FESTIVAL REVIEW: FESTEVOL (PART 1)

FestEvol

Future Yard, Birkenhead, 31 July 2021

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

Oh my God!  What a day FestEvol (Future Yard edition) turned out to be.  This is very unsurprising news to be fair.  A cracking line up of bands primarily from the banks of the Mersey for the Liverpool music scene’s first post-lockdown shindig was always going to become a beloved day.  Old friendships celebrated with a hug (if you’re down with that), friendships forged on Twitter and Instagram over lockdown turned into real world existence, and for plenty of people a chance to visit Future Yard for the first time.  The chance of the day turning out to be special was pretty much guaranteed.  Not even the solitary wasp that spent the day psychologically torturing me whenever I went outside could ruin it.

I did not have high hopes for openers Razzamatazz.  The name made me think of the kind of band that you get on the “mini cruise” ferry from Hull to Rotterdam.  I was not expecting them to offer some kind of indie-funk sound, but they did and it was ace.  Playing with a Happy Mondays style bassline throughout really made them stand out as not just another standard indie band.  Hats off to the front man too for a fantastic Adidas tracksuit.  It made it very noticeable all day that he was on site supporting all of the other bands. Well in lad!

The Merchants have worked hard over the last however many months to keep themselves in people’s minds and had a very healthy crowd watching them open the outside stage at Future Yard.  They came across really well too.  Musically the band were tight and gave people what they had turned up to see.  I hope that they can take confidence from this and be a bit more expressive and daring as it’s a very strong foundation they have. People will definitely give them the support to try more out, and won’t hold it against them for trying something new.

It was back indoors for MiG 15 (the festival was structured so that you could watch every act playing with no clashes and no downtime).  The band have created a big sound that works well on bigger stages like this, it’s smooth and luxurious rather than just loud too.  There was none of that Bontempi feel that you get with some young bands with a synth whilst they are still figuring out what they want their music to be.  I’d like to see the band command the stage a bit more, increase the expression when they are playing their instruments to really ensure that people can’t take their eyes off you, their ears are there.

As the festival filled up, it was great getting to bump into so many people to chat about music again.  These conversations over the last week and a bit have revived a part of my mind which had been dormant for too long.  I honestly would have had a great day just chatting to people without having bands to watch.  The bands were a mega bonus though, and for £15 for a ticket ridiculously good value.  Also having so much music available to the audience meant that there was hardly an alcohol victim through the day keeping the atmosphere buzzing throughout.

Everybody likes having a good time and supporting people, and if a band isn’t to your taste so be it.  But it really, really pissed me off to hear someone a bit worse for wear say to an act “you’re the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life” about six foot away from the stage.  I wouldn’t demean the band by saying who it was said to nor what stage it was said at, but seriously don’t be an arsehole to bands you’re not enjoying.  Keep those conversations between you and your mates.  It’s fine to have opinions, it isn’t fine to bully.

The set from Tilly Louise showed why she has a loyal fanbase.  Personable and bright, the music reflected their singer, and it was obvious that everybody in the band was a tremendous musician.  Personally I prefer my music to have more rough edges and drama, but my taste is not a criticism of the band.  If I had thought the band were bad, I wouldn’t have stayed with my friends on the edge of the garden through the entire set.

Midway through the bill at FestEvol was a good place for the life of Mexican Dogs to start.  With the blues a heavy influence on their rock vibes, it was going to be a big set for fans of seventies rock, and a few people I spoke to later on told me that their performance had been the musical highlight of the day.  That’s some going for your first live show considering how good the bill was.

Hushtones were next.  What can I say about Hushtones?  Even now with over twenty-four hours breathing room between their set and my typing, I’m still struggling to comprehend how a band can sound so beautifully delicate yet mix with skyscraper-height wall of sound.  Their tracks are elegant, beautiful slices of pop music but with the unreachable cool of Stevie Nicks eating an ice cream in black and white.  I seemed to wander around the garden of Future Yard during their set repeating the phrase “oh they’re just so fucking good”.  It was wonderful.  Don’t worry if you weren’t there either because Hushtones have an album out on Friday and it’ll be great because Hushtones make great music.

With a sound fixed firmly in Americana, Seafoam Green are the kind of band that I often love watching live, but I don’t think would ever listen to at home.  Despite having two drummers on stage which always seems a dangerously risky move to take for a musical layperson as myself, the set required more percussion as you couldn’t help but stomp along to it.  Their music felt intimate and made me feel like I was sat around a campsite in the woods rather than in on a high street in Birkenhead.

Similar to Hushtones earlier, Seatbelts have a grown up indie pop sound which sees their band members swapping instruments and responsibilities on stage, and generally makes songs that people enjoy.  Their set could make you happy to stand around with a beer in your hands in the company of your mates, or make you sit there intently focusing on what they are doing on stage. Seatbelts make me think of Super Furry Animals less intense moments, it’s good.

