United Kingdom | 01 June 2009
Jamie Barker sounds off about the final day's music at Liverpool Sound City...
It’s unusual to be standing in Liverpool Barfly on a Saturday afternoon, but several hundred people are doing so for a chance to witness recent success story Enter Shikari showcase new album ‘Common Dreads’ in a ridiculously intimate environment. As the band take to the stage, the furnace-like venue erupts and doesn’t subdue for over an hour of frantic electro-metal. With this afternoon’s performance being a 14+ event, many of the young crowd seem overwhelmed by their claustrophobic surroundings, particularly given the all-consuming heat which is slowly toasting the patrons. Much of the set is drawn from the, aforementioned, forthcoming release and it’s the two already released tracks from this album which provoke the biggest responses tonight. Download offering ‘Antwerpen’ sounds massive, despite the small space and new single ‘Juggernauts’ is a future anthem which prompts the audience to chaotically join Rou in musing on the invincibility of the human race.
Whilst the Theatre is reaching meltdown, there’s a much more sedate atmosphere upstairs in the loft for Welsh outfit Attack Attack. The meagre turnout is indication that the organisers should have given more thought to the timings, particularly as the event was originally an Attack Attack headline show which Enter Shikari were added to late in the day. Despite the poor showing the band seem in high spirits and set about delivering pop-rock nuggets, reminiscent of their friends and countrymen Funeral For A Friend. Recent single ‘You And Me’ prompts as good a sing-along as can be expected in a poorly populated venue, but the recent announcement that this song will be included on the next instalment of Guitar Hero could lead to a deserved increase in attention next time Attack Attack grace Liverpool with their presence.
The youth of Liverpool are certainly active today, with their neon clothes and illegal street vodka consumption, as a few hours later many of those packing into the O2 Academy for Tonight Is Goodbye are familiar faces from this afternoon’s Barfly event. They also seem to have spent their pocket money on enough YouMeAt6 merchandise to clothe a small country and are proceeding to bounce around the venue before any of the night’s entertainment has taken to the stage. When Tonight Is Goodbye do begin it’s clear that their recent material has moved towards a more mature footing than their early attempts at straight-forward pop punk. Whilst this may prompt a few confused faces in the crowd, the overall effect is a positive one which displays a more mature and rounded musical direction. Despite these slight steps forward, the fact that my enjoyment of tonight’s performance is disturbed by a recently dumped girl being helped through her tears by a group of hyperactive friends, suggests the demographic which Tonight Is Goodbye are currently exciting.
A quick dash across town to Bumper follows, for the fantastic Dublin outfit Grand Pocket Orchestra. Disappointingly the turnout for this free show is even smaller than that for Attack Attack earlier today, but the band consistently seem genuinely grateful that anybody bothered to turn up at all. Despite a half hour set the band race well into double figures with their short sharp bursts of chaotic pop, which owe more to synthesisers than any stringed instruments. The overall affect is the sound of countrymen Fight Like Apes battling with American outfit Mates of State over topics such as ‘Odd Socks’ and ‘Basketball’. Visually they’re one of the most mismatched bands around, but once they have the funds and backing to unleash their debut album, Grand Pocket Orchestra will redefine the concept of a summer album and undoubtedly take the world by storm.
Unfortunately We Were Promised Jetpacks anticipated appearance at Magnet has been cancelled at short notice, meaning that a return to the O2 Academy is required; the walk across town is accompanied by a heavy heart due Grammatics later show also being called off. YouMeAt6 have gained a lot of attention in recent months and it’s testament to their work rate that they can demand such affection in this large venue, despite no major label backing or copious advertising budget. Tracks such as ‘Jealous Minds Think Alike’ and ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ may receive a rapturous reception but perhaps due to their extensive tour schedule, the band seems unable to breathe enough life into them to justify their current profile. Forthcoming single ‘Finders Keepers’ may prove on of the highlights for those at the front, but musically it does little to show any real progression, a necessity for such a stopgap release between albums.
Whilst YouMeAt6 are prompting hero worship, across town, homecoming champions The Zutons are doing nothing of the sort. Despite a regal setting in the city’s St George’s Hall and a set full of hits, the venue is far from full. Of those who have made it into the closing night’s ‘big event’ there only seem to be a handful of people who seem to be particularly happy about their predicament. On performance, the local heroes cannot be faulted, but the TV cameras around the venue would have been struggling to locate many enthusiastic fans tonight. Early singles such as ‘You Will You Won’t’ do encourage some audience participation, but for some reason tonight falls a little flat for no obvious reason.
As Sound City 2009 draws to a close Sky Larkin are setting up in the basement of Korova; unfortunately four days of music has clearly taken its toll on the city and there are very few people present to witness the beginning of their set. The achingly catchy ‘Pica’ opens proceedings and despite the low turnout, the band are visibly surprised that several people are singing along throughout proceedings, with singer Katie Hatkin even playing a guitar solo on her knees at the feet of a particularly eager fan towards the end of the show. As, frantic drummer, Nestor Matthews leads the band into a chaotically melodic finale, the festival reaches it’s conclusion. Luckily this year, aside from the first night, Sound City managed to combat the organisational mistakes which blighted the inaugural event 12 months ago. With an impressive balance of local, international, new and established talent this year’s event has ticked all the boxes and the festival looks set to grow over the next few years.
By Jamie Barker.