For those not keeping up at the back, I occasionally write for Getintothis, the Liverpool-based music blog run by Peter Guy (sporting a smart blazer and Prince t-shirt tonight, fashion fans) and a team of enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom have contributed infinitely more than me to its cause.
I made an early start, stopping off briefly to refuel at McDonald’s, and more importantly at The Dispensary for a pleasant pint of Fyne Ales’ Jarl before a shorter than feared walk up to Constellations.
I popped inside to discover that nothing much was yet happening, so headed back outside to the garden area for a bottle of Liverpool Craft Beer Co.’s West Coast Pale Ale as the DJ spun the likes of the glorious The Third Bardo and the never-really-got-into-them-at-the-time (or later) Happy Mondays.
I bumped into some fellow GIT writers I knew after heading back indoors, including Adam and the very nice Craig, while the music continued in the mellow vein – Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and James Taylor before Leonard Cohen’s beautiful So Long, Marianne.
While waiting around for the first band of the night, I spotted later-comers being handed a bottle of Heineken and a Trudy CD as they arrived. I’d nearly ordered that very disc only a couple of weeks before, only being put off by the postage costs, so I was delighted to pick it up for nothing.
I wandered into the main venue area, where I gratefully received a compliment on my Teenage Fanclub t-shirt from Paul, another GIT writer, who was in a paisley-esque shirt and indie cardie.
Ahead of the nominees, the house band Tosin played the first of three sets. A three-piece rock band fronted by a black man led me to the incredibly lazy Hendrix comparison at first, but he must surely be an influence on their sound, which became funkier and was largely instrumental in this set.
BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Hill, in a striking outfit including lurid pink jeans, was the host for the evening, leading us into the first of the eight (of twelve in all) nominees to perform, the newly renamed Trudy And The Romance, who were recently encouraged to change their name by another similarly-monikered outfit.
As was the case with all the acts performing, it was a swift two (or sometimes three) tunes and then off. I’d seen Trudy supporting Hooton Tennis Club at The Kazimier last December (see review here), and they lived up to my initial view of them as “one to watch out for” with a killer start to the evening.
Next up were RongoRongo, who have been around for a couple of years now, but I’d not managed to come across them before. The first song sounded like a cross between The Twilight Sad and Television, which is clearly a good thing, with singer Mick Chrysalid climbing down to the crowd and giving out hugs.
Second number Slice Of Heart took a different angle, reminding me most of Berlin-era Bowie, with the singer this time dancing at the front of the audience off stage. Suffice to say, I will be keeping an eye out for an opportunity to see a full set from them.
Next up was a teenage lad called Liam Brown from Aintree, going under the name L U M E N. He reminded me of a one-man early-80’s Creation Records band, though more electronic than guitar-based. Intriguing, particularly the track Seabirds.
Extreme metal band Dragged Into Sunlight couldn’t be present, so had to rely purely on a short video, with all the nominees benefiting from such intros. So the next live act were the getting-really-quite-big Clean Cut Kid, whose debut album on Polydor is due later this year.
They feature the fairly rare inclusion of a husband (singer Mike Halls) and wife (Evelyn on keys), and the rocking indie pop of Pick Me Up was followed by a curiously more John Mellencamp-esque number and then (I think) the very bouncy and enthusiastic Vitamin C, their new single. A decent band who just didn’t quite connect with me, but who will clearly go on to good things.
A highly talented soulful ‘boy band’ were up next, MiC LOWRY, who took the sting out of any criticism from the audience by themselves referring to the JLS elephant in the room. They should surely go on to far bigger things, but they just aren’t my cup of tea.
The acoustic guitar was sufficient backing for the five fine voices, with a new song followed by the older Bad Intentions.
Bill Ryder-Jones was introduced, but was away on tour, so next came Stealing Sheep, the fourth time I’ve seen them live, but the first time where they’ve worn pink knickers outside their matching tights!
Their (short) set drew from last year’s second album proper Not Real, which is perhaps not quite as immediate as some of their earlier material, but quirky and engaging, with their folk-tinged artsy pop packed as ever with off-the-wall three-part harmonies.
Then came a break between bands, with a Prince mix curated by Getintothis’s Shaun, which I caught a little of, either side of returning to the bar area for a pint of Liverpool Craft’s Half Nelson. I had a chat with Mike about the upcoming Europa League Final, before returning for a second set of Tosin, this time with more vocals.
The first main award of the night was up next, with the seventeen-year old Tayá receiving the One To Watch prize and playing a couple of beautifully-sung soulful songs, following on from previous recipients Louis Berry last year and Låpsley in 2014.
Peter Guy then introduced Mike Deane, founder of Liverpool Music Week, who was presenting the Inspiration award.
Hooton Tennis Club were represented by a video, with bassist Callum McFadden the only member present, so he was able to collect the nicely-designed metal memento of their nomination (and fall off the stage!). I bumped into Craig again in the loo (complete with gushing fawcet), who I realised was a red, so that’s another thing going for him.
I got a bottle of Liverpool Craft’s Love Lane before it was announced that the next act due on, The Vryll Society, could not go on as singe Mike Ellis had had to rush off to the nearest health walk-in centre. Hopefully he’s OK now.
Joe Oxley is a one-man band, playing guitar and electronics in front of an old TV set running old stock footage mixed to fit with the music. His three song set ended with new single Gas & Air, but my favourite was the opening Porsche Majeure (that I wrote about for Getintothis here).
The final nominee to play was the mightily heavy Mugstar, who I’d never seen before despite them apparently having been around and about for the last thirteen years. I have no idea what tracks they played, but I expect they were off this year’s new album Magnetic Seasons that I have, but I find it’s not the kind of music where individual songs stand out, rather it’s all about the overall impact.
And what an impact – they tore the roof off. A band I’d really like to see a full set from in the near future.
House band Tosin returned for a third extremely competent set before it was time for the main award, presented by Heavenly Recordings’ founder Jeff Barrett and ex-Cocteau Twins bassist and Bella Union boss Simon Raymonde.
After a brief intro, the winner of the main GIT Award was announced as the highly-deserving but sadly not present Bill Ryder-Jones, with family friend Steve Power coming up to collect the trophy on his behalf.
There was to be an after-party at Black Lodge Brewery but as it was about half past midnight, and I was to be looking after The Boy Wonder the next day in My Beloved Wife’s absence for the football in the Midlands, I took the sensible option and strolled down to the Dolby Hotel to order a Delta taxi, which took long enough to arrive as it was rather cold.
A very good night’s entertainment, with ten live bands in all. My highlights were revealed in my immediate post-event tweet:
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Here is some of the music from the night on Spotify: