I attended Liverpool Calling last weekend, but after a hectic week in between it’s only now that I’m getting around to capturing my thoughts about the event. And first thoughts are, wow, what an event. I had an absolute blast! I’d seen announcements about the line up knocking around for a few months, and whilst there were many bands I fancied seeing, I wasn’t sure I was up for the fact the shows were going to be spread across the city at several venues – however, when the stage splits and times were announced it turned out that all the bands I really, really wanted to see were playing the same stage anyway. The only choice left to make was whether to just get a ticket for Saturday, or go along Friday night too for an extra fiver.
I decided I’d drive for the Friday, and the plan was to jump on the train for Saturday and enjoy a few beers.
In principal, this felt like it ought to be a similar event to Leicester’s Handmade Festival, which I went to in May. Myself and the friend I went with both came away from Handmade feeling slightly unfulfilled, without quite being able to put a finger on why. It had an awesome line up, but something about the venues and the atmosphere just didn’t quite click.
There was no such problem in Liverpool – to be fair I only saw a slice of what was on offer, visiting 4 of the 9 venues used, but that covered all the acts I wanted to see, and the crowds at each one were great. The festival had 2 halves really – Friday night was a showcase of local and emerging bands playing small, independent venues in the city centre, whilst Saturday was an all day affair, moving to the Baltic Triangle at the outskirts of the city to see the marquee bands play bigger stages.
My Friday night was spent mostly at The Jacaranda, which has a low ceiling’d basement stage that’s tiny and filthy – exactly the kind of venue I love. My Saturday was spent at Constellations which seemed to be some kind of abandoned factory building which hosted the main stage, but also had a really lovely outdoor yard which had a second smaller stage where mostly folk and acoustic acts played through the day.
I watched an awful lot of bands, so in the interests of brevity I’ll keep the reviews short and sharp. My weekend panned out like this though:
Exoskeletons – travelling up from Kent, these guys stage banter was so terrible it was actually quite good. I really enjoyed the dual vocal element. Definitely check out their album ‘We Are Here to Make Things Better’, their track ‘Holes’ is going to get added to pretty much every playlist I’m going to make going forward.
Wife – I really enjoyed Wife, their heavy bass driven songs accompanied by various screeching and howling effects. A bit of a sonic assault, but an intentional one. Their drummer was probably the most animated drummer of the weekend, and I love it when a drummer gets a good gurn on. Their frontman needs to stop negging on the band and making out to the audience that they aren’t very good.
Forever In Debt – fast becoming one of my favourites of the North West scene, they played to a jam packed room. There were some technical problems, with the microphone failing for opening song ‘Billy’, and the at various other points in the set pieces of equipment seemed to want to try and unplug itself, but it was still another performance full of energy and banging grunge tunes
Strange Bones – I nipped across to the bigger Phase One venue to catch the first half of Strange Bones set. They’re basically Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, except from Blackpool. They’re hugely entertaining, with a great sense of theatre and the use of several props during the performance. Frontman Bobby Bentham is a bona fide rock star in the making (if he doesn’t class as one already), spending a lot of his time performing in the crowd, whilst moments on stage saw spectacular scissor kicking jumps. I need to listen to this band more!
Chambers – I saw the sister’s of doom duo in Leeds a few years ago and was really impressed, