FESTIVAL REVIEW: Liverpool Sound City 2017

A decade of reinvention has transformed Liverpool Sound City from its modest beginnings back in 2007. Earlier editions saw ticket-holders venue hopping around the city centre’s independent bars to catch intimate performances from a left-field line up. Today, Sound City reflects its evolution with a barrage of big names and a move to the sprawling industrial site at Clarence Dock, certainly making it feel more festival-like.

Admittedly, despite a cornucopia of musical highlights, Saturday lacked a certain spark. Maybe it was the lingering hangover from two nostalgic nights, courtesy of The Human League and Velvet Underground that left the first day of the weekend feeling a bit tame. However, any fears were unequivocally quashed on Sunday, when a booming crowd and excitable spirit veined the festival site. And yet again, we were reminded exactly why Sound City has cemented its status as a heavyweight in the North West’s musical calendar.

Read on for our thoughts on this year’s festivities.

Fickle Friends 
Brighton quintet, Fickle Friends, took to the main Atlantic stage early doors on Saturday afternoon with their trademark synth laced tracks and sweet female vocals. Despite dusty clouds sweeping the giant industrial yard leaving crowds caked in a thin layer of dirt, lead singer Natti’s buoyant energy kept the audience’s spirits high. Pulling out a plethora of punchy pop tracks; the band’s live sound springs into life with electronic exploration and percussion-heavy beats. Highlights included set list opener, ‘Brooklyn’ and fan favourite ‘Swim’.

Be Charlotte 
Bringing artistic anthems to the Baltic stage, Be Charlotte proved to be a real crowd-pleaser with an infectious, electro soundscape. Here at Bitter Sweet, we are ardent supporters of the music maker from Dundee and her Sound City set illustrated exactly why. An effervescent, tribal-inspired set list was led by ‘Machines that Breathe’, ‘Drawing Windows’ and ‘Discover’. Charlotte Brimner’s alias has her sights set on innovation and it leaves the room craving more.

The Jackobins 
The Merseyside outfit launched a high-octane assault on the Baltic stage fuelled by musical ferocity and a thundering bassline. The tenacious performance fell heavy on the eardrums, and while there is room for improvement in future live sets, it was great to see a band play with such conviction. Lead singer, Dominic Bassnett, channelled a brilliant frontman who married showmanship and solid vocals extremely well, despite jumping about the stage for most of the set. Powering through ‘Silver Rider’, ‘Ohh So Blue’ and ‘How Do You Face Life’ the band certainly proved their right to be there.

The Japanese House 
Crowds descended on the Baltic stage in their droves to catch the eagerly anticipated set from much-talked about newcomers, The Japanese House, fronted by Amber Bain. Alluding to the dreamlike soundscape, the large tent was bathed in hazy pink hues. Musically, the set list was what you would expect – atmospheric and trancelike. Bain’s androgynous tones breezed through ‘Cool Blue’, ‘Pools to Bathe in’ and their most recognised track ‘Face like Thunder’. If high-energy live sets are your bag, The Japanese House are not for you. But if you seek a captivating, carefully-crafted performance, we’d highly recommend.

Jalen N’Gonda 
The Tim Peaks tent was transported to a New Orleans jazz club on the Sunday afternoon with the blues-inspired tones of Jalen N’Gonda. The Maryland born, Liverpool-based artist acted as a refreshing, palette cleanser for the ears away from the psych pop and indie rock bands saturating the line up on other stages. ‘Holler’ and ‘Why I Try’ are both injected with an ample dose of old-school rock and roll; yet the velvety rawness of Jalen’s vocals keep it contemporary and accessible for a modern audience.

Remaining in the Tim Peaks tent to catch XamVolo’s set was a smart move. Every track was delivered in a perfectly crafted package sounding as if it had come straight off a fully produced album; it was slick, composed and captivating. Backed by an impeccable three-piece band – a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist – Xam breezed through his set list, featuring ‘Rescue Me’, ‘Foolish Kids’ and ‘Down’. But it was ‘Old Soul’ that outshined the rest with an extended jam session propelling Xam’s unwavering vocals into vertiginous heights. It left us feeling that his trajectory is imminently poised to skyrocket in the same direction as his high notes.

The Vryll Society 
Taking a late Sunday afternoon slot on the Baltic Stage, the homegrown band walked on stage to a rapturous reception before soaring into a tidal surge of psych-rock. Through the kaleidoscopic synth-bleached whirlwind, it’s immediately obvious that this is a band growing in confidence. And gaining a legion of excitable fans along the way. Firm favourites, ‘A Perfect Rhythm’, ‘Cosh’ and ‘Sacred Flight’ rippled around the tent in hit-worthy style.

White Lies 
The weekend’s penultimate act, White Lies took to the Atlantic stage as the sun set over Clarence docks. Attracting a massive crowd, it’s immediately obvious that this British band still hold their much-loved status. Playing a combination of old and new, ‘Unfinished Business’ and ‘To Lose My Life’ invited enthusiastic renditions from the crowd. But it was anthemic ‘Farewell to the Fairground’ that received the biggest reaction – fuelled by the endless energy of long-term fans chanting “Keep on running, keep, keep on running, there’s no place like home” back at the five-piece. A thoroughly enjoyable, high-octane set powered by loyal fans.

The Kooks 
Sound City veterans closed the festival with a blend of new material and healthy side-serving of nostalgic favourites. With endless experience on the festival circuit, they know exactly what the crowd wants and with that, the British band segued into familiar territory with ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ erupting into a shared anthemic moment between the crowd. Even with the excitement and vigour of the set, there was room for a slower pace with Luke Pritchard taking to the stage for the emotionally-charged, piano led ‘See Me Now’ in tribute to his late father.

Other highlights went to acoustic led ‘Seaside’, which induced a trip down memory lane for the loyal fans who couldn’t help but lead a mass singalong. The closing number fell to ‘Naïve’ with crowds still echoing the chorus as they headed to the site’s turnstiles. A fitting finale to the four-day festival.

Keep up-to-date with upcoming announcements from Sound City at their Website.

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