We Sound City Festival last weekend. With over 360 artists performing in venues ranging from sticky floored pubs through to warehouses and car parks, old theaters and an Anglican cathedral we really were spoiled for choice.ventured out of London and up North to Liverpool for the
Arriving early Thursday, there was ample time to soak up some of the city’s cultural heritage, with a trip to The Cavern providing us with a glimpse into the cities rich musical past and allowing us to witness the first of several Beatles cover bands we encountered over the weekend.
We also headed down to the Tate gallery to check out the Glam! Performance of Style exhibition which looks at glam style and sensibility in the UK and USA in its various manifestations through the work of artists such as Bowie, Eno and Roxy Music and Andy Warhol’s factory, through the form of photos, film, installation and music, an exhibition we highly recommend for anyone visiting the city.
It wasn’t long before the festival itself was getting underway, here were our highlights from the weekend:
We headed to packed out Zanzibar for our first band of the weekend in the form of hotly tipped New York based band Skaters. They created a very high energy show, emanating from both the stage and the mosh pit at the front of the crowd. The trio combined elements of punk, dub and indie, sounding something like if the Strokes had jammed with The Clash in a garage in 1979. The recognisable guitar style of Josh Hubbard from The Paddingtons contrasted well against stripped down dub sections. Their set list provided several frantic changes of pace, which keep the songs feeling fresh and the crowd dancing ferociously.
The grandeur of the Epstein Theatre provided the setting for the homecoming gig of Liverpool bred girls Stealing Sheep. Sound problems meant the girls were late to the stage but the crowd waited patiently in their seats until the red velvet theatre curtain rose to reveal them appropriately adorned with glitter and sequins waiting at their instruments. Their songs flowed seamlessly with their characteristic mix of blissful melodies, rousing sing-a-long choruses and handclaps, performing songs from both ‘Into the Diamond Sun’ and ‘Noah and the Paper Moon’.
There were a certain buzz about the gig and a hopeful feeling that the band were going to produce something a bit special in their hometown. Sure enough, a couple of songs before the end keyboardist Becky Hawley announced ‘we’ve got a surprise for you…’, before the Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band proceeded to parade onto the back of the stage bedecked in sequins and wearing animal masks. The addition of this new ten strong backing band created a joyous end to the set and elevated both the girls’ performance and sections of the audience to their feet, as people clambered closer to the front to dance next to the stage for the final songs of the evening.
We’ve seen TOY perform in all manner of different venues in London over the last couple of years and are well acquainted with their live shows. However the opportunity to see them in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral offered a chance to see the band somewhere very special and they certainly stepped up to the occasion.
Opening with recent single ‘My Heart Skips a Beat’ they filled the enormous venue with synthesized organ music and choir-like backing vocals, leaving the spellbound crowd in awe. Switching into the faster paced early single ‘Left Myself Behind’ the jangling riffs continued to echo through the venue, driven by a powerful rhythmic section.
A TOY gig is almost as much a visual experience as it is an audio one with every flick of the hair seeming synchronised. Each member of the band seems totally immersed in playing their individual part at that moment in time, whilst creating a collective oneness composed of layered guitars and synthesisers.
We saw other bands struggle to hit the mark within this venue over the weekend however TOY certainly didn’t and we don’t think they would have any trouble performing on the bigger festival stages this summer.
CHARLIE BOYER AND THE VOYEURS
A warehouse space around the back of the Art Academy was a much more fitting venue to catch art punk meets garage psych outfit Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs next in the evening.
The band have only been together little more than a year however have a very defined sound that they describe themselves as ‘primitive, glamorous, sexy, rock’n’roll music’ and an ease on stage that gives you the impression they’ve been playing together for a whole lot longer.
There are definite references to the New York scene of the 1970’s with influences seemingly ranging from Television through to The Velvet Underground. Scuzzy guitars paired with elements of glam-rock provide the backdrop for Boyer’s shrill vocal style, as he emits a cool air of nonchalance. The band showcased songs from their forthcoming album ‘Clarietta’, with simple catchy choruses which will make you feel like you’ve been listening to them to years.
MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER
The Birkin and Bardot-esque Melody Prochet emerged from a cloud of incense to take to the stage to an eagerly awaiting capacity crowd in the Kazimer. Dressed in a pristine white dress the Parisian songstress launched into the joyous ‘I follow you’, the lead track from her self-titled debut album.
Her dream-like psychedelic style is intensified during the live performance as she and her backing band dance energetically throughout, exchanging smiles and thanking the crowd between every song.
Gliding across the stage barefoot and switching with ease between French and English lyrics the words seem to become secondary and her voice acts as another instrument in the rich tapestry of hypnotic sounds her and the band conjour up.
The Leaf Café was the setting for the late-night set by Kettering based neo-psych band Temples. Watched in the audience by Heavenly Record-mates TOY and Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs, front man James Bagshaw took complete control of the room in a fur coat and glitter with his own electric brand of swaggering energy. Silencing a fight in the crowd with an off the cuff Keith Richards at Altamont slur; ‘if these cats don’t cool it we’re gonna split’, Bagshaw and the band launch into a raucous set, transporting the frenzied audience into a kaleidoscopic 60’s soundscape.
There are once again glam-rock elements to the set with a heavy T-Rex style intro to one of the songs, however the heavy-fringed quartet show their true potential with final track and fan-favourite, ‘Shelter Song’, where twanging guitars mingle blissfully with melodic Bryds-esque dual vocals. If they are able to produce an album full of songs as powerful as this one they will go very far indeed.