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Liverpool Sound City 2014: Day 2 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 15th May 2014 at 1:00 pm
 

For all my photos from Sound City 2014, head this way; for all my Sound City 2014 coverage from Liverpool, use this link.

While it was my intention to see as many bands as I wanted to off my Thursday Liverpool Sound City 2014 schedule, by the time I woke up Friday morning, I was feeling it. Oh no, oh no, oh no! The worst thing as a music writer to wake up to: a painful sore throat. After two scalding hot milky teas did not seem to do the trick, a quick stop into Tesco’s on Bold Street to grab some honey lemon Strepsils (as Radcliffe and Maconie and Marc Riley say on their radio programmes, other shops and lozenges are available) was required. And then I was off again, though not with the same get up and go as the previous day.

Thanks to a tip from Chris Donnelly of Sounds of Now Music, I had initially pencilled in the mysterious Moats as a possible early band to catch. However, as it so happens to all of us, hunger set in and I ended up meeting with an industry friend at the amazing Leaf Cafe where I’d seen Sivu close out the night before in fine fashion. They do amazing food and, of course for a place with the word ‘leaf’ in their name, a fine cuppa for a bad throat (thanks all).

The Orielles @ Shipping Forecast

After I’d gotten sufficient food in the tummy, it was time to head back out for our friends The Orielles, who were playing the cramped Shipping Forecast where Traams had got tail feathers shaking late Thursday evening. They were slotted in at the unenviable time of 7, just like Prides the night before, except the downstairs room of the Shipping Forecast was actually packed. Good for them! Funnily enough, the two girls at the delegate greeting table at the Hilton were stood right next to me, I think a little startled that I was there, snapping photos.

You can read more about the Orielles’ live performance in my review of their ‘Entity’ single launch party at Manchester Deaf Institute on the 26th of April through this link and you can also listen to them live in conversation here, but I think the more important take home message from their Sound City appearance is their confidence. It’s a good word to describe the trio, as I’ve seen lesser – and dare I say it, older – bands quake under the pressure of a industry-related festival such as Sound City, but the Orielles are professionals. In a confined space like this, they had nowhere to run – literally – and all eyes were on them. Yet they were calm, cool and collected, which is exactly what their style of surf pop demands. I’m really looking forward to seeing where their music takes them.

Strangers @ Brooklyn Mixer

Then I was off to see someone (or three someones, as I expected) back at the Brooklyn Mixer. Maybe it is just my personality to want to help as many deserving people as possible, but I’ve found it inevitable – in an entirely good way, I might add – that bands we’ve discovered and fallen in love with (and often times, those that you readers have fallen in love with too) become friends. Electro dance act Strangers appeared at #2 on the TGTF 10 for 2012 way back at the end of 2011 and even though I’d corresponded with frontman David Maddox-Jones for years it seems, for one reason or another I always missed seeing them gig in London. When I was scanning the schedule between panel sessions on Thursday, I noticed their name on the Friday. David explained to me that they were asked to fill in last minute. Naturally, I seized the chance to finally see them live.

With his awesome wingtips, Maddox-Jones was the height of fashion. Unfortunately, it was to Strangers’ detriment that the punters present for their set seemed more keen on their pints and less on the electronic music on offer right in front of them. However, as I stood watching Maddox-Jones give it his all – he’s got a fine set of pipes full of soul and emotion there, for sure, and he gets entirely caught up in the music, his body never stopping for a moment – I couldn’t help wonder how the performance would have been helped with an entirely different environment. I remember Delphic saying in an interview once that they’d requested a German festival put them in a greenhouse-like tent for their performance at an event so that the mood was as dark and clubby as possible, and I think that’s exactly the kind of venue I’d want to see Strangers at. As for the three someones I previous mentioned? Piers Sherwood-Roberts has left the band so Strangers is now a duo, though I suppose you could argue with two guys on synthesisers, do you really need a third, if between two people you’ve got one manning the synths ably and the other with a voice perfectly suited to the music?

