It was back to Bramley-Moore Dock for the second day of this year’s Sound City festival.
I was able to get there a bit earlier as it was a Saturday, leaving the Boy Wonder in the highly capable of hands of My Beloved Wife for a couple of hours before he went off to bed. It was still sunny as I arrived at around 6pm, but as I knew I would be at outdoor stages for much of the evening I’d brought a coat, as strongly advised by the guy I was chatting to at the station on the way home the night before!
I grabbed a pint of Three Hop lager and then scooted straight over to the main Atlantic stage to catch most of Dutch Uncles’ set. They’ve just brought out their fourth album, but as I only have numbers two and three I was hoping to recognise a fair few numbers played. However, most of it was new to me.
Lead singer Duncan Wallis caught the eye with his crazily jerky and expressive dancing – a bit like a mutant version of Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring. To me they come across as a bit of a mix of XTC, Talk Talk, Heaven 17 and Talking Heads, a pretty good bunch of influences.
My favourite was definitely Fester from 2013’s Out Of Touch In The Wild, while they ended with Dressage off Cadenza, my album of choice from the two that I own. To me, they have a lot in common with Everything Everything from the day before, but I certainly prefer Dutch Uncles.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 6/10 (While I like the two albums I have, I don’t know how much I need another one, but another cracker from them is surely possible)
I then headed to the outdoor North stage to see local band Cavalry, who got the crowd going with their rousing, if a little earnest, indie sounds. The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne walked past during their first song, while Carnival Youth, who I’d seen play the day before, also wandered through.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 2/10 (Sorry, but they just did nothing much for me, despite some impressive vocal harmonies)
I moved on to the Baltic stage for Stevenage punks Bad Breeding who came across like a traditional DC hardcore band, as though they had stepped off an old Dischord release. I had a thing for DC hardcore many years ago, often buying the very inky Maximumrocknroll magazine, and still own a fair bit of Dischord’s output.
I’m certainly less into this whole scene these days, but I could appreciate the passion of the band, especially their livewire singer Chris Dodd, who first leapt into the photo pit before heading into the somewhat sparse crowd with a very long mike cable, hurling himself around with several younger members of the audience joining him. He spent considerably longer in amongst the audience than he did on stage.
They were formed by son-of-you-know-who Sean Lennon and partner Charlotte Kemp Muhl in 2008, but are only onto their second album, last year’s Midnight Sun. Their modern psych sounds had Indian influences in it, with Lennon playing a lovely turquoise guitar.
Sean ironically introduced the epic Animals as “our big hit in Palestine… and the Philippines”, with Charlotte adding “we’re huge in Kazakhstan”. Poor Paul Getty was trailed as their “most Liverpudlian song”, with sounded like it could have been an old Syd Barrett b-side. This influence was made even clearer when they then covered Syd’s classic Long Gone, complete with some great feedback.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 9/10 (I thoroughly enjoyed them and would love to hear more)
After a fairly lengthy toilet queue, and a pretty decent burger, I went back to the Baltic stage to see The Bohicas, who I knew very little about other than one song, I Get High, from a Mojo freebie CD. I couldn’t place it at the time, thinking it must be a cover version of something else, which I guess alludes to its ‘classic rock’ air.
However, this was certainly the peak of their set for me, with their hard rock just not being my proverbial cup of tea. I’ve since seen their name around the place a fair bit, so they seem to be getting a bit of a push.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 2/10 (Just not for me)
After a length queue for a beer, with only IPA on offer, I spotted the omnipresent Peter Guy from Getintothis again before bumping into Paul McC, an Irish guy I know through YNWA and the football. There wasn’t time for a lengthy chat as I was heading for the main stage again to see Stealing Sheep.
The three ladies were all wearing odd coloured tights, matching their very quirky, folk-tinged artsy pop, packed with off-the-wall three-part harmonies. Their unusual look was further complemented by the surreal video on the big screen, featuring disembodied hands and other body parts.
Duncan from Dutch Uncles and Outfit’s Andy Hunt joined them for backing vocals and dancing on Apparition. Overall, while I enjoyed them, I found them a little less organic somehow than when I’d seen them before supporting Summer Camp at Mojo in December 2011 and then at 2013’s Sound City in the Epstein Theatre.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 7/10 (I really enjoy the other stuff of theirs I’ve got, so I’ll probably pick up the new one at some point)
I headed back to the Baltic stage to see highly energetic punk survivors The Membranes, featuring the legendary John Robb on bass and lead vocals, the Bilbo Baggins-esque ex-Gallon Drunk manager Nick Brown, Peter Byrchmore (formerly of The Nightingales) on guitar, and drummer Rob Haynes.
