Fusion FestivalSefton Park 30/8/19
An extra day of rock music has been tacked on to the beginning of FUSION FESTIVAL this year, following its move from Otterspool Promenade to Sefton Park. The line-up leaves you with more questions than answers; questions like: who decided it would be a good idea to put these bands on the same stage? Did JAKE BUGG do something recently? Are FRANZ FERDINAND still together? Sure, it’s a strange mix, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a good time.
The sun is beaming down as SAM FENDER starts the day off right. Already the recipient of the Critics’ Choice award at this year’s BRITs, he is gearing up to release his debut album Hypersonic Missiles. The North Shields-born singer proudly wears his influences on his sleeve, encapsulating the youthful euphoria and nostalgia of 1980s stadium rock. His rhythm guitarist mercilessly punches a sampler during Will We Talk? blasting out triumphant bells and strings. However, with the chills-inducing Dead Boys, Fender shows us that he is not a one-trick pony. Although taking clear nods from Bruce Springsteen, Fender still puts a modern spin on the style, in the same vein as The War On Drugs. It’s early in the day, but the crowd feeds on the adrenaline of Hypersonic Missiles, and a few people jump on each other’s shoulders during the saxophone solo. Despite the unnecessary Oasis cover of Morning Glory to close, the young singer is infinitely exciting, and is definitely worth a second watch at his upcoming Liverpool show in November.
There are scattered showers and, for whatever reason, all of the bars are no longer taking cards. Yet, Liverpool darlings CIRCA WAVES give a performance fit for a festival, as they march through songs from their latest record What’s It Like Over There?. The anthemic Movies and piano-smashing Times Won’t Change Me are well received by the adoring crowd, whose spirits are not dampened by the lack of booze. Circa Waves unleash a frankly shocking amount of energy during their performance of Goodbye, which should see all comparisons to The Vaccines thrown out of the window; their calls for a mosh pit are answered during the Queens of the Stone Age-esque barn burner, which is an impressive feat so early in the day.
Despite Sam Fender covering Morning Glory earlier on in the day, Jake Bugg tries even harder to do an impersonation of Noel Gallagher, although it may not have been his intention. The crowd isn’t as tightly packed and sweating as they were for Circa Waves, so something is definitely amiss. Is this one Lightning Bolt? It is Seen It All. Is this one Lightning Bolt? It is Two Fingers. This is his last song. It must be Lightning Bolt? It is.
For a complete change of pace, next on is essential post-punk band and pride of Liverpool, ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN. How do they fit into this line-up? The inclusion of this seminal band seems like a tone-deaf ploy to draw in an older audience. Even classics like The Cutter and The Killing Moon lose their magic in this setting, and ache to be soaked in at a more dedicated show.
Franz Ferdinand are still together. In fact, they put out a new album last year called Always Ascending. Seeing Franz Ferdinand this high on a bill is a strange sight to see, like stepping into a bizarre time machine that could take you back to the years 2004-2007. Sure, they are not exactly a one-hit-wonder per se, but it is clear the audience is here for Take Me Out. Still, the supressed coil, build and release section of the song continues to be exciting and even refreshing despite the fact you know full well it is coming.
KINGS OF LEON are aware of their controversy. Hardcore fans love to talk about their early material and its ranking; Slow Night, So Long, first – and how they stopped listening after Only By The Night – Crawl second. The British resentment of their later material is a paradox: the English embraced the sound of the dirty Deep South when their own country wouldn’t, only to shout “we were there first” across the water as the Americans followed suit.
Anyone who likes their later stuff; Waste A Moment, third; must be an American, or closet American. Albums like Come Around Sundown (Radioactive, fourth) aren’t even given a second thought. But, why? Because it was right around the time we’d grown sick of hearing those dreaded two songs on the radio? Sure, we can all agree that Because Of The Times was the perfect goldilocks moment between the two halves of their career. Molly’s Chambers from the first half and Supersoaker, from the second, both retain raw energy, while embracing the stadium-rock sound that propelled them into stardom.
Their catalogue is deep and they play to their audience. They know that their band means more to us than it does to Americans. We’ve been there through the good times – Fans, My Party, Mary – and the bad times – Sex On Fire, Use Somebody. We want to hear it all: the songs that makes us dance (Closer) or makes us cry (Milk), or both (Pyro). As the heavens open they play Cold Desert, and it is hard not to feel a part of something greater, beyond the bickering and missteps.