Festival Review: Liverpool Sound City 2016

sound city 16 bannerLiverpool Sound City 2016

Words: Elena Katrina

Photos: Fi Carroll

sound city pister 2016After last year’s move away from the city and along to Bramley-Moore Docks there was much to think about and much to feel excited about. As the year went on the prospect of another year at the docks slowly sunk in. It’s difficult sometimes to move with the tides, especially when those tides move away from something you very much loved to something pretty much in the opposite direction. But it was time to face facts; this is what we have now – a single site festival and if you can just forget that the other existed and focus on what’s important – the music – then like me, you’d have felt a build of anticipation, of excitement. I made a playlist, hours of effort, listening to tracks, many from bands I didn’t know, putting them in some kind of cohesive order that felt good to listen to, that built the festival into it’s sonic soundscape whilst the site itself was still being built. The festival was a week ago and I’m still listening to that same playlist – clambering to get to grips with memories of seeing those bands, and regrets of missing this one and that one and making promises of next time, next time!

Although the Friday night’s entertainment was only available to Sound City delegates it would be remiss of me to mention the stunning performance of Cameroon’s Blick Bassy. It was a performance that seemed to hit the crowd hard, it was emotional, gritty, guttural and so honest that someone yelled out “I love you” and for the first time ever I didn’t smirk. I wanted to yell it too. He left me feeling impassioned and I hadn’t understood but a word of his music (sung in his native tongue). And he was the first act on! I’ve seen people moan about the line up, assumptions here and there about this festival and its line up but Blick Bassy performing (not only for Delegates but also over the festival) blasts those right out of the Mersey.
clean cut kid sound city fi carrollOther commitments over the weekend prevented one of my fave local bands Clean Cut Kid from getting in on the festival action but I think it’s possibly a harder and tougher crowd to please at the delegates party – full of industry faces and sponsors who are used to seeing live music performed day in day out. I didn’t quite know what to expect when they stepped on stage – not from them – but a reaction. Couldn’t have been happier for them, the crowd bounced along, the more they played – the more they bounced. The room throbbed to their up-tempo soundtrack and set us all up with a punch for the weekend ahead.

Gambles can pay off. I mean, any festival in the UK that is based outside and doesn’t involve a heap load of indoor tents is taking a risk when it comes to our oh so fickle Summer – and Sound City takes place just before Summer even officially kicks in. Monday’s weather report was looking decidedly bad – rain rain rain. Then all of a sudden, as if we’d had some weather war with the south and won, we saw the sunshine. Glorious glorious. The gamble paid off alright, especially as I walked around the site for the first time in 2016 and realised that long gone were the tent stages!

I always feel a bit sorry for bands on early doors on main stages on pretty much any festival of size – it’s often a hard crowd to please, if there’s a crowd at all. The first band I saw was the fantastic Dead Buttons who were on 2nd  on the Atlantic stage. They delivered their set as though they were playing a sold out Wembley stadium, not a smattering of still bleary-eyed Scousers.  I was determined to see them having missed them last year when they played a tiny, tented stage. This duo are easily Seoul’s answer to Royal Blood and deserved this main stage spot – I just hope that next year they get invited back to play later on the bill. Norma Jean Martine followed them and impressed with  her stunning vocal and captivating songs. It was the first time I’d seen her – a theme of this weekend for me in fact. I was taking the opportunity to see as many bands as I’d not seen before. With so many bands that I have already seen and enjoyed and such a plethora of acts I had yet to see it was a no brainer! But for a few exceptions, Band Of Skulls being one – I’m injured and not supposed to bounce around but bounce around I did. Utterly glorious watching them play live again so soon and the day after their new album was released too. What more could you ask for?

judas sound city 16 fi carrollBack to bands I hadn’t seen before though – False Advertising, a band I’ve been keeping an eye on since last year, proved exactly why I’ve been right to do that – powerful pop-punk pulsated from the speakers as a crowd of new music fans and friends clambered around the North Stage looking to get more of this awesome action. The great thing about this stage’s positioning this year was that it allowed for a much larger crowd and that was great. It was a great thing too for local lad John Clancy and his London based band JUDAS. I’d spent time with them in the lead up to the festival for an interview (which you’ll get to read in the coming weeks) and while I’ve been writing about their tracks for sometime I’ve never seen them live and shame on me. Another band who were hosting their own stadium-sized show and with the songs, skill and stage performance to actually pull that off.

