Festival Review: Threshold Festival 2016

threshold 2016 bannerThreshold Festival

Words: Gary Lambert

Photos: Fi Carroll

threshold six posterThere seemed to be a change in the air for the sixth annual Threshold Festival held in Liverpool’s uber cool Baltic Triangle area. Whilst previously this festival had felt more of a hipster village fete than a true option within festival season from speaking to people and looking at the demographic at various gigs there was change afoot. With Liverpool Sound City growing beyond its roots within a similar setup, Threshold has been perfectly placed to slide into that hole in the Liverpool live music scene presenting people with the opportunity to see some new bands and, more importantly, for people to mix with those bands and get to know more about them. It can be quite daunting to wait at the end of a gig and offer your congratulations to a band you don’t know, yet if you see the same band queuing at the same bar as you it is quite easy to lean over and say “I saw your set yesterday, I thought you smashed it” (to use the parlance of our times). It is in these moments that bands get to develop the next stage in their fanbase too. And everybody has a recommendation as to who you should go to see next be it a label mate, a band they know from the circuit or as happens fairly often at this level of the music business one of the band members is in at least one other band.


With about ten different venues – and different venues inside venues – and several hundred artists taking part it is impossible to get around to see everything. Plus Threshold does not have the kind of budget necessary to keep stage times updated to all participants meaning that there is a touch of random to you plans; and with no roadies around to set up even the headliners everything has a feel of the Corinthian acting on the basis of love rather than reward. It’s great!


natalie mccool threshold fi carrollConsidered to be the headliner of Threshold Festival was Popped Music’s favourite, Natalie McCool. After a few hiccups in the soundcheck causing delays and industrial deafness in your correspondent as feedback hit just as I squeezed past a speaker deck, Natalie was off and running to do her thing. We all know what to expect now from her, but every time she performs it is a joy to behold. With her ability to not just write a song but also a tune this is not just an emotional singer-songwriter turn, but a marvel of musicality. In a packed Black Lodge Brewery, it felt deserving of Natalie’s status as one of Liverpool’s finest talents.


A collection of Liverpool’s finest talents comes in the form of the wonderfully named Galactic Funk Militia. A thirteen piece or possibly more who mix funk and a party to great aplomb – and provide the added entertainment of working out what band you’ve seen everybody in as all from singer to fifth guitar seems to have been in several other acts. It is impossible to watch this group perform and not get sucked in to the fun and join in with the Galactic Funk Militia chanting. In the converted warehouse environs of Constellations it felt like an initiation to a gang of music loving freedom fighters. First they take Threshold then they take the world!

The biggest event on Saturday was the Astral Coast festival taking control of the players and play list at 24 Kitchen Street. With the great and good of the Liverpool music scene practically camped out there it had a dominant effect on the day’s entertainment with a crazy mix of genres too on show. The band with probably the most hype around L1 at present has to be Pink Kink, but unfortunately their show felt a bit of a damp squib with more focus on performance and cool than the sound. Even the sound was focused on the pop rather than the weird side. From loving them last time I was fortunate to watch them this time I was waiting for the time to tick over for the next act. But I will be watching them again to see if they are the band I loved or the band I felt nothing for.


indigo moon threshold fi carrollAnother up and comer has to be Indigo Moon who provided a brilliant mix of desert balladry and heavy rock like Josh Homme on peyote. The singer of Indigo Moon, Ashley Colley, has one of the most sultry voices I have heard in a good while and it is used to considerable success a lot of the time creating that warm vibe like a 1980’s Turkish Delight advert soundtracked by Pixies. I think though the band need to work on how they want to sound as when the volume went up to eleven and guitars started to trash Ashley’s vocals were not up to it. The screeching required felt tempered – and rightly so – as she has too good a voice to ruin it on screaming for fun.


Popped Music friends Elevant and Scarlet played fantastic late afternoon sets that were loud and raucous – and got them in front of people who might sometimes avoid them due to a lack of LIPA contacts. Elevant seemed to be a permanent feature of the weekend as every gig seemed to have at least one member watching it. Scarlet were on a high from their performance and some big news regarding them being taken over to play Georgia’s largest outdoor festival this summer in front of 50,000 and being on LIMF Academy’s Top Twenty list.


spares threshold fi carrollAfter the Astral Coast special it was off to Unit 52 to end the night. First up were Spares. Now this is a band that can send you running to the exit within the first two minutes. If you don’t like attention-desperate frontmen and high octane vocals then you are not going to like this band who are so in need of creating a party atmosphere that they bring their own beach balls and confetti cannons to a gig in a café. Although it did sound a tad overconfident when they compared this gig to Iggy and The Stooges starting off. It can be a bit much, but I love it.


A band who from past experience I have not fallen in love with is Lying Bastards. Generally I understand what they are doing, but my feeling for it is that they are too focused on what they are doing in terms of being a rock band that the music comes out all surface but no feeling. However at the end of a good day’s festival, you don’t need to have someone who will shred your heart apart like a country singer’s estranged wife. With confetti and broken glass on the floor, the mood felt right for Lying Bastards and they did what they do. I didn’t fall in love with it, but I did gain a newfound appreciation.


Sunday at Threshold Festival is more of an art experience than a musical event. With drumming circles on wasteland car parks, costumed gangs sharing cigarettes and pizza, and the parties which called time on Saturday night and said hello to Sunday morning had taken their toll. That said even with the laconic nature of the day there were still a few peachy offerings on store for those with wristbands.


Grace Hartrey performed a set full of KT Tunstall styled easy pop tunes which brought to attention the quality of her guitar playing as she used the instrument more to keep time than to tell a story. It’s hard to articulate, but in her hands it seemed like a tightly strung string drum. Trust me, I know what I mean. Another Grace, Grace Goodwin this time, followed on with a set that even she herself enjoyed. Watched by members of Feral Love with whom she usually drums, she performed sweetly and it was noted afterwards when talking to one of Popped Music’s roving reporters that she really appreciated how respectful the audience were when she played and that their silence made her feel so good. See people! Stop talking at gigs. It’ll make the act even better!


Scaredycats looked as rock n roll as a fondue party at an accountant’s, but taking inspiration from the four lads who shook the Wirral, they mixed up some affable enough tunes with witticisms and a decent enough songbook. It probably wasn’t the most exciting offering, but their performance was highly enjoyable. I’d even managed to catch them by accident, but I shall be catching them again deliberately.


Kindest of Thieves is a one-man act despite the rather ace band name and he was undoubtedly my favourite act of the Sunday circuit – although Hillhouse at The Baltic Social would have ran close if I hadn’t only caught one song. With a way of mixing tale and tune, he should have been performing his Americana around a campfire on a cattle trail rather than in a repurposed warehouse in Liverpool, but he provided a perfect soundtrack to a rather moody Liverpool day.


Without doubt this has been my favourite Threshold yet – and with the Popped Music curated Threshold playlist still soundtracking my way to work it is going to stay in my ears for quite some time.


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