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Festival review: Sound City 2018


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Last weekend saw the UK experience its hottest early May bank holiday in recorded history - but did that heat come from the sun, or the selection of bands burning up the stages at Liverpool's Sound City festival?

After straying out to the docks for previous editions, this year the metropolitan two-dayer returned to the heart of the city and took over Liverpool's hip Baltic Triangle - an industrial hub of artsy venues, bars, cafes, galleries and graffiti.


As with any festival, scheduling a personal to-see list was a nightmare. However, kicking off The National Student's experience at Sound City were Liverpool natives SPINN.

Despite being crammed inside the tiny venue of District, SPINN brought the sunshine indoors with their shining indie pop. In fact, it shone so bright that lead singer Jonathon Quinn flounced onto stage in a thin pair of red sunglasses, which changed throughout the set as he plucked other pairs from the enthustiastic crowd. A new trademark, perhaps? Jonathon danced around the stage with the most carefree moves seen all weekend, cracked jokes between songs, and ended with their closing line "we've been SPINN, and you've been spun."


Pop outfit Marsicans were a real highlight of the weekend, executing their set perfectly - even after running straight onto stage from their van due to getting caught up in traffic between their home of Leeds and venue Camp and Furnace, the biggest of the twenty participating in this year's festival. Typical descriptions of 'high energy', 'jam-packed', or 'full throttle' feel like a complete understatement to even begin to try and explain this set. If you're after an incredible live band, head to the next Marsicans gig near you. 


XamVolo has been a personal favourite for a while, with his mood-lifting soulful jazz tunes - but his set this weekend started so slow that it felt like we'd been sent to some dystopian universe. The set we saw at Neighborhood last October had been replaced with down-tempo soul that felt, dare I say it, a little boring compared to what had been the most energetic start to the weekend, listening to banger after banger. His voice was incredible, nonetheless, but not something that kept us yearning for the sun outside. Instead, we slowly headed back to Camp and Furnace to see indie rockers Black Honey take the stage.

Black Honey

We probably should've walked slower. The band took forever to come on stage as a drumming performance took place in the crowd. The thing is, unless you're stood right where they are - you literally can't see a thing going on. This seems something that should've taken place outdoors or on a stage; to everyone not blessed to have been within a metre of the act, it seemed like a load of inconvenient drum beats coming from nowhere. The performance? I'm sure it was great! But the execution...

Black Honey's set was yet again another 'incredible!' to add to the list, with their new track 'Bad Friends' being a top highlight. Izzy oozes serious cool. Kudos also needs to be given to Black Honey's lighting team. Their set was not only musically but visually stunning! As a photographer, it was an absolute dream.

As a photographer, this set was also an absolute nightmare. We all know the drill by now: the younger and blonder the female in a band, the more middle aged men that turn up. Said middle aged men, who had obviously been a photographer a lot longer than five foot, twenty-one year old me, appeared very... entitled to their shots. One man picked me up out of his way, while another placed two hands on my shoulders and shoved me down in order to get his picture. Annoying? Yes. Common? Yes, yes, yes. Necessary? Absolutely not. Personal rant over...


And yet, with a set as incredible and on-point as Black Honey's - there was no way it could be dampened. The day only got better as DMA's strolled onto stage half an hour later to headline the night. One word: wow.

The Australian three piece have been making waves in the UK for a couple of years now with their britpop influenced songs, and lead singer Tommy O'Dell executed them with such smooth perfection. Getting the crowd riled up with a selection of 'oldies' from their debut Hill's End and treating them to new material from just released follow up For Now, fans had their arms round each other, got on each other's shoulders and sang along like it was the last live music they'd ever see.

But it wasn't! There's another day yet!

Dirty Laces

Sunday's events began for us with newcomers Dirty Laces in Constellations' Garden, with a pint in hand and the sun burning down. The brash band from Manchester energetically treated us to a good mix of uptempo, 90s-esque indie in stunning surroundings.


Here's my only criticism of the festival itself: Baltic Market. There were queues out the door all weekend. Wow, it must be packed in there! Wrong. After queuing around twenty minutes to get into the venue (which had also been left open to the general public) we were surprised to see a lot of empty tables and a lot of standing space by the stage. We had now missed the majority of Peaness' set, but caught the very end of their last song. The trio sounded wonderful nonetheless, from what we heard of them. In fact, people who weren't even meant to be at Sound City had been able to experience more of their set than we had. Bitter? ...To be honest, yeah.

Hey Charlie

We waited on Baltic Market's new mezzanine level for grunge trio Hey Charlie to come on stage. My expectations were high for this band, and heck these gals delivered. Strutting onto stage in their matching outfits: white shirts with yellow tartan skirts, knee high socks, trainers and messy blonde hair. Not to focus on what a female band were wearing (boring, outdated) but it's all part of their act. 

They are absolute queens, and really got the crowd riled up. Have you ever seen a pit in Baltic Market? Singing, screaming, shouting and playing their way through tracks like 'She Looks Like a Dreamer' and 'Love Machine', the girls jumped around the stage like they owned it. They absolutely did! Throwing beer back out into the audience after some splashes had headed their way, and giving the odd side-eye to the overly hormonal teenage boys front row, Hey Charlie channelled ultimate girl power. They are the epitome of sex, sass and skill.

The Night Cafe

Scousers The Night Cafe then played their dreamy catalogue to a packed out Camp and Furnace. Their soaring indie is enough to put you into a daze, troubles and stress instantly melting away, closer 'Addicted' encapsulating their set perfectly.


Finally, psychedelic indie rockers Peace headlined the Sunday evening off the back of their newly released third album Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll. Opening with punchy 'Power' the four piece stormed through their set, Harrison Koisser's vocal perfectly on point; 'From Under Liquid Glass' was the strongest I've ever heard him - it was enough to ellicit an actual moan/scream/'oh my f*cking god' mix from myself.

Remember when the band said they'd never play fan favourite '1998' again? Well, that was a lie. They've been playing it at recent gigs again, and Sound Citizens (as attendees are referred to) were also treated to the Binary Finary cover that boasts one of the most incredible breakdowns in any indie music ever made - and resulted in the biggest crowd pit of the weekend.

They closed the weekend with 'Bloodshake' and the whole room was left floating on a high. Smiles, laughs, the odd tear or two... not a single person will have left this festival disappointed whether they saw Peace or not. A thoroughly five star experience overall.

Same time next year?

Images: Lucy Fletcher

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