Festival Review: Festevol Part 1

festevolFestevol Part 1

The Kazimier August 1st 2015

Words and photos: Gary Lambert

festevolOpening up in the rain soaked Kazimier Garden was the young talent that is local singer-songwriter Sophie Anderson. Despite telling the crowd that she was performing none of the music with her eyes open due to being able to see them all watching her, Sophie performed her self-penned dark country music with aplomb. Fittingly her song The Doctor seemed to cure the weather issues for a while as for the first time in the day the sun started to hit the eclectic mix of tables and benches that make up this side of the venue. She was going to finish on a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love which paid respect to the creators’ idea yet sounded enough like Sophie’s other songs to get hearty nods of appreciation from audience members who looked definitely like fans of the original. in the end her last track was The Devil Baby Blues, and with that, Festevol was off to a flier. At least outdoors!

For the many members of the crowd who had not yet arrived when Tiger Tribe took to the stage I am happy to proclaim that you missed a cracker in the Blackpool rock of Tiger Tribe. They play brilliantly loud rock music and the singer has a growling voice so prepare for many cliched comments over the next few years. When playing rock music with a singer potentially more suited to bayou blues there is a potential to go a bit Pearl Jam and try to over egg the pudding. I am happy to say there were no poor Eddie Vedder copies, but rather a band with a comfortable balance in their sound. It’s a shame the audience wasn’t bigger as I would have liked to see how the band handled that and if it energised them any more. But I reckon that will come next time.

Liverpool’s young rock hopefuls Seprona took to the stage next. With a more traditional style of guitar pop than most other acts through the day they are sure to have their detractors, but with a couple of singles already released, a coveted slot here and some very decent musicianship on show they definitely do offer something. However the performance generally seemed to be going through the motions. Whilst an early afternoon slot doesn’t give you the maximum cool points, it was late in the day before they started to realise there is entertainment in moving around on stage and actually sounded much more comfortable then.

Skeleton Key Records’ signing Spectral Chorus were our next performers. With harmonies and all three band members playing acoustic guitars this was the most retrospective band I have heard in a good while, but rather than seem like treading the same old path, they showed the timelessness of music with evocative songs taking you away from the darkness of The Kazimier. When you ask the audience to picture “Poland 1944” before moving into Bedtime Bikenau, it is not likely that you are going to have them dancing in the aisles, but it was hard to take your eyes off the stage as we heard some of the most beautiful tunes of the day. Because of the delicate nature of the songs it almost felt like the applause was out of place. Out of place maybe, deserved definitely.

Bathymetry

Bathymetry

The bright colours of the female majority of three-piece Bathymetry were indicative of their quirky, slightly Californian sound. With guitars set to jangle and vocals styled for catching attention rather than encourage simple singalong moments, these suited their environs perfectly with effortless switches from sixties pop to rock to ethereal choirs. Of all the bands who had performed thus far they were definitely the least obvious, but rather than being uncomfortably awkward the growing crowd seemed to engage completely.

If ever my first thought on a band is “this reminds me of Second Coming” I am not on the road to Damascus but rather thinking of my particular favourite album by The Stone Roses. Which is exactly what The Probes did although with a strong psychedelic element and minimal vocals. When I was trying to take my photo for Popped’s live social media feeds I was bemoaning the limited lighting, but once the image had been saved in digital form, I loved the moody feel of the venue. The Probes are not a party band and are all the better for it, but with musical dreamscapes being played they made me happy to sit back and absorb.

I was worried when Go Fiasco took to the stage dressed like The Monkees in their heyday away from the camera. There was the gloomy spectre of a change in sound to a tribute act of The Doors, but to be honest their sound was still gorgeous, up-to-date rock music. I really like Go Fiasco and found their music to be uplifting and energising. Ideal for midway through the day.

Following them was much-hyped act The Jacobins. Dressed in all black and looking very much like a rock band I was interested to see what came next. A strong, confident set followed as you would expect from a band who seem to be taking their keys from Bono’s boys. Set finisher Pressure really cranked up the U2 stylings of the music and performance with singer, Dominic Bassnett, climbing the onstage stairs singing “higher and higher” and lead guitarist Veso Mihaylov, taking to the front centre to show off his frankly excellent guitar playing. I enjoyed this performance, but I didn’t like it. It felt too manufactured and corporate and practiced. They’ve got the potential to go far…

Outside in The Garden Edgar Jones was playing to a packed audience happy to stay out in the sunshine and taking their pick from the craft beers on offer. Unfortunately that busy audience was not conducive with Edgar’s more subtle acoustic guitar and vocals straight from the Scouse suburb of New Orleans, and his well crafted songs and performance were kind of lost in the hubbub. He is an excellent songsmith though and renowned on the local scene so he is well worth taking in on another occasion.

The Floormen produced one of the most splintered performances I have seen in a long time. One part swirling Scouse psychedelia accompanied by fantastic sneering vocals and then the next moment sounding like early eighties funk minus a saxophone with Shaun Ryder yelping. This set probably wouldn’t be a favourite if an average music fan attended Festevol but I just want to hear more and more. Preferably of the darker music than the funk of Lysergic Reaction – although three cheers for a great song title. The general consensus of the people I spoke to though was that The Floormen were fantastic and woe betide anybody who missed them.

