SOUND CITY belongs in the heart of the city. There’s nothing quite like the thrill and excitement that a multi-venue event of its stature can generate, adding a buzz to the city’s already musically-aligned heartbeat.
Some of our favourite memories of enjoying music in Liverpool are intrinsically tied to Sound City: falling over each other to catch a glimpse of Courtney Barnett in The Zanzibar before we realised just how good she was; being wowed by the intensity of Savages’ performance at Arts Club; trying to not crowdsurf during Thee Oh Sees’ legendary Kazimier gig; witnessing the spectacle of a Stroke (Albert Hammond Jr.) communing with the crowd in the Anglican Cathedral; having our eardrums blasted by Bo Ningen; Willis Earl Beal’s show-stealing act, which was part theatre and part musical sermon. Yet, the most abiding memory was the thrill of running from venue to venue, bumping in to mates old and new along the way, and revelling in the hustle and bustle that the festival brings to the streets.
Having spent the past three years on the docklands a bit further up the river, Sound City now finds itself in the Baltic Triangle, an area with similarly close ties to the city’s maritime heritage, but with a much closer link to the things that matter – the buildings, the activity, the people. The toil and grind of a different kind of industry now fills the warehouses and spaces that were once integral to the city’s mercantile might. A cultural renaissance has been brewing in this former industrial heartland for a while, a positive, upbeat movement that has cemented Liverpool as not only a great destination city, but an ideal place to put down some roots. Digital startups and technology innovators rub shoulders with bars, cafés, restaurants, venues and a ‘can-do’ air, making it one of the fastest-growing areas in not just the region but in the whole of the UK. The walls and pavements are canvases for artists of all stripes, just as the architecture and infrastructure have been repurposed for bright, exciting new ventures.
The multitude of venues in the Baltic Triangle will serve as a playground of creativity for Sound City as it settles back in to its role as a hub and celebration of music in the city. It’s the perfect place for the festival to be putting down its new roots as it looks to build on the amazingly fruitful and organic music community that has developed in the city over the past decade. We look forward to what the next chapter of Sound City holds – and we hope it can be a spark for the next generation, just like it was for us back in 2010.
Christopher Torpey / Bido Lito! Editor
Since its inception in 2008, Sound City has prided itself on presenting a line-up that finds the right balance between up-and-coming artists and international names of some repute. It’s one of the strengths of the festival: big names draw in the crowds, but everyone leaves with an insight into the country’s – and Liverpool’s – buzzing music scene. With such a diverse range of acts on offer, and a multitude of venues and stages to see them in, it’s hard to know what to prioritise. So, to help you out, we’ve delved deep into the line-up and picked out some of our favourites – as your local new music magazine, it’s the least we could do.
Australian three-piece DMA’S are one of the big names to grace this year’s festival, with a headline set on Saturday at Camp and Furnace. Their nostalgic Britpop sound means they are particularly popular in the UK. Having played at numerous international festivals, and supported The Kooks and Foo Fighters, they already have a large fan base that will hopefully follow them to Liverpool. They are joining fellow Britpop-indebted rockers PEACE at the top of this year’s festival bill – and you can read a full interview with Sunday night’s headliners on page 42.
On stage just prior to DMA’S are Brighton-based indie rock band BLACK HONEY, who are returning to Sound City after a storming set on the Kraken Stage in 2015. Izzy Baxter’s hypnotic voice, which has been compared to Lana Del Rey’s, is balanced against the quartet’s catchy, repetitive pop. It’s the perfect combination to get everyone dancing and warmed-up. Elsewhere, new bar and event venue Open Air plays host to some more heartfelt, downbeat pop, with a bill that is bookended by some exceptional talents. WYE OAK are a Texan duo who specialise in intoxicating, inward-looking Americana, and they’re as essential to catch as MALENA ZAVELA, whose spectral storytelling is a wonder to behold.
Over at Constellations, Bristol punk band IDLES are headlining with what promises to be a heavier, angrier set – and you can read an extended interview with them now on page 47. They are just one of a number of politically engaged artists at this year’s festival, a reflection of the increasing political consciousness within the music industry. At Hangar 34, MATT MALTESE will approach the current political climate with a very different sound to Idles. The self-described Brexit pop artist specialises in indie ballads and heartbreak. As The World Caves In is a love song for Theresa May and Donald Trump, which is enough to grab our attention.
Headlining at District on Saturday is Halifax-born but Liverpool-claimed THE ORIELLES. The Heavenly Recordings outfit are compromised of two sisters and a best pal, and their infectious chemistry and post-punk disco sound means this is a live performance you won’t want to miss. Their Sound City performance comes as part of a Heavenly Recordings showcase, and catches them on the tail end of a European tour in support of debut LP Silver Dollar Moment. Earlier in the day, Liverpool’s SPINN will take over District. The guitar pop band only formed in 2015, but having played a sold-out show on home turf at Arts Club in April, they’re sure to attract one of the biggest crowds of the festival and leave Sound City with a whole host of new fans.
Sunday’s action gets off to a fast start at Camp and Furnace, where early attendees will be able to catch two Liverpool bands, THE NIGHT CAFÉ and PARIS YOUTH FOUNDATION making waves in their own right. In 2016, Paris Youth Foundation uploaded a song to SoundCloud and were asked to play Reading Festival just two weeks later, while The Night Café are slowly building an international fan base after a successful European tour supporting the Wombats. The two bands have also been touring together this year; their support for one another speaks volumes about the inclusivity of this city’s music scene, and encompasses what Sound City is all about.
If you need a break from Camp and Furnace, and fancy sampling some of Liverpool’s best street food, jangly indie pop three-piece PEANESS are playing at Baltic Market early Sunday evening. Their fuzzy laidback pop, and tongue-in-cheek name, has already caught the attention of BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, as well as the 6Music masses, and their melodic songwriting will have you bopping along to their tracks in no time. Former Bido cover stars QUEEN ZEE will be taking the late-night slot, rounding off the weekend the only way they know how – with a glam punk-filled party. If last year’s stint at Sound City is anything to go by – and their recent sold out headline show at The Shipping Forecast – then you’ll know you won’t want to miss out on their set.
For a more relaxed but equally riveting performance, head to On Air to catch singer-songwriter BILLIE MARTEN. The acoustic folk singer is just 18-years-old and it’s refreshing to see the festival supporting such young artists. Since releasing her debut album Writing Of Blues And Yellows, Marten has been performing around the country. Her voice is mature and appears effortless, and has echoes of Birdy or Lucy Rose – perfect for a more chilled out Sunday evening.
If you dash across the Baltic, you’ll find SUNSET SONS headlining over at Hangar 34. The Australian-British band are based in the South West of France in the region’s surfing capital, and boast an international following that is sure to grow after they bring their infectious tunes to Sound City. They’ve been working on their upcoming EP The River with distinguished producer Catherine J Marks (whose clients include indie big hitters Wolf Alice and Foals) and we’re excited to see where this takes them.
And the party doesn’t stop there – on Saturday night there are dedicated after-show parties, hosted by Getintothis (Hangar 34) and Abandon Silence vs Modu:lar (District), while Sunday night’s after-hours activity plays host to renowned DJ GREG WILSON who hosts a launch event for his new Credit To The Edit. For early hours revellers, all of these activities will give Sound City an added element to keep the Baltic beats going on late into the night.
The festival’s conference element, Sound City+, is the traditional curtain-raiser, and delegates can expect a wealth of speakers and panel conversations on Friday 4th May at its new home of the British Music Experience. A host of the industry’s hottest topics will be debated by professionals and experts, cementing Sound City as a vital hub for not just the local music community but also the global music business.
Listen to the Bido Lito! team’s selection of artists to catch at this year’s festival here too – there are plenty of hidden gems to discover here!