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Liverpool Sound City 2013: Martin’s Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 17th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

More of Martin’s high-res photos from day 2 can be found on his Flickr.

Bands of the day: Concrete Knives, Wolf People, Melody’s Echo Chamber

Venue of the day: Screenadelica

One not-to-be-underestimated benefit of an event being held in Liverpool is the impressive situational architecture. I chose a hotel based entirely on cost and availability, and yet it boasted a fine view of the Mersey estuary and is continuously watched over by that Liver bird which is unfortunate enough not to have a sea view. There’s few things more inclined to soothe a music-induced foggy head than a bracing Atlantic breeze and a frozen berry smoothie, both of which are liberally on offer on the Albert Dock; head duly cleared, there’s still a few hours to kill before play recommences – a tour around the Tate Liverpool and a few frames of World Championship snooker fill the gap admirably.

There’s a distinctly Asian flavour to this year’s event – delegations from Korea (of which more tomorrow) and Taiwan are in town, and are plugging hard. Echo are the first Taiwanese band I come across. They’re technically excellent rock musicians, and enjoyable to watch, but there’s little distinctive personality to be discerned in this brief meeting. Perhaps they’re better at copying a western style than coming up with one of their own. Another slight disappointment is L.A. band Hands – pre-event research had revealed them to a promising, if slightly pretentious act; today, their sound is mostly lost in the cavernous Garage, and no amount of optimistic gyration from Geoff can save the day.

Concrete Knives Liverpool Sound City 2013

The second French band of the weekend are Concrete Knives, and they continue the French theme of pure excellence. Theirs is a delightfully retro jumble of danceable grooves, funky breakdowns, and singalong choruses. Morgane Colas deadpans into the microphone, breaking into precise little dance moves when the occasion demands it, her slight frame booming out a powerful vocal, dominating the delicious noise the band pumps out. Despite (or perhaps, in an oblique way, because of) their Normandy roots, the band sing and title their songs in English, with just the right amount of evocative Gallic accent to spice their singing with a romantic otherness which suits the material perfectly. Most of recent album ‘Be Your Own King’ is played, climaxing with the swaying Truth, its loping beat building into a kitchen-sink crescendo which brought that rare, unique hair-stands-on-end moment which always happens at some point at a music festival. They played a second set later in the day to a dusky Kazimier Gardens, which managed to be even more funky impressive, with the entire crowd dancing and whooping by the end. These are the band of the festival for me.

Best Friends Liverpool Sound City 2013

My first venture into the Kazimier itself, which turns out to be a superb old-school auditorium with delightfully odd black-and-white handmade woodwork, is for Sheffield surf rock four-piece Best Friends. In the interests of full disclosure, in advance I decide I’m predisposed to feel an affinity for the band because the lead singer shares my surname of Sharman, but there’s plenty more to like about them besides that. There’s an endearing warmth to their ocean breeze of fuzzy guitars and circular chord sequences that charms the crowd and enchants the neutral observer. Wasting Time, with its memorable riffs and football-terrace chorus demonstrates just how tuneful their arrangements can be, but elsewhere there’s a sour undertow of dissonance that prevents everything getting too sickly, like a slice of lime rammed into a bottle of lager. Take your Best Friends to the beach.

Wolf People Liverpool Sound City 2013

The Kazimier, with its slightly tired retro ambience, is the perfect environ in which to experience Wolf People, who, from their first note to the last, transport everybody to an incense-fugged basement club in west London, circa 1971. Theirs is the world of paisley kaftans, flared jeans and beards; their sound is that of the classic folk-prog-rock power quartet, guitars intertwining – sometimes harmonising, sometimes octaving, sometimes complementary, sometimes in battle. Vintage fuzz tones abound, guitar solos are long and unashamed, the rhythm section grooves like a bastard, and the lyrics… whilst there’s a possibility that they’re not about goblins, wizards and faire maidens, by rights they really should be. Wolf People are one of the finest rock bands I’ve ever seen, and a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in the influential late-60s/early-70s psychedelic scene. A song like the superbly-named ‘When the Fire is Dead in the Grate’ encapsulates practically an entire genre in one brilliant many-movemented beast. A great opportunity to experience one of rock music’s finest hours for those who missed it the first time around.

