It’s that time of year again. A bitter chill in the air, people huddle together in their oversized coats complete with woolly hats and scarves; itching to know what’s in store this year as we wait at the bottom of an escalator in Moorfields train station. Yes that’s right, Merseyrail Sound Station Festival 2015 is about to begin.
With over 100 entries, we’re waiting for the final ten to wow us on this biting Saturday afternoon. The winner will go home with a years worth of music industry mentoring, free Merseyrail travel for one year and studio time at the legendary Tankfield recording studios.
As the first act THE SHIPBUILDERS pile on stage, the thirty or so people in the crowd need something to warm them up. The first verse kicks in and the audiences’ ears perk up as the almost cinematic Country-Western guitar fills the station. The vocals are smooth and effortless and all in all, it’s more than an easy listen. Appearing to be more than nervous, LUCY MAYHEW takes to the stage. Guitar in hand and music stand firmly placed in front of her, I’m rather shocked to hear her voice; an echo of Stevie Nicks with a slightly more mellow tone. Her songs are a beautiful compilation of sweet vocals and enchanting lyrics; yet they’re crying out for a backing band.
Next we’re treated to the charming Irish chap ROSSA MURRAY. With a more than admirable stage presence, the Blues guitar pattern is the perfect accompaniment for his powerful vocals; grabbing the attention of nearly every passing commuter. I for one am stunned by his political lyrics and the emotion he conveys. His voice is poetic and effortless and as his final song comes to a close, there’s a definite winner in my mind already.
With a tough act to follow, sixteen-year-old LEWIS MAXWELL takes to the stage. His confidence is captivating and his clean-cut vocals sing out over his imaginative rhythms. Within his final song, a slight issue with his capo occurs but he sails over this and deals with the slight bump in the road like a true professional. As a few younger fans start to filter through the station and join the huddling crowd, LIPA student KATY ALEX begins to set up. Her RnB Pop style vocals sing out, accompanied by an almost Funk and Soul backing. Complete with Saxophone and catchy bass riffs, I feel like I’m watching a professional.
Whilst a stripped back version of the MONO SIDEBOARDS set up, the train station starts to resemble a school disco with the number of young’uns piling in. Enveloped in the middle of the stage, the two members of the band plug in their guitars. It feels more like we are watching two different acts on stage, each patiently waiting for their turn to sing and play.
Suddenly, everything I’d been so confused about snaps into place. THE BASEMENT EFFECT. The four sixteen-year-old boys have raked in almost double the crowd. Clashing cymbals, a crunching guitar solo and crushing power chords lead the lads into their first song. The energy is present from the get-go, with the band jumping around and clearly loving every second.
As the crowd disperses, CAL RUDDY takes to the stage, suddenly I hear the voice of Jake Bugg. What? Jake Bugg at Merseyrail Sound Station Festival!? Nope- that’s just Cal Ruddy. Despite the fan girls of TBE talking loudly, Cal manages to keep the crowd engaged and delivers an all round great performance.
I’ve had my eye on this next band all day, and by 4pm the crowd are flagging. GYRUS blast out a rainbow of rhythms with some of the most incredible vocals floating effortlessly above the band. With the addition of the electric violin, Middle Eastern textures and timbres serve as a beautifully crafted backdrop for their political lyrics to shine over.
Final act MERSEY WYLIE appeared in last year’s competition as a backing vocalist, but this year she’s fronting her self-titled band. Effortless, ethereal and emotive; her music pulls on the heartstrings and her stage presence is one of natural beauty. As we load into the Hatch on Matthew Street, we eagerly wait for the winner to be announced. A stunning performance from last year’s winner BLUE SAINT winds the evening up in true style with his enviably cool Hip Hop performance. As the night draws to a close, our very own Chris Torpey get’s the pleasure of announcing this year’s winner – KATY ALEX!
Overwhelmed with joy, she steps up to accept her award before performing for the crowd one last time. After her performance, she said ‘I feel amazing, I was so nervous before but now that it’s over and I’ve actually won! I feel so relieved’.