The annual BBC Radio 6 Music Festival lands in Liverpool for the weekend and showcases our bright city for what it really is, the musical capital of the UK.
The Eventim Olympia was the opening ground, the venue that in its original heyday held a circus, tonight is the stomping grounds for the live adventures of BBC Radio 6, live on the Sounds app and BBC iPlayer.
The Olympia rarely looks this beautiful and full, sure the unique building is gorgeous but the stage often isn’t dressed this well. A fantastic set monument of Liverpool‘s architecture with the waves placed on the stage makes it look the part.
It’s perfect to welcome She Drew The Gun as the opening act, who look perfect with our city, their city, behind them.
She Drew The Gun are one of the city’s most vital and rising acts and were quite integral to be the first act live from the festival, playing tunes from their latest album and beyond, including the fantastic “Paradise“.
Bodega is introduced next, and carve out quite possibly the performance of the weekend, with their collective identity, it’s like watching a modern Velvet Underground via the new wave of Parquet Courts-type artistry.
Playing mostly from their debut album, Bodega is something quite special, beholding what Iggy Pop throws out as “raw power” if anybody has it, it’s this lot.
Late addition, Marika Hackman plays next. Opening with the warm “Wanderlust” playing solo, the jitters of a talking crowd don’t seem to bother her, although once the band joins her afterward entering “Blahblahblah” and onwards, the crowd notes that Marika Hackman isn’t a one dimensional artist, she’s an unpredictable slacker, bleeding that fuzzy tone with sharp bursts of melodic mayhem.
The headliner approaches at the Liverpool Olympia, as Anna Calvi takes center stage, dressed in a leather red outfit and her guitar almost glued to her, she’s definitely here to make noise.
Despite being in this large venue, and sounding out an almost deafening spike of sound, Anna Calvi somehow is able to make tonight feel quite intimate, her sonorous voice is absolutely beautiful and juxtaposed with her vicious Prince-esque guitar clatter.
While only playing five songs, all from her stunning debut Hunter last year, her almost effortlessly guitar moments and atmospherical breakdowns, her performance feels like a true festival headline spot, worthy of a late-night slot in a field somewhere, anywhere.
Entering Camp and Furnace on Saturday showed off the changes made by the BBC, the record stalls and stores in Camp, and the dressed up Furnace, it was all much more community-feeling than the much-missed Liverpool Psych Fest.
In Camp, we were treated to a conversation focusing on Making Music in Liverpool, with Liz Kershaw, in-which she was joined by a host of names from years gone, including Andy McClusky (of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), James Skelly (of The Coral) and a spark of our future in Louisa Roach (of She Drew The Gun) as they discussed how they started, record labels and Andy‘s blaring well-known love of Eric’s.
Following on, the beloved BBC Radio 6 Scouser and funk champion, Craig Charles was a guest on Matt Everitt‘s The First Time, in-which the two discussed Charles‘ firsts, including his first record owned (he stole it, the legend) which was “A Forrest” by The Cure.
Before heading out to the Olympia, we were able to catch the Merseyside heroes The Coral in force as they played live from Furnace, introduced by Craig Charles.
The loud set by The Coral certainly was attempting to wake themselves up, being at the Royal Albert Hall only less than 24 hours before, opening with “Sweet Release” off their latest the band moved in and out of older material and newer tracks, but renditions of “Bill McCai“, an amazing “Goodbye” and their final of the set “Dreaming of You” really stood out. Being knackered, The Coral seemingly still brought their “A” game.
The Olympia on Saturday night was a packed affair from the opening minutes, as tonight’s opener was maybe the most intense, hyped act of the year and the year before that, to be honest, IDLES.
Pounding the old circus-hall with their fierce new age politically charged sound, IDLES forced the Olympia to wake up and listen, opening with “Heel/Heal” and proceeding onwards, stopping before almost every song for frontman Joe Talbot to exclaim reasoning for the song choice, or to simply dedicate it. IDLES split their time between their thundering debut Brutalism and last year’s 6 Music Album of the Year, Joy as an Act of Resistance.
“Love Song“, “Danny Nedelko“, and “Mother” being set highlights, there really aren’t many acts playing live like this right now, and not many as important. Nearing the 45-minute ending mark, the band finishes on a song dedicated to the tragic passing of local favorites Her’s, as they burst into a fiery “Rottweiler“. Talbot thanks and leaves before the end as the band crashes out with pure noise, with guitarist Mark Bowen includes a loud cover of Her’s “Harvey” amidst the noise before finishing off with a bang.
Moving on, hometown gems Stealing Sheep had the task of following up that and did it perfectly. Playing off their new album Big Wows, the trio had their stylings complete and without fault. If you’re watching the performance on the iPlayer, you’d think that Stealing Sheep are playing up for the crowd and the telly, but you’d be mistaken. We’ve seen Stealing Sheep doing this, what they do better than anyone, with their stage dynamic and aesthetics in the smallest of venues for a number of years. The latest singles “Jokin Me“, “Show Love“, and “Big Wows” are the true highlights of the set, showing that every time they appear, Stealing Sheep get better and better.
