’t treat Liverpool any different than home.
The rest of our night is here at Hangar34, King Hannah was on next opening the after-party.
Their gothic-rock took away the light in Hangar34 and threw us into the dark. There wasn’t much depth in the young band, but there was a lot to build upon. Vocalist Hannah Merrick holds a striking voice that kept us wanting more, and while King Hannah‘s War On Drugs-esque racket was held us on the brink of interest, there wasn’t enough to captivate.
After-party headliners King Khan and The Shrines arrived next and threw Sound City into a late-night dizzy.
Dressed in a one-piece jumpsuit, with two cut-out shapes showing off his behind, and his big hair, King Khan gets a legend’s introduction.
While with King Khan & the BBQ Show, Khan‘s vintage sound is more on the psych wavelength, however when he’s rarely out by himself, he tackles R&B greatly.
King Khan and the Shrines, photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe
Just an hour of King Khan isn’t enough, the cult-icon springs into funk-balanced action like the reborn James Brown, with “Bite My Tongue“, “No Regrets” and others leading early.
While the dance continues, Khan shows-off “I Wanna Be a Girl” and his finale “Children of the World” brings everyone together at the end. It’s a place for love, and dancing, all what King Khan preaches.
Sunday seems somewhat quieter, sure it’s not sold-out like the day before, but there does seem like less footfall.
The first on our list was Mary Miller at the Blade Factory. We’ve championed Mary Miller before, and she’s better every time we’re able to see her.
Backed by textured trap-like loops, Miller stands lone with her guitar and in-simplistic form is able to catch the room in her way. Her lyrics afflict quite naturally, rather than attempted wordsmiths with dictionaries, Mary Miller instead aims for honesty.
Different from last time, her sound has taken a big leap. The last songs of her set spark with big hits, and large soundscapes that really build her. Everytime is different, and they’re all a treat with this rising artist.
Over at Hangar34, we meet the most impressive act of the weekend, The Howl & The Hum.
The Howl & The Hum preform a vivid half-an-hour set that perfectly captures the band in it’s way. More-so than anything else, The Howl & The Hum are storytellers, awaking different characters within different songs and flawlessly painting a picture with each song.
The Howl and The Hum, photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe
While earlier tracks were great, the band picked up onto another level with the appearance of “Don’t Shoot at Hurricanes” and the brilliant single “I Wish I Was A Shark“.
The Howl and The Hum are a seriously great band that we’re definitely convinced you won’t have heard the last of.
Back at On Air, Sam Frankl plays his big-sound pop. While it doesn’t stand-out at a festival full of everything imaginable, Sam Frankl gets a warm reaction from attendees.
Afterwards, we see Love Ssega take the stage and astonish. Formally starting out as a member of Clean Bandit, Love has struck-out on his own and has been able to craft a sound that beats it in every way.
The emerging South Londoner is definitely one to talk about, waking up a rugged crowd at On Air with his somewhat off-kilter funk-influenced songs.
Seatbelts are next on at 24 Kitchen Street, featuring members of local standouts Hooton Tennis Club, Seatbelts brand of wacky, layered pop-rock was a delight. While debut single “Hey Hey Tiger” was a treat, it’s notable that that’s not all Seatbelts have up their sleeve.
Afterwards, a stop by Constellations reveals us to a razor-sharp Connie Constance. Variously associated, Constance is on the brink to be something big, and that’s no surprise. Her sound travels across different genres while soulful, endearing lyrically. Her narratively-led mind explores a lot, and there’s no wonder why Connie could and should be one of those to definitely keep both ears on. With a side-note, her Boring Connie EP is available now.
At Furnace, Stealing Sheep‘s captivating Suffragette Tribute is taking over with routine dance and a brilliant drum-led soundscape, the trio once again strike gold with one of their out-there ideas.
And once again, we dodge the headliners. Peace are about as rock n’ roll as an apple, there is far more out there.
Instead, we reach Constellations Garden to see Riding The Low finish off Tim Burgess‘ curation. Terrific and nosiey, Riding The Low encapsulate rock n’ roll at it’s finest, something Peace wish they could do.
Over at Baltic Market, Queen Zee returned to Sound City.
*They waste no time and quickly jump right into “Sissy Fists” to get the crowd filled with adrenaline and ready for what’s next. After powering through “Lucy Fur” and “Boy” they are informed of the unfortunate news that their set has been cut short due to the timings being behind. Having half their set cut and the crowd upset of this they break into a one of their signature cover tracks, this time of Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers” to cheer everyone up before they play their final two songs; “Porno”, a song about having shit sex (Let’s face it, we have all been there at one point or another) and “I Hate Your New Boyfriend”, a self explanatory song.
While it is sad that their set was cut short (even for those who have seen them 13 times) Queen Zee have the power to leave a lasting impression even if they can only play half their planned set, with the front row turning into a mini mosh pit with everyone involved jumping around soaking up every second Queen Zee have to offer.*
Afterwards, we end our night with the utterly brilliant Superorganism.
Superorganism have rose to levels that a band of their age struggle to, but their wacky pop strikes a chord with its crowd.
Their show is unblemished, their costumes, video background and actually ability lead into one another.
The band plays through their debut album, opening with “It’s All Good“, he band is loud and the crowd is ready for the party.
Pumping through forty minutes, Superorganism play “Nobody Cares“, “Night Time“, “The Prawn Song” early, and the crowd is loving it.
Frontwoman Orono is still a kid-at-heart, cracking jokes throughout the show, often missing cue-in for songs hilariously.
The band finish up with two huge sing-along tracks, their two standouts, “Everybody Wants To Be Famous” and “Something For Your M.I.N.D” that take their show to the climatic height, with everyone going mad for Superorganism.
They’re a band of the internet age, and there’s very few like them. Live, they’re something else, a unadulteratedly fun experience.
Words by Jack Cinnamond, with Queen Zee review by Pip Johnson*. Photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe and Pip Johnson.