I headed back to my old University city at the weekend for Liverpool’s Sound City Festival, the 3 day festival has previously taken place in lots of different venues across the city – think Brighton’s Great Escape – however this year the organisers decided to set up an entire site on Bramley-Moore Docks. Arriving on Friday lunchtime I headed to the awesome Titanic Hotel, which was just across the road from the site and where there were various conferences, talks and events taking place for delegates and press. We managed to pop in to listen to Justin and Freddie from The Vaccines talk to XFM’s Mike Walsh before heading to the festival site.
The first band I saw on Friday were home-grown talent Circa Waves, they were a last minute addition to the line-up the day before after Slaves had to pull out, and a welcome one. The only downside was that the stage they were on suffered a little bit during their set and others over the weekend as the sound carried from some of the smaller tents.
After Circa Waves it was time to check out the modestly sized main stage for Spector, always ready to entertain, they soon get everybody dancing to Celestine and Chevy Thunder, even if the crowd did require a little persuasion from frontman Fred Macpherson to do so. Their newer material including Stay High and All The Sad Young Men shows a slightly more grown-up side without compromising the catchy sing-alongs.
We stay at the main stage for Manchester band Everything Everything who put on a faultless performance while dressed in some fetching red costumes. After a wander around the site and a quick ride on the funfair (after a few too many Desperado’s) it was time to watch The Vaccines headline on the Atlantic Stage. They put on an impeccable show with hits taken from all of their albums and as the crowd danced around and the sun set over the Mersey there was no denying Day 1 had been a success. For us Friday didn’t end there though…with the Baltic stage (a big disused warehouse) holding late night gigs and DJ’s each night, we caught a bit of Roni Size’s set before jumping into a taxi to continue the party at City centre bar Mojo…
There was no time for sore heads on Saturday morning as we awoke to glorious sunshine so after a quick lunch in the park followed by some tourist-y wandering to the Liver Building, The Cavern (well, when in Liverpool) and a quick drink on the roof of the Ferry building we headed back to the site for round 2.
First up on Saturday for us was Hooton Tennis Club (another local band) who I first saw in Amsterdam in April and instantly fell in love with their hazy sounds. Then we stumbled across Melbourne Sun God Replica who were playing in the Kraken tent as part of the Aussie BBQ Sound of Australia showcase, we ended up seeing them again at the Record Store Stage on Sunday too. If 70’s style rock floats your boat these guys have it down to a tee. There was then time for a bit of Dutch Uncles and the lead singers amazing dance moves as we soaked up the sun!
Next it was over to the Baltic stage to catch the end of Bad Breeding’s set, who I’ve awarded loudest band of the weekend, they were followed by The Bohicas, the Essex/London band have been on my list of ones to check out for a while, their singles Swarm and XXX are full of punky guitar riffs and were another good discovery. The good thing about the Sound City site was that the relatively small size meant you could switch between stages easily, so next it was off to watch Sound City organiser Dave Pichilingi’s band 35 Summers on the North Stage while they celebrated their 25th anniversary – well it would’ve been rude not to!
Then it was back into the Kraken tent where Spring King were playing, another Amsterdam discovery that are one of the best new bands I’ve seen recently, It’s the third time in just over the same amount of weeks that I’ve seen them now and they keep impressing me even more, their single City is superb as are all of the songs I’ve heard so far. We decided to skip the start of main stage headliners The Flaming Lips to have a dance around to Happy Monday’s tribute Happy Mondaze. and what a great decision that was!…In fact their Bez was so Bez like it took confirmation of his whereabouts via Twitter to prove it wasn’t him…
From the Happy Mondaze it was over to the main stage for the last half an hour or so of The Flaming Lips…and what a show they put on! The Atlantic Stage looked amazing with the neon light displays and front man Wayne Coyne switched from one outlandish outfit to another before climbing into his famous plastic ball to surf over the crowd during the encore and as everyone sang a rousing chorus of Do You Realize?? Sound City had already won me over with one day left to go.
So Sunday, the final day and there was just time to wander down Bold Street and stop off at Nolita Canteena for some American style (and portion sized) food….Definitely a good discovery for next time I’m visiting!
After re-fuelling it was time to head back down to Bramley-Moore for the last day. After catching the last chord of Honeyblood’s set (thanks to the impossible task of finding a taxi in the city centre on a match day) we wandered over to the main stage – which had become the windiest place on the whole of Merseyside (must remember to take extra layers next year) – to watch Blossoms, the young band from Manchester who have had quite a bit of hype surrounding them over the past few months, their trippy/hazy guitar sounds provided the perfect laid back start to the day. Bill Ryder-Jones was up next, also on the main stage and the former Coral guitarist kept the mellow Sunday vibes going with his hushed tales to his hometown. Heading into one of the smaller tents (to escape the wind mostly) we stumbled across Irish band Reglans who were playing the Cargo stage and they turned out to be another good discovery!
Being slightly bias what with them already being one of my favourite bands it was time to check out The Cribs on the main stage, and as usual they didn’t disappoint, tearing through new album songs Burning For No One and Different Angle while re-visiting fans favourites such as Another Number and Hey Scenesters, the crowd were one of the most energetic of the weekend. Australian band Millions who were on The North Stage proved to be another notable mention, and any band that manages to pull off a faultless cover of Unchained Melody deserve to score extra points.
We went back to the Baltic stage to watch former Zutons frontman Dave McCabe and The Ramifications, no play of his biggest hit Valerie but a cover of his former bands You Will You Won’t provided the crowd with a sing along. We stayed at the Baltic stage for Peace who put on a standout performance, their set included the epic 1998 as well as newer songs Perfect Skin and World Pleasure. It would have been the perfect ending to Sound City, but naturally we stayed a little later to watch Londoners Fat White Family bring chaos and almost nudity to the Baltic Stage before we wearily left the site for the final time…what a weekend!
Fancy going next year? you can get super early bird tickets until the 8th June here!