Still in the Kazimier is the third and final French act of the weekend: Melody’s Echo Chamber (pictured at top) trade in beautiful, dreamy ditties in the vein of classic French chanteuses such as Francois Hardy, updated with modern arrangements; there’s bits of electronica in there, some found noises, and a persistent, driving guitar. Sometimes they descend into beat-infused chaos, but always maintaining the pretty, ’60s-tinged melodies. I should have stayed for the whole set, but Melody’s lament at missing Unknown Mortal Orchestra got the better of me so I crossed the road to catch the end of their performance. I’m not sure whether my expectations were unfairly high, but the subtleties of their act were either lost on me, or not present at all, comprising as it did long episodes of Ruban Nielson rocking out on his Fender Jag-Stang and not a great deal else. Possibly a deep-seated familiarity with latest album II would have helped decipher it all, but at this late hour none of it seemed very impressive.

To Screenadelica, and what is basically an unused low-ceilinged office building housing a music poster exhibition, with a stage seemingly plonked in one corner. The ceiling is of low, broken tiling, the lighting is exposed fluorescent tubes which conspire to bathe the room in an unflattering, green-tinged blankness. Such a disconcerting environment makes a perfect post-apocalyptic backdrop for the heavy rock bands which are in residence all weekend. An impromptu meetup with Mary and John of this parish meant we all had the good fortune to catch a mental set from Arcane Roots. You never know where you are with these guys – one minute they’re all sweet, delicate vocals over a charming, chiming guitar line – but in the blink of a distortion pedal later, they’re shredding your face off and roaring down your throat. Comparisons with Biffy are unenviably inevitable, but Arcane Roots do carve a niche all of their own, and their directness and energy is a welcome change from the more cerebral fare on offer earlier. As an aside, what gives with what bands are playing and wearing these days? All the pop acts are wearing rock band T-shirts (viz Bastille, Ilona et al.), and the rock acts are wearing suits and shirts and playing Fender Telecasters. When did a Tele become a heavy metal guitar? How I long for the days of the bepointed Japanese Superstrat to return. Perhaps a fashion revival waiting to happen?

It falls to Future of the Left to finish the night. It’s past 1am before they even start setting up, which may be why Andy Falkous is even more grumpy than usual; the sardonic wit which often lifts their uncompromising set is buried deep under a layer of gritty condescension tonight. Even though on record their well-crafted, often surreal lyrics lighten the heft of the music somewhat, tonight subtlety is exchanged for impact, which matches the raucous crowd’s mood perfectly. The Thatcher-baiting is getting old now, however – if this is the future of the left, then it looks and sounds very much like a repeat of the past couple of decades – and the ensuing yawns are too emphatic for your correspondent to resist. I retire home to rest in peace.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2013: Mary’s Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Wednesday, 15th May 2013 at 1:00 pm
 

Sound City 2013, day 2, began with me waking up to the strains of a Reverend and the Makers‘ YouTube playlist blaring out of John’s iPad. Mission accomplished from the previous night, I’d say. We headed into the convention portion of the festival and my first stop was a radio pluggers’ panel with heavyweights of the radio industry, including 6music’s Chris Hawkins, Radio2’s Janice Long, and 6music producer Julie Cullen. As a regular BBC Radio music listener, it was really interesting to hear the presenters and producers’ takes on why radio is still so strong in Britain.

Janice Long said, “people love the intimacy of radio…[the fact that] they’re being offered something”, and I agree. Getting to know your presenters, I find, is especially important on whether or not I trust or would listen to that person’s recommendations. While by no means do I enjoy every single band that Lammo has trotted out on his New Favourite Band weekly feature, or in the same respect Huw Stephens on his specialist show, there are so many bands I never would have of heard of if either hadn’t played them on their shows. It was also heartening to hear that the panelists all welcome hearing demos from bands, just asking that the CDRs be labelled clearly and properly with the band name and song title, or even better, be provided a Soundcloud downloadable link that can be shared and spread between colleagues, should the song take their fancy and they want to actually play it on radio. I also had a chat with Chris Hawkins and that feature on TGTF is forthcoming soon.

After having some food and drink at a very cool, nonalcoholic cafe called the Brink, it was time to split up again, and then I was off to see Vasco da Gama, named after the Portuguese explorer who circumnavigated around the tip of Africa, not to be confused with the strange typo on the programme of Vasco da Gamma, as if they had some Greek relations. They play a wonky, punky, art rock kind of style that is not all unlike their fellow DIY Liverpudlians Hot Club de Paris, who’ve gone quiet. Vasco benefitted from the delay of the start of Taiwanese band Echo, who were having trouble with their soundcheck just across the way at the Garage. Watch a bit of their performance below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6EiPIrDbfs[/youtube]

