The final night of this year’s first Sound City festival at Bramley-Moore Dock brought some more highlights, including some top notch Korean sounds.
I decided to drive tonight, to save a bit of money and time, and due to the fairly uninspiring beer choice. My Beloved Wife had gone off to see Steven Gerrard’s final game for Liverpool, so I was in charge of The Boy Wonder for the day, as well as his oldest cousin who babysat between my departure and his mother’s return from Stoke, though I barely knew he was there. We’ll rapidly gloss over the football.
I got to the festival at 7.30pm and got myself a pint of Krušovice as it was still quite warm. I headed straight to the Kraken stage where Bathymetry (which means the study of the underwater depth of lake or ocean floors, science fans) were on stage. They’re fronted by two ladies, Emily on bass and guitarist Ariel, backed by drummer Dave.
Their brooding sound was enlivened by the twin female vocals, and some trad quiet/loud stylings. They’ve recently supported both The Jesus And Mary Chain and Wire in Liverpool, which is quite impressive. However, although the basslines were intriguing at times, generally they kind of washed over me.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 3/10 (They’ve had enough of a good buzz for me to get in early enough to see them if they’re supporting at any future gigs I’m going to, but I remain to be convinced by them)
They are a two-piece, with the traditional (gorgeous white Gretsch) guitar and drums line-up for that number. After a few false starts, their hard blues rock got the joint jumping, including the lead singer/bassist of another Korean band, Sumin Jo from PATiENTS, with their extended tunes sung in English.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 5/10 (There might well be a great-sounding album in them. Hopefully they’ll be back for next year’s Sound City!)
I returned to the Kraken tent for SeaWitches, who define their music as “dark dirty poptones”. I’d certainly throw in the word “goth” to that, with some Siouxsie Sioux-esque vocals and dance moves. They were much more popular with the rest of the crowd than they were with me, I’m afraid.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 2/10 (Just not for me)
It was then over to the Baltic stage to see South London’s COMPNY, in front of a rather sparse crowd. They were very slick and quite well styled, despite a broad selection of pretty terrible shirts. However, they really did nothing at all for me.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 1/10 (Sorry, not a chance)
They’re a livewire three-piece Korean punk band with some great piano/keyboards work from Hyuckjang Kwon. Drummer Jaehyuk Lee completed the line-up. I’d hazard a guess that they like Ramones, particularly around the time of 1977’s Rocket To Russia, with Jo’s regular shouts of “let’s go” (also the name of one of their songs) adding to that impression.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 6/10 (I gave them a score of 4 last time around mainly due to cynicism about how easily I’d become aware of an album by them, but in fact one is out there already. The main downside being that it’s not all that cheap)
I actually saw Supergrass three times, which rather amazes me. I distinctly recall them supporting Ride at the Royal Albert Hall when I went with a French colleague/friend Baloo in September 1994, just before debut single Caught By The Fuzz was released. There was already a ridiculous amount of hype about them at the time, which I’m afraid rather put me off them on the night.
I then apparently saw them at Brixton Academy in May 1997 (at the time of second album In it For The Money) and the Royal Festival Hall in June 2002, part of the David Bowie-curated Meltdown, both times with a long-standing mate from university, Phil.
Gaz’s first number, Buffalo, the opening track from Matador, was affected by the somewhat muddy sound that fortunately gradually improved. Coombes was sitting at the keyboards for this fairly gentle opener, alternating between that position and standing with his guitar depending on the song. A highlight for me was the rocking Needle’s Eye.
The audience included Bad Breeding’s singer Chris Dodd, who seemed to be getting extra stimulus to help enjoy himself, while behind me were a few idiots who kept shouting out “no problem, Gaz” whenever he thanked the audience. This wasn’t funny the first time, and it was even less so on the fifth or sixth occasion.
Overall, as much of the set was from his very good current release, performed well, this was a solid half hour’s entertainment.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 7/10 (I really like Matador, so if he can keep it up I’ll surely be back for more)
I then received the first of several calls from My Beloved Wife, who (how can I put this?) had clearly enjoyed her day out at Stoke. Trying to have a conversation led me to move away from the Atlantic stage, so I was in search of another band.
I settled on the Korean psych band Thirdstone, who were incredibly wild and very entertaining. You could certainly hear the Jimi Hendrix in their music, just as you could see it in their clothing and moves (and band name!).
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 5/10 (I’d go and see them again but I’m not yet sure about buying an album)
There was then time to queue for the loo and pick up a slice of pizza before popping into the Record Store for the first time, to see the dark and heavy Get Your Gun. This Danish trio reminded me of The Handsome Family on steroids (and not just because of the singer’s beard!) . Sadly, I only managed to catch about three of their songs.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 6/10 (I’d like to hear more, for sure)
Finally, it was time for the last headline act, Belle And Sebastian, the twee Scottish indie popsters. I’d seen them twice before, at the Astoria in December 2003 and then the following summer at Somerset House, both times again with Phil, and both times supporting the wonderful Dear Catastrophe Waitress album.
Their latest album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, came out earlier this year, and is another fine addition to their catalogue, this time with a few non-gratuitous dance elements added to some of the songs.
They started off with some newer tracks before the set expanded to include songs from across their nineteen-year career. The gorgeous The Stars Of Track & Field started off as an almost solo number by Stuart Murdoch before the rest of the band joined in.
Perfect Couples off the new album was of course dedicated to all the couples in the audience by that song’s singer Stevie Jackson, with it ending in a bit of a freak out. Before The Model from 2000’s fourth album Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, the big screen showed the opening titles to classic scouse sitcom The Liver Birds, which went down fairly well.
Write About Love’s I Want The World To Stop saw some great shimmying from Stuart, who certainly enjoyed his dancing throughout the gig. It wasn’t just the Stuart show, though, with Sarah Martin singing The Power Of Three before Stevie reached back for 2001’s Jonathan David while Stuart twirled with a girl from out of the crowd.
The stage was mobbed by audience members for the much-loved The Boy With The Arab Strap from 1998, with Stuart throwing in a line about Stevie G. The main set then ended with Sarah’s I Didn’t See It Coming, with only a one-song encore, the lovely The Blues Are Still Blue from 2006’s The Life Pursuit.
They really captivated the audience, and I felt they were the perfect festival-closing band, really engaging with the audience, both those brought on stage and those left just watching on.
Likelihood of buying their next/latest album: 9/10 (I really enjoy all of the nine albums of theirs I’ve got, plus a double odds & sods compilation, so the chances are I’ll be in for the next one when it comes out)
I decided not to bother waiting around for an hour in order to see The Fat White Family, who I’d seen at the previous year’s festival at The Black-E – see my review here. As they decided to childishly bait public opinion with a ‘keep buying The Sun’ t-shirt, that certainly wasn’t a choice I regretted.
Overall, Sound City had brought me 27 bands, 22 of whom I had not seen before, and I’d say 17 or more I’d really enjoyed, not a bad hit rate. As I’d only managed to see 25 acts last year when it was in the city centre, then that’s another positive for the new site. Suffice to say, when discounted tickets for 2016 went on sale on 1st June, I snapped one up straight away.
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Here are some selections from Sunday night’s bands: