There’s a cultural awakening in our midst. The word’s out regarding Birkenhead’s major artistic upswing and, perhaps more importantly, the hard work of the community backing it. The work has been tireless and ongoing, and yet, due to obvious reasons we haven’t seen the fruits of the community’s efforts until recently. Maybe that’s why, with the masses gathered on the south side of the Mersey for FESTEVOL, a feeling of new beginnings hangs in the air.
With over 20 acts assembled at the recently reopened Future Yard, the event marks the first of three weekends (one this side, two on the other bank of the Mersey) to take place, and for many, the first taste of live music in over a year. The venue’s spacious settings means that mobility is a key theme of the night, masses dotting to and fro between the outside and indoor stages with ease. With such space to explore, the energy is high and the chatter constant as people reunite with each other, meet friendships long cultivated online and pass compliments and questions back and forth. Overhearing snippets of conversation is a harmony to the live acts of the evening, ‘You’re glowing!’ whispers one stranger to another amidst the smoke and adrenalin of the stage. ‘Ah, that’ll stay with me,’ the other replies, before diving back into the crowd.
The sociability of the event is striking on first sight, but quickly melds into the scenery as the acts descend onto the stage- the array of performers mirror the diversity of the individuals that have put such work into creating Birkenhead’s rising cultural scene, each remaining authentic in their varying styles of performance. MUNKEY JUNKEY jolts the crowd into action with his barrels of energy, hopping between the stage and the venue’s iconic pink pallets while delivering buckets of auto-tuned pop flair. ZEE DAVINE inflects the crowd with his unique brand of oddity, utilising two witchy assistants to dance and connect with the crowd. Later, local pop daydream PIXEY brings a laid-back excitement to the night- noting that this is the first time she’s heard her lyrics sung back to her and delivering her standout track Mersey Line like she is welcoming the audience home.
The final two acts see all attendees inside and electrified. Queen of the Mersey ZUZU brings all her indie-rock authority to the stage, built from years of dominating the local music scene, excelling with the two tracks she sings entirely alone and bringing a welcomed air of authenticity as a result. But the stripped-down sets soon stop with the event’s headliner. THE MYSTERINES dominate the stage in fits of passionate magnitude, revving up the crowd with such charm that can only emerge from their ferocious punk rock demeanour. The audience dance in the palm of their hands- hanging onto every word of lead singer Lia Metcalfe as if trying to extend the fleeting minutes before the lights come back on.
All this commotion after a year lost, and yet, the night feels worlds away to the reality faced just a few months before. Rather, as the sun sets on the south bank of the Mersey, all eyes are on the stars, and the possibilities they may contain. Like the growing arts community of Birkenhead, FestEvol never flinched when asked what local music could look like in 2021. Instead, they spearheaded a community event that will forever hold its own as a glowing beacon of togetherness.