Hark, what beast comes to drag our neighbours through the gates of spring into joyous pastures? Why it’s only the fifth annual THRESHOLD FESTIVAL, an event that’s becoming something of a trendsetter in Liverpool, a three-day celebration of our smartest grassroots creatives and an excuse to legitimately knock back enough craft beer to permanently curl a moustache. Last year’s sci-fi theme had its moments, but this time the organisers are letting the line-up speak for itself, broadening the reach of their enviable tendrils to ensure our dynamic locality is more present than ever. This home-cooked confection of music, art and performance, spread across half a dozen venues in the Baltic Triangle, announces the festival season before anyone’s had the chance to shake off those winter blues. So start shaking! Here are a few of the highlights you can look forward to . . .
With a mightily impressive roster of local artists packed in to the bill, headline status at Threshold V falls to a few pesky out-of-towners. AKALA is sure to be a major draw for the casual urbanite and anyone else with a penchant for smart, tongue-boggling hip hop. Having long ago trashed the label of Ms Dynamite’s brother with his emotional intelligence and amazing freestyle skills, the London-born rapper is now a pillar of the UK scene. His 2013 album The Thieves Banquet was a cogent attack on the evils of dictatorship and political hypocrisy without sacrificing his famed lyricism, while his follow-up, a graphic novel/performance hybrid, was nothing less than a trawl through entire aeons of societal corruption.
Another big name making their mark will be NUBIYAN TWIST (pictured), a twelve-piece mash-up of musicians and DJs walking a thin stylistic tightrope through jazz, Latino and Caribbean-inflected funk. Fronted by the timelessly effervescent Nubiya Brandon, their raison d’être borrows from so many corners of world music that you’d be forgiven for checking your passport stamps before turning up. Luckily, Nubiyan Twist are just too damn to be ignored, since they’re practically unable to turn in a show that doesn’t leave people grinning like loons. Of course, if you’re a true regional patriot, LIMF Academy Ones To Watch SUB BLUE and SOPHIA BEN YOUSEF will be knocking out their neo-soul arsenal as they’re fixed ever closer by the bright eyes of stardom, just as ETCHES and MUTANT VINYL hope to further their rise to the top of the city’s musical chain. Elsewhere, VYNCE, BLUE SAINT and the uncategorisable PADDY STEER offer depth and assurance to a busy programme.
Because bashed livers and eardrums are not everything in this world, Threshold V is giving our peepers a bit of a treat, too. The new Liverpool Craft Beer space will be hosting work from some of our finest local artists, including ROBERT FLYNN’s ongoing Metamorphosis series. Having dabbled in a number of solo and group shows in the past, Flynn’s current muse resides in our modern anxiety with body image and the thankless quest for perfection. His photographs tap into the surreal quality of transcending one’s physical form as the demons of insecurity nip at our backs. Meanwhile, RADAR COMMUNICATION, or Mark Chapman to the alias adverse, will be returning to exhibit his latest digital collages (pictured). As Flynn interprets hidden desires of the mind, Chapman turns his attention outward, finding accidental beauty in what many would consider prosaic. Inspired by creative renovation in warehouses and bygone industrial spaces – a perfect match, then, for Threshold’s pop-up mentality – his art is swamped with texture, symmetry, and abstraction, filtering materials through the eyes of someone in love with urbanity. For the Threshold crowd, that might just be a lens we already share. Heartily recommended.
As if Threshold’s chest-beating wasn’t loud enough, it’s roped in someone else to do it for them: Brett Gregory’s third documentary in his Beyond… collection, Liverpool – Beyond The Beatles, aims to hold a spotlight to Liverpool’s music scene as it stands today, combining talking-head interviews, lush panning shots of that distinctive waterfront, and discussions about whether bands are still trying to live up to You Know Who. Rest assured that the soundtrack, video footage and interviewees will all be top notch (look out for Bido Lito!’s very own Craig Pennington in full pontification mode). After its well-received premiere, those who missed out can expect a portrait of the familiar from the inside, spliced with the same affection Serious Feather Productions imparted on Manchester and Iceland in other cinematic scrapbooks.
SECRET SOUNDS feat. Natalie McCool / D R O H N E / Silent Cities
What do you get when you combine an acclaimed solo artist, a pair of ambient electro-heads, and one of the most purely gorgeous songwriters to come out of Liverpool in a decade? Fuck knows. But this collaboration, taking place in an undisclosed venue, has got us seriously excited. Since our hands would be hacked off and fed to monkeys if we said any more, we asked NATALIE MCCOOL if she could spill the proverbial beans.
Bido Lito!: Obviously there’s an element of secrecy surrounding exactly what’ll go down at this gig, but can you give us any clues? Will it be improvised or rehearsed diligently beforehand?
Natalie McCool: An element of both, I think. We’ll be having a few rehearsals to lay the groundwork for sure, but it’s always good to keep things fresh.
BL!: When did you first come up with the idea of collaborating?
NMcC: It was Sally Nulty who initially approached me to collaborate with D R O H N E and I thought that would be a really great experience. Then [festival organisers] Chris and Kaya approached myself and Simon [Madison, Silent Cities] – they heard about our collaboration on the Daydream track and really wanted us on board for Threshold, too.
BL!: I’m interested to know what can be gained from combining all of your different styles – D R O H N E, for example, are quite separate from yourself on the musical spectrum.
NMcC: I think collaboration is really important – I actually think we are all very different from each other and I think that will really work. It’s good to experiment as much as possible outside of the sphere of your own project, and to be versatile in that way. I believe it opens more doors of possibility.
BL!: Would you agree that Threshold’s laid-back, communal atmosphere is something special for performers to witness?
NMcC: Threshold is a fantastic event – it’s unique because it combines arts with music, which attracts quite a wide audience. Last year’s show was brilliant – I played solo, which is something I really enjoy because it enables me to connect with the audience in a different way. There was a great atmosphere, which goes across all the Threshold events I’ve attended.
BL!: In the spirit of the piece, tell us a secret…
NMcC: I used to speak about myself in the third person when I was a baby, calling myself “the baby”. When I woke up in my cot I would stand up and shout down the stairs: “COME AND GET THE BABY!”
Words: Josh Potts / @joshpjpotts