Day two of Sound City 2014 brought another nine bands for me, across six different venues, including the highlight of the whole festival for me.
Hooton Tennis Club
I headed straight to the Kazimier Garden, where I’d tried to see a band last year but had suffered from bad timing so had only managed to have a drink. It’s a lovely place to see a band, if the weather is OK, as it’s outside, they serve a decent pint, and you have a nice backdrop – I could see the Radio City tower behind the band. They were Hooton Tennis Club, named after a club in Little Sutton, who sounded like they’d listened to a lot of the Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers, with the guitarist using a lot of effects pedals and the drummer in a fetching Bob Dylan t-shirt.
Their set included the new single “Kathleen Sat On The Arm Of Her Favourite Chair”, which they gave away a free 1-track CD of. This has become a regular in my player, and is likely to make my 2014 compilation CD. The crowd included the odd sight of four people (not all together) at the front all wearing earplugs! There were a fair few hipsters in attendance – and then Terry Christian arrived, fresh from his role in a Liverpool vs. Manchester debate at the conference associated with the festival.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 8/10 (I really enjoyed this lot’s casual indie sounds)
Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band
After a pit-stop in Williamson Square for some not-bad Chinese food, I went into the Duke Street Garage to see the 13-piece Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band. Wow, this lot were fun – jazzy, groovy and very New Orleans (or how I imagine it to be). The line-up included probably the only bassoon I have ever seen being played outside of a full-blown orchestra, and the band featured people from various other bands, including Stealing Sheep’s drummer singing through a megaphone. There were some mad dancers in the audience at the front of the stage, including some of the hipsters fresh from Hooton Tennis Club and someone who looked like his night was probably peaking a bit too early.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 4/10 (I doubt they’ll ever make one, to be honest. I’d look to catch them again at another festival though)
A quick hop across the square to the Kazimier, where I headed upstairs to take advantage of a seat. Fickle Friends come from Brighton, have a perky singer, some catchy tunes and I think may end up being a very big, modern indie band. They were OK, but something about them just didn’t quite connect with me.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 6/10 (Maybe, but maybe not…)
Off to Leaf to see Silent Sleep for the first time proper. I’d seen them singing The Beatles’ “In My Life” in St. George’s Hall the week before at a Jamie Carragher event, but had somehow managed never to have seen them doing a full gig, despite them seemingly playing all the time in town, and featuring the lovely Gibbo on trumpet who I have referenced more than once in these blogs. The whole band are big reds (spotted: a Hillsborough Justice Campaign sticker on a guitar), which is always a good thing, but more to the point they are a great live band.
I’d actually seriously under-rated them – I think I’d only heard one of their songs before (“On The Steps Of The Bombed Out Church”), which I’d initially somewhat dismissed for what I wrongly felt was trying too hard to be locally relevant with its reference to the titular church. I now love this song, so mea culpa. Anyway, due to some technical issues that rather annoyed lead singer Christopher McIntosh, he sang the first song solo before the rest of the band could join in. Their songs were haunting heart-breakers, with the closest band I can compare them to being Red House Painters.
During the set, the singer took a phone call from a Sound City promoter asking him why the band weren’t at the venue, which was rather odd – he was able to quite accurately state that they were indeed at the venue, and were in fact in the middle of the gig! However, I had spotted in the listings that they were due to be on at another venue across town immediately after the Leaf gig had finished, which was presumably an error, so that may have led to the confusion.
I’d seen a video from last year’s Sound City where the band performed ‘Bombed Out Church’ on the steps of the Black-E. This year they just all stepped off the stage into the audience to perform it as their last number, so I ended up by chance stood right in front of the singer for this number. As the song progressed, I spotted Gibbo disappearing and having a word with some people at a table – I foolishly thought he’d just finished and was getting a drink, but then suddenly he appeared stood on the table playing a beautiful trumpet solo. Nice touch.
I can safely say that this was my gig of the festival, and if it doesn’t appear in my Top 5 gigs of the year (last year’s being Savages, Lambchop, John Grant, Low and Public Service Broadcasting, if you’re interested) then it will have been a great musical year.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 10/10 (I actually tried to buy their debut album off one of the band afterwards only to be reminded that it was vinyl only, and I’m a CD-only man. I hope that comes out on shiny disc, or at the very least the next release does.)