I’m afraid that I know more about John Robb as a journalist and author than I do as the leader of The Membranes, which is a sorry state of affairs considering their history. So, I can only name a couple of songs from their set. A highlight was the bass-driven Space Junk from their upcoming album, Dark Matter/Dark Energy, while they ended with Myths And Legends from 1983’s debut mini-album Crack House.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 4/10 (I might well investigate a compilation of their old stuff instead)
I bumped into Paul again as I headed off back to the Atlantic stage to see The Thurston Moore Band. I’d really been looking forward to seeing him, as I’ve long loved Sonic Youth, and his solo album that came out earlier this year, The Best Day, is really rather brilliant. I’d only ever managed to see SY once, at the Kilburn National back in March 1989 (supported by Mudhoney!), so it was great to be seeing Thurston again.
The set started with the lengthy Forevermore, while Sean Lennon could be spotted at the side of the stage taking photos during Speak To The Wild, another great track off the new album.
He dedicated a song to 1960’s poet Adrian Henri, who he described as “one of Liverpool’s favourite sons”, with no doubt most of the audience not actually knowing who he was referring to.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 7/10 (I love the current album, and hope he continues in the same quality vein in the future)
Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end of the set as I wanted to see some of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who I’d seen at 2013’s festival, in the Duke Street Garage. En route, I bumped into my mate Raj, who introduced me to his new(ish) girlfriend, and we had a brief chat, but I was on a bit of a mission!
The Baltic was packed for UMO, but I wormed my way to near the front as they were playing the fabulous So Good At Being In Trouble from 2013’s excellent II album with Ruban Nielson’s distinctive, gently powerful voice. Drummer Riley Geare was supremely bearded, with bassist Jake Portrait and Quincy McCrary on keys completing the band line-up.
Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, released as a single from Multi-Love, was very popular with the crowd, despite the added distraction of a lantern parade going past during this latter part of the set.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 9/10 (The first two albums were great and the new songs sounded equally good)
I grabbed a slice of pizza before managing to catch the last few songs by LoneLady in the Cavern tent, who was also wonderful. She looked like a member of Savages, and played some great, angular indie, most of which I think was from her new second album, Hinterland.
The title track had a kind of madrigal air, standing out a little bit from the rest of the songs, while Julie Ann Campbell, aka LoneLady, was doing some great dancing.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 9/10 (I definitely must snap up Hinterland)
It seemed as though the world and his wife was at the main stage for The Flaming Lips, who’d long been trailed as the expected highlight of the whole festival.
I’d seen them at the Hammersmith Apollo back in November 2003, when they were promoting the previous year’s Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots album, so I knew to expect a spectacular stage show complete with ticker tape galore and people in giant inflatable costumes (including Santa Claus this time). Singer Wayne Coyne set the scene when he emerged with a giant frog lilo headpiece.
They kicked off with an unusual choice, the opening song from 1995’s seventh album Clouds Taste Metallic, The Abandoned Hospital Ship. It was not until their ninth album, The Soft Bulletin, that the band actually broke through to the mainstream, which is certainly a long apprenticeship!
This gig has received very positive reviews in all quarters that I have read, but I have to say I was rather disappointed, as to me it was a rather disjointed, stop-start affair with very little real flow to it. The spectacle was there, but every crowd-pleasing song seemed to be followed by either something much more obscure and/or a lengthy break that removed much of the momentum.
Clearly, “fuck” is Wayne Coyne’s favourite word, with him wielding a giant “Fuck Yeah Liverpool” set of balloons as the ‘hits’ Fight Test and the singalong The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power), that actually hit #16 in the UK single chart, were played early in the set.
There was plenty of stuff going on other than the music, including an on-stage proposal (cue Wayne’s “fuck yeah!”) and the glorious sight of Wayne climbing into a giant zorbing-style hamster ball to roll out over the crowd, while still singing.
The Soft Bulletin’s A Spoonful Weighs A Ton ended the set with the band’s return to the stage delayed by paramedics having to tend to someone taken seriously ill near the front. They eventually came back for the anthemic Do You Realize?? from Yoshimi, but then that was it. Sadly, they never played two killers from The Soft Bulletin, Race For The Prize and Waitin’ For A Superman. In fact, the whole set was only eleven songs long, emphasising how piecemeal it had all been with lengthy songs and between-song delays.
I wore my red Sonic Nurse Sonic Youth t-shirt, in Thurston Moore’s honour. Saturday was certainly the day of the festival for people to dig out their band t-shirts as I spotted absolutely loads, including the salesman who sold me my car a couple of years ago in an Eric’s t-shirt!
In no particular order: Bauhaus, British Sea Power, at least four The Flaming Lips designs, Swans, Lou Reed, Placebo, The Velvet Underground, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Soft Machine, The Beatles at least twice, The Strokes, Black Sabbath, Pere Ubu, My Bloody Valentine, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Erasure, Beastie Boys, The Cramps, The Clash, Joy Division, Ghostpoet, Pixies, The Gaslight Anthem, Sonic Youth, Slayer, Jeff Buckley, Ramones, The Vaccines, Boards Of Canada, The Smiths, Nick Cave, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cribs, Outfit, Keith Richards, Clinic, Deaf School, Sub Pop, Can, Spiritualized, Moon Duo, The Wombats and Talking Heads.
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Here are some selections from Saturday night’s bands: