THE sun came out, the music rocked and I had a rare weekend off.
THE sun came out, the music rocked and I had a rare weekend off. Yes, it’s safe to say that this year’s Sound City was one of the best yet.
If, like me, you’re still suffering from ringing ears, extreme fatigue and a liver as big as Hartlepool, than you probably know what I’m talking about.
It’s difficult imagining May now without this annual three-day festival that has quickly established itself as a real gem of a weekend on Merseyside’s musical map.
Securing a wristband opens a whole world of possibilities for anyone wanting to see the latest “buzz bands” (I kept hearing this phrase!) and for a veteran parent like me who doesn’t get out as much as he used to, it’s a chance to go to a festival without actually having to experience all those horrible things like mud, tents and Mumford and Sons.
So what were the highlights? Best band I saw over the three days was the wonderful Wolf People whose set of psyched-out English folk managed to somehow recall the best of early Fairport Convention and the doom-laden drone of Black Sabbath.
Other bands who impressed were Derbyshire duo Drenge, whose White-Stripes- esque punk blues howl saw me balancing precariously with one foot on the tiny Shipping Forecast stage as frontman Eoin Loveless stumbled into the packed crowd, still playing his guitar.
Moments to cherish and remember cropped up a few times over the three days: I enjoyed seeing Oxford’s Spring Offensive down tools and stride to the front of the Epstein Theatre to strum their Smithsian harmonies to an appreciative gathering slowly realising they were surely seeing the Next Big Thing materialise in front of their eyes.
Likewise Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s brilliant set at the improvised Garage stage was a revelation of guitar pyrotechnics and hip soul flash from enigmatic New Zealander Ruban Nielson.
In general though what really put a spring into my step as I trotted between each venue was the abundance and quality of the venues themselves.
Top of the tree is undoubtedly The Kazimir which manages to eclipse just about every one of its rivals with a magical but simple combination of friendly door staff, a wonderfully stocked bar complete with real ale on tap, great views from wherever you’re standing and a smoking area which is actually quite a pleasant place to hang out.
Just a few minutes’ walk away sees you on the doorstep of the rejuvenated Masque Theatre, which is now trading as the East Village Arts Club. Despite not even being aware we had an “East Village” in Liverpool, it’s great to see this space back on its feet although I was sad to see the former DJ booth where I had spun many a Britpop classic has now been replaced by a sofa.
I’ve already mentioned the Shipping Forecast’s atmospheric basement which is also fast becoming a favourite.
Around the corner is old favourite The Zanzibar, while a quick stagger onto Duke Street brings us to new kid on the block Sound, whose combination of pizzas, pub quizzes and rock’n’roll is a winning formula.
Truly we are blessed at the moment but that shouldn’t mean we get complacent. As the current problems faced by two more of our excellent venues, Mello Mello and the Caledonia have proved, there is always someone, somewhere, determined to turn our hang outs into a corporate coffee shop.
Liverpool Sound City shows us how lucky we are. Let’s do all we can to keep it that way.