Liverpool Sound City is a whopper of a metropolitan festival

Liverpool Sound City Review 2013

published: Thu 9th May 2013

Bastille

Thursday 2nd to Saturday 4th May 2013
Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 6RR, England MAP
£45 for festival wristband
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Tue 16th Apr 2013

Liverpool – I have returned battered and bruised from your Sound City. I am making valid attempts at piecing together the jigsaw that was this weekend. So much went on; so much to see and do. I've been to City Centre festivals before – Dot to Dot in Nottingham and Swn in Cardiff – and whilst faultless in their own ways, they are simply gnats on the window, sprats in the Mersey compared to this whopper of a metropolitan festival.

Let's start with the Thursday - blessed with sunshine the like of which we haven't seen since last September. When I arrive to pick up my wristband, a conference for delegates has already been running for most of the day. Tracy Thorn, ex-singer of Everything But The Girl has been in interview with Dave Haslam and the foyer of the Hilton is milling with important and not so important looking industry types. It's not completely my bag so I go and try to find my bearings. Finding my bearings is a running theme of the three days. I never really get to grip with the labyrinth of the streets. I struggle to find some venues, walk past some venues and then can never find them again and navigate towards the same places time and time again.

As with most City Centre festivals, there's no capacity for camping here. The tents will come out later in the Summer. I'm fortunate that I know Ali, designated photographer for the weekend. She works and lives in Liverpool so helps with my poor navigation and lack of accommodation. After dropping my bag back at hers and briefly catching up with my brother (who moved to Liverpool last week – everyone is moving to Liverpool – it is that sound), we catch our first band of the weekend – Persian Pelican – in the Attic. The Attic is part of the Parr Street Studio complex – housing recording studios, offices and a small hotel. We walk upstairs and past the band who are positioned next to the well stocked bar. There's no stage as such in here but this very much supports the lo-fi laidback effort that's being served up by the Pelicans. They are a two piece from Rome – gentle guitar layered over some impressive drums. It's one of those gigs where audience and band are competing in a best beard competition. The band are ever more wildly stroking their own whilst sitting, increasingly immersed in their loops during 'The Final Explosion', their final tune. "It's our first time in England", states Andrea Pulcini. It's a quirky, interesting first show and you suspect it won't be their last.

Next up, we walk around the corner to the Garage. We plan to spend a fair bit of tonight in this area. (Indeed, this is an area I seem to always be able to find!) The Garage is a car park by day but for the three days of Sound City it's transformed into an underground warehouse, complete with massive stage and decent bar. This pop up ethos really does give the festival a special sort of edge. Esco Williams is the act we choose to see here first. He's a local Liverpool lad, creating a bit of a stir with his brand of nerdish soul. "Let's do this ting" shouts out Esco as his band get their swagger on. He's got gay men and 45 year old women swooning together. He launches into a cover of Estelle's 'American Boy' and I find my first portaloo of the summer. Given the size of the acts that are on here later, to discover that there's only six portaloos in this place is a bit of a downer. And it's pitch black.

One of those things about festivals (especially festivals that have 360 acts on their schedule), is that frustration you feel about the clashing of different acts – tonight, the schedulers at Liverpool Sound City have really provided some dilemmas. Noah and the Whale, Collectors Club, and Swim Deep all go out the window (as do The 1975 and Deep Sea Arcade later in the evening) simply because The Kazimier is a venue just across the road from the Garage.

We nip in here to see Oneohtrix Point Never just as Daniel Lopatin and his laptop take to the stage. Quite deservedly, the Kazimier has become a real favourite in Liverpool for touring bands and creative performances and I immediately see why. It's a fascinating space, a Spiegeltent on two floors, draped in artistic indulgences. We sit upstairs in an old Gypsy caravan and indulge in Whisky and Absinthe cocktails. Oneohpoint Trix Never are not everybody's cup of alcohol though. It's an ambient slow burn which for some takes far too long to get going. There's little movement here and the sounds don't seem to join together into very much at all. People leave shaking their heads confused at the bareness of the drone but I stay – and I'm glad I did. Something suddenly clicked. The noises became more strident in their purpose and I think those that stayed have just seen a moment.

Back across the road now to the Garage where another local, up and coming act, Jetta has taken to the stage. She announces that this is 'her first festival ever' though as a former backing vocalist to Paloma Faith I wonder how true this is. Much like Esco Williams before her, this is fun, easy to dance to pop music. It's pop by numbers if I'm honest but at this time of the night nobody in this transformed car park seems to care. Jetta finishes and it's getting busy in the Garage. We decide to stay in here, clutching our bladders (there's no way I'm using that portaloo again this late at night) for current new cool kids, AlunaGeorge are on next.

Initially, they flatter to deceive. It's really quite busy in here but fans all seem to be waiting for that song they know. They're not waiting for long before current single 'Attracting Flies' gets nods of recognition from the growing throng. Is it in my head or is there a growing sense of nastiness amongst the crowd? There's a bit more jostling but these are people not bothered by what's happening on the stage. Aluna and George are making a decent noise and it's hard not to relax when their cover of Montell Jordan's 'This Is How We Do It' kicks in like a much delayed hangover from the 90's. 'White Noise' goes down a storm with the nods of recognition it gets from the crowd and as they end with a version of 'Your Drums, Your Love' I look around and realise that I seem to have enjoyed them much more than the crowd that have gathered – and then it strikes me – many of the people in here have arrived early to see Bastille – and they are glory hunting, 'I'm going to buy one record a year and this year it has been Bastille dickheads...

Bastille – a really disappointing end to what has been a fantastic day of new music. It's not that the band are terrible. They're simply OK. When I saw them at Summer Sundae last year, they blew my socks away. I'm trying to put my finger on what has changed in less than a year and it's simply that they have got too big too quickly. Buoyed no doubt by their Radio 1 over exposure it is no wonder that day tickets for this Thursday have sold out. It's the only day that has done and I can't help thinking that many of those day tickets have been sold to people only seeing one band tonight. It's steamingly busy in here, uncomfortably so. And there's a dark sort of air to proceedings. We leave.


review by: Sean Tizzard

Thursday 2nd to Saturday 4th May 2013
Liverpool, Merseyside, L2 6RR, England MAP
£45 for festival wristband
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Tue 16th Apr 2013


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