Liverpool Sound City Review 2015

There's something counter-intuitive about standing in a tent when it's daylight & the sun is shining.* Ady Suleiman doesn't seem to mind. Hoodie sleeves pushed up on his forearms, he's tasked with opening the Cargo stage for Sound City 2015 & taking a suitably serious approach. It’s a small but merry crowd, one couple dancing drunkenly to 'So Lost'. Amy Winehouse fans will like Suleiman's soulful ska & straight talking. "I wonder what your body looks like." The tent grooves into the weekend.

*Behind the clouds, we assume. It's a grey day, sure, but better than many. 

The Kraken tent cheers six-strong folk act The Sound Poets. Out on the North stage, Delta Rae looks frighteningly cold. It's gusty on the docks, at ground level even. I want to dip the band in hot chocolate & wonder briefly if the Tim Peaks Diner would oblige.

London act Vaults is understated but by no means underdone. Frontwoman Blythe Pepino is unmissable in traffic light red, eyeliner streaming (intentionally, we hope). She is barefoot singing ‘Poison’ & moving from the heart. New single ‘Cry No More’ is a tricky thing, sad & hopeful. Ethereal, electronic, I hear Massive Attack & get those same goodly emotional vibes. The bass at the Atlantic is something else. I spend several minutes watching the stage skirting shudder to the beat.

The Lytics have the Cavern under command, four bright voices in unison. It’s only when the stage empties that I catch sight of one of their number’s leg in a cast. How on earth did he manage all that bouncing? Carnival Youth is perfectly sentimental with numbers like ‘Never Have Enough’ & ‘Brown Eyes & All The Rest’. Before taking the mic, the drummer warns the next is a quiet song. “So yeah, you probably won’t hear anything.” Cute.

Back at North (getting the nautical theme now?), a Jack Sparrow lookalike has one leg up in the air, posed like a plucky pigeon as he strikes the synth.

Spector thrashes out 2012’s Chevy Thunder on the main stage. Lead singer Fred Macpherson has been growing his hair since I saw him last but is no less officious in trademark business attire. New single ‘All The Sad Young Men’ is affecting. “I don’t wanna make love, I don’t want to make plans. I don’t want anyone to want to hold my hand.” It’s a great set, easily as good as later acts Everything Everything & fellow Londoners The Vaccines.

All We Are reign supreme on day two, ‘Keep Me Alive’ an understandable hit. ‘Utmost Good’ is just that, delicious summer listening and even better live. After an obligatory stop at Dogtown & a healthy bout of VIP boat envy, we’re back at base for Dutch Uncles & Duncan Wallis’ enthused vibrato. There’s a video game quality to their sound that I love, playful & rhythmic always.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is another highlight & way more appealing to this reviewer than headliners The Flaming Lips, though without aid of flashy props. I bet Lonelady kills it too but as happens at a festival, we’re caught up enjoying & miss her completely. 

Bill Ryder-Jones is a discovery, at ease playing very personal tunes to the festival’s biggest stage. Moon King deserves a mention for their undersubscribed set at the Baltic, one of the new venue’s more exciting spaces. C.A.R. looks happy sipping Fosters in the sun & it’s ultimately refreshing to get a band all smiles.

Boys club The Raglans are raucous on the Cargo stage & give the audience an epic drumming break to close their set. Things get rowdier as the festival draws to a close, The Cribs not helping matters with older, better known material like ‘I’m a Realist’ & ‘Men’s Needs ’ stirring up the crowd. Security high-fives the first crowdsurfer to reach the front of the stage but I’m wondering if the joke is a little old the tenth & twelfth time. It’s great to watch, the hippies, mods & rockers, the hatted & bespectacled, all joining in the swell.

It’s hard to determine the ebbs & flows, the tarmac of the main stage emptying & filling in parts ahead of a hotly anticipated set from Belle and Sebastian. I’ll admit new album ‘Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance’ was my first encounter of the hugely popular indie outfit from Scotland, but I’m determined to explore their back catalogue after tonight’s showing.

I’m not sold on the new format. What made Sound City great in previous years was that it wasn’t one single identifiable & homogenous thing. It inhabited the cafes & bars of Liverpool’s cooler quarters & to that end, was supremely easy to access & enjoy. The docklands setting should be a win & there is more than enough music on offer, but I’m missing those laidback communal spaces that can make the in-between moments the best in a weekend (not counting the dodgem cars – they’re ace).

Let’s give it a year & see what’s what on the docks in 2016.



Bastille joins Sound City lineup

Last year saw Mercury Music Prize winners Alt-JJake Bugg and Django Django perform before the bands released critically and commercially acclaimed albums later in the year and previous performances have included early shows from Florence and the Machine, The Maccabees and Ed Sheeran.

BastilleThe most exciting prospect in indie for a long time, Bastille, recently entered the UK album chart at number 1 with their debut album, ‘Bad Blood’ and have been confirmed to appear at Sound City.  Bad Blood is full of triumphantly melancholic anthems, epic sounding instrumentation and lyrics that combine intimate stories and conversation and their clever pop has cast Bastille as leading lights in the current resurgence of guitar music in the UK.
Sound City is committed to providing a platform for emerging musical talent and new confirmations include the fuzzy guitars and chunky synth riffs of On an On, the psychedelic sounds of Temples, the dance floor friendly beats of local boys Tea Street Band, the effortless marriage of rock and electronica that is Duologue and hotly tipped Liverpool band Loved Ones.  By The Sea, All We Are, Broken Men, Bird, Nadine Carina, Ady Suleiman, Concrete Knives, Sun Glitters, Mutiny On The Bounty, Afternaut and Silent Sleep also join the bill.
The line-up for this year’s Sound City is hugely impressive and will feature very special shows from Noah and the WhaleDexys and The Walkmen, all of whom will be performing in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.  Other acts not to be missed at Sound City include Everything EverythingAlunaGeorgeMelody’s Echo ChamberUnknown Mortal OrchestraKing KruleMount Kimbie, Thee Oh Sees, Drenge and Oneohtrix Point Never as the globes most pioneering musical adventurers descend on Liverpool for the first festival of the year.
Sound City is a snapshot of everything that is vital in music right now.
Noah and the Whale / The Walkmen / Dexys / Bastille / Everything Everything / Enter Shikari / Thee Oh Sees / Darwin Deez / Delphic / Mount Kimbie / Reverend and the Makers / AlunaGeorge / Dutch Uncles / King Krule / Oneohtrix Point Never / Future Of The Left / Toy / Wave Machines / Egyptian Hip Hop / Stealing Sheep / Drenge / Savages / Melody’s Echo Chamber / Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Ian Prowse & Amsterdam / Darkstar / Outfit / Swim Deep / Alessi’s Ark / The 1975 / PINS / Wolf People / Theme Park / Jetta / Hawk Eyes / Bipolar Sunshine / Loom / Deep Sea / Arcade / The Family Rain / Blackeye / Skaters / Splashh / Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs / Dan Croll / Soley / Lulu James / Arcane Roots / Still Corners / Luls / Hands / Wild Smiles / Mikill Pane / Bebe Black / Jacob Banks / Murkage / Bo Ningen / Big Deal / Amateur Best / Night Engine / Fossil Collective / Marmozets / Hacktivist / Brolin / Mind Enterprises / Golden Fable / Neck Deep / Likely Lads / On An On / Temples / The Tea Street Band / Duologue / Loved Ones / By The Sea / All We Are / Broken Men / Bird / Nadine Carina / Ady Suleiman / Concrete Knives / Sun Glitters / Mutiny On The Bounty / Afternaut / Silent Sleep