Festival Review: Sound City 2015

sound city 15 bannerSound City 2015

sound city 15 logoBramley Moore Dock, Liverpool 21-23 May 2015

Words: Elena Katrina and Lauren Grigor

This year saw Liverpool’s Sound City festival take a brave new step away from the warm open arms of the city centre venues and take a massive leap into becoming pretty much a full on outside festival, open to the elements and surrounded by water. It could literally have been sink or swim at any given moment. The site itself wasn’t exactly always conducive to a happy festival, with many people complaining about the bottle neck and noise clashes between three stages on what was one of the busiest walking areas of the festival site – well I guess they know for next time! Just get rid of the fair, no one’s there to go on rides, we’re all there for music. Trust me. But by the end of it we’d had such a great time all was forgiven, more or less 😉

You couldn’t fault the bands though, especially when you turn up to see Circa Waves just taking to the stage, or the thrill of being pulled around site on the first night in the back of a rickshaw. Driven by a new friend who you only met three days before (Hi Josh!), who then lets you sit in it in the blistering cold, your feet up, to take in the sights and sounds of Spector. Who, incidentally, pulled of quite a decent show. Having never seen them before I can say I was pretty impressed. It was a shame when the rickshaw had to be taken and put to bed for the night but it just meant we could head to the front to catch Everything Everything, who were damn Awesome Awesome.

Everything Everything

Everything Everything

In fact, Lauren reckoned that Everything Everything “were channelling the greater powers as they played a set with some older favourites as well as a few songs from the new album Get To Heaven, including the finale Distant Past, latest single Regret (which I thought needed to be a lot noisier) and a new one Reptiles. Which had hilarious lyrics “it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a push chair, old enough to run, old enough to fire a gun”. The vocals from all band members were on point and front man Jonathan was charismatic and didn’t falter in his singing, which sometimes feels more like rapping.”  They gave a crowd pleasing show, which even one member of security seemed to through enjoyed as he danced his way merrily through the throbbing crowd.

The Vaccines were headlining the Atlantic Stage and doing themselves proud, from what we could kind of hear, bearing in mind that sadly the sound pretty much escaped on the wind. After a while we headed over to see Hot Vestry, one of our tips for this year’s festival. For Lauren they were “A surprise. They were dark and grimy but highly energised and clearly very talented. It was a difficult time slot being on the first night clashing with the  but they were relentless despite the freezing wind” and so appreciative of the huddle of people that collected around the stage and stayed to watch them.

Saturday came around far too fast and along with it a whole host of new acts for us to catch up with and this time the only time we sat in the Rickshaw was to be lazy inside the Baltic Stage where we tried to rock out to The Bohicas – quickly realising that you couldn’t rock to The Bohicas in the confines of a rickshaw so we jumped out and went crazy with everyone else. Everyone else, aside perhaps from the band themselves, who didn’t really seems to interact with each other at all, but maybe that’s because they were too busy blowing our socks off.

Mudflappers Tim Peaks Diner

Mudflappers Tim Peaks Diner

We also caught sight of some pretty sweet dancing going down from The Mudflappers in Tim Peaks Diner, which was nestled away in a very NYC-esque alleyway area at the back of the massive Baltic warehouse,  most unlike any Tim Peaks experience we’ve seen before. The dancers entertained between bands, getting people off their seats and joining in. It was a pretty great idea and having the room to do something like this was a big change for TPD. I was too busy drinking my coffee and stuffing my face with cake to get up and dance though. Shame really.

Lauren caught up with seeing the wonderful Flo Morrissey, who was “a great example of how the festival gave musicians of all genres the opportunity to play. Its tough being a solo singer-songwriter and at first she seemed a little nervous. Her singing is incredibly strong and confident and she had the entire audience mesmerised both on the guitar and the keys. It felt a bit awkward that the stage was completely chocka with so much music gear from other artists but she was captivating, her song Sleeplessly Dreaming was a total stand out for me. She is a girl with no ego but knows how to tell her stories beautifully.”

