the second day of Sound City, in many ways, topped the first

Liverpool Sound City Review 2016

published: Mon 6th Jun 2016

around the festival site

Friday 27th to Sunday 29th May 2016
Bramley Moore Dock, Liverpool, Merseyside, L3 0AP, England MAP
£70 for festival wristband
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Thu 12th May 2016

Day two of Sound City may not have had the sheer star power of Catfish and the Bottlemen to top the bill, but the supporting cast was at its strongest, and the North stage particularly set to impress with a well-curated roster of buzz bands and rock talents.

But the day started, for some, later than expected, thanks to the difficulty of getting to  Bramley Moore Dock early in the afternoon. This was thanks to the Liverpool Marathon, which resulted in closed roads and waiting times of over an hour for taxis and some public transport. One performer - Suzie Stapleton - even missed her set.

Still, for those that did make it to the festival early, the treats included rock band Sky Valley Mistress, Mercury Music Prize nominated singer-songwriter C Duncan, and the potential star of The Anchoress.

By a couple of hours into the afternoon all of the traffic issues had passed, and the festival site was as busy as ever. Some had spoken on day one of the festival being quieter than in 2015, but on the Sunday at least, the crowds did seem bigger - helped no doubt by the bank holiday weather, with blue skies all around.

Barbagallo: Liverpool Sound City 2016

The North stage would welcome some brilliant bands on day two, although some of the earlier appearances did less to inspire. European bands performing in languages other than English tend to struggle at UK festivals, so the pedestrian rock of Barbagallo - hailing from France - was a bizarre booking.

Instead, for a proper indie rock set, the Cavern stage was the place to be. It was home for part of day two to the Label Showcase, tying in with a record label at Edge Hill University. Red Rum Club were an early performer, and both look and sound the part as an indie band.

But the real star of the showcase was Pink Kink, an eclectic and quirky five-piece that did more to catch the eye than anyone on the weekend. Although essentially a little-known local band, the sheer volume of press at their set demonstrated just how much buzz they have in the Merseyside area - and it wasn't hard to figure out why. Some elements of their music, such as the presence of a kazoo and the cartoony drawings littering the stage, border on the novelty, but they're bound to be noticed all the same and will surely be noticed beyond the Liverpool area very soon.

The main stage also featured a strong line-up of bands on day two, out-performing the first day thanks first to Bill Ryder Jones, and then alternative band Inheaven. Although their recordings suggest they might not be the best festival band, in a live environment they're a very good watch, and their sound really comes into its own. The high winds - despite the sun - led to them calling it their "windiest set ever", and hair flew everywhere as they proved one of the best main stagers of the festival.

The Tall Ship suffered from the same problems on day two, with a rum bar that largely ignored the sets and a road between the fans and the stage. But day two's bands were, at least, a more exciting proposition. Anteros were the first to draw attention. Their indie rock attitude - Arctic Monkeys T-shirt and all - is slightly at odds with their occasionally over-simplistic pop, but they're a fun band to watch.

Back on the main stage, the electronic sounds of Shura attracted a substantial fan base. Her debut album is due next month, after a year or so of considerable hype and spots at almost every major festival in the country. Only recently has she matured as a live performer, however, going from slightly distant and aloof to jovial and engaging. Most of all, she seemed to belong on the main stage.

Into the evening the North stage was, for  the aficionado, the place to be. Three broadly feminine bands made up Sound City's finest run of performances, starting with Nottingham band Kagoule. Although it's a couple of years since the peak of their hype, and although they're between albums, they remain a mighty live band with plenty left in the tank. The crowd was big for their set, too, and they delivered in kind.

Following Kagoule was She Drew The Gun on the adjacent Tall Ship stage, before the massive local interest story of The Big Moon. Fresh from a marquee spot at Great Escape, the all-girl quartet are Liverpool's big indie export of recent memory, on the cusp of massive success. Their live set here was jolly, and they continue to improve as a live band, jiving around the stage and always looking like it's good fun.

In the meantime The Dandy Warhols - typically referred to by festival-goers as the band that recorded Bohemian Like You - performed on the main stage, before local lads Circa Waves provided the run in to the headliners. Their indie pop is always lively on-stage, and it was no different there, hits like T-Shirt Weather and Young Chasers going down the typical storm.

Back on the North stage, Canadian rock band Dilly Dally completed a strong run of alternative bands with a rare UK appearance. Raspy vocalist Katie Monks could be spotted side of stage before their set getting into the spirit with her headphones on, before all of her angst and apparent inner rage came out during a hot thirty-minute performance. It was exactly the sort of booking that Sound City should offer more of - a hype magnet band that you'd not be able to catch easily elsewhere.

The Cavern also featured a couple of interesting bands in the evening. Rock band The Wholls went down well, before pop singer Elle Exxe threw shapes and performed a series of her fledging hits. Elsewhere, at the Baltic Warehouse, members of Hot Chip and 2ManyDJs performed DJ sets for particularly drunken crowds.

The final evening's main stage headline set came courtesy of The Coral, although some may argue Peter Doherty - appearing on the North stage - was the bigger name. The Coral are no Catfish, representing indie's past rather than its future, but as a major Liverpool export still attracted great devotion from the local crowds. This resulted in an audience to rival that of the night before, and the timeless In The Morning and Dreaming Of You are hard to argue against as festival anthems. Pete similarly has plenty to draw upon, and although he's not quite the same star without The Libertines, he added gloss to a hot second stage.

The second day of Sound City, in many ways, topped the first. Although the marathon played a degree of havoc with the travel plans of some fans and even performers, the supporting cast packed a considerable punch, and the North stage especially was brilliantly booked.
Sound City has a lot to offer. It excels where many festivals fail, such as in its gender split; at some festivals the sight of a woman on-stage can be infrequent, but at Sound City the divide is fairly even, and for this the bookers must be commended.

It's also a fantastic festival for simply getting around to seeing some great music, and with such a compact footprint you won't get fatigued or worn out in the process, nor crowded out thanks to the plenitude of space at most of the stages.

It isn't the wild, rock-out festival that you might get later in the summer, however, and sometimes the audiences don't seem quite as invested in the music as you might hope for them to be. There's always a crowd of on-lookers, but not necessarily always a crowd of fans - and you're unlikely to succeed in trying to crowd-surf unless it's a headline set.

Across the two days, a number of bands stood out for their performances. Catfish & The Bottlemen were the obvious headline heroes, but lesser-known names like False Advertising, and Pink Kink did much to impress. You're likely to hear more from Judas, and Elle Exxe, too, while Dilly Dally, made a welcome UK appearance and  The Big Moon continued their exponential rise to the top of the alternative rock world.

Unless you have particular loyalties to Liverpool bands, The Coral could seem like a weak headliner - especially when The Vaccines, Belle and Sebastian and The Flaming Lips headlined last year - but on the night they did their job well.

Hopefully, Sound City will continue to grow, as it's a good festival and one that really holds its own in the bank holiday weekend market. It compares favourably to Dot To Dot in Manchester and Slam Dunk in Leeds, and it's got the festival site experience that - on a sunny weekend like this - goes down a treat.

review by: Katy Blackwood

Friday 27th to Sunday 29th May 2016
Bramley Moore Dock, Liverpool, Merseyside, L3 0AP, England MAP
£70 for festival wristband
daily capacity: 25000
last updated: Thu 12th May 2016

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