Sound City, Liverpool’s premium festival for emerging talent took over the city in May. JACKS contributor Garrett Stack was there to catch all the action.
Sound City, the UK’s leading independent festival for emerging music returned for its 12th year to the Baltic Triangle.
Headline stars of the sold out festival included Mable, Shame, LIFE, Just Mustard, Clean Cut Kid and Loyle Carner who all played on the new outdoor stage, which was a welcome addition to the gorgeous May Bank Holiday Weekend.
The weekend wasn’t just about seeing big acts playing on the main stage though. There were many other alternatives such as the keynote speeches, interviews, roundtable debates, workshops and of course seeing new artists playing in intimate venues.
There was also the side projects: Loyle Carner worked with students from Liverpool as part of the ground-breaking Levi’s Music Project and Gwenno worked with emerging female talent from across the region.
The first day kicked off in the city centre at the British Music Experience with topics on the business side of the music industry including the how Brexit will impact the industry. One is reminded of the musical history of Liverpool with the various statues of former entertainers from Billy Fury to the Beatles and the many references to the Fab Four in their business names.
Liverpool is deeply ingrained in music and needs to be Brexit ready, over the weekend we are reminded that it is exactly that with the talent bursting from all corners of the city.
With conferences over in the late afternoon, it was perfect for the musical side of things to get underway just a stones throw away in the infamous Cavern with a treat for conference guests from local indie artists Clean Cut Kid, who I can see are mighty popular with the locals and even more so when they play again the following day on the main stage at the Baltic Triangle where they play to a larger audience.
After the Cavern gig with Clean Cut Kid there is some more artists to see in the city at the Queen Avenue including local rockers Paris Youth Foundation, who have been describe as “The Strokes meet Wolf Alice” by some.
Since the festival would get into full flow on the second day across the Baltic Triangle, I decide to get a head start in getting to know the Baltic Triangle and also see some artists that also performed on the evening of the conference.
It’s a short walk to the Baltic Triangle and the first thing that strikes me is the closeness of all of the venues. I can get to and from most of the venues within minutes, I was already enjoying the set up. In particular it was only a one-minute walk from Hanger 34 to The Cavern Stage and another one-minute walk to the Baltic Rostery. With The Cavern and Baltic Roastery serving food, it was a breeze to get some food while waiting for bands to setup.
To finish off the first day, I decide to stick with the District venue and see a mixture of local and international acts. Starting off proceedings were Norwegian artist Sarah Wolff and band playing indie-pop tunes infused with a hint of jazz, possibly inherited from her new base in Liverpool.
Nikki & The Waves who continue with a jazz theme, although they really like to rock up the tempo, not hiding their excitement that Soak is on the same stage later and they enjoy covering one of her songs from times to time.
The final headline act on the night of the conference is Derry singer-songwriter Soak, who can be seen over the coming months touring her new album all over Europe and North America. Her debut album received a lot of critical acclaim and the songs that I heard from her new album Grim Town, I’m sure will hold her popularity.
Soak has always been well connected with her fans and takes plenty of time to chat to them after her gig. For someone who has been around for a long time, it’s hard to believe she just turned 23 the day before.
It’s just past midday on Saturday when I take a visit to the Cavern stage, festival goers picking up wristbands nearby are distracted by a bunch of young men called Sauce, playing old school rock ‘n roll. They have the charisma and were loving the attention of the audience. Hopefully I’ll see these guys on a large stage soon.
Nearby in Constellations, Tempest impress us with their folk-pop tunes with all the colour of a group that have travelled a good portion of the world only to end up based in London.
Saturday is my favourite line-up at the main stage. first trip for me is to see Ireland’s shoegazing noise merchants Just Mustard who have just supported The Cure along with Ride at Malahide Castle in Dublin.
A quick exit of the venue and I catch Wide Eyed Boy, who formed from a love of Michael Jackson and David Bowie. It’s easy to see where they got their love of funk and rock from, add in the fact that they have the moves to really get the crowd going.
Back at the main stage the mayhem is about to begin. First up it’s LIFE, who have not been on the scene for a long time but have toured all over Europe on the festival circuit and are regularly heard on BBC Radio 6. If you want to warm up a crowd, this is the band you need.
Once the crowd get a break, young punk-rockers, Shame take over and not only warm up the crowd again but jump in and have a roll around. Shame are a band full of energy and anger and have the music to back it up.
There were a few more bands that I wanted to catch away from the main stage, so first up were Pillow Queens who are making waves back home in Dublin. Even though they have only been together for just over two years, they have already toured all over Europe.
Later in the evening we hear Stella Donnelly on the same stage, showing us why she has become one of the most talked about young artists. Although she has only just released her debut LP Beware of the Dogs, she has previously impressed fans at the Great Escape and SXSW festivals in 2018.
The Baltic Roastery is a lovely quiet coffee shop, until it’s taken over by the Indie noise of Pip Blom. It appears that Pip Blom had progressed from a solo project to a full band based on the popularity of Pip’s internet downloads.
Their drummer, Gini has to be one of the most aggressive drummers I have ever seen. The Roastery was one of my favourite venues from over the weekend.
Any excuse to see Ruth Anne from Ireland in an intimate venue, and they don’t come more intimate than the Hobo Kiosk. If big artists in small kiosks is your thing, this is the place to catch a great young R&B singer with a huge list of songwriting credits under her belt and a massive solo career ahead of her.
After a quick exit out of the mini Kiosk I went to catch a hotly-tipped young band, Valeras at District. When I got there, they were already in full flight. They play soft melodies that peak with some serious headbanging from the three young women, while the two guys hold back, I guess they just don’t have the hair.
A lead singer who can get any crowd engaged and wouldn’t be out of place at any major festival. It’s no surprise then when they tweet that they will play Lollapalooza in Stockholm along with some other serious rock festivals over the summer. Be sure to catch them on their next visit.
One of the real highlights for me on the final day was yet again when I paid a visit to the Baltic Roastery and discovered yet another band that I hadn’t heard of before. Riding the Low are giving the Baltic are real roasting, playing hard rock like they just invented it. But the nagging feeling that I had seen vocalist Paddy Considine before while I was taking some photos to capture the energy of the band, I did a quick search online to find that he is also an accomplished actor. Not sure about his acting but as a frontman, it’s no act but rock ‘n roll from the heart.
Loyle Carner proves too popular for me with a queue forming an hour in advance, although security get everyone in well on time for the headline act, I decided to call curtains on my Sound City experience.
Final Thoughts on Sound City
I have been to several showcase events in both the UK and Ireland in the past number of years and Sound City delivered what it promises, a top class festival with excellent discussions, intimate concerts from both headline and emerging artists in a unique area of the city with a close knit array of special venues. The Baltic Triangle has so much to offer, I got to see so many great bands and still so many others that I didn’t see.
I’m already looking forward to returning to Liverpool for Sound City 2020.
All pictures taken by Garrett Stack. Check out the full gallery below.