Sound CityVarious Venues 1/10/21
Liverpool SOUND CITY is back, finally! For the first time since May 2019, the UK’s leading independent festival for new music, makes a triumphant return to Liverpool’s city centre for a weekend of great bands, brilliant venues and some typical British weather.
Having taken place over in the Baltic Triangle for the last few years and then online in 2020, the festival celebrating the best of the UK’s up-and-coming musical talent, once again graces many a stage in the Ropewalks district of the city. Excited festival goers pack out basement venues like the Shipping Forecast and The Jacaranda, squeeze into the intimate Kazimier Stockroom, enjoy drinks in tea-shop-turned-music hub Leaf and dance away at theatre style stages like The Arts Club and main stage, Grand Central Hall. With many people experiencing live music for the first time since March 2020, what better way to get back into the joys of music than with a festival Liverpool style. We went along for the weekend with our rain coats on Saturday and sunglasses on Sunday to discover some new music, catch up with familiar faces and dance like we’ve never danced before.
Kicking off Saturday down in the Shipping Forecast basement are Glaswegian four piece, VOODOOS, taking to the stage with a set of no-fuss indie rock tracks. Firmly set in the Glasgow music scene, they’ve brought their sound to the Liverpool Sound City stage. With bouncy beats, accompanied by a touch of synths and solid vocals, the crowd can’t help but bob along in the tiny underground venue.
Basements are a popular venue location this weekend with Liverpool locals POLICE CAR COLLECTIVE just about fitting on the stage at The Jacaranda. The mysterious duo, who have adopted the motto ‘Delete The Internet’, and take inspiration from 80s bands like The Smiths and New Order, bounce all over the stage as front man Tyler dons a red balaclava which is torn off at the end of the first song. The packed out crowd reciprocate the duo’s energy as fans reaching wall to wall join in with the energetic set of indie, dream-pop.
The Saturday afternoon rain doesn’t dampen anyone’s spirits over at Leaf as THE LOTTERY WINNERS take to the stage for a locked out show. The four piece from Leigh treat the crowd to a hell of a performance, smashing out tracks including Elizabeth, 21 and Start Again, a collaboration with Frank Tuner, but without Frank Turner. Before they kick off this specific track, they remind the audience of how the chorus goes so everyone can join in, encourage fists in the air, pointing and a lot of jumping which the crowd fully get behind for the whole set. Lead singer Thom is full of charisma as the performance turns into half gig half comedy show, cracking jokes in between a brilliant set of indie-pop songs. Alongside the music and the comedy, they also take the opportunity of having a packed out energetic crowd to film a music video for one of their new tracks. The pointing was on point and the audience participation was second to none, a refreshing gig and just what was needed to welcome back live music.
Over at the main stage at Grand Central Hall, the crowds begin to form early in anticipation of headline act, RED RUM CLUB. Before the local lads with that well known mariachi sound take to the stage there is a whole host of brilliant bands from the region treating the audience to some incredible sets. With a mix of 70s and 80s electro indie pop and disco, MONKS bring their danceable tracks to the beautiful venue full of electric vibes.
Up next are THE MYSTERINES, the four piece fronted by Lia Metcalfe smash out yet another no nonsense set of edgy rock tracks. With fan favourites such as Bet Your Pretty Face, Hormone and recent single In My Head inspiring mosh pits down at the front, the powerful vocals, punchy bass and shredding guitars make for the perfect combination from the Liverpool natives. Getting to Grand Central early was always going to be advised as before JAMIE WEBSTER takes to the stage entrance turns to one in one out. For the lucky people who got down early, Webster brings out his acoustic guitar to perform those recognisable tracks, Liverpool loves so much. Kicking off with Living For Yesterday he works his way through a huge set featuring Change, Somethings Gotta Give and Weekend in Paradise from his debut album, We Get By. Ending with This Place, a personal love letter to Liverpool, glasses are raised in appreciation for the perfect way to end Webster’s Saturday Sound City spot.
The Sunday of 2021’s Sound City edition hosts a vibrant mixture of unique, creative artists from Merseyside and beyond, with a focus on independent acts.
PODGE makes for an early highlight at The Shipping Forecast. Considering many of Podge’s songs have the same feel as a warm sunny day, it makes sense they’re kicking the performances off on this bright Sunday afternoon, but you’d hope such a creative act will rise to a later spot on the line-up soon enough. For now though, Podge’s sound works well in this compact venue, since their tracks squeeze samples and colourful, eccentric worlds into a more intimate bedroom-pop style. The Wirral-born artist occasionally performs reservedly, like they’re the only person in the room; for some other acts this might cause a disconnect with their audience, but this introspective performance style matches Podge’s sound so charmingly that they manage to pull it off.
Later, Leeds four-piece ENGLISH TEACHER provide The Shipping Forecast basement with one of the best performances of the day. The band marry the dry wit of contemporary favourites like Sorry and Dry Cleaning with thrashing, emphatic choruses that still sound huge in a small venue. Best of the set is The World’s Biggest Paving Slab, where lead performer Lily Fontaine’s spacey vocals swell through the room, accompanied by a grungy-yet-pretty instrumental. Despite having only a few singles under their belt, English Teacher are remarkably assured in their identity as a group. They build on the momentum of British post-punk bands past and present, while providing a punchy sound and perspective distinguishing enough to make them memorable.
Closing the festival on the Arts Club Theatre stage, LÅPSLEY headlines her own curated line-up exclusively spotlighting women and non-binary musicians. At the beginning of the set, the Merseyside native jokes that, having not performed in Liverpool since she was eighteen, she’s feeling nervous. You might have missed this fact had she not mentioned it, as Låpsley’s set keenly plays to all her strengths, and she appears in complete command. Importantly, she hits every mark without letting it seem like she’s just coolly going through the motions. The stage is left bare, and this minimalist production allows her rich vocals to hold complete focus. Låpsley makes the perfect call to end her set with the gorgeous, disco-infused ‘Operator (He Doesn’t Call Me)’, which, despite its heartbroken subject matter, is a glittery, uplifting closer. With this, she rounds out the festival on a high, leaving you with that specific, cheery post-gig buzz that carries onto Seel Street as we pour out of the venue.
Live music has been sorely missed over the last 18 months and with Liverpool Sound City being a staple event in the city’s musical calendar, the three day festival has gone back to its roots to celebrate the best in music. We already can’t wait for its next outing in 2022.
Words: Alfie Verity and Sophie Shields