2012 seems a long time ago. Remember it? We had an Odd Couple coalition government that was still laughable, yet to become a chilling prelude to life under a Tory majority; we were still trying to grasp the Arab Spring; and Luis Suarez still lived in Formby. That was the global context. But what about Liverpool’s music scene? We were listening to Ninetails, The Sundowners, and Nadine Carina. We had MelloMello, Drop The Dumbbells, and Wolstenholme Creative Space, all to be closed within two years. But at least The Kazimier’s future was safe… (yeah, I know, it still hurts).
Illustration by Scott Duffey
Hang on, hold the Werther’s Originals: we still have FESTEVOL! Revo’s summer fixture is now in its fifth edition, and it’s back a little earlier this year, in May – not quite summer, admittedly, but it’s been winter for at least nine months now so if we’re all agreed we can miss out spring this year and get straight on with festival season, OK? Motion passed.
As always, it’s a line-up packed with Bido Lito! regulars like BATHYMETRY, HOOTON TENNIS CLUB and STRANGE COLLECTIVE doing their bit, but there are also some choice players from further afield. Probably the biggest name on the bill is that of Hollywood star Juliette Lewis. She split with her band JULIETTE AND THE LICKS in 2009, reformed in 2015, and now they’re rolling through Liverpool as part of a new European tour in support of new album Four On The Floor. If there’s a band whose sound would fill Camp and Furnace, it’s Lewis’ unabashed, swaggering scuzz ‘n’ rollers. Yes, Camp and Furnace. Read on, and all will be revealed.
If you haven’t heard of STEVE MASON you might have heard of the group he founded, the Beta Band. Or King Biscuit Time. Or even Black Affair. Yeh, he’s a busy man, but at FestEVOL ’16 he’s just plain old Steve Mason whose new album Meet The Humans came out at the end of February. Developing himself into one of the UK’s best living musical craftsmen, Mason is a cut above your common-or-garden singer-songwriter, with a sheaf of songs that go deeper than his break-ups, and stay with you longer than most.
Juliette And The Licks
So that’s the headliners sorted, but what you can be guaranteed with in a FestEVOL bill is that there’ll be a slew of your new favourite bands further down the bill that represent the bright, fizzing edge of ‘the next wave’. So, who’s popping into Liverpool on their way to the top? BLACK HONEY are very much a post-Best Coast band, with a streak of self-deprecation that’s almost charming in its slackerishness. The national music press (yes, it does exist) has been sniffing around this Brighton band, so this could be your chance to say you were there at the start. The same goes for THE DIRTY NIL, Ontario’s heaving, rock rebel-rousers, who create a din so teeth rattling that you’ll be needing a trip to the dentist after you’ve seen them.
If you feel like your brain’s been squelching in your skull for too long, BABA NAGA, who make top-drawer, high-quality sludge, are ideal chaperones for visitors to the rabbit hole’s lower storeys. For those with shapes just waiting to be thrown, GIRL FRIEND have a keen eye for style, sharp cheekbones, and visuals that put them on a late 80s continuum. Their videos are works of art – check out Stop for proof. Oh, and they’ve got the tunes too. And for those who like something a little smoother, Lewisham’s next big soulful whizz JODIE ABACUS will be present for that dash of Lionel Richie charm.
There are some surprise appearances by the great and good of Liverpool’s music scene of yore, such as Will Sergeant project POLTERGEIST, and the return of the queen: Helen MARNIE of Ladytron fame. That’ll be a homecoming show for the electropop royalty, fresh from guesting on Bang Gang’s latest single, and it seems pretty sure that she’ll be on fat synth duty come May. Liverpool, though, has always looked outwards, so why not travel a bit without even crossing Parliament Street? Even if you don’t speak Korean or play the accordion, we dare you not to be charmed by DEAD BUTTONS. They played Sound City last year, so it was high time they got deeper into town. These Seoul punks are just waiting to be your new favourite band. For people wanting unique sounds, PUMAROSA are worth a punt. You’ll want to reach for Björk, PJ Harvey or Anthony & the Johnsons as reference points after hearing Priestess (check out the must-hear Shura remix), despite the fact they sound nothing alike. That’s what they’ve got in common: they sound like no-one else. It’s impossible to tell what Pumarosa’s set will be like. What better incentive to watch them do you need?
There are also bands from the four corners of the UK (OK, it has more than four, but you know what I mean). ALIBIS peddle a familiar, fragile sound with shades of Julee Cruze or later Arctic Monkeys, but the trickier wordplay in their lyrics is all this London duo’s own. One for fans of Alt-J to check out. THE SHIMMER BAND hail from Bristol via the ninth dimension (a neglected dimension, I think). Simple but sprawling, they’re one of the truly psychedelic psych bands out there. Electro pop upstarts NIMMO (more Londoners) plunder death and our own existential worries for all of their intrigue and fold it in to a gothic, pulsing slew: not only are these Columbia-signees a stunning prospect, they’re on a trajectory for stardom too.
Of course, FestEVOL was always a Kazimier do. This May, things are going to be a little different: the whole model is being transplanted to the Baltic Triangle, with stages in Camp (but not Furnace) and the Blade Factory. Refining the model of Liverpool Music Week 2015’s closing party, it will maintain the event’s compactness, which has always been a FestEVOL selling point. With two stages, you can see as many or as few bands as you want, and you’ll probably catch most of them without trying too hard. None of the military planning that’s required for most festivals is needed here. You could walk in off the street, pop out for a disco nap, run to a cashpoint that won’t charge you at 17.5%, and still be back without seemingly breaking flow.
FestEVOL’s feel was pretty much established at it outset: no gimmicks or themes, just solid venues and a diverse line-up are all that’s needed to keep it fresh after four years. Of course, as with most of EVOL, fantastic poster art helps to stoke anticipation as it plasters the walls in the weeks counting down. One of FestEVOL’s strengths was its format of being held on two consecutive Saturdays. This gave you ample recovery time between parts I and II, a whole new roster of bands, and the warm recognition of fellow punters as you pass the time of day with those guys you stood next to at VEYU last week. This one is being billed as a ‘special edition’ FestEVOL, something to whet your appetite for the full two-day shindig to come later this summer. It’s the cosiest, most homegrown festival we’ve got, and it’s going to be brilliant. Give in to the forces of EVOL.
FestEVOL takes place at Camp and Furnace on 1st May 2016.
Main image by Robin Clewley.