Now set within the Baltic Triangle across various independent business and venues, SOUND CITY feels like it is having a fresh start. There certainly seems to be more vitality behind it than the previous year, which adds an extra frisson. As I head towards Red Brick vintage on Saturday evening for the Leeds College Of Music showcase, I’m not sure if it’s the sun or the celebratory bank holiday weekend vibe in the air, but the festival atmosphere hits me the nearer I approach.
The first act I catch is electronic solo artist NALA. The only way to describe her music is that of a dreamy rave, a mix of the atmospheric and packing a ferocious beat. NALA is a kicking screaming and dancing phenomenon, commanding you to give her attention every second she’s on stage not only with her moves, even with her new single Look At Me. NALA doesn’t just demand your eyes but your ears too, with her extremely soulful and passionate voice backed by a Crystal Castles-esque backdrop. The next act I catch are Halifax’s finest, THE ORIELLES. They are as amazing as always, bringing an energetic, 90s/Pastels vibe to the late-night proceedings in District, with cowbells, whistles and bongos complementing guitarist Henry’s unique wah wah shredding. They play songs from their new album Silver Dollar Moment with such gusto and enthusiasm that the whole of District soon breaks out into a boogie. At the same time, headlining at Constellations are the raucous IDLES. Differing in sound but not differing in energy to The Orielles, their packed-out live performance is as wild as their album Brutalism, a title that matches this Bristol outfit perfectly. Declaring “God bless the NHS”, their Fall-esque sound wreaks havoc on the venue, leaving you wondering if anyone can top that. But, of course, KING KHAN AND THE SHRINES certainly can. For those who are still hanging around Baltic Triangle at midnight, it doesn’t matter if they’re not an authority on The Shrines and their influences (The Gories, Black Lips etc.) because the atmosphere and energy is off the scale. One minute you’re tapping your toes to the beat like, in the case of my dance moves, a bad music video from the 60s; the next, you’re completely losing your shit, with members climbing into the crowd and a bass guitar crowd-surfing. This is all accompanied by King Khan himself, who exudes the vibe of a psychedelic Indian prince, shaking his arse at every audience member and imploring us all to sing along. It’s my stand out highlight of the weekend, and after that show I’m ready to see what Sunday has to offer.
King Khan and The Shrines (Stuart Moulding / @oohshootstu)
Sound City’s second day starts early, with London band SORRY playing at Constellations. This outfit have gained a certain amount of hype in recent months, and it’s easy to see why. Their dark and brooding grunge noise and beautiful vocal harmonies match perfectly with almost pitch black darkness and the intimacy of the venue, juxtaposing the sunshine outside. Shortly following that short set are EYESORE AND THE JINX. With their new single Gated Community, these guys are already gaining attention within the Liverpool scene, so to see such an empty audience at Red Brick Vintage is quite disappointing. However, the band make up for the mixed atmosphere with ferocious feedback from the get-go. All the songs kind of melt together into one, which can be divisive, but it’s all held together with an amazing drum beat.
Sound City 2018 (Jessica Grace Neal / @JGNPhotography)
Sound City is known for amalgamating art with music, with galleries and exhibitions across The Baltic Triangle. One particularly unmissable spectacle out of this artistic field is STEALING SHEEP’s Suffragette Tribute march, to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage. With feminist power at its core, this performance art piece is a truly empowering vision to witness in the middle of a festival line-up. It breaks the norm not only for the band but also of the festival only catering for music fans. Visually stunning with bright coloured masks, leotards and projections in Blade Factory, the march of around 20 drummers and 20 dancers accompanying the three members of Stealing Sheep heralds a unique concept regarding celebrating history. If you get a chance to see the Suffragette March over the festival season, do so. Stealing Sheep will be presenting it at End Of The Road and Festival No. 6 later in 2018, with more updates and evolutions promised.
Baxter Dury (Lauren Jade Keir / laurenjadekeir.format.com)
I quickly head over to the packed out Camp and Furnace to see indie darlings and Sunday headliners PEACE to see if their new album translates into the live show. They play a mix of old and new tracks, with favourites such as Wraith and fan favourite 1998 truly fitting in with the new tracks on Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll. The crowd is a mix as well; those that are searching for indie nostalgia and fans of the new record, altogether makinf for a crowd-surfing, fun set. Meanwhile, QUEEN ZEE completely tear apart The Baltic Triangle. Their short set of raw power and partial nudity in Baltic Market has a message of intersectionality running throughout, even containing a cover of Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers.To end the night, Prince Of Tears BAXTER DURY completely packs them in at intimate Constellations, drawing one of the largest crowds of the weekend away from the Camp and Furnace headliners. Ahead of his tour supporting Noel Gallagher, this is an amazing opportunity to see the guy in a fairly compact venue, and his presence fills the room. With his dry, charismatic sense of humour and his off-kilter dance moves Dury commands your attention. A European, Gainsbourg-esque vibe also fills the air, with his band offering an unexpected dimension to the set. It’s high-energy, sophisticated and even though one audience member behind me says “He looks like a history teacher,” Dury carries it off well. A perfect way to end a music-filled weekend.