Festival Review: Threshold 2015

thresholdThreshold Festival 2015

threshold v full poster27th-29th March 2015, Liverpool

Words: Elena Katrina and Gary Lambert

Threshold Festival 2015 wasn’t just about music. It was about music, art and performance too but most of all, what I learnt was, that it was about community and a love for something bigger than itself.  I always come away from festivals with a few new friends and a huge smile. This time I feel like I’ll never really leave Threshold behind though, because even though it’s over,  it’s within me, it’s within everyone who went and that’s a pretty amazing thing for a festival to achieve.

FRIDAY

Friday night I had already dubbed “party night”- this was the night of big bands, big sounds and exciting exclusive pre-festival launches. Our top tips for Friday night included the wonderful Lyons and La Zel. They opened up the festival in Unit 51 with style and smiles thanks to their unique blend of soul, jazz-infused guitar riffs and beatboxing and left us ready to get the party started.

Outside on the Constellations stage Rumjig did their up-tempo jiggery-pokery and got people out in the freezing cold for dancing, and not just to keep warm. Their sparkling vocal tones, brass notes and general joyousness was reason enough to get everyone moving and cheering. There was a party to be had and it was had all right.

At the other edge of the Triangle, 24 Kitchen Street saw performance and art take over the space thanks to Inkbeat. Bandito Rey and BeLOey comfortably sat alongside each other despite their varying differences in sound – the somewhat steady-paced atmospheric guitar-based rock sounds from Bandito Rey versus the aural mayhem of beats, bass, flute and fast-paced rap from BeLOey featuring guest James Lyons, giving you something to really sink your musical gnashers into.

I had it on good authority that The Fire Beneath The Sea are one of Liverpool’s much-loved party bands, so I scuttled back to Greenland Street to see them play in The Observatory.  Now, they really brought the party to our Threshold party night. With at least ten people jostling for space on stage, they raced through high-octane numbers filled with upbeat hip hop, soul, funk, jazz and beats. It was a heady concoction, which caused the crowd to lose control of their feet for the full half an hour set. It felt like they left the stage too soon, leaving behind them a thoroughly exuberant throng baying for more.

You’d think it couldn’t have got any better, yet Threshold kept their secret weapon for last. Nubiyan Twist. The dub, afro beat, neo soul collective from London/Leeds graced The Observatory stage and tore the place apart. Their set included many numbers from their recent self-titled debut album, including my favourite, Work House. The band were spot on with every note, every thud and every whistle. The impressive lung work from the brass section didn’t go at all unnoticed by anyone and lead singer Nubiya Brandon was soulful, sassy, sexy and oozed sophistication as she took command of her mic, singing and rapping as though it was as easy as breathing to her. These guys n gal were super slick, fabulously fun and made me dance so hard my hip popped out and back into its socket. Can’t ask for higher praise than that really can you?

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SATURDAY

Saturday began for me in the Liverpool Craft Beer Space checking out many of the amazing art installations whilst also catching some live music courtesy of Katie McLoghlin. It finished with me seeing what must be one of my now favourite Liverpool bands – Broken Men. I think there must have been a competition between photographers to see who could take the most shots as this was photog heavy for at least half of the set. That didn’t put a downer on it though. There’s no way anything or anyone can keep people away from this band and the crowd surged ever closer, feeling and feeding off the pounding force and energy that seeps from this band’s every pore as they strut out funk and punk infused rock n roll.

Between Katie and Broken Men I ventured out around the Baltic Triangle and caught an impressive set from Indigo Sky, a few songs by (2 of 6 of) The Ragamuffins, a cracking live set from Colour in Unit 51 as well as finding myself on a dime button badge and telephone box hunt in order to gain access to the marvellous and very secretive Drop The Dime stage. Here we witnessed the queen of cool Natalie McCool take to the stage with her friend and musician Silent Cities. There were several exceptionally beautiful collaborations between the pair before Natalie treated us to several of her tracks with her new band. This included one of my favourite tracks of the year so far – Pins. I then hot-footed it (ok I drove due to hip pain!) back to Constellations to check out The Soul Rays. I’d heard loads about this huge 14 piece band, which includes three soulful lead singers and a brass section as well as a solid back line! These guys got so much love that when the stage manager tried to curtail their set the crowd erupted into cries and shouts of “one more song”. Eventually bowing to the pressure the stage manager let us have our way and it was well and truly worth it. The Soul Rays smashed it with a guest appearance from a clearly wonderfully eccentric Matt ‘Mook’ Mak.

Meanwhile our roving reporter Gary Lambert was busy checking things out. His first port of call was  The Baltic Social for the Liverpool Acoustic Stage. This stage featured a collection of  acts who can regularly be found playing in town and first he caught Shebeat – the musical alter-ego of Liverpool Beerdfest Empress Jodie Schofield. She was followed by John Rush – Gerard Butler with a lyric sheet instead of a script.  A witty, urbane Glaswegian enjoying his first time in Liverpool. His track Drink With Me was reminiscent in vocal terms of an early Rod Stewart, ironically before Rod Stewart became Scottish.  Although it was acoustic, it was still at a bouncy, fun pace which the audience bought in to. Iain Till slowed the pace and moved the vibe from country to more folk stylings.