The Inkhearts @ Kazimier Gardens

There was no time to stay and exchange pleasantries after, sadly. I was off like a rocket to catch The Inkhearts, who oddly popped up in conversations all over my 2-week holiday across England. They’re a young student band from Skelmersdale who appeared at the Label Recordings showcase at the atmospheric Kazimier Gardens. ‘Keeping Up’ is the Inkhearts’ current single, and it’s getting airplay all over the country already (apparently it’s a hit particularly with a radio presenter in Cornwall), which is a good sign as any that these kids are on to something good. And as we know, ‘Something Good Can Work’… I don’t like waving my press badge around at any festival if I can help it (it’s pretentious), but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, and the bouncers were not letting me in, so waving and yelling saved the day and got me into the place finally.

I think it’s a testament to the good people of the North West that such a showcase was put together to promote young talent and give them a proper way to show off their hard work and what they’re all about. (Read more about the label based at Edge Hill University here.) Yes, they’re young, but you can tell there is a definite desire of wanting to make it, and looking on at these youngsters, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride and that the future of the music business will keep going on the talent and energy of kids like them. I could barely keep up with my own studies when I was in school, so I know that these four who are doing the music on the side while also trying to further their education must have their hearts in the right place. After I interviewed the Inkhearts in the upstairs atrium (and apparently gave them a Stuart Maconie factoid to take back with them to school the next week), Heebie Jeebies beckoned.

Model Aeroplanes @ Heebie Jeebies

With the sheer number of and different kinds of venues at Liverpool Sound City, there’s no use guessing which bands will draw packed houses. Model Aeroplanes from Dundee, who I’d also had the pleasure of chatting with but earlier in the day at the Hilton, deserved a larger crowd but given the low archways I described from Thursday, I’m almost glad it wasn’t packed, because had the place been rammed, it might have been a serious fire code violation.

As it was, the vitality of the Scottish band’s live performance was impressive. Model Aeroplanes’ set, which included new single ‘Electricity’ and closed out with the sweeter ‘Innocent Love’, was energetic like the Inkhearts earlier but in a different way: they’re older, so I think the hunger for fame seems more real to them, especially since they’ve got the support of BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway and success is seemingly within reach. We had agreed about how Two Door Cinema Club‘s first album was better than their second, and I hear whispers of Two Door in their music: a compliment that they’ve got a very poppy, fun sound and happy guitars that I could see taking Britain and the world by storm very soon.

Boy Jumps Ship @ Mello Mello

I had a little bit of time before I said goodbye to the Model Aeroplanes lads and make my way to Mello Mello, where the Generator proper of the North East was hosting their night at Sound City. I’ve made it a point each year I’ve covered the festival to listen to and watch all the videos of every band scheduled to showcase in Liverpool, especially the ones I’d never heard of, to get a nice smattering of bands on my spreadsheet that I’d otherwise not have known about. Boy Jumps Ship from Newcastle was on the top of that new discovery list and I realised within seconds of seeing them live that I’d definitely made the right decision seeing them.

When I first started music writing, I seemed to spend a lot of my time trying to convince people either by word of mouth or through my writing that it was possible for a dance band to write something emotional, because those kinds of bands are hopelessly misunderstood. In a way, hard rock bands suffer from the same misunderstanding, depending on the company you’re with. I could see in the case of Boy Jumps Ship, fans of theirs probably generally are already fans of that genre of aggressive, devil may care kind of rock. But how does a band like theirs relate to someone like me?

I went into Sound City somewhat of a broken, exhausted woman from personal stuff and somehow, the honesty and just pedal to the metal-type delivery of this hard-rocking Geordie band ticked off all the right boxes for me. In my head, their music sounded of letting go, about laying it out on the line, of giving it all you’ve got. Live, they’re just so incredibly fun to watch: frontman Si Todd growls into his microphone and bangs his guitar ferociously as his bandmates play their instruments frenetically to keep up the pace.

