Festival Review: Liverpool Sound City 2019

Liverpool Sound City 2019

Various venues, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool, 4-5 May

Words by Daniel Burton and Gary Lambert

Photos by Gary Lambert

Sound City 2019 was a festival that was approached with a cautious, tempered excitement. It felt like the organisers had made a bit of a gamble on the line up across the board with non-traditional headliners, traditional-ish headliners in “Afternoon Headliner” slots, and so many acts from the Liverpool music scene that it could have been a Liverpool Showcase rather than a festival. On top of that, there were so many bands playing in such a small area that it seemed impossible for it not to go wrong. Wonderfully, the Sound City team pulled it out of the bag fantastically. It was back to the halcyon days of Sound City before the festival moved down to the docks. The venues for the festival were set on the roads off Jamaica Street which meant that Jamaica Street acted as a meeting place, a hangout, and with a few non-musical artistic performances taking place there, it created a real festival vibe. With the majority of the weekend being drenched in sunshine, it meant that more than ever before Sound City developed a community spirit and felt like a festival rather than a load of gigs next door to each other.

It was nice to settle in to the festival with a band that we have seen regularly performing in Liverpool over the last couple of years, and who have performed for Popped Music on several occasions, Caveparty. The scouse-Mexican-Korean four-piece told me afterwards that they had been worried about how the music sounded but I can honestly say that this was the best I had ever seen the band play. Apparently, they took their uncertainty out on their instruments and it was tremendous. They need to get aggressive more when they play if this is the effect. A bit of snarl from some usually lovely people was like an energy drink to their amps. Miru even told the audience the band’s name which is something that I’ve told them off for not doing before which made me smile massively.

Glass Caves were the first band out of town band we caught and although I have reviewed some of their music before, I didn’t expect it to be just a guitar, synth/keys and drums producing the sound on stage. They have such a big and well-rounded sound that makes you feel like there are a million people on stage. The voice has a very unique gritty, yet high-pitched sound, enabling his to reach a great range of sounds. Sadly whilst they were in this venue, our team were accused of being a “security risk” by the manager as they had gone to the balcony in the venue which had already been opened. Gary is still waiting for the manager to come back as promised after he had checked the CCTV. Incorrect accusations and aggressive behaviour do not create a good vibe and no apology was received – nor any drinks bought there despite watching several other bands in the room.

In stark comparison to the dreamy indie pop of Glass Caves, Madridistas Los Wilds brought a highly energetic, action filled performance to the Brick Street Garden. The sound was very sixties garage rock, and at times almost felt like a Spanish version of The Beatles (Hamburg era). The front man was most certainly the star of the show, venturing to back of the garden he climbed up a wall, stood on top of the shipping container which was the bar and sunbathed on the top. Having to be encouraged back to the stage by the rest of the band with another beer, he had gained a rather big patch of rust on his trousers so preceded to undo and take them off and perform in his briefs for the rest of the set. As the set carried on, his shirt then came off leaving him in just a pair of brown cowboy boots and white Jockey Y’s. It was not necessarily the best vocal performance I saw over the weekend but they did put on a show and it was certainly eye catching and memorable.

With the unenviable task of following them was Track Not Found. Now that was going to be a hard job for most experienced bands, but for three young women from Guernsey, you would expected nerves to have been showing. No way Jose! As they finished their line check, they stood staring at the crowd intensely and started a slow countdown from ten which grabbed the attention. As they reached halfway through the countdown, they blasted out “FIVEFOURTHREETWOONE” and started to tear into their music like it was 1977. I was so glad that I had turned up to watch this band as their set was so enjoyable and raucous. The healthy crowd was also good reward for the band for their efforts in walking around the festival handing out leaflets encouraging people to turn up to watch them. With their face paint on strolling through the middle of Liverpool on a Saturday afternoon, they looked like a band, but with their instruments plugged in they sounded like a band too.

For my first trip to constellations, I caught Oddity Road. I have been following this band for a few years now and have seen them go from strength to strength. Playing a mixture of new tracks with some reworked versions of old favourites, it was a set that showed what they have come from but also what we can expect to see in the future. Whilst I do love their music, some of the songs felt slightly jittery, but given that they are obviously stepping away from their well-honed previous sound, the necessary fluidity will come as they grow and continue through their latest step in their career.