The Garden had now moved on from packed to heaving for the power pop of local star Zuzu Stranack. Considering overheard talk of strong industry backing and a very polished sound there was the chance that this could have been a set which hit a wall with real music fans. There was no chance of that though as Zuzu ripped through a set of future favourites with crackers such as Back to Mum’s, You Spoke To God and Can’t Be Alone. If Zuzu do have the rumoured strong industry backing, it is not going to be a bad thing as this music will appeal to the masses but have enough to keep the more militant music fan onside.

Etches

Etches

One of Popped Music’s picks to watch at Part 1 of Festevol was Etches and they more than lived up to the billing with a great sounding set which was more textured than the minimalism of their recorded output. As well as performing finely, they also took the time to lament the closure of The Kazimier as a music venue. From their position on stage it “has a great sound” and they encouraged everybody to make the most of it whilst it is still here. A sentiment fully supported by me.

Canvas took to the smaller stage outside and absolutely entertained the crowd with a performance of joyful, danceable guitar pop songs with a great summer vibe to them. It was shocking to discover that these guys are only seventeen. Much further investigation is going to have to be made of these tykes on my behalf as the music they played was, as my nan would say, smashing. Seriously impressive.

One of Liverpool’s favourites, and indeed a favourite of local radio legend Billy Butler, is Silent Sleep and they showed once again why so many people have a place for them in their hearts with a set of delightful, generally positive sounding songs on the complexities of modern life. With a sound more expansive now than on previous occasions, they sound more like a successful modern band on the national scale than a local curio. A comparison of new single Everything I Own, dedicated to anybody who has problems managing their money, and old favourite and last song set piece Meet Me On The Steps of The Bombed Out Church shows the change perfectly. Both songs are equally good, it’s just some songs are more equal than others.

It was then time for another of Popped Music’s favourites, Veyu. Occupying a musical space on the balancing line in the transition from Joy Division, they thrived in the party atmosphere with singer describing it from the stage as awesome and fun. The crowds would definitely have suited a more upbeat and less challenging sound, but that did not put a dampener on anything.

The musical highlight for me personally was The Vryll Society who destroyed everything standing in front of them with a performance that was like A Storm In Heaven era Verve (i.e. before their The brought fame and choruses) or Primal Scream without the threat of aggression and car crash. It was brilliant! Swirling guitars, thunderous beats and a captivating frontman who kept all eyes firmly on him without desperately clinging to the attention. With songs like Deep Blue Skies and Beautiful Faces, The Vryll Society punched a hole in my chest and made my heart pound to their entrancing beats. With a simple bow and statement of “Peace and love, we are The Vryll Society” Michael Ellis left the stage and allowed the musicians to go wild. The reaction this brought in the audience was brilliant confusion as the jamming got heavier and faster causing some to dance, others to jump around and then others to punch the air. As the band left the stage, it felt like victory to be able to see them and share that 30 minutes with several hundred other lucky people.

If you have read all the Harry Potter books, you will know there is a place in Hogwarts called The Room Of Requirement which when you truly need something it will be there for you. If they had a Tent of Requirement at festivals for when you had had one over the eight and too much of a wild time then that tent would have We Are Catchers in. Playing folky, Texarkana driven by some great guitar playing these are the guys you will stumble upon, type their name into your phone and download everything they’ve got when you get home. Disrupted slightly by sound issues, it didn’t put the band off their game too much and everybody seemed to have a great time.

The Serpent Power are flag bearers for Skeleton Key Records, but it was disappointing to see Ian Skelly and Paul Molloy re-treading old ground. To be honest it sounded like a band attempting to be first album version of The Coral with brooding dark vibes wrapped around brilliant pop hooks. Which isn’t too bad a thing in general. When they weren’t sounding like The Coral, they sounded like John Lennon-penned light tunes from 1966-69. Again not a bad thing in general. I was just hoping for something a bit fresher.

I will confess that I have a soft spot for The Sundowners due to the first time I saw them being in a disused warehouse on Hallowe’en many moons ago (next week’s headliners All We Are also played and hold a similar place in my affections). As you would hope and expect, The Sundowners’ musical personality had grown since those early days, and this performance was full of vigour and excitement which bordered at times on punk pop. When so many people are bemoaning the lack of female rock talent, they need to get themselves to Liverpool as there are suffragettes with guitars and tunes cropping up everywhere.

The final act of the night for me was Dave McCabe and The Ramifications. An old favourite with a new band with an awkward name, I will level with you, I was apprehensive to say the least. And then apprehension was destroyed in a flicker of a voice better than I remembered mixed with a krautrock styled backing (think original soundtrack to The Terminator with a dash of art rock). The band were brilliant and both new and old tracks sounded fresh and energetic.

Walking up on Sunday morning, the first thing I did was stick on A Storm in Heaven (Verve) followed by Who Killed… (The Zutons) followed by Tired of Hanging Around (The Zutons) followed by The Coral (The Coral). As I had no booze I had no headache, but I was feeling the best ever hangover from Festevol.

Saturday 8 August offers the last time to go to a Festevol at The Kazimier, but don’t be emotional. Let’s create some amazing memories and make sure everybody is looking forward to the next step.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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