Like a reassuring landmark on the horizon, SOUND CITY returns again in May, ready to celebrate its tenth anniversary with an extravagant array of bands and events. There is also an ever so slight shift in location from Bramley-Moore Dock to Clarence Dock, though the festival will still maintain those beautiful waterside views. The docks have provided a unique setting for the festival in recent years. The location in which music is played has a powerful effect on the way it is experienced, and the music of Sound City always seems quite profound when contrasted with the remnants of industrialisation, and backgrounded by the higgledy-piggledy skyline of the city.
An eclectic mix of artists will be flooding Liverpool over the weekend of the 27th and 28th May. Sound City is a festival that likes to oversee a natural promotion of the bands that have previously played it, as METRONOMY, who played the second year of the festival in 2009, top the bill for Saturday. Metronomy bring their unique brand of inventive electro pop the Atlantic Stage, which will also see the likes of THE KILLS and SLAVES on Saturday, and WHITE LIES and LOCAL NATIVES on Sunday. The fact that the festival is able to attract these kind of names is a sign of how it has continued to grow over the last decade, since it started in a multi-venue format in 2008. Metronomy’s most recent album, Summer 08, has a disco-leaning feel to it that we’re sure will play out perfectly with the crowds as the sun sets over the Mersey.
Over on the Baltic Stage there is a much grimier feel, with the queen of electroclash, PEACHES, taking to the stage on Saturday. Peaches offers one of the most spectacular live shows around; she is as much of a performance artist as she is a musician, and the prospect of her show being transferred to a festival setting is very exciting. Sunday sees the dance punk vibe continued with performances from both CHK CHK CHK and THE CRIBS, who will be revisiting their third album, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, while local band SHE DREW THE GUN add a slightly more poppy element to the proceedings.
Sound City always provides a great mix of established and up-and-coming bands, and this year is no exception as the festival strives to live up to its reputation after winning the Best Festival for Emerging Talent Award at the 2016 UK Festival Awards. Over 50 fresh artists will be displayed as a part of the festival’s Emerging Talent Showcase. There are also many local favourites, such as THE VRYLL SOCIETY and XAMVOLO spread across the weekend. It is particularly encouraging to see She Drew The Gun so far up the line-up, as it shows that they are gaining prominence after winning the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition last year. Hopefully, Sound City 2017 will introduce audiences to more new Liverpool acts, who can then make their way up the line-up in proceeding years.
As if the line-up for Sound City wasn’t enough, there is also a fantastic two-day lead-up to the festival, starting with a trio of performances on Thursday 25th May that comprises an event focused on Pioneers Of British Electronic Music. Synth doyens THE HUMAN LEAGUE headline the bill, accompanied by A CERTAIN RATIO and a special ART OF NOISE performance where three members of the 80s avant-gardists – Dudley, Jeczalik and Langan reboot the band’s classic In Visible Silence album. It takes seeing The Human League live to realise just how many perfect pop songs they have written, and they always facilitate some of the greatest sing-a-longs of any live show. This is followed on Friday 26th May by one of the most anticipated musical events of the year for the city; JOHN CALE and an array of special guests convene to play the classic, cult and historic LP THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO in full. Considering the legendary status of the album, and the fact that this is going to be the only European performance of the show, it is unsurprisingly sold out. These shows are not officially part of the Sound City festival proper, and tickets for these events must be purchased separately; nevertheless, they serve as a mouthwatering hors d’oeuvre to the main event which makes the anniversary year feel truly special.
For those who didn’t manage to get a ticket to see John Cale, and for anyone looking to gain an insight into some of the greatest music ever made, Cale will be In Conversation during the festival proper on Saturday 27th May at Tim Peaks Diner. Just a week after the new season of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks returns to screens following a 26-year absence, TIM BURGESS will be bringing the Diner back to Sound City for the third year in a row. Besides Cale, and what we expect will be some very fine coffee, there will be a host of live music and events, including a performance on Sunday 28th May from Burgess and The Charlatans guitarist MARK COLLINS, following the May release of the band’s 13th studio album, Different Days. Their set will be followed by an In Conversation with Burgess himself. The Charlatans frontman has a reputation for being one of the nicest men in rock, and he has a very large and loyal following round these parts, so I’m sure this will be a well-attended and high-spirited event to wrap up the Tim Peaks Diner until next year.
As the festival comes to an end, attendees will be able to move on to the Getintothis Late Night Parties at Invisible Wind Factory to see out the night in the company of SUGARMEN, ARISTOPHANES and former Ladytron songwriter and keyboardist MARNIE. These after parties are a great bonus for those who are unwilling to go home; there are more acts to be announced for these events, so keep your eyes peeled.
Sound City is not only about music though, and the festival also brags an extensive Visual Arts programme. Expect an explosion of colour and a bombardment of drums as, also celebrating its tenth anniversary, BRAZILICA brings the carnival experience to Liverpool, honouring the rich music, dance and culture of Brazil. Brazilica will be teaming up with FIESTA BOMBARDA to bring a special parade-style vibrancy to the docklands site. As if that’s not enough carnival atmosphere, drumming and movement group KATUMBA are set to join the thronging hordes, complete with a hip hop-inspired brass section and fire dancers, creating an experience that is equal parts funky and hypnotic. The brains from THE KAZIMIER are plotting their own visual spectacular performance to spring up on the site – the fact that they’re being tight-lipped on the details along with their rep for performance extravaganzas, means you won’t want to miss it. Also contributing to the panoply of visual stimulation, UNUSUAL ART SOURCING COMPANY have been given their own pop art-themed tent, where they will put on drawing and sculpture events focused on audience participation. They will also be hosting award-winning theatre from IN BED WITH MY BROTHER, and a little bit of karaoke for good measure.
As far as festivals go, Sound City is one of the best value-for-money around, and the 2017 line-up looks to continue the success of previous years. There is so much going on that you are going to need to hone your organisational skills in order to catch everything you want to see; it’s certainly going to be an exhausting weekend (but a worthwhile one!) and a galvanising lead-in to the 2017 festival season.
Sound City takes place at Liverpool Waters, Clarence Dock on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th May, preceded by special shows with The Human League (25th May) and John Cale and Guests present The Velvet Underground & Nico (26th May).
Pick up your copy of The Dockland Pink magazine to get the full lowdown on this year’s Sound City, complete with interviews and previews of all the goings on.