FESTIVAL REVIEW: FESTEVOL (PART 2)

FestEvol

Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool, 7 August 2021

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

Whilst FestEvol: Part 1 was a celebration of the Merseyside music scene, FestEvol: Part 2 was about recapturing the magical feeling of going to a festival once again.  Admittedly there was no camping, but you had bands and music fans coming from across the country to take shelter from the occasional pouring rain and dance until they dropped watching such a varied range of bands that you’d expect everybody to find something they liked, something they hated, and something that they truly loved. And oh there was so much to love in Invisible Wind Factory.

First though I want to get off my chest what I hated most from some artists performing was a failure to engage the audience.  I know it’s been a while, but it’s a festival, the audience is made up of fans of wide range of acts all of whom are looking to enjoy themselves one way or another.  You might think you seem cool and mysterious by not looking at the audience, not speaking to them much, or by acting like it’s their privilege to be able to gaze on you and wonder, but it isn’t.

As ever, the opening act had the hardest job to kick some life into a moderately empty room filled with a lot of drenched people.  Honey Motel though threw everything they could at putting life and warmth into the attendees with a big set designed for big rooms like this.  Their sound was punchy and enjoyable, reminding me of Only By The Night era Kings of Leon but without the hair and hint of Americana.  You got the feeling that they were happy to be playing too which added to the quality. Give a listen to their new single Milk and Honey which sound ace.

The first of Popped Music’s recommendations, Psycho Comedy, played down in the Substation, and the red lit basement was the ideal setting for their sixties rock n artistic socialism.  With a surprisingly early slot on the stage, there was a fire in frontman Shaun Powell.  His, and the rest of the band’s, point to prove spurred them on to a gritty, energetic set that had most of the audience loving it.  Admittedly a couple of people told me later that they didn’t appreciate the attitude from the stage, and chose to slip out and check out what else was on offer.  But if everybody had the same taste festivals would be safe places.

I hadn’t heard of Skia prior to FestEvol, and whilst her soulful pop wasn’t my cup of tea, it was obviously high quality.  And smooth.  So bloody smooth, smooth like hot chocolate (but not like Hot Chocolate the seventies band much loved by family party DJs).  Also in the not my cup of tea category was the late night minimalist electro pop of Kelly Lee Owens, but the reaction on social media from some of my friends was electric.  They’d been looking forward to Kelly Lee Owens, and she did not disappoint them.

To be fair, when KLO took to the stage I was still in a daze of dramatic awe from watching The Ninth Wave. Fresh from playing in Sheffield earlier in the day, their late night subterranean set was perfect.  I always feel that the music of The Ninth Wave has a cinematic quality, and this set was no difference.  I didn’t feel like I was underneath the floor of a Liverpool rollerdisco, instead I was, mentally at least, in the dirty New York of The Warriors or Taxi Driver given a Glaswegian lilt.  Intense, emotional, and euphoric, The Ninth Wave delivered exactly what I hoped for and more.  I love how the band combine an almost tender fragility with granite toughness.  It makes you want to stop dancing and hug each of them, but also terrified to make eye contact with them.

I don’t think there is a band in Liverpool who you make contact with more than Tea Street Band.  Timo and Nico in particular must be known by ninety percent of the denizens of Liverpool city centre.  Their indie-dance hybrid is genuinely uplifting and loved by their fans.  The only difficulty is that it doesn’t always grab the attention of new fans leading to a slight schism in the room between the scousers who love them, and those people who haven’t seen the band before.  But Tea Street Band will keep on going, and people will keep turning up to watch and love them.

Fans of the Liverpool music scene would not have been disappointed by the offering of FestEvol either.  The Substation was had all manner of bands creating a sweaty, dirty wonderful ambience.  Whether it was the dramatic post punk of Rongo Rongo, the musical grit of Oranj Son, or the clean, adult-orientated pop of HAARM, magic was happening underground.  The set from Eyesore and The Jinx was a whole Hogwarts worth of magic showing why the three-piece are such an exciting prospect.  Songs like On An Island, Leisure Time and Accidental Weller make people (myself especially) dance in the most awkward fashion possible whilst smiling wryly at the smart, cutting lyrics.  The stage invasion finale to their set summed up how they make an audience feel.  We probably enjoy Eyesore and The Jinx gigs a lot more than the band wish!

Watching Stealing Sheep is like visiting an art gallery in a foreign country.  I’m never quite sure what I’ve been to see, but I know that I loved it.  This set was no exception.  Colourful, avant-garde and everything you can expect from Stealing Sheep.  If you can really have expectations for a Stealing Sheep gig.

As I’d watch her only a week earlier, I definitely had expectations when it came to Pixey.  And oh boy did she deliver!  Her ability to craft pop music that is uplifting and melodic, yet provide enough musical quirks and flourishes to keep music snobs like me talking about it days later is astonishing.  In a city with a thriving music scene right now, Pixey stands higher than most, and we love to see it.

For me, and for a lot of people in attendance, the day though belonged to one band, Walt Disco.  I had high hopes for their set, and stuck my colours on the mast by turning up in a bright pink Cut Your Hair t-shirt of the Glasgow six-piece, but I was not expecting them to perform like that. They have grown over the last two years from cool indie band with a chunky dose of theatricality into a barnstorming, kaleidoscopic, mind blowing mix of Broadway, Sparks and Metallica (seriously the riffs are heavy).   It was wild, beautiful and decadent in both music and performance, with the audience fell in love too.  The mid-afternoon Liverpool crowd was brought to life and showed this with constant roars of approval.  Walt Disco made me so happy, and I cannot wait for the next time I get to see them.

That’s two FestEvols down, one to go.  Let’s finish it on a high!  Hopefully I’ll see you there.

P.S. To the woman who tapped me on the shoulder to tell me to fuck off because I wasn’t dancing to her favourite act (I was trying to take photographs at the time not deliberately trying to ruin the gig with my non-dancing as I was accused), I hope you stood on a piece of Lego seconds after your hangover kicked in on Sunday. But in all seriousness, photographers like everybody else are part of the musical ecosystem. Just like promoters, singers, musicians, reviewers, roadies, sound engineers, lighting techs, stewards, the people who make wristbands and many more, we’ve waited a long time to be able to do our jobs and take the photographs that you share on social media to show your friends how good a time you had, so treat us, and everybody else working hard to get things back to normal, with some fucking respect.

Get a ticket for the FestEvol 2021 finale here!

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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