Sound City

Sound City


The Merseyside festival is back and it seems to have cemented itself a place as one of the more popular smaller festivals – just a year after its relocation to Bramley-Moore dock.  Last year’s festival saw three days of talent whereas this year saw just the two days of live performance, which left a handful of festival goers a little disgruntled – and rightly so, with prices this year being hiked. Some would argue that the line-up for this year’s Liverpool Sound City could be seen as more intimate in comparison to previous years which is an added bonus I guess. The festival still showcases smaller record labels and gives breakthrough acts a platform to excel themselves on – which is a fantastic gesture by Dave Pichillingi & Co. The festival site deserves credit itself. The decision to relocate appears to have let the festival flourish into what it is. With each stage within a few minutes walk from each other, it allows you to catch the bulk of most performances without running around cautiously avoiding pissed-up middle-aged scousers who are having the time of their lives.

The first day of the Friday sees a music industry conference held in the luxurious and suave Titanic Hotel. A plethora of stalls spanning from independent record labels to DJ workshops are available to have a mooch around. The conference, also known as Sound City + is a great way to network with industry professionals but finding the identity of selected people proves to be difficult. I’m sure if the event was structured a bit better then it would be a more positive experience but I find myself leaving the conference fairly early after paying over £2 for a small glass of coke – which is a bit of a joke and despite what my friends may say, I’m not tight.

The actual festival kicks off on the Saturday – where Catfish And The Bottlemen are headlining the main stage and it’s their first ever festival headline slot. I avoid the performance like the plague. It’s just something about them and their following that I don’t enjoy. They’re not bad musicians or performers but I think it’s the fact they constantly churn out music that is neither inventive nor fresh. For me, it really sums up an Indie genre and scene that has been fairly dormant for the past year or two. As I make my way to the absolutely glorious ‘Fish N Chip’ stand which became a firm favourite of mine over the weekend, I catch a glimpse of a docked boat known as the Tall Ship where French hip-hop group Las Aves are playing. I’d never heard of them before and if it weren’t for Sound City I probably never would have. However, they really impress me. Obviously influenced by MIA, they provide a quirky synth driven routine to a small yet encouraging audience. Donned in all white clothing, they are definitely ones to watch out for in the future.

Now, for the most controversial booking of the weekend, the main stage ‘welcomed’ Sleaford Mods. After previously watching Jason and Andy in an insightful Q+A, they kicked off their set in the usual erratic manner. A few sections of the crowd are looking around in bewilderment as to what they are viewing. As people, Sleaford Mods are right up my street – straight to the point no nonsense views, but as a musical act, I’m not. However, I didn’t stand there and boo like a small minority of absolute dim-witted morons did. Yes, you’ve paid your money and you’re entitled to your opinion – but why stand their and waste an hour of your life, that fortunately you’re not going to get back booing a performance. Have a day off. Just appreciate that Sleaford Mods are doing something against the norms of what music is being classified as today. Jason Williamson, wordsmith for Sleaford Mods acknowledges booing members of the crowd by rubbing his crotch and sticking his tongue out. I suppose it’s one way to deal with hecklers. Even with a rowdy crowd, Sleaford Mods bossed it out there, proving they’ve established themselves – despite their critics.

The Saturday night is drawn to a close by electronic veterans Leftfield and it’s an amazing spectacle. The Baltic Warehouse is certainly the best venue on Bramley-Moore dock. A stripped back warehouse with a booming sound system and light display really has thrown me straight back into the early 90’s. Leftfield deliver a thumping set and offer something a little different to neighbouring stage headliners. The visuals are providing a trippy experience for all involved as the crowd experience arguably the best set that Saturday has to offer.

The Sunday looks a lot busier than the Saturday as The Coral headline the Atlantic Stage. I start my day a little later than expected after getting ‘stuck’ in the pub. Hot Chip are kicking things off for me, and my word, they’ve not lost it. A monumental two-hour set, which features the likes of The Chemical Brothers, really has excited me. The Baltic Warehouse is full of cavorting youth and the older generations boogying as Hot Chip match what Leftfield did the previous night. I move over to the Atlantic Stage halfway through Hot Chip to catch Liverpool’s very own, Circa Waves. They’re a band I’ve admired since the release of their debut album, which I had as my best album of 2015. It’s an intimate show as Liverpool Sound City is where it also started for the Circa Wave boys.  The tightest band over the whole weekend, they present an experienced and matured performance to the delight of the Merseyside faithful. It’s fantastic to see a crowd welcoming home a member of their musical community – something Liverpool has done for some time. An hour long set and most of the album played really has pleased me. These lads are onto something special and Liverpool can feel it. Feeling inspired and content I move over to see Pete Doherty headline The North Stage. A reformed character, it’s an honour to be in the presence of one of the finest poet and lyricist of my generation.  Pete shows great calmness and collectiveness, which has been the same on his recent solo tour by all accounts.

Liverpool Sound City has proven to be a success. The critics that slammed the festival for having less acts yet costing more may just have been proven wrong. An eclectic mix of genre and artists has made the festival what it is and it continues to do so. Giving local and smaller acts a platform to propel themselves is key to this scene growing and Sound City is feeding it. I really do hope now that Liverpool Sound City doesn’t explode into a major festival because it’s a perfect set up. Kudos to Dave Pichillingi and everyone else involved.

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Matthew Cooper

University of Chester Music Journalism Student / Drummer Guitarist and Synthesist / Gig Goer