Festival Review: Threshold 2017

Threshold 7

Words: Gary Lambert

Photos: Georgia Flynn & Elena Katrina

Threshold Festival 2017, or Threshold7 to give it the preferred shortened name, was always likely to be one that would stay in the memory. From the announcement that a crowdfunding campaign was needed in order to raise some much needed funds, people seemed to become more comfortable with expressing their love for this slightly curious, niche weekend. For Popped Music, the chance came to show off some favourite bands on our very own stage during the opening night of the festival.


If you are hoping to see a secret set that is going to send social media into meltdown, then this is not the festival for you, but if you like paying for a cheap weekend ticket to watch some great bands who lack fame beyond their home towns at the moment then Threshold is definitely the one for you. It is even definitely the one for you if you like nodding to people who you’ve seen at five different gigs in the last two hours, but you don’t know them and are probably never going to get to know them. The festival is most definitely a celebration of the efforts that musicians and other artists have to go through in order to perform for us. You know nobody is going to a sectioned off VIP area to sip champagne and avoid The Public. Instead you tend to leave a venue and walk over to the next a few minutes ahead of the singer who wants to watch the same band as you after they have packed up. And instead of posing for a selfie with you and then going back to their friends instantly, the chances are that the person you’ve just applauded is willing to stand and chat with you about music – because they’re there as they love music.


Probably the greatest characteristic of Threshold Festival is the variety of music on show. It is not just an opportunity for one genre, or targeted at a set demographic. Instead, their approach is come one, come all. It is designed to open your mind and your heart.


Take, for example, Black Mountain Lights who stunned a packed brewery room into silence with their harmonic Americana which managed to sound fully in tune with its influences, yet with a high definition clarity which made the set completely of its time. Admittedly I spent the first five minutes thinking they were a different band as Threshold is not renowned for keeping to the schedules, but thankfully the singer announced their name again for any newcomers so I was able to edit some social media posts and get on with watching a set that made me forget about anything happening in the world other than the music.


Yet the other side of the road from Black Lodge Brewery in the dark, dangerous confines of 24 Kitchen Street I was enthralled by the raw energy and visceral punk power of Queen Zee and The Sasstones. In a venue that had the perfect amount of darkness to make you forget that it was only sunset outside, Queen Zee took the audience on a trip back in time to New York or London in 1977. There was no hint of the brass accompaniments which people so often associate with 21st century punk music. Instead passion was the motif which made people mosh or at least vigorously nod their head in fear of losing their glasses and being unable to drive home. This band made me feel ten foot tall and wanting to charge on Westminster to end equality and hatred. Exactly what a punk band should do.


Over at the Baltic Social, the bar was left woozy after a session of American-styled glam rock straight out of Lancashire with the intoxicating Sky Valley Mistress. Despite being squeezed into the small space between the bar and the kitchen, this four-piece of constant energy, movement and rock n roll treated the gig like it was Madison Square Garden or, more aptly, Max Yasgur’s farm in White Lake, NY. I will admit to thoroughly loving this band, and this performance showed me exactly why they leave me so spellbound. This is a rock band that knows that a huge part of their reason for being is to entertain people, and they make sure they do it.


For a small festival metropolitan festival populated by unknown or unsigned bands, Threshold is not just about the music and how many gigs or venues you can get to. In between bands in the fantastic Constellations, you could get involved in art happenings as local charity and support groups put on various sessions to educate people on mental health issues under the brilliantly brash banner of “Mad Pride”.


Threshold is an event that you cannot help but love – and a quick glimpse at the full listing showing the likes of Mersey Wylie, Hey Colossus, Seafoam Green standing out amongst bands like The Jjohns, The Shipbuilders, and The Cheap Thrills (three leading lights in north Liverpool’s Scallycore Scene AKA Lid Rock). There is something for everybody.


And if you were a fan of new music, there was one place that you really needed to get yourself, Popped Music’s curated day at District. Some of our favourite bands of recent times made their way over to Liverpool, and took on the challenge of playing to a Friday night audience without any local support to drag some friends in. But it did not matter. As you would expect from a group of artists picked by our Commander-In-Chief, Elena Katrina, there was a plethora of talent and tunes to go along with the booze.


Opening up the event, FANS were louder and more pumped up than I was expecting. As I was walking around to the back door of District, my first thought was that the band must have been sound checking and working out volume levels, but to my excitement it was the start of a set which was similar in tone to early Biffy Clyro. It was a fantastic performance that had me messaging a few friends across the country to tell them to check out this band as I knew they’d love them – and we had a good Facebook Live session going on too.


I’ve always felt jealous of bands being on stage performing, but for the first time I felt very sorry for Fond of Rudy. It had taken them over ten hours driving time to get to Liverpool to play a festival set in a converted warehouse. There was no need for my sympathy though as the band performed with energy and vigour, making the industrial confines of the Baltic Triangle suddenly displaced to a festival field in sunshine. You could not want for more.


With a whole raft of songs in their arsenal, Cinema gave a set which was cool, fun and stylish. The band gave the impression of being professional and hardworking such was the tightness and confidence in the performance. In a way, it reminded me of the likes of Maximo Park and The Hives who you always know you can trust to turn up and roll out a performance that is guaranteed to entertain and make people understand that they have watched a band who are not going to let them down. I was thoroughly impressed.


I tell you one thing though, it was absolutely tiring watching Marsicans. These northern souls perform with such abandon and energy that it drains you like looking after toddlers. Toddlers, unfortunately, cannot make such great sounding pieces of guitar pop. Marsicans are such an exciting band that I think you are all going to be catching them throughout the rest of this year – and loving them.


Now Coquin Migale took the energy of Marsicans, but decided that as well as putting it towards heavier hits than they have sounded to me on record, they made me worried that it was going to be a danger. With the speaker stacks and safety barriers only acting as a temptation to singer Alex Soper, it was an old school show of enjoyment and encouragement to get excited.


Headlining the night, fresh from representing the greatest aspects of the British new music scene at SXSW came False Advertising. Every time I am able to watch this band the three piece seem to grow into a bigger, stronger musical unit. Throughout the set their confidence and stature seemed to grow. They are one of the most exciting bands in the UK without a doubt. It is not just the synergy of the band – especially on the songs where Jen is on vocal duties – but the band have a body of tracks which feel much older than their career. False Advertising are not derivative, but a band of now who perform with such high quality that you feel that even a new song is one that you must have heard before. And if you ever get the chance to talk with them, you will find them to be amongst the three nicest people in music.


Threshold 7 was a brilliant weekend. And from speaking to a number of Threshold First Timers, I think it is going to be a turning point for this festival as everybody seems to love it.


Threshold 7 Photo Gallery:

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  • About Popped Music

    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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