Red Rum Club are a band that I have only seen a handful of times but feel like I’ve been watching for an eternity. Every performance is filled with energy, but this was an extra special one. Having just released the music video to their track TV Said So, they wore their Anchorman-themed clothes as featured in the video. You have got to see the video, it is a must watch! This was another time seeing them and another great performance. Playing to a rammed District, it was clearly one of the highlights of the weekend for everyone that was able to get into this lockout. We couldn’t move an inch so after a few songs we departed to allow a few others to get a glimpse. Later on, we bumped into Red Rum Club putting their gear away and they were quite pleased that we had left early as we had taken a photo of the enormous queue outside the venue. It was brilliant to see how excited the guys are still getting from the trajectory their career is on right now.

One of the most eye catching sets of the weekend was the first afternoon headliner, Shame. The south London punks were energetic, angry and got very, very close to the fans…. They also laid their political views firmly to the mast by performing in front of a backdrop of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon getting doused with a strawberry milkshake. As soon as I saw that I thought “I’m lovin’ Shame”, the music was just a bonus!

After playing in the Baltic Triangle recently as part of Threshold Festival at the stage ran by your favourite online magazine for new music (hint: it’s Popped Music), it was great to see Berries back and keeping up their form in Baltic Social. One of my favourite bars is also one of my least favourite music venues, but the three-piece performed fast and hard, making sure there was no need to cut their set short despite a couple of timing issues on the line up. It was also brilliant to see a few of the same faces who had been at the gig in District previously turning up to cheer them on.

I’d heard the hype about Tracky going around for a while so went to check him out, but it was a lockout. We tried to get in, squeezing ourselves to the back of the room where some friends were situated. There though we couldn’t move an inch, it was so packed that we couldn’t even get an angle to see him on stage. However, it sounded great from where we were but I would get to see him later in the weekend, risking getting ran over on Sunday afternoon dancing to Money in the middle of road outside a pretty small, very busy tent.

Rather than waste time watching the back of people’s heads, we quickly ran over to Hangar 34 and managed to get in to see King Nun. We saw this band play Sound Basement a matter of months ago so we knew we were in for a great time, but now playing to a busy Hangar 34, it was likely to be 10 times louder and bigger. It was a very energetic performance and you most certainly couldn’t have come along if you were tired, you needed all of your energy to keep up with theirs.

Now, Emily Burns. I have seen her name mentioned around social media quite a bit recently, so I thought I’d pop along and see. Playing the main stage, I was almost lost for words when I heard her. Just amazing, simply amazing. If you look at similar pop artists at the top of charts at the moment, I see no difference between Emily Burns and them. With this in mind, I see absolutely no reason for her to hit the very top in the near future. This was the first time I’d heard her and she was so good, a perfect faultless performance. Being a singer/songwriter with dance beats playing behind, it brought a great atmosphere for a Saturday evening on New Bird Street.

It had been a non-stop day of bouncing from venue to venue, so headliner Mabel was missed in order to take some time to relax before catching two of our favourite rock acts in False Advertising and Scarlet. As with many of the smaller venues, 24 Kitchen Street was not running to time, so it kicked plans for an early night well into touch. Despite both being energetic, loud rock bands lead by a female singer, the performances of the two acts couldn’t have been more different. False Advertising were angry, angsty and fierce, whereas Scarlet played with more humour and pleasure as a unit than I’d seen them do before generally enjoying themselves. It was the perfect finish to a great day of music.


Starting our Sunday off, we went to Constellations to see Factory. They play real classic rock n roll and have the style to back up the sound. It was a high energy, big sounding set which slowly drew a crowd in from the outside and was a great set to kick off the day. Whilst walking to another venue I had to quickly take a peek into at the End of the Trail stage, and I really liked what I heard. Handstand Parade brought a dreamy indie-pop sound that had remnants of The 1975. I will definitely be checking them out further and keeping an eye on them in the future.

Heading to Best Before on the recommendation of The Post Romantics, I think I found a new band that I’m going to really like as I discover them more. Bad Animal had a sound mixing post-punk with rock n roll with the song structure of indie, you’re going to need to find a name for this genre I think as that is too long to type every time, but it definitely checked most of the boxes for me. The melting pot of styles seemed to effortlessly blend into one. At times it reminded me of the sonic makeup of The Libertines, whilst other parts of the set saw them going a little softer with elements of dream-pop and shoegaze. This was the Canadian band’s first time in Liverpool, and what a debut it was, especially getting the crowd dancing at such an early hour on Sunday lunch.

