Liverpool Sound City offers the chance to see smaller unsigned acts in intimate venues

Liverpool Sound City Review

By Shelley Hanvey | Published: Tue 25th May 2010

Liverpool Sound City 2010 - He And She
Photo credit: Zoe Jane Lawson

Liverpool Sound City 2010

Thursday 29th April to Saturday 22nd May 2010
Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 6RR, England MAP
£45 for festival wristband
Daily capacity: 25,000

I love tea. Assam, English Breakfast, Silver Needles, right through to Harrogate's finest, Yorkshire Tea. Like their music, some people like their tea sweet and delicate with a refreshing flavour; whilst others prefer theirs strong and sharp with a flavour which hits you, dominating your senses for hours to come. What a perfect combination therefore, to host an evening of live music by a selection of unsigned talents bearing just such attributes, in a place which specialises in the brilliant beverage itself; the talents being He & She, and Hey Tourists, the place being Leaf Café, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound City festival is in its third year and prides itself on bringing the best, most fresh and exciting acts to the North West, to perform for music lovers over four days in the height of spring. The festival includes more well known acts too; but specifies that these are those which still retain a level of coolness and integrity that separates them from the clones; such acts this year included Delphic, Paloma Faith and The Maccabees. I had been very impressed with the marketing and promotion of this festival, with a 117-page brochure being circulated across the city in anticipation of the event, which saw signed and unsigned acts from across the world perform in selected venues across Liverpool. Over 400 acts from the east and western hemispheres clambered to appear on the eclectic and non genre-specific bill and music lovers followed suit; the venue tonight being packed to the rafters, three days in to the festival and on the final furlong.

Leaf Café on Parliament Street in the centre of Liverpool, is a creative arts, culture and food lovers dream. Born out of a love of tea and music, the medium-sized venue had thick, dark brick walls lining the interior with low level mood lighting; the perfect space for an intimate show of this kind. There was a relaxed atmosphere in the venue, with people sitting on dark brown comfy couches or standing at the bar drinking Corona and cappuccinos. The intimacy of the venue allowed for some impressive acoustics throughout the night. There was also a contemporary art display lining the far back wall, further enhancing the atmosphere of creativity and noughties café culture. I have visited this venue once before upon a recommendation; that being to attend a monthly Pudding Club. The itinerary for the evening had been as follows: show up at seven o'clock, be seated, taste and rate five homemade desserts each accompanied by a specially selected tea, enjoy pleasant conversation with fellow sweet-toothed reviewers, then select an overall Pudding winner... and all of this for a mere eight English pounds... sold!

First up tonight was a delightful country-pop band from Copenhagen called Billie Van and Her Ranchhands. Their sound had blues and rock influences throughout and I was really taken with lead singer Billie Van's vocals. 'Heartbreaking Nightdance' is a perfect introduction to this band and certainly went down a storm this evening; the bluesy country riffs on this track were so addictive and it was a great way to energise the crowd and set their stall for what was to come. The lead vocals were clearly the stand out aspect of this band for me; I was enthralled for the full twenty minute set, which also included 'Fire In Your Balls' and 'My Love and I'. I can't wait to see more of these guys.

Hey Tourists
Next up were local lads and lasses, He & She. The indie-folk five-piece have been likened to The XX and had a sublime blend of lofty tones and beautiful guitar work. The soft and delicate strings drew you in from the outset, ever complemented by the alluring lead vocals, never more so than on the bittersweet break up track 'Two Years' which lead singer Lorna dedicated to her fellow academic classmates and their shared joy at... "no more having to do reflections." I quite like the sound of such a module, I wonder whether it involves those crazy mirrors you get at funfairs, which no matter what you look like beforehand, you always end up as Benny Hill's less attractive brother/mother/pet miniature schnauzer? Speaking of which, hearty congratulations to worthy waggy tailed winner Dangerous Dave on Over The Rainbow this weekend, he will do Toto proud.

'Gathering Clouds' gave the crowd of largely students and supportive families, another taste of the band's impressive musicality. For a band that only got together last year, their sound was very tight and clearly well rehearsed. If soothing new track 'Sapling' is anything to go by, I am sure that we will hear many more good things from this band very soon. Till then my friends.

He And She
Hey Tourists which also hailed from the host city, drew the biggest cheer of the night and were clearly very well supported and amongst friends. This was their first show as a five-piece, having previously performed as a duo with lead vocals and a guitarist. The band have supported The View and Graham Coxon on recent tour dates and were certainly hyped up and ready to show the crowd what they had to offer. Kicking off with the soft-punk styling of 'Telly-O', the crowd followed suit and became just as animated as the band, dancing and bopping along to the lively, punchy beat. Next up was the upbeat musings on good moods and motivation, entitled 'Keep Walking'. The acoustics in the room set off the lead vocals perfectly on this track, as they did on 'Finger On Your Lips'. I particularly liked the sound of the lead vocals when combined with the lead guitarist providing a background echo; I found that this gave the overall sound more polish and a greater edge. Overall, a well received and promising set.

The festival's appeal for many is not the chance to see the bigger, commercially successful acts, but to see smaller unsigned home-grown and international talent in intimate venues and just perhaps, stumbling across something great…for me tonight, that was He and She. I just wonder whether a name change is on the cards; might there be some confusion with fellow quirky indie outfit She and Him?

Liverpool Sound City knows what it is about, what it is good at and it doesn't stray away from that; I think neighbouring cities such as Manchester could take a few useful crib notes from the organisers of this event. It is quality not quantity when it comes to festivals; so scale down the number of similar offerings each year by focusing on one, delivering what visitors want and getting the word out there in good enough time to increase footfall.

But hey, what do I know... pass me a brew and a bourbon cream and I'm as happy as a pig in the proverbial.
review by: Shelley Hanvey

photos by: Zoe Jane Lawson

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