The Irish folk band Villagers graced the stage with their hauntingly beautiful sound, fronted by Conor O’Brien, their first time playing this venue that has hosted some of the finest in their world. Coming off his stunning return The Art of Pretending to Swim, Villagers play pretty close to an hour, the longest of the night.
Villagers seem to make the walls talk with radiant renditions of “Sweet Saviour”, “Everything I Am Is Yours“, “A Trick of the Light“, his wondrous cover of Ray Peterson‘s “The Wonder of You“, the indescribable “Nothing’s Arrived” and finally unleashing a heavenly, pulchritudinous take of “Courage” to end. Villagers speak from the heart, and the crowd listens.
Half-an-hour passes before the headliner finally take the stage, introduced by Radio 6‘s Shaun Keaveny, as the un-imitatable The Good, The Bad and The Queen enter the perfect venue for their unique sound.
Beforehand, frontman Damon Albarn notes that the previous night during an African Express gig in London, he stressed out his voice screaming with Slaves, and apologized that he wouldn’t sound his best tonight, but regardless wouldn’t try any less than his best.
However, from the set opener of “Merrie Land“, Albarn seems to push it far more than expected, trying not to disappoint the adoring audience trying to see the supergroup that only arrives once every decade usually.
Riding high on, “Gun to the Head“, “Nineteen Seventeen” and “Lady Boston” make their appearances next with Albarn swapping between his jolty piano and the center stage in-between the trifecta of somewhat cult heroes that also make the supergroup Paul Simonon (of The Clash), Peter Tong (of The Verve), and Tony Allen (of Fela Kuti‘s Africa ’70).
The Good, The Bad and The Queen then play the final two off their latest album Merrie Land, the album highlight “The Truce of Twilight” and “The Poison Tree“, before closing out with the thunderous three-punch hit of “History Song”, “A Solider’s Tale” and finally “Kingdom of Doom“, which preceded with Albarn confirming they’d try the impactful song. which blew us away.
While we wish that they would’ve treated us to more than 25-minutes of The Good, The Bad and The Queen, but they’re back in Liverpool on the 18th and we’re sure everybody is convinced to see the full thing.
We traveled to Mountford Hall for our final night of the 6 Music Festival, and the shortest of the bills didn’t disappoint, closing us off quite perfectly.
Irish post-punks Fountaines D.C were tasked with opening the show, and while the band was on-form and had the crowd happy, we weren’t impressed. Fountaines D.C were an amalgamation of, likely, their heroes with frontman Grain Chatten seemingly doing his best Ian Curtis impression, while the band varies between Joy Division itself, The Clash and other forefathers.
Lyrically, they’re brilliant on paper, it is a soundtrack to a somewhat uneasy and fearful youth, but nothing too exciting, or enough to stand apart from their generational counterparts. We’ve heard it before, and maybe better.
Gang of Four operate next, the godfathers of post-punk are now only with one original member, but does that matter? It doesn’t. They’re still as exciting and empowered as ever, but they’ve got that obvious edge of their own counterparts from forty years back, they’re quicker and still sharp with new material, all kept together with Andy Gill‘s razor-sharp and piercing guitar. Same as it ever was.
Gill notes after “At Home He’s a Tourist” and “I Love a Man in Uniform” that the two songs were banned from BBC‘s Top of the Pops, yet that didn’t stop them in this day and age from ripping them out, the landscape of BBC has changed drastically but Gang of Four still carries on. Their final song “I Find That Essence Rare” is dedicated to Her’s, and gives us a final few minutes of their pioneering sounds.
The stage is beautifully set as we’re greeted by the terrific Charlotte Gainsbourg all the way from Paris, and she’s unimaginably wonderful. Gainsbourg and her band open with “Lying with You” and “Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses“, showing off her French pop-sounds that are still live by her hands.
“Paradisco“, “Bombs Away” are early showings of her sheer talent with an effortless band backing her every move, tied with a set-up like nobody else this weekend. Gainsbourg didn’t simply show up, she has brought her entire show for us.
“Deadly Valentine“, “Lost Lenore“, “The Songs That We Sing“, and “Such a Remarkable Day“, are dropped close towards of finish and we’re eating up all that we can while she’s here. After introducing us to her band, Charlotte Gainsbourg ends her set with her debut song that she originally had done with her father, the fantastic “Lemon Incest” as she closes.
We’re more than thankful that BBC Radio 6 would decide to spend a weekend showcasing our city and bringing some of the best music to it, it couldn’t have gone down any better.
You can look back at the entire weekend via the BBC Sounds app or at this iPlayer link to see if your opinion matches ours.
Words by Jack Cinnamond, and photography by Jessica Jayne Sharpe. Special thanks to BBC Radio 6 for inviting us to this year’s festival.