I think the North Stage was perhaps my favourite stage of the Saturday. Witnessing the cooler than cool Xam Volo belt out perfect vocals song after song after song, while looking as cool as a cucumber, while wearing an all black ensemble, which included both woolly hat and scarf. An absolute highlight of my day. He was soon followed by new band Seramic. A band which I should have been on a high alert for. Why? Only because their lead singer is probably my most favourite singer of the past five years! A slight change in direction and timing, thanks I think to the opening made for him and soul/blues tinged bands, by the likes of Jack Garratt, this new project by Marcus Foster made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. This must be my festival highlight – not a big band on a main stage, not the moment I got stuck between Lock and Peter Doherty, not even the David Bowie Disco. This reminded me why I do what I do and why I love music. As well as why I’ve always been right to support Marcus Foster too 😉

Next year I vow to spend more time at the Cargo and Cavern stages (or whatever names they will be given for 2017). I witnessed brilliance, excitement and a real rawness from new bands on these stages over both Saturday and Sunday – from the rough around the edges newness of Irene and the Disappointments (who were anything than disappointing!), the wonderfully catchy indie-popness of Coquin Migale (who I must stop calling Cockin Mingle!), the eye catching as well as sound catching Youth Hostel, the simply stunning Violet Skies. Liverpool’s Feral Love drew a lot of industry again and for all the right reasons, Elle Exxe was strong, defiant and definitely there to set the pace and followed by Glasgow’s White – who became my favourite act of the Sunday. Not least because their drummer won me over with beats and sequins, the vocals were off the chart too – can’t lie, I fell in love with this band there and then. Bring them back – imminently. The Cargo stage on the Sunday was outstanding – it’s position meant that people couldn’t just walk past. At least I couldn’t. I stopped every single time I went by meaning I caught the likes of We Are The Night, LA Foster, Laybricks and Foxtrott – all of whom were bringing it from the International front to show us what they’ve got is just as good as what we have – Representing both South Korea and France this stage was remarkable in terms of the talent.

the roscoes sound city 16 fi carrollI also checked out some of the sounds coming from the Merseyrail Sound Stage – the same stage I saw She Drew The Gun play on at  another festival last year to me and an old couple who were only there for the seats – so you should see, this really is the grass roots stage of the Merseyside music scene. Good friends of ours, The Roscoes, played a rare acoustic set that saw their bassist take to a cajon and in lieu of bouncing with his bass ended their set with him waving said cajon around the crowd. Newbies to the scene We Were Glue played their first ever acoustic set, having had only 2 days to get to grips with that I was pretty impressed despite that and the fact it was their first festival appearance too. If these guys continue to up their game they’re headed to one of those bigger stages next year I’m sure of it.

The Tall Boat was a lot of fun, even though I didn’t make it onboard until late Sunday night – I’m not one for queuing it has to be said. I witnessed The Bulletproof Bomb ripping things up (not literally) there on the Saturday but it was a difficult view and I got a bit frustrated with the passing vehicles and people dragging bins past. Should have got on board! Lock were great though admittedly I’d never heard of them before and I only caught one track by them as I darted across to see White. Certainly want to see them properly some time.

Nearby stage The North Stage hosted Holy Esque, I’m not really sure what happened to the sound for them but it was so harsh on my ears and I couldn’t make out the lyrics but the further away I got the better it sounded – not entirely sure what was going on there but I need to see them again to fully appreciate! As a side note, there wasn’t a competition going for the prettiest guitar at Sound City, yet they won it anyway!

You might find the following information startling but at no point on the Sunday did I venture over to the main stage. If I had then my picks would most certainly have been Shura (who I’ll see in a few weeks), Inheaven and Neon Waltz (again all of whom I have plans to see later this year), so we’re all good now, as for the bigger acts, I’ve already seen them more than enough when we missed bigger bands to see them instead. What goes around comes around  – in the nicest possible of ways.

So I still miss the freedom of the city centre, the early days ethos, the ability to get a free cup of tap water and a 99p sandwich from Tesco but I honestly can’t really complain for the amount of talent I saw, though I left hungry, and pretty dehydrated, the opportunities to see something new wherever I went, I loved. Plus I will admit I wasn’t sure about the conversations in Tim Peaks Diner but really enjoyed the bits which I saw and hope they bring this back next year – with more seating. More seating everywhere actually, concrete is much harsher on the feet than a muddy field for 12 hours y’know.

I left on Sunday feeling like I was looking forward to another day – this I’ll have to wait for until 2017 but the want for more is always a good thing! I hope the festival continues to give opportunities to new local talent, up and coming acts from all over like they always have done and continues to show how great the city of Liverpool is!

Our Sound City 2016 Playlist is here:

Sound City 2016 Photo Gallery:

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  1. […] together by the people behind 3 of the UK’s most loved independent festivals, Kendal Calling, Sound City and Blue Dot, the new festival will be taking place in the popular Northern Quarter area of […]

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