Keith Goldhanger is now into his third day in Liverpool watching bands. In his final review of Sound City 2019 we realise why he hasn’t bothered us with details about the big headline acts this year.
Sunday May 5th 2019
We won’t start watching bands until 2 o’clock today we said, but at one o’clock we are back in the mix, watching tiny snippets of bands from various doorways and then wandering in to investigate what may be going on inside one of our favourite venues (because 24 Kitchen Street hasn’t been revisited since Friday night). Another visit to Birdies Live Room in order to have a look at the impossible to Google ‘trio from Liverpool’ called MOTHERHOOD: the trio bit was right but this band are from Canada despite what the app said, and as it is with many bands this weekend this a début show for this band in a lovely venue in this lovely city.
We’re off again now, back where we left off yesterday and back into the position of patting ourselves on the back, punching the air with abandon at some tunes that are oddly timed, loud and leg-shaking from the start. Before the vocals kick in one could be forgiven for thinking we’re about to get half an hour of jerky math rock instrumentals, but half an hour later our ears have been refreshed with some post Pavement-like tunes that we’re delving further into once we get home, hunting out the bands début album Baby Teeth released three years ago as well as recent released album Dear Bongo to go onto the huge growing pile of stuff to listen to and digest further.
Three minutes later across the road we’re sitting in on a soundcheck by our favourite new band of 2019, SCALPING (right). ‘Do the one that goes badder um dum chk chk chk’ they suggest to each other before acknowledging the on ‘stage’ sound is good enough, walk away for ten seconds and return to perform their magnificent banging set that have a few dancing already. The room is busy once the show starts and tunes are separated by enthusiastic cheers by those in the room fortunate enough to have made the effort this early in the day (2pm). This band are better than Canadian band Holy Fuck or even Fuck Buttons, who we would suggest are the most obvious comparisons. The earplugs come out for the one and only time this weekend as guitars feedback, synths rattle, hum, stop, start, bleep and judder, winning the affections of everyone in the room. This band are already being hailed by one person as their favourite new band of 2019 and that same chap went back to revisit them literally the minute he got back to London the next day. By then the band had conquered Manchester and lengthened their set a little. The future is expected to be promising for these Bristol boys. If you were in Liverpool and missed this, then this is the time for you to begin regretting not being at this one. Give it a year or two and we’d wager you’ll be able to see them again at this same festival inside Hanger and much later in the day.
Back over the road again in time to catch a band from Dunfermline by the name of DANCING ON TABLES who we fear may not remain much longer in earshot than the first chorus but manage a complete set. Ignoring the face-pulling bass player who looks as though he is getting his back waxed whilst playing and that they all look as though they’re about to be introduced one by one to us as ‘Mike from Accounts’ and ‘Derek from HR’, this band are rather decent. Great harmonious backing vocals that would be better suited in front of a stadium audience than a couple of dozen lunchtime drinkers, and we conclude that they could probably be one of those bands that are competent enough to earn money on weekends by recreating Killers tunes for wedding receptions. Temper Trap (or U2) riffs are being recreated and vocals are belted out in their broad Scottish accents. Not something we imagine we’ll be jumping on the bus back home to see on a wet Tuesday night but we leave the venue content that we’ve found another band we certainly won’t ignore if our paths cross again. A band that any Imagine Dragons fans in the world with 15 year old daughters that haven’t seen Coldplay yet will attract.
We go to see a band from Bratislavia called 52 HERTZ WHALE (right) based on two lines we’d read that said
“There is something totally compelling about the band whose intensity pins you to the floor and their songs’ melodic touch delivers a real compelling sucker punch….” and as reliable as ever, this description by John Robb on this site (or in the program – whatever came first) is true to every word. The first things we notice are that the bass player has pink strings on his guitar and that we can’t work out where the vocals are coming from. By looking around the garden we notice a frontman in a long grey jacket having a stroll amongst the audience providing a bit of talking and occasional shouting over some loud guitars and intense frantic tunes in front of of a two-man mosh pit that joins the vocalist for at least one complete verse towards the end. The singing styles of of Daniel Johnson, Dav-iD – Virgin Prunes and the memory of Mercury Rev’s first vocalist David Baker come to mind as the frontman detaches himself from what the rest of the band are doing before throwing himself back into what we could describe as any chorus the band have written. The guitars remind us of The Walkmen at times: it’s slightly unhinged, quite manic and rowdy yet an emotional experience that one could soon get us as addicted to as the two-man mosh pit seem to be.
We’re into the part of the proceedings now when we’re hoping the advertised stage times are adhered to. No time for idle chats with Slovakians today. WOOZE (main pic) are playing six inches away (but in another room and around three corners). Four yellow-clad figures have filled the Brick Street venue and provide us with snippets of synchronised stage movements, music that sounds as though its being played backwards, hand stands, guitars being played behind the heads and a bunch of songs that could be Tubeway Army songs played on guitars. We start thinking about that first Adam & the Ants album, Devo, Paul McCartney, Cardiacs and endless others that really won’t do much to the untrained listener until they stand in the same room as we have a few times over the past year. Another huge highlight, especially as it’s in front of an audience that may not have witnessed this before. This band are everywhere this year so you’ll end up making your own mind up about them in due course, we suspect.
