Festival Review: Ditto Live – Liverpool

Ditto Live

Camp & Furnace, Liverpool, March 2017

Words: Gary Lambert

Photos: Mark Holmes

Festival Season does not start on a Friday night before the clocks go back, but if it did then Ditto Music’s live event at Camp and Furnace in the Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool city centre would be the perfect way to kick off. One former warehouse, two stages, five hours, thirteen bands, and literally no interval between the acts is a handy way to tell if you are in the right shape necessary for handling three days bouncing from stage to stage in a field in the middle of The Shire. Too much music for you to cope with? Get your headphones and get some training in. Fortunately the Popped Music team are prepared 24/7 for the rigors of new music. This was exactly our kind of scene.

 

I will hold my hands up right now and apologise to Danxia for being unable to make their set, but when the first band on a Friday night is at 7.15pm, it is kind of difficult to go from Work Gary to Popped Gary as well as eating, sorting out life and doing several miles of driving.

 

They say you only have one chance to make a first impression and with Neil Noe on stage the first impression looking at the four piece was landfill indie. That was shattered as soon as they started playing and instead of the three chord, grown up nursery rhymes I was prejudiced to expect, the audience were treated to a huge chunk of streetwise soul music. It was as appreciated as it was unexpected as they took a smooth sound and made it feel instant, comfortable and for everybody. I was completely captivated and started to weave and wander through the crowd taking in the performance from a variety of specs.

 

Now The Mono LPs have been around the Liverpool scene for quite some time it feels, yet rather than feeling jaded and workmanlike, this was probably the most I have ever enjoyed one of their performances as they induced in me a vitality I would usually associate with a band I had never seen before, but stumbled across as a rare treat. The combination of stomp along retro tinged guitar music with the aural theatricality given to them with the cello was perfect. It was the kind of performance that you hope a festival booker was watching as it balanced musical quality with an encouraging party vibe unencumbered with cheesiness.

 

Newer on the Liverpool scene are Bribes, a band I have had the fortune to cover a few times now for Popped Music and all I can say is that this three piece gets better and better with each performance. If you have not seen or heard Bribes, I would say imagine if two musicians decided to make a band together and the guitarist wanted to play at the rockier end of the indie spectrum but the bassist wanted to play dirty, heavy rock blues. Instead of musical differences causing this hybrid to fail to exist, we have a curious middle ground where Bribes exist and manage to be aggressive, intense and yet completely approachable and fearless. Kind of like a polar bear really. You think they are cute and cuddly, yet they’re one of the finest violent machines on the planet. Popped Music – Where Reviews Go Attenborough.

 

Oya Paya were a new band to me, but they are one of the most interesting sounding bands that I have covered in quite a while. With a set of tracks powered by original, uncomfortable rhythms there was a natural magnetism to their music. The best way I could describe them would be to imagine The Bends era Radiohead trying to cover Crystal Fighters before Thom Yorke got back to the studio to tell them off. I didn’t find them to generate any urgency in the audience, but I’d rather have a band with tunes who can work on showmanship than a choreographed caterwaul any day. There’s hope with this one.

 

One of the best points about Ditto Live was the eclectic mix of the line up. The Wicked Whispers were on the face of it a sixties-inspired “cosmic scouse” band the likes of which I haven’t seen for three or four weeks. It still seems that every kid in Liverpool gets a copy of Forever Changes from their uncle who smokes those weird cigarettes once they’ve proven they can work the CD player, and to be honest long may this continue. The Wicked Whispers were tight, sharp and well received by the audience. It was the kind of set that you might not be whistling the next morning, but you won’t say a bad word about it. In fact, I’d encourage more people to watch The Wicked Whispers as twenty people might only enjoy them, but the twenty first is going to love them.

 

Lungs offered a more relaxed take on the deep-voiced singer with deep, anthemic songs made popular by bands like Editors and White Lies. There was still the depth and structure to their work that you would hope for, but with that dash of easygoing to their music, it did not feel as though you needed to offer your emotions to the altar. I really liked this. Separona too provided a complementary sound to this, and their performance definitely deserved my hat being taken off to them as the band in this lineup had only been working together for ten days. It was not noticeable.

 

Venus Demilo were the last act of the event, and the art school influenced rock music was of sufficient quality to entertain those who stayed, but it was sufficiently art school influenced to make a good excuse for those who find four hours of music on a Friday night to be as much as they can handle. It is not music for everybody, but this event was about quality rather than finding a theme like a festival might do.

 

In contrast to Venus Demilo, Little Triggers and The Sneaky Nixons had far more of a mass appeal to their sound. Little Triggers are focused around their energetic frontman and a series of songs which take in a variety of musical influences from Queen to the summer of love. In an intense twenty minute performance, it felt like a portfolio of what they could do like a young actor showing a series of headshots showing different emotions. The Sneaky Nixons were a band that did nothing for me on a personal level, but despite their singer’s Millwall aping claim that “no one likes us and we don’t care” it seemed that plenty of people liked their fun take on indie rock. And you can’t have bouncing choruses with a trumpet underpinning the guitar without people liking you. Unfortunately I found them to be as original as their tactic of publicity via graffitied logos across town, but for this one person they didn’t connect with, there were several more who took a lot more from the performance.

 

The highlights of the night though were undoubtedly the performances by Xam Volo and Lilium. Firstly, the man with the Star Wars sounding name entertained with effortless cool and filled the quite cavernous room with that warm soulful voice. Indeed, I couldn’t resist finding a cold drink and a table at the back of the room to chill out for the twenty minutes he performed, watching his almost inevitable rise. There is something about watching Xam which seems to control the moment. Time stops like a dream sequence, everybody feels hypnotised by the warm vocals and then suddenly the set is over, and everything feels refreshed.

 

Now Lilium were a different kettle of fish altogether. In fact, they seemed like a band who have progressed their sound to suit bigger venues like this. I say seemed as this was sadly the first time I have seen them play, but it will not be the last. It was one of those performances were being a music reviewer went out of the window and I couldn’t tell you a single thing other than I absolutely loved it. The twenty minutes was over in a flash of rock, and I was completely captivated and disappointed when the music started on the other stage. It was a powerful performance of a well tuned, confident band, and excites me as to what comes next.

 

Ditto Live was a great advert for Ditto Music and the live offerings that Liverpool venues have regularly.

 

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