Walking past the End of the Trail stage once again, I was drawn in by the sounds of Sam Eagle. This jazz, hip hop come singer songwriter was very popular playing to a packed New Bird Street car park, and for good reason. The production and performance of every song was pristine and sounded like he’d been practising for years. This is yet another young talent on show at the festival that is sure to have a very promising career.

The first act we saw on the main stage on Sunday was Liverpool’s very own SPINN. This festival set came just two days after their debut album had been released and judging by the size and reaction of crowd, it has proven to be very popular, very quickly. Playing to a packed New Bird Street main stage, they powered through some old tracks, but mostly stuck to the songs featured on the album. It was 30 mins of straight up singalong indie bliss. The crowd did not appear particularly energetic, despite the best efforts of Charity Shop Pop trying to get a mosh pit started. They were simply blown away by such a mesmerising set, as was I!

In a perfect pairing on the main stage, Clean Cut Kid followed the young lads. With their slightly more mature pop sound taking numerous tips from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, they were able to obliterate any remaining hangovers through sunshine pop songs. It was a real vindication of the decision to include afternoon headliners at the festival as it was such fun watching them. And they did seem to enjoy themselves too.

One of the stand out elements of Sound City 2019 was the number of bands who turned up a day early or stayed on after they had played to watch their friends, counterparts, and the odd random selection. Clean Cut Kid were one of those bands, so it was great to see the support they got for their afternoon slot. Tracky, Charity Shop Pop, Track Not Found and The Post Romantics also seemed to go to watch so many bands that they could have been working the festival for Popped Music.

There was no way that we could miss out on cheering on one of our friends (and great supporters of the live music scene) The Post Romantics, so headed entered Hangar 34 and watched it slowly but surely fill up. By the time The Brothers Cockbain and their Brother-in-Arms Barton took to the stage, the large room was impressively full. I would struggle to place them into a single genre as the four piece seem to try to make music that that takes in every album that they have ever loved, but with that blend they cater for a whole host of music tastes. The bigger room than usual suited the complex sounds of The Post Romantics perfectly and was a great spot to showcase future release Ride. If you have never been to one of their gigs before, this was definitely the kind of performance that would make you want to see them again.

The Cheap Thrills played on the End of the Trail stage in front of a very busy crowd which reflected their well thought of position in the Liverpool music scene. Whilst not the most daring and risky of sounds, the band play for their audience well. The crowd-friendly tracks were reminiscent of The Courteeners and that is a pretty decent position for a young, indie band from the north west of England.

Another of the Popped Music Presents alumni to turn up at Sound City was a very hungover Saltwater Sun. The hangovers can be forgiven as they were caused by watching lots of bands at Live At Leeds rather than jumping in the van to a hotel. Despite the playing down of their abilities due to the previous exertions, they did the ridiculously healthy Reading music scene proudly with the most angry and raucous performance I have seen them offer up. It really suited their music and I was quite proud the next day seeing people talk on social media about how this set was one of their favourites over the entire weekend.

One of my favourite sets of the weekend was Vistas playing to an absolutely full Hangar 34. This is a band that have recently played Liverpool supporting Bloxx at Sound Basement, and in comparison this set was a huge slot at a much bigger venue. They have certainly grown 10-fold in a very short period of time. In fact, it felt not like a show at a festival, but rather a Vistas standalone gig such was the love the crowd showed to these Scots.

It was hoped that we would be able to get to see Loyle Carner, but brilliantly the main stage was full to capacity well before his set was due to start. So instead the festival finished for Popped Music where it started in the garden of Constellations. This time we treated ourselves to some Average Sex. Energetic, tuneful, and bloody exciting, the sex might be average but the music is fantastic. They started off by mentioning a forthcoming gig in Liverpool, so I’ll make sure that my diary is clear then.

Sadly at that point my body decided to inform me that I had overdone it, so the comfortable seat of my car called me, but I sat outside Constellations lazily listening to one last band and Shards sounded ace. I want to be able to take my car outside more festival

This was an unbelievable weekend with an amazing line-up and great venues. Sound City 2020 is already on sale so I highly recommend you grab your tickets to one of the best in-city festivals.

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