There is a reason why Arcane Roots and Marmozets chose them as their support: both bands knew they could bring it. While the band say in my interview with them that they would love to tour with Biffy Clyro, I wonder if one day soon they will surpass the Biff entirely. While I also heard snatches of current radio darlings Royal Blood emanating from the Duke Street Garage around the corner later that night, I couldn’t help but think that all those people crammed inside there were watching the wrong band and should have caught Boy Jumps Ship instead. Those Geordies sure have heart.

 

Liverpool Sound City 2014: Day 1 Roundup (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 12th May 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

For all my photos from Sound City 2014, head this way; for all my Sound City 2014 coverage from Liverpool, use this link.

This year, I covered Liverpool Sound City alone without John or Martin, so I felt the full pressure of reviewing pop, dance, rock and everything in between all by my lonesome. I think as a music writer, you always go into a music festival having these delusions of grandeur that you’re going to be Superman and will actually see every single band, every single act you’ve got on your colour-coded schedule. When it comes to multi-day festivals, I think the stress is compounded because you’ve got to be ‘on’ for more than 1 day and inevitably, your relative freshness (and I’m not just referring to the state of your clothes, but of your mental state as well) starts to go progressively downhill as the event wears on.

Thursday night was my most productive night, and I’m guessing this was the case because the day before, hopes were high for a far too long awaited Premier League cup win as I’d visited Anfield on a sunny day, and it just doesn’t get much better than that for a Liverpool fan. After a couple of conference sessions, including a truly informative q&a with Michael Kiwanuka and his manager Rob Swerdlow and a less interesting one with interviewer John Robb trying to engage Gruff Rhys and his John Evans character puppet of now ‘American Interior’ fame, I was raring to go see all the bands on my list.

Prides @ Nation
I’m not sure which Sound City bod’s bright idea it was to put a rave-inducing band like Prides on at 7 PM at the cavernous Nation, but whoever it was, I don’t think they understand how dance music works. Prides, whose fun, New Wave-y dance pop, would have worked much better in front of more people and much later in the night. It seemed so strange to see their three band members on a massive stage, but if my feelers are correct, they’ll play festivals like this and pack them in soon enough. Still, they broke out an impressive set in this brand new for Sound City venue that included upcoming single ‘Messiah’ check to see if current or future and irrepressible past single ‘The Seeds You Sow’. Funny how hearing ‘Let It Go’ in this setting reminded me of Savoir Adore’s ‘Sea of Gold’, as I’d not previously associated the two bands’ sounds like that before.

The Kill Van Kulls @ Heebie Jeebies (did not appear) / Kaves @ Heebie Jeebies
The Kill van Kulls must have pulled out of Sound City last minute, as when I arrived at the subterranean Heebie Jeebies with its low archways (so low that even I, an already short woman, had to duck to not hit my head on the ceiling bricks), I counted the number of band members (too many), noticed the complete lack of synthesiser and guessed Gareth Bartlett of the Manchester band would not be wearing a t-shirt and sunglasses, looking like he’d stepped off the set of Miami Vice. The sunnies should have been a dead giveaway – they were more Ric Ocasek and Cars with the good time rock sound of Springsteen, but nothing terribly original. Disappointed, I cut my losses and walked next door to find something else to listen to.

Patients @ Brooklyn Mixer
Americans: if you really want something to do your head in while you’re in Liverpool, visit the Brooklyn Mixer, a bar that I guess has modeled itself off great watering holes of that NYC neighbourhood and has New York subway-styled signs telling you where to go. It’s the last thing I want to see in Liverpool when I’m visiting. Nevertheless, the parqueted wood flooring on the second level where they hosted bands all weekend was a nice space. Patients were exactly how you’d imagine a Korean Ramones tribute band to sound. However, since when did a rock band have a keyboardist, yet no guitarist? Rather disappointingly, they weren’t dressed as colourfully as their press photos on their Facebook, which would have added another unique layer to their presence.