The singer of Taiwan’s Echo certainly wins, hands down, the longest note held during this year’s Sound City. Check out the video below. When you’re an unknown band to the city you’re in, you’ve got to really bring it, and Echo’s singer jumped onto the barrier and into the sparse crowd and just let loose this amazing scream. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, there is no denying that the band sound great instrumentally and have a good command of melody, as you will see in the video. Now if they could just record one song in English language…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATPXDaDGH4E[/youtube]

Funnily enough, next John and I ended up at the same place, with John not even knowing I was in the same room. In a true example of regional representation, a selection of Norwich bands appeared at Sound Food and Drink, a cafe that oddly did not vacate its tables and move them in time for the evening’s performances. Bad form. Or maybe they just wanted to discourage people from cramming themselves in there. The premise of Wooden Arms was promising: a band made of mostly classical string instrument-playing members, singing in multi-part harmony. Unfortunately, live they translated to something far more boring than I would have guessed.

So I was off again and to the east to the East Village Arts Club, where the bouncer inconveniently directed me to the wrong place for Manchester’s NO CEREMONY///. Like fellow Mancunians WU LYF, NO CEREMONY/// have tried to maintain a mysterious vibe about themselves, with overly dark, goth-y videos that show no hint of what the band actually look like. So I just assumed the band must be two blokes with oodles of synthesisers. Not exactly. The band live is fronted by a bass-toting woman and while there are two men with synths in front of them, one of them does play guitar. As I did suspect, there isn’t a

It was a bit of a hike from where I was to the Black-E, with 3 nights being curated by local Liverpool-centric football, music and culture Web site the Anfield Wrap and featuring only Merseyside-based bands. But being an Liverpool FC fan, I knew I just had to be there at some point in the weekend. I was not disappointed with the Thespians, with a lead singer that looks eerily like Carl Barat. The band even wear black leather jackets and sound at times very Libertines-esque, including abruptly ending some of their songs in that sort of punky, ‘up yours’ kind of way. They explained that their album had already been put out in Japan and all physical copies had been snapped by the record-buying public over there. If that is truly the case, then we should all probably get on this bandwagon now before it turns into a steamroller.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtJLXDVYwKA[/youtube]

Then it was back west and into the centre of the clubbing life for the Chapman Family at Leaf Cafe. I have a couple friends who are massive fans of theirs, so colour me curious, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They can be depressing topic-wise, but the sheer power of their live performance, not to mention the incredible magnetism of their frontman Kingsley Chapman, make their live set a sight to behold. A hipster couple who quickly took their places right in front of the stage threw their band tote bags under the stage and proceeded to mosh (is that the right word?) to every Chapman Family song, arms and legs flailing in every which way. At some point I was sure one of them would slip and fall but it didn’t happen, they were just so excited to be there.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3gqTtzL4cg[/youtube]

And then it was back to Wolstenholme Square, where I thought I had arrived just in time for Marple’s Dutch Uncles. Cripes. I am very careful about making sure I don’t have clashes in schedule, so I am positive they must have moved up the Duncles’ set by an hour because when I arrived, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was setting up. To say I was upset by the turn of events, especially after loving the new album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’, is putting it mildly. I was on the verge of tears. But, when in Liverpool, you carry on. I didn’t feel like running to another venue, so I just hung tight at the Arts Academy for the one major band I definitely wanted to see there, Dutch Uncles’ mates Everything Everything.

When you’re thousands of miles away from home, I don’t care who you are, it is an important and touching moment when a band you have supported and followed for a long time acknowledges your presence. Everything Everything’s bassist Jeremy Pritchard, who has always been extremely kind and nice to me every time I have had the pleasure to meet him, only waved to me down in the pit, but it truly meant the world to me. Prior to this, I had only seen them live once, and in an acoustic setting for a charity show 2 days after my birthday in 2011, so I was raring to go to see them play with their full setup. While I still think new album ‘Arc’ is not as strong as ‘Man Alive’, there were plenty of punters willing to disagree with me at the Arts Academy. I thought it was quite strange that they didn’t play ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, but perhaps they are trying to wean themselves away from their past? Possibly. With singles like ‘Kemosabe’ and ‘Cough Cough’, they can afford to do that.

The TGTF crew ended up, rather accidentally, together at Screenadelica at the end of the night, and you can read John’s descriptions of Arcane Roots and Future of the Left in his day 2 roundup. While we were waiting between sets, Duologue, who I recognised from seeing them in a beer garden at this year’s SXSW, bounded out from backstage at the Arts Academy and into Screendelica, the venue directly in the back of it. This Twitter exchange ensued. And yes, Tim, I will touch your face the next time I’m in your proximity!

 
 
 

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