Conor Giblin

Photography: Stuart Moulding @oohshootstu

Sound City

Baltic Triangle 5/5/18

As I arrive for SOUND CITY, there isn’t a cloud in the sky and the glorious weather acts as a sign of the brilliant weekend ahead of me. I make my way to Jamaica Street in the Baltic Triangle, which can be described as the spineof the festival, with the majority of the venues only a short walk from this road.

Firstly, I head to Hangar34 to catch the ‘Brexit pop’ of MATT MALTESE, after he caught my attention with one of his early singles As the World Caves In. He takes to the stage in a full suede suit, joined by Haydn from Sundara Karma on drums and Alex Burey on bass. In his half hour set, he previews songs from his upcoming debut album Bad Contestant. Watching Maltese perform is a very relaxed, chilled-out experience despite his intense lyrical themes of politics and relationship drama. A few songs into the set, I start to feel that Matt’s voice lacks the power to keep the crowd interested, but during the choruses of each song when he raises his voice, his talent is indisputable. His songwriting and musical style appears to be old-fashioned and vintage, but his music certainly deals with modern themes, as he sings “I’m a self-obsessed mess” in Strange Time, reflecting on the impact of social media. My personal highlights from his set are Guilty, an instantly faster-paced tune that gets the crowd moving and showcases his epic piano playing skills, as well as Greatest Comedian, a funky tune during which he finally leaves the piano to walk around the stage and engage with the audience.

 

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Matt Maltese (Jessica Grace Neal / @JGNphotography) 

After this, I risk my life trying to cross Parliament Street to catch ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND’s set at On Air, a quirky bar that looks like a movie set, with a mélange of different architectural styles inside. They have a nice range of cocktails with musical names such as The Australian Pink Floyd, Twist And Shout, and L.A Woman. It’s a very intimate venue with a lovely atmosphere and fairy lights hanging over the audience. Art School Girlfriend’s music fits the venue perfectly as their music is very atmospheric and slowly builds up, making you move uncontrollably. They remind me of The Japanese House but with less vocal filtration and the drums and spacey, electronic beats are the backbone of each song. Their most impressive track was their new single Moon, which was released a few months ago on Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone label.

Following their performance, I start to wander around in search of somewhere to eat and I was not short of options! The menu at Apocalypse Cow caught my eye for its Orimental! Kamikaze Loaded Fries but instead I’m won over by Tusk Food & Drink Sanctuary and their halloumi burgers – a café that feels much more homely than I expected, considering that it’s housed inside a warehouse. Whilst I’m there, I check out the Gigs And Graphics exhibition next door at Northern Lights, where there are gig posters onsale for most of the artists featured on this year’s Sound City line-up, along with a selection of vinyl records, with some 50p bargain singles that catch my eye.

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Gigs and Graphics Exhibition (Lauren Jade Keir / laurenjadekeir.format.com)

I end my first day at Sound City slightly early, but on an incredible high-note, with BLACK HONEY at Camp and Furnace. Huge fluffy clouds float above the rowdy audience before the band explode onto the stage, debuting a new song which is probably called Crybaby with the ace line “Cross my heart and hope to die, I’ll break it just like you broke mine”. Frontwoman Izzy B. Phillips cracks out her quirky dance moves for All My Pride and the organ-style keys on this track are a delight. She announces to the audience that their highly-anticipated debut album is coming later this year, which is greeted with huge applause. Somebody Better is outstanding, mixing their ability to write a catchy pop chorus with their own brand of rock ‘n’ roll. The crowd are going mad for it and their new single Bad Friends gets everyone bobbing their heads. Black Honey really are a band that feel, look, and sound cool. Hello Today was a great ending to a triumphant set that left me wanting more.

Returning to Liverpool the next day, the sun is once again out in full force and I treat myself to a delicious Sofia burger from the Shipping Forecast on my walk over to the Baltic Triangle. ALASKALASKA are absolutely spellbinding at Constellations and the saxophonist in their band sets them apart from other guitar bands that dominate this year’s line-up. They’re a huge six-piece band but their sound is by no means chaotic. Everything works together perfectly and their set is sprinkled with gems such as Meateater and Patience. They’re a really fun band to watch and if you’re a fan of Pumarosa or David Bowie’s Blackstar album, but you’re looking for something a little bit lighter, then look no further than ALASKALASKA.

Later on, I catch CARMODY’s beautifully soulful set at District, complete with backing singers! My highlight is her track Skin which showcases her flawless, crystal-clear vocals. Her performance was followed by the Aussie pop group GEOWULF, whose chilled out verses eased into high-energy choruses which kept the audience’s attention.

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Grace Carter (Kristian Patten / kristianphotography.myportfolio.com)

I cross the road to Unit 51 to see GRACE CARTER, after watching her support Dua Lipa and Mabel over the past six months. She stuns the audience with her effortless vocals and it feels like an injustice that she isn’t playing a much bigger stage. Grace appears to be a bit confused by the café setting and I think an acoustic set would’ve been more suitable for the venue, but she still manages to win people over with her emotional ballads such as Silhouette and Saving Grace, before closing with the raw pop power of Silence. A perfect ending to a weekend of immense musical diversity.

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