Liverpool Sound City is a festival of fresh ideas where no wellies are required

Liverpool Sound City Review 2012

By Robert Grey | Published: Thu 24th May 2012

Liverpool Sound City 2012

Thursday 17th to Friday 18th May 2012
Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 6RR, England MAP
£30 for festival wristband
Daily capacity: 25,000

It had been labelled 'Liverpool's biggest ever music event' so Liverpool Sound City festival had some pretty high expectations to live up to, when it all kicked off last week.

With a musically varied line up, and a diverse choice of venues, there really is something for everyone. Whether you fancy Professor Green and his impressive technical stage show in the Echo Arena, or if some good old fashioned punk chaos caused by Chicago's Alkaline Trio is more your thing, then you'll probably find something to keep you going through the weekend.

Liverpool Sound City is definitely a fresh idea that is going to be taking off all over the country pretty soon. Instead of packing your wellies, and several other things that turn out not to be as waterproof as promised, you just turn up, listen to some great music and then head back home to your mum. Instead of spending your weekend in a field and trekking through all sorts of unmentionable things to get to the arenas, you just hop on a bus and head somewhere in the city centre. No wellies required.

The only drawback with this kind of festival is that getting between the venues can be a problem as nothing is easy to find. I definitely suggest taking a friend with an iPhone, if you can stand their constant need to network throughout the day. After finding a suitably socially-challenged companion, getting between the venues is no problem and getting around the city to catch as many sets as possible is a definite must!

Our first stop was Liverpool Academy and acoustic rocker Dave Hause, of The Loved Ones fame, who was finishing off his UK tour. His easy going banter and sing-along style melodies explaining the dedicated fan base he had watching his set.

Up next was festival headliner Professor Green and a down-sized Echo Arena. DJ IQ and Felix Billion opened the show with a set of crowd pleasing covers, with a particular highlight being a sing along rendition of the House Of Pain Classic, Jump Around that got everyone, press members included, moving. Although the arena was hardly packed, this did not make any difference to the fans that had turned up. When Professor Green took to the stage to a resounding chant of 'Green' it looks like it's set to be a good start. Instead Green rants about the organisation of the festival, going as far as to refer to the organisers as monkeys, but he recovers his sense of humour long enough to declare "I'm here now, so enjoy me", before encouraging the crowd to "get messy".

Professor Green doesn't falter with his energetic performance as he moves from one hit Pop-Rap track to another, with the only real issues in his set being down to the festival organisers, obviously expecting Green to pull in a bigger crowd. Even the half-sized Echo Arena swamps the audience, and the gaps in the standing audience and empty seats flatten the atmosphere. With that being said though, particularly after the encore of 'Read All About It', the fans seemed satisfied enough. Although I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed with the atmosphere, it turned out to be a good show, unfortunately it was just in the wrong venue.We decided to call it a day after this, retreating to the nearest McDonalds, before heading home to prepare for the second day of the festival.

First up on the Saturday in Liverpool Academy, is the hardcore wall of sound that is Scottish 4 piece Crusades. They play a tight and manic set, with jagged rhythms and aggressive vocals to match that of a man possessed. Even though they seem greeted by only polite, and slightly disinterested, applause from the small gathering of gig-goers, they give a passionate and highly energetic performance. "This is our first gig outside of Scotland" beams the fiery vocalist/guitarist to the crowd, and as far as these kind of out-of-town debut gigs go, this is something special. I caught up with co-vocalist Steven Murray after their set and he stated he was very pleased with how the gig went, and that they'll be back in Liverpool as soon as possible.

Next up was a trip down the street to the Epstein Theatre, for a change of pace and atmosphere with the gentle, warm vocal talents of Thomas J Speight. Opening the set with an intimate and heartfelt solo acoustic performance, he holds the room's attention perfectly. He is then joined on stage by the rest of his band, to perform second track Willow Tree, a catchy and well written little number. The vocal work in particular, is a stand out characteristic of this band. The airy quality of the layered male and female vocals draw the listener in and demands to be heard. The band's use of textural diversity and general use of musical dynamics is impressive to say the least, and they clearly appear to be a band with heaps of potential and a real commercial appeal. Watch this space.