Cavalry were also a must see for us at Sound City. A Liverpool band who have been around for a little while now but who have been a little quiet of late, until the recent release of their new track, An Understanding. I was somewhat trepidations as to how their set was going to sound, or not sound, seeing as they were playing the dreaded North Stage. The outside stage facing two other tents with unimaginably loud sound rigs. I was nervous that their melodious beauty and perfect harmonies would get washed up in some thumping bass lines and drum kits pulsating from the two ridiculously close tents (Kracken and The Cavern) a mere 20 or so feet away (at least that’s how close it felt). Luckily they ran slightly late and managed a good part of their set played in between bands on the other stages. Their last song was totally ruined but I’d already seen enough to have been left feeling happy.

Lauren also caught Femme, “who played 2 shows a few hours apart but she danced, shimmied and belted it out without any problems. Her and her ‘Bullet Girls’ kept up the energy as she played a set matching the one that I saw in London in April this year.” It was also great to see her meandering through the festival site, along with many other bands, some who chose not to take the designated way out of the site, and traipsed their equipment straight through the crowds and across the rocky ground.

Black Honey

Black Honey

Saturday was defintely ladies day for us at Sound City. What with all that hullaballoo over female acts at Reading and Leeds I never really even considered this a factor until I came to writing this. Aside from Flo and Femme, we also caught the rousingly raucus Black Honey. A band I couldn’t miss, a band I missed being a part of the light parade in order not to miss. And it was so worth it. Although I’m gutted I missed them perform Madonna and Spinning Wheel – I presume they played them anyway – I was totally caught up in the chaos of their live set. I loved the stage setting with the plastic flamingos, one of which got carelessly thrashed across the stage, just before singer Izzy Bee threw herself to the ground and gave some more of her not giving a shit rock n roll antics. One of my festival highlights for sure.

Lonelady and All We Are seemed to be running spectacularly late leaving me only one song with All We Are, but seeing as I hadn’t expected to catch Lonelady at all it was kind of a treat. Both sounded pretty damn good in The Cavern stage, in association with the PRS.  But the crowds were dwindling inside the tent as headliners The Flaming Lips were taking to the Atlantic Stage. I could have stayed put but for the fact that Aquilo were about to make their Sound City debut over in the Cargo stage. A band we’ve been raving about for quite some time, we could hardly afford to miss them. And I’m so glad we didn’t. What an incredible live band. In a way they reminded me of Seafret, only in the way the lead duo bounced off each other’s sounds and energy on stage, it was very subtle but yet also quite mesmerising. Their harmonies, especially on Human were incredible for a live performance. I didn’t have any kind of expectation but I had hoped they’d be as good live as they were on a recording, and they are. Superb.

I’d like to say that our day ended there, that we made the sensible decision to return home and rest for the massively hectic “Sound City  Super Sunday” ahead. But no. Our good friend was DJing his fabulous FUNK OFF set in Tim Peaks Diner and our bodies had the need to show their appreciation in all manner of movements. I have no idea how we made it through until 3AM. But we were practically kicked off site – and did a little flit to Heebies to carry on the party. Let’s just say early night was very much early morning when it came to clambering into bed.

Watch a video from the Funk Off set in Tim Peaks Diner here:

Honeyblood

Honeyblood

Sunday, well it goes without saying that those bands on at midday didn’t see us for love nor money. A shame I know but the warehouse party was certainly a massive festival highlight and we still managed to cram in a decent amount of bands on Sunday.We arrived in time to see Honeyblood bring their super cute but total kickass set to the Baltic Stage before one of our absolute faves, Palace, brought some perfectly presented chilled out blues to the proceedings, getting everyone swaying to new track Kiloran. It was, perhaps, an odd choice of lineup, to have Honeyblood kicking it before we got to kick back, but hey, it’s a festival we’re all good. The Mispers brought a party to the stage and we’re not exactly sure how everyone else was taking it but we had an absolute blast. And made Weekend our track of, well, the weekend!