I then sent poor Gary out into the cold and off to District to catch a few rockier bands. First up, Scarlet, a female-fronted rock band led by the confident, hip-swaying Jessie, ably supported by a band of talented musicians who seem to have a strong bond on stage. Blood Lips, a rocking three-piece from North Wales, created a great wall of sound without going down an over the top rock cliché route.

Gary also stumbled upon Mersey Wylie’s performance over in Constellations, claiming it was a complete WOW! Truly magnificent and exciting for the future. High praise indeed. Moving along for a  complete change of pace he then headed to Blade Factory to witness (Atlas) v Pocket Apocalypse take part in a really interesting concept; Battle of the Bands style but instead of a clapometer and a 1970’s style ringleader begging for audience participation, we had two bands set up face to face and the toss of a coin to decide who was going to play the first song.  (Atlas) were up first and produced a series of powerful, fun garage rock.  Their first song got the audience tingling, which they thrived upon and didn’t back down from, “your turn bitches” was the swaggering finish as they passed over the mic.  Pocket Apocalypse hit the ground running from that pinging right on the end of indie/rock without stepping over into metal or indulgence of white noise.  It was great to watch the interaction and respect between the two bands as they performed opposite each other, clapping, dancing and studiously watching their rivals.

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 SUNDAY

Sunday saw the fantastic Aladdin’s cave that is Capstans Bazzar take over The Observatory with wonderful home-made nicknacks and cake. I picked up some cat-shaped jewellery and some Scouse coasters. SOUND! The flea market was given a marvellous soundtrack with tunes from the Evolution of The Groove DJS and at times I danced around the stalls. While I did some shopping poor ol’ Gary was on outside duties at Constellations where he watched an array of music put on in conjunction with Mellowtone and Farm Feast Festival.

First he caught the one and only Henry Pulp – It might have been 2pm, but in festival terms that is fine for a breakfast pizza and a boogie.  Fortunately Henry provided a rootsy, bluesy slice of happy music which allowed the cobwebs and hangovers to be shaken out. He was followed by ME and Deboe  where things took a more countrified turn as the duo played at a jaunty pace with cracking harmonies.  This pace was kept up throughout the set which was almost certainly to keep warm.
Gary also caught Rosenblume outside- a three piece who were led by the eponymous Rosenblume who had a warm vocal like aural brandy which had been ideal on this particular morning.
Later that day I joined Gary in the bitter breeze (more of  a gale-force wind than a breeze to be honest) as The Roscoes took to the stage. It was so cold that singer Edd’s guitar string broke on the first note! Undeterred, they pounded out their groove-based rock n roll. To show solidarity I stayed around to freeze and watch The 69 Watts and Seafoam Green, who both delivered perfect sets, despite the inability to feel any limbs and skin bared to the elements. I admit I did slip inside to warm up for a few minutes, where I also managed to check out a few songs by young Paddy Clegg, who had quite the turn out for his Miles Kane/Jake Bugg -esque sounds.

Wanting some real warmth I headed off to catch some low fi acoustic and fantastical sounds from Blunted Edge; bass, beatboxing, flute and some of the best free styling MCing I’ve heard in a long time. They really kept up the festival spirits in the Baltic Social and seriously impressed. I left our Gary in there to catch The Ship Builders – traditional Scouse indie music along the lines of The La’s and other nineties’ gangs. When the drummer turned up the music took a more flamenco-type flare whilst still keeping the same style.  This got people in the audience up to dance including one woman who had handily brought her own percussion set with her.

During the day over in District Gary caught The Basement Effect– a band with a collective age younger than Keith Richards, in fact there is a good chance their collective age is less than Noel Gallagher.  What they do not have in experience they more than made up for in enthusiasm and vitality.  Breakfast Monkey provided scatty rock vocals accompanied by friendly, accessible choruses to a crowd which grew and grew as the set progressed.

Back to The Observatory he also checked out Visitors, who have a singer with a deep theatrical vocal leading the band in some hearty doom-laden rock.  This was a powerful, but very listenable performance which could have easily gone wrong.  The music sounded solemn and brooding without coming across as mournful and miserable.

 Liverpool Craft Beer Space, also home to Saturday’s Drop The Dime’s secret show, is a darkened warehouse with an industrial-sized gas heater and corridors filled with Threshold’s art.  If I hadn’t been in the beautifully plain and uncomfortable Blade Factory this would have Gary’s favourite venue. It’s here he saw Vanessa Murray; A young woman with an acoustic guitar playing soft songs with a strong Gaelic feel to them.  She had a very uplifting, soft voice, but unfortunately a darkened room fuelled by craft beer may not have been the most suitable for an act like this.

It then fell to the last acts of the weekend to make sure we had the best send off and I couldn’t have asked for more. Dominic Dunn and Detail stunned us both as well as the crowd in Unit 51. They smashed out beautifully crafted songs with raw lead vocals and beautiful harmonies.  Last but not least though it was time for one last party as I hurried back over to The Observatory to dance like a loon to the crazy cover mashups provided by The Lotharios. It was like watching a fancy dress shop explode on stage, as colourful characters paraded around the stage taking no prisoners with their super-charged re-imaginings, which included a rather spectacular version of The Cheeky Song. How else could you end the live music, like really?

It’s the weekend again now, is it time for Threshold? No?! What do you mean I have to wait another year? I want to do this every weekend! Well done Team Threshy – you smashed it!

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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