Denio make music intent on making people smile.  I didn’t find that their set took much out of me, but they are there to entertain the audience rather than generate an atmosphere of intensity, and the work they produce lifts people’s spirits with summery yacht rock.

From the first “ow!” Munkey Junkey had the audience eating out of his hand.  If you haven’t heard Munkey Junkey’s album Bitter Chitta, you need to.  It’s a genre-crossing, soul-soaring piece of wonderment, and his live performance is that with the energy of Tigger.  The full band setup works perfectly as MJ gets on with the job of entertaining the masses.  It was a full-blown party, and the set flew by.  There was so much love in the air by the end of it. It made me cheer to the heavens.

It’s not often that you get a festival performance that includes the person who served your drinks earlier in the day, but with Cult Icon’s frontman Jim being part of the team at Future Yard that’s what happened.  With a blues rock sound, a song they confidently described as “the national anthem of Birkenhead” Birkenhead Blues, and the aforementioned frontman going at it full pelt, the atmosphere was more akin to a busy Texan biker bar on a Friday night minus intimidation.

Zee Davine’s Tranmere Raver setup of speed bass rammers doesn’t normally fit in Popped Music’s remit, but fuck me Zee is a genius.  They have an incredible, envy-inducing ability to make music that hits home with audience and turns old men happy sipping a bitter into hands in the air dance freaks in an instance.  With two death angels dancing around with “God Hates Birkenhead” and “Death to Fake Birko” banners, this was an eye-catching show too.  So fuck Paul McCartney and fuck Paul O’Grady, let’s all become Tranmere Ravers.

After the dirt and destruction of Zee, the perfect cleanser was the power pop of Peaness.  I’d forgotten how enjoyable a set from this trio was.  Musically, it is like being on a bouncy castle as there is nothing to do but enjoy it.  Lyrically they are much deeper, but I was in too good a mood watching them to think!

When the date of this gig changed I was gutted that Liines couldn’t make the rearranged date, but by some magic of the fates they were once again able to play the festival.  And it was magnificent.  Intense, brooding, moody, the dark grey clouds overhead seemed designed to create the right atmosphere for the band who threw themselves into every track with wonderful abandon.  With the threat of rain in the air, it felt like every crunch and thrash was made faster as the likelihood of rain grew.  Liines are power.  I love them.

Pixey showed exactly why she is gathering fans across the country at a rapid rate with her set.  Some artists would have been shrunk by the heavy mix of bass in the sound, but with Pixey in perpetual motion, and songs that sound like Madonna with a scouse accent, everybody in the live room seemed to get right on it.  The Mersey Line is perfect like The La’s had written La Isla Bonita.  Pop music rarely gets this perfect, and even looking back I feel a bit giddy from this performance.

Out in the garden, it was Chappaqua Wrestling’s turn to race against the rain, and they did with the best set I’ve seen from them.  It felt that their previous ability with a tune had been turned up a few notches, and maybe on the small, tight stage they combined to push each other on more.  I was massively impressed.

For me though the day belonged to Zuzu.  Fresh from announcing her debut album, Queensway Tunnel, and dropping her new single My Old Life, our Zu performed magnificently.  You could have turned off the lights in the room and she would have been able to light the gaff up.  And it was truly wonderful to see how much love the crowd gave back to her, singing along with pretty much every word, apart from her solo slot to sing the title track of that forthcoming album.  It was moving, touching, and made people feel happy.  I hope Zuzu realised how much people loved her at Future Yard, and will continue to love her and her music.

The rains came which dampened the atmosphere and audience for Niix’s set, but for those willing to get wet or borrowed a pink Future Yard umbrella, they were treated to smart dance music that for me moved FestEvol into a festival feel rather than a day long event.  It was a completely new and fresh sound, and nothing beats dancing to something unknown as rain cascades on to your face.

It was left to The Mysterines to put the icing on the cake with a set of pure power that got the adrenalin flowing and for the first time of the day the audience bouncing around.  That feeling of danger and desperation that comes from rock music being belted out cannot be beaten.

The Mysterines harnessed togetherness and energy wonderfully, and give off a feeling of dominance from the stage.  The only disappointment was that some people didn’t realise the last train to Liverpool wasn’t until ten to twelve and got off early.  In fact, it would have been worth the taxi fare to see.

I had such a brilliant day.  I wish I could do it all again as soon as possible.

Oh there’s another FestEvol this weekend?  Well I’ll see you there then!

Tickets to FestEvol (Liverpool) are available here.

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  1. […] to FestEvol: Part 2 and Part 3. Get one because it’s going to be fucking awesome, just like FestEvol: Part 1 […]

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