Tonight’s trip to East Village Arts Club was for the much-touted Wolf Alice – I knew very little about them, other than that there was a bit of a buzz about them, so why not? As I was just standing around casually waiting for the band to come on, I got a shout – and oddly enough there were three people I knew through the YNWA football website, none of whom I’d seen for a few years: Gilps (who I had at least seen a couple of years back), Matty and Des. That was a surprise as they all live down south, and I had no idea they had come up for Sound City. It was good to have a bit of a catch-up, largely about what bands they’d seen (including a couple I’d seen the day before).
I imagine I’d have loved Wolf Alice when I was a student – they had that slightly goth tinge to their indie rock music that appealed to me more back then, and they had a singer who would not doubt have featured on my walls, along with Bjork, Kylie and Emily Lloyd. In their set was a decent cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. They went down very well with the young crowd, with a fairly furious mosh pit developing. Us older men just stood by to the side.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 4/10 (Never quite did enough for me to get me to open the wallet)
I had to queue to get into the Kazimier to see Drenge, who again I’d heard of much more than heard. I eventually got let in just in time, heading upstairs as the downstairs was mobbed. They are another of several two-piece bands I saw at Sound City, but they just didn’t really do all that much for me. I was clearly in the minority as there was a proper, lively mosh pit going on, which of course I had a good view of.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 5/10 (Their eponymous debut album from last year has had largely positive reviews, but I think I’d need to hear some of it again to be convinced)
I stayed at Drenge later than I should have done as I was very keen to see Royal Blood at the Duke Street Garage, but I spent most of their set in the queue outside, although for all of that I could at least hear them, and for much of it see them as well. I was inside for the last few songs – and there was tonnes of room in there, so I have no idea why the jobsworth stewards didn’t let more people in earlier.
Royal Blood are yet another two-piece band (also from Brighton, like the previous night’s Blood Red Shoes), this time bass and drums only, with no guitar, which is a bit different. I’d seen and loved them on “Later… With Jools Holland” a week or so before, so it was great to see them in action. They were excellent (despite knowing none of their songs, really), and I have high hopes of them matching other great two-person bands like The Black Keys and The White Stripes (both of whom I’ve seen live and were fantastic).
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 9/10 (Eagerly anticipating their debut album!)
The Hold Steady
I stayed in the Duke Street Garage as the next band on were The Hold Steady, whom I had never seen before. They’re not a band I love, but certainly one I don’t mind. I have the first two of their six albums to date – some of their most recent ones have not been greeted as positively as the first few. However, I know they generate fervour amongst some, including a fair few of the Anfield Wrap/Rider posse, who I unsurprisingly spotted down the front, including Neil who I seemed to nod to or spot at a whole series of gigs at this year’s Sound City.
The band came on to a truly excellent piece of intro music in The Velvet Underground’s “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”, setting themselves a high bar to try to reach. They set about playing a fairly ferocious set, none of which I recognised, which may be due to me not knowing the albums of theirs I have as well as I could do, or perhaps they didn’t reach back to the first two albums. Lead singer Craig Finn looked rather like a Geography teacher from a somewhat insalubrious school, but was very enthusiastic, whipping up the passionate crowd, and (pet hate alert) getting a lot of clapping going on.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 4/10 (Not sure if I already have all The Hold Steady that I need, and reviews of the latest album aren’t particularly enticing me. I think I’d be more likely to pick up the third album.)
The Sunshine Underground
There was still time for one more act tonight, so it was over to The Zanzibar to see The Sunshine Underground who were due to start at the ungodly hour of 2.15am. I bought their debut album “Raise The Alarm” back in the heady “nu rave” days of 2006 (hi, Gibbo!), but had almost completely forgotten about their existence until spotting them in the Sound City listings.
In fact, they’ve only put out two albums, although a third is due any day now. They were a short bunch who sounded like London geezers, but who it transpires are from Telford and Shrewsbury. Perhaps my ears are so un-attuned to the south these days that anyone from south of the Watford Gap is a cockney to me… Anyway, they pummelled the heaving, sweaty Zanzibar with their hard-hitting beats and catchy choons.
They must have enjoyed themselves as they now have a show at the Kazimier booked in for October.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 4/10 (Probably won’t bother with another by them, but they put on a good show)
A fine second night at Sound City – another nine bands (again all new to me in the flesh), six venues (but only one new to me for a gig). The highlight was undoubtedly the gorgeous Silent Sleep, but Hooton Tennis Club, Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band and Royal Blood were all excellent as well, with plenty of enjoyment to be had elsewhere. The question on heading home was whether I could make it out for a third night in a row…
I went with a red Neu! t-shirt tonight, as it seemed like ages since I last wore one of my many red t-shirts to a gig, and it seemed like a suitably semi-affected one to wear to show off my hipster credentials while traipsing the streets of the LIV…