Down the road we catch JEKYLL do the song that we love that sounds like Muse and reacquaint ourselves once again with one of the bands we found by accident twelve months ago at this same festival. THE CHEAP THRILLS are down to a trio today but they still sound huge a year later, especially now we know most of the songs. Codependence gets (us and) the locals singing along as it should do, and the rest of the set is also very strong and the locals coming through the door (carpark actually) can be occasionally spotted with arms in the air singing along intermittently from the start. Is the world ready for another anthemic guitar band that everyone can raise their glasses too? Well yes, but we’re still trying to work out how long it takes for a band with two or three huge anthems to hit the indie dance floor discos and cement their place in a world in which they clearly belong.
It’s noticeable that the (Baltic triangle) area in which this festival is taking place isn’t exclusive to Sound City this weekend. Camp & Furnace is one notable venue missing at this years event but this doesn’t mean its sitting dormant this weekend. Hundreds of people are all arriving at this large warehouse for an event that begins at around 7pm each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. We try establishing what this event is and the words bingo and disco are mentioned. Ignoring what it is that these folk in their Topshop attire whilst occasionally carrying future brides and grooms along the street are going in there to do (its a safe bet that excessive drinking and dancing to loud music is involved), one wonders what the consequences would be if these buildings in The Baltic Area were to be replaced by a dozen superstores, coffee shops bowling alleys and burger drive-thru’s. This scenario would add a few thousand people to the city centre over any (every) weekend. A situation not worth thinking about in terms of policing and accommodating the amount of people wanting to party in different ways. This is the subject that South London’s BENIN CITY (above right) built their fabulous album Last Night around last year, and this afternoon in District the trio are on fire yet again, dancing, spreading the love and highlighting many of the tracks from this album plus a new tune that suggests the subject matter still isn’t yet closed. This is the band’s first introduction to the City, and from the reaction they receive it surely will not be the last. Yet again, this was another huge highlight of the weekend and hopefully those in the room will now be sold on the idea that this album by Benin City needs to be heard inside living rooms across the country.
KAGOULE are no better or worse than when we first saw them many years ago, a couple of awful local bands are then seen due to tired legs not wanting to walk away any more, the all-female electronic shoegaze atmospheric band from Moscow we caught a little of called LUCIDVOX are great enough for a couple of tunes, and as what looks like the whole of the North West are still queuing up for Loyle Carner (who is probably ending his set by this time) we sit patiently inside The Baltic Roastery waiting for Berlin’s HOPE to resurrect our enthusiasm again and to reinforce the opinion formed last year when we heard them that it is time for contemplation and reflecting what a marvellous event Sound City has been this year.
To have a weekend such as this, the secret is to research, plan ahead, keep moving and cut out any heavy drinking at any one bar. It seems that most venues host acts so eclectic that you never get an act similar (in standard or style) to the previous one in succession. Whilst one man could tell you stories and a potted history of a band such as Too Many T’s (the only regretful omission for this writer – sorry we missed you boys) it should be explained that this same person has no previous knowledge of Loyle Carner, Mabel or a host of other names at the top end of the schedule. Is this allowed we are asked, when striking up conversations with Hungarian folk indie band called PLATON KARATAEV who get a mention purely by going to all the trouble of tearing their band name out of a newspaper so we could check them out when we got home (we did, we liked). To put this write-up into a little context it’s worth noting that this is the same person writing this who didn’t know who Rhianna was (or was it Beyonce?) when arriving at Glastonbury in 2011, but whose highlight that year was dancing to Glitches at 3am in a rabbit hole.
HOPE tonight are magnificent. In regards to ‘headline’ acts (aka bands playing last in certain establishments) this German band are the ideal band we wanted to see again. The four-piece have been travelling to Liverpool since 6am and the half-hour set they play is worth every second for us who at the same time had been to about 15 shows, eaten too many crisps and are shaking with excitement as some of our favourite bands simply don’t stop arriving in the same rooms as us. HOPE have the ability to literally silence a room with a performance as fierce, intense and captivating as anyone could imagine. This venue has no stage, the lights are on throughout the room and punters sit around drinking bottled lager and coffee, sometimes simply chatting away whilst any performance is taking place. For the first time this weekend, Hope turn this room into something special, something to savour, consume and focus on one hundred percent. Bands performing out of their comfort zone and succeeding are bands that can eventually achieve anything we believe, and for the short time we experienced this it is an incredible thing to witness. No sound check, they simply plug in and play beautifully, which is a common theme throughout Sound City. Get their album, then go and see them. You can thank us another day.
CONFIDENCE MAN (pic right by Jonathan Shepherd) after midnight in a big room with flashing lights is what we expected the minute after seeing them at midday at Glastonbury two years ago. These two Australians fronting the band must be the fittest people in music today (if you discount Friendly Fires’ Ed Macfarlane who was seen during the editing of this piece). We get twenty minutes before they disappear for one of two costume changes, therefore the set is panned out with some thumping techno played by the two veiled figures sharing drums and electronics between them. A big crowd inside Hanger are drinking, snogging, waving their arms in the air and lapping up every moment as the duo perform cartwheels, shake bottles of champagne over the front rows and keep straight faces throughout the perfect finale of a weekend that has been as successful as any other Sound City we’ve attended in the past. We recognise again the similarity between this show and The Scissor Sisters shows we saw just before they went on to appear in venues some of us can’t afford (or desire) to enter.
Thirteen shows today, ten yesterday and six on Friday. Suffice to say we enjoyed it again.
Thank you Liverpool you were great again.
All words and pictures* by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).You may subscribe to the Goldhanger Shorts Facebook page too if you so wish.
*Confidence man photo by J Shepherd