Lauren caught Cymbals Eat Guitars, who were hard rockers who sounded a bit stoned when they spoke but rampaged on stage like aggressive teenagers. I thought they were amazing, their single Warning was powerful and just really fucking loud. The end of their set consisted of smashing equipment following an enormous instrumental with every member just going for it.” She also caught Jesse Will, “a 25 year old kiwi singer-songwriter who has been playing in the UK for a couple of years. He got the attention of Taylor Swift herself with his slowed down version of Shake it Off– which he played for us in the Record Store stage. He mixed up the performance taking time to play solo or with his band, both yielding stunning results. I loved the use of the cello and between the 4 of them on stage and Jesse’s vocal talents they were able to create a bit of noise too.  The Cribs were a highlight for me and high on my list. They treated fans to a spectrum of their back catalogue through to their latest album For all My Sisters. The punk rock brother trio were completely full of energy and encouraged the carnage that was occurring in the moshpit below. A crowd pleaser was Be Safe, with the same lip syncing video playing behind that has been a core part of their live shows for a few years now. They did not disappoint, Burning for No one and An Ivory Hand were welcomed as much as classics like Cheat on Me and Hey Scenesters. The fact they finished on Pink Snow made my day. Its the perfect 7 minute finale, meaning that the energy was ripe for throwing guitars into stacks behind them – twice.”

Natalie McCool

Natalie McCool

Natalie McCool also took to the North Stage over the weekend, opening her set with the quietly atmospheric Pins, a  track I was almost scared for her to play due to the stage’s battle with sound. I needn’t have worried my head about it though, it was just fine. She delivered a performance  that was worthy of a bigger stage. It was full of confidence, rightly so, and a set that was comprised of tracks that should, and no doubt will be, a staple in many a music fan’s collection. I was all ready for a mass sing along for her track, Fortress, but not this time, perhaps it’s saved for more intimate shows. I sang along regardless of having been asked to or not. McCool by name McCool by nature. Another festival highlight for sure.

Sunday ended with a back to back of Liverpool talent in The Cargo stage. I’ve seen Broken Men a whole heap of times this year, luckily for me the first time when they were an 8 piece band, something which they’ve since dropped and are now just a 5 piece. They still get better and better every time I see them though. Their energy is ridiculous and they have staunch supporters who appeared to be out en force, even some of the photographers in the pit were singing along with gusto. They were followed by Jennifer Davies, who turned out to be the last act we saw at Sound City 2015. Her debut show for the festival saw a triumphant support for The Tea Street Band. In fact, we were so impressed that I picked her as my top tip from Sound City on the Shell Zenner show on Amazing radio the following Saturday. She brought her smart lyrics which are so full of life and sass, along with some catchy electronica and pop hooks, to a tent full of people, many of whom weren’t entirely sure who she was but stayed put to enjoy the full show. And it was impressive show indeed to have stuck around for.

Admittedly when I first turned up at this all new Sound City I wasn’t all that impressed. It was cold and dirty and very much an outside festival and what with the sound clashes and general difficulty in getting around a very busy North stage. But Saturday I wiped the slate clean and went with a new attitude. Forget the old Sound City, in fact forget Sound City, just enjoy it as a new festival and I did. Boy I did. My overall experience was positive, though I still can’t lose that niggle of wanting my real Sound City still, the one in the venues, the one in the city. It looks like that’s a thing of the past now though, with Sound City 2016 already announced back on the same site. At least I’ll know what I’m getting next time around and actually, I’m more than just fine with that. Lauren left happy too; “By the end of my three days at this festival I felt like I was a resident, I’d made friends with strangers, met band members and sampled a good deal of food. The festival never felt pretentious and there was something for everyone. But most importantly, even my new tinitus couldn’t wipe the smile from face after seeing so many great bands.” – Bring it LSC16.

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