Next up, we headed back to Liverpool Academy for the Alt-Rock powerhouse that is Don Broco. The first thing that strikes you about the Bedford 4-piece, is the sheer quality of showmanship on display, in particular, that of the lead vocalist Rob Damiani. He truly dominates the stage, a man intent on causing general chaos. He commands the crowd to partake in different types of antics, from circle pits and shoulder riding. Another distinctively noticeable thing about this band is their quite frankly massive sound, and their choice of guitar tones and percussion techniques only increase the sheer impact that the band have upon the sweaty, pulsing mass that is the crowd.

Our final stop of the night was to the packed out Arts Academy for headliners The Temper Trap. Clearly one of the more popular bands of the whole festival, as negotiating movement inside the stalls was pretty much impossible. When the band took to the stage, it was to deafening screams and roaring applause; the atmosphere was electric. Frontman Dougy Mandagi oozes talent, and casually switches between instruments and vocal ranges like a true professional. With that being said their performance still feels raw and real yet covered in a blanket of commercial smoothness that requires years to perfect, and lots of talent. The band captivates the audience completely throughout the entirety of their set, before bringing it to a head with the crowd pleasing classic Sweet Disposition.

Several trips to McDonalds and a disappointing journey to a closed Gregg's later, and it's time for the final day of the festival. We decided to set up base camp in the Academy, mainly due to the promise of Welsh band Kids in Glass Houses.

Openers Heartbeat Parade kicked off the proceedings in a somewhat disappointing fashion. The three piece heavy metal band has no vocalist and are a bit like olives; an acquired taste. Although they deserve credit for branching out into a very unique and niche genre, it doesn't really work in this kind of festival environment and instead of the being the main focus point in the room they merely become background music for punters at the bar. Bad move festival organisers. Next up, are Liverpool's own Hideaways. A five piece band that bear a very strong resemblance to the likes of You Me At Six. Their melodic Pop-Rock is a welcome lift of mood, and they are clearly in the company of friends and fans alike this evening.

When Kids In Glass Houses' crew take to the stage to engage in a speedy set up and line check, it's clear that the professionals have arrived. The Academy's standing area is packed out and there is a clear buzz of excitement in the air. When the background music stops and the house lights dip at around quarter to ten, the noise that comes from the crowd is truly deafening. As the band takes to the stage and energetically burst into 'Sunshine', the room erupts. Aled Phillips, lead vocalist and ringmaster of this chaotic musical circus flies around the stage beaming, truly like a man possessed. He swings from everything and anything he can get his hands on, and demands the crowd do the same.

The band energetically and relentlessly work their way through their back catalogue of crowd pleasing hits; only stopping for in-between song banter mainly consisting of enquiries about the football score. Every other second they're on stage, hopping from Pop anthems with soaring melodies such as ‘Undercover Lover’ and ‘Saturday’, to darker, grittier, and more aggressive territory with the likes of ‘Black Crush’ and ‘Fisticuffs’. This crowd pleasing mix ensures that, for the first time in this festival, a band has got the Liverpool Academy crowd eating out of the palm of its hand as they lap up every glorious second and partake in whatever antics are requested by Phillips. They also seem to know every word that leaves the charismatic frontman's mouth and shout it back at him twice as loud. And with final song 'Matter's At All' bringing about the biggest sing along of probably the whole festival, Kids In Glass Houses leave the stage dripping with sweat and having achieved exactly what they came here to do; play a memorable, energetic, and frankly fun gig.

As the festival comes to an end and we head off to find some fast-food I can’t help but wonder what they’re going to pull out of the bag next time for this unique festival and I cannot help getting excited. 2013 could be a very big year indeed for Liverpool Sound City and I can honestly say that I'm sure it will be.

review by: Robert Grey

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