Youth Man @ Factory
Earlier in the day, I’d been advised incorrectly to pick up my press pass at the Hilton delegates hotel and to traipse back up to Seel Street to retrieve my accreditation. At least I then knew where the Factory venue was. Oddly set up with a beer garden that wasn’t at all conducive to watching the band performing on its indoor stage, I could see it working for a band like Brummie trio Youth Man, with elements of punk and thrash, as if thrown into a blender with Bloc Party, as singer and guitarist Kaila Whyte brought along the riot grrrl vibes. Grab your free copy of their EP ‘Bad Weather’ from their Bandcamp.

PØRTS @ Kazimier Gardens
The outdoor venue John likened to stepping inside any scene in the Shire of The Lord of the Rings, Kazimier Gardens played host to several great showcases during Sound City, including Generator NI’s on Thursday night. After saying my hellos to our mates from the original mother ship Generator based in Newcastle, I blew Carrie’s mind when I messaged her I was stood down the front for Derry’s PØRTS when I told her I was stood next to Travis is a Tourist, who we’d met and she had interviewed in Austin during SXSW 2014. Even more mind-blowing I think was Travis’ own reaction to see me stood there, unable to believe I’d come all the way over from America for Sound City. But back to PØRTS, who were formerly known as Little Bear. I am not sure what their singer/bassist was doing with two iPhones, but it appeared that he was playing virtual harmonica with them? Not sure what was going on there. Think folk-y, gorgeous Fleet Foxes-ey type good stuff that has already caught the attention of the likes of 6music’s Cerys Matthews and the bods at Radio Ulster.

Marika Hackman @ East Village Arts Club Loft (did not appear) / Hot Soles @ Mello Mello
I left Kazimier Gardens early to have another crack at the top floor room of the East Village Arts Club, which by the way has one of my favourite restaurants and lounge areas in the city. Last year, I let Martin do the honours of covering Willy Moon on the loft stage when my claustrophobia, combined by the extreme heat of just too many bodies, were crammed in on the floor and I sat in the lounge with a cider. However, I was thwarted, which was quickly apparent as I walked upstairs and heard insipid elevator music playing and clearly not the gloom of Marika Hackman’s goth-folk. Many punters, made into involuntary, awkward wallflowers with drink in hand in search of someone else to see, were truly gutted about her non-appearance in Liverpool. (I would also like to note that while I was on the tour of Anfield the day before, I’d explained to a no nonsense type bald security guard at the ground I was in town for the festival. At first I was intimidated by him, until the surface cracked and it was clear he was just like us. A music fan! He said unequivocally she was the number one artist to see at Sound City. So…Marika, I think you have some serious ground to make up for with your fans in Liverpool. I hate the idea of this kindly man who works hard at Anfield every day crying into his pint because you didn’t show up.)

I had plenty of time to chill back down in the downstairs lounge with my new favourite flavour of cider – passion fruit! (yes, Rekordelig, I’d be happy to take a sponsorship from you) – before making my way to corner bar Mello Mello, whose sound was peerless all weekend and intimate nature of the rectangular box shape of the place made for what would become my favourite venue of this year’s festival. Thursday night, the venue played host to the Sheffield’s Darnell Music Factory (DMF) record label‘s Digital showcase straight from the heart of Yorkshire. My ears sensed this immediately as I entered the place: the raucous, up for it deep male voices that sound like the ringing of bells to me, were no doubt lubricated with countless pints, cheering on the band onstage.

Sheffield’s Hot Soles had been recommended to me by a friend from the Steel City. While they’re not my thing, I can see why they are a popular draw at Tramlines: the likes of Drenge and Royal Blood prove that hard rock duos can be successful, and in the case of Hot Soles, it’s not necessarily blow out your ears kind of hard rock they do but a boisterous garage sound that is probably somewhere between Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and the Jim Jones Revue. Their singer (whose name I am not sure of, nor do I know if he’s Sole Brother A or Sole Brother B – see their Facebook, I’m not kidding) is most definitely the showman: with his wireless guitar, in Chuck Berry style he crashed his way around the whole of the Mello Mello venue, including the café portion of the place, which I’m sure either terrified or bemused the customers!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Thursday coverage of Sound City, which will post tomorrow.

