This is becoming a slightly disjointed account of my 2021 Liverpool festival wanderings. Blathering ramble? Moi?
Day 1 is here. Day 2 was a day I personally remembered not to listen to idle tittle tattle and definitely not to share it. Yes, I should know better and I’m sorry. I can’t even use the excuse ‘older and wiser’.
Day 1 had been a weird mix of euphoric, with stunning, life affirming sets from Bull, Spinn and Callum Easter, and a bit of grumping about rescheduled sets and lack of decent beer. So day 2 dawned with me wondering if I’d get swept away in the music or sweating the small stuff given I’d done a bit of both on day 1. Well, with the continuing barrage of truly stunning talent on display thumping away to bash my current backlog of anxieties and stresses, who could do anything but to succumb to that ‘swept away’ thing. Someone with a dead soul perhaps. Happy times and the small stuff can screw itself. Screw itself really really hard in fact.
The day did not begin wonderfully, as there was some rescheduled timings (again) and I thought we had missed my opening choice, Brighton’s Youth Sector. Ha ha, I was in a different pub about to order a pre-festival commiseration pick me up, when I got a message to confirm we could still attend the Youth Sector ball, as it was moved back to its original schedule.
Youth Sector were at the Jackaranda, a venue I had heard much about, and had never visited. This was part of the fun bag of a festival in an unfamiliar city. I was surprised by the fairly small venue size, delighted by the available can of Gamma and having met our friends settled down for a tight, spiky set from Youth Sector.
There’s a lot to like in Youth Sector’s approach and their clear love of early 80’s clever pop. Again I got vibes of Talk Talk, early Costello, XTC and Talking Heads all blended together and given a 2020’s twist. Class start and the folk queuing to get in on the stairs missed a treat. I always know that an early afternoon set has done the biz when it feels like a buzzy 10pm by the end.
My next choice Clockworks suddenly disappeared from the gigseekr app and re-emerged for later on. So we had a sudden hour for a chill at The Shipping Forecast as we also had wanted to catch Voodoos here. Determined not to sweat it by trying to find someone else to see, and Voodoos were definitely as excellent as I had remembered.
We saw Voodoos play support to Lathums late in 2019 and we had enjoyed their spiky, bouncy set. Fans of folk like the Vaccines would grab this band by the hand and welcome them in for tea.
Unfortunately the cellar of Shipping Forecast is low and pretty small. There were a couple of 6’ 3” lads in front of me and while I couldn’t see much of the band, I did marvel at the way the stage lighting lit up the guy’s head into a big blue light bulb. So both Voodoos and a unique visual delight. Again the people queuing on the stairs missed something special (I’m meaning the Voodoos rather than the blue head). Snooze you lose in this game.
Next was an off-piste moment, I wanted to hook into Jimmy’s as again I’d not been in the Liverpool version. Very nice too with the music venue downstairs. Here was James Wood, someone I’d had a half eye on. Former member of The Gallerys, James had a good confident stage presence, an amazing voice and some introspective and classy acoustic tunes. Music to reflect to.
For me, a measure of an acoustic solo set is about how many of the audience shut up and listen. Apart from a couple of diehards who appear to believe standing right in the front of an audience is the perfect place for a lengthy and detailed chat, much of the room quietened down as the gig proceeded and the applause got bigger and bigger. I hope James keeps it going, as there’s a real promise here.
I had grumbled about the Arts Club on day 1, and so buoyed up by the bright start decided to venture back for a trio of bankers. So pleased I did.
First up were an undiscovered pleasure, the spiky and fresh alright (okay). These local Liverpool lads really surprised me with an assured, polished and banging set considering they have only recently released a debut single. There was bite and complexity as well as raw energy in the set.
There will be many more coming to alright (okay) gigs before too long, and I felt blessed to witness the band at this time.
During the alright (okay) set, I spotted a pensive looking Fin looking out across the audience. I pondered he was hoping for a bigger crowd. Of course, by the time his band, STONE, came on stage there was a very respectable if not full house in front of him.
Being an elderly gentleman, I have to look after my knees, but I took a punt that the barrier would not see too much jostle and so it proved (and to be clear dear reader, should my leg ever detach at the knee during a boisterous mosh pit incident, the fault would be mine entirely for being there).
STONE were as amazing live as I had hoped. Relentless hard pounding sounds and lyrics which mix up confident and swagger and vulnerability in equal measure. STONE lyrics demonstrate the contradictions in life; when to be assertive and assured, when to be passive and listen. Fin describes himself as annoying, but I think love ‘em or hate ‘em, the words he shares are wise.
It’s not all serious stuff Sarah Surrage on bass, opened a bottle of beer during the set, which exploded over the floor. Not great for performing over, but a funny moment and a fit of giggles for Sarah and I both. Alas not one I have on video.
Fin managed an on the mosh floor spell, but alas the audience weren’t quite up to a full on crowd surf tonight, however well received STONE were. Perhaps just a tad too early in the evening for that.
Stone can only continue to develop from here, and with that magnetic quality they are going to be on everyone’s festival must see list from here on.
Every band should have a Jim Morrison moment, and Courting had theirs at the art club. Mercifully no bath tub involved, but lead singer Sean Murphy-O’Neill suddenly turned his back to the audience to sort out a wardrobe malfunction. No actual flashing or Police, but laughs and embarrassment aplenty.
I saw Courting (with Youth Sector, but without the 7 hour gap between the two) at Leeds Oporto recently, and while my love for Courting is not immediate, there is a building intensity in their set which makes them compelling. My second viewing in as many weeks cemented that. No one song hugely stands out, but you don’t quite know where this band will go next on stage (football, the Friends theme tune (“because Courting are there for you”). This band are clever, fun and entertaining in spades.
My final gig of the night was with Garden Party, a band I’ve wanted to catch since they emerged early in lock down. While the venue was like a conservatory (rather than a garden) and sweltering hot, Garden Party did us proud.
I won’t argue that Garden Party have the most complex guitar work of the weekend, but the two guitars of Liam and Kieran I think perhaps provided the sound that hit my inner ear the best. I love swirling guitars, and the bass and drumming drew it out pretty perfectly. Again, for a band with just 3 singles out starting a journey, they are pretty darn complete.
Here the band felt relaxed, kind of like a boxing day party. The place wasn’t as busy as it should have been but everyone could just hang, do their thing, and let their gut hang out (well mine does anyway what ever I do, but you get the picture).
The Night ended with a quick chat with Liam and a Monk (the band Monks, not a chap with a tonsure and a habit). Wearing a habit, not with a habit; that’s how those rumours start.
Can you bear a review of day 3? Don’t care….it will be up at some point.
* photos are crap, so of course they are all my own.