 

Live Review: Roundhouse Rising at Sage Gateshead with Mausi, Eliza and the Bear, Death at Sea and Amy Holford – 17th February 2013

 
By on Wednesday, 27th February 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

The beautiful Sage in Gateshead recently played host to Roundhouse Rising, the first time the event has taken place in association with Generator, the UK’s leading music development agency based in the North East. Martin, our correspondent from that region, was in attendance as four acts vied for the attention of the audience assembled.

First up is Amy Holford. Last time TGTF caught up with her was at Evolution Festival last year, where her delicate strummings were drowned out by the boiling hormones of a thousand 14-year-olds. Tonight, her voice done justice by a proper sound system, delicate material laid bare before a respectful, silent crowd, her full potential is plain to see. The main attraction is a soul voice of such power that it could perform any Motown single from the 60s without breaking a sweat. It swoops and bends through microtones long forgotten in this age of production tricks, one moment honey-sweet, the next buzz-saw provocative, a reminder of how powerful and sensuous a barely-clothed female voice can sound.

Amy Holford Gateshead live

The problem is, she’s singing about her grandfather’s cancer. And how a long-gone, but clearly not forgotten, boyfriend didn’t text message her frequently enough. Imagine Amy’s current set distilling down into a pleasant acoustic interlude, bookended by some full band productions in whichever style she chooses – be that soul, electronica, or Tibetan nose flute ensemble – and it is to imagine a great voice put to good use. She might even bring in some writers to put together some material with broader appeal. The current songs are clearly close to her heart, and I wouldn’t for a minute suggest she abandon them altogether. But the next stage in her career surely demands a fuller sound to do justice to that wonderful voice.

Death at Sea Gateshead live

Death At Sea (pictured above) have very little time to make an impact, and their triple-headed guitar assault was always going to struggle on first listen. They’re like your little brother’s bedroom band, all earnest pop-grunge and Converse All-Stars, so they do have their niche, it’s just that it’s a rather densely-occupied corner. Nowhere near as innocent are Eliza and the Bear (pictured below). There is no Eliza, and no Bear, in their lineup; what there are is five astonishingly fashionable haircuts accompanied by 30 minutes of quite the most bland music one might ever have the misfortune to experience. From the “and the” nomenclature, through the formulaic loud-quiet-loud-trumpetparps-quiet-loud-aren’t-we-so-folky-even-though-we’re-all-from-Romford arrangements, to the vague, pseudo-deep-and-meaningful lyrics and can’t-be-arsed trendier-than-thou delivery, Eliza and the Bear seem on a mission from the Devil himself to rid music of any meaning or relevance at all. Take ‘The Southern Wild’, for instance – two chords, some twee, twinkly keyboards, loads of “oh-oh-ohs”, stop-starts all over the place, all drizzled with the pointless refrain “You’ve got a lion’s heart / you’ve gotta find it”. And that goddamn trumpet everywhere… somebody please stab me now. They are a photocopy of a successful sound – a cynical recipe made up of familiar tastes. Like the flavour factories that create the fast food experience, there’s no nutrition involved, nothing meaty, just the baubles that sound superficially like music but dissolve into emptiness in your brain.

Eliza and the Bear Gateshead live

Everyone’s last hope is for Mausi (pictured at top) to pull it out of the bag after such a patchy undercard – and, praise be to the Gods of music, they do not disappoint. A curious combination of Italian style leavened with North East party ethos, Mausi serve up a luscious plate of uptempo stompers and downtempo emotion, Daisy Finetto prancing around the stage like the coolest girl-next-door everyone hopes to bump into. Latest single ‘Move’ has the Sage bouncing, its verging-on-cheesy Europop a delightful guilty pleasure. Previous release ‘Sol’ brings a similar slice of summery dance vibes to a chilly February evening. No doubt favoured as headliner because of their ability with a groove, nevertheless Mausi do put in the most enjoyable and mature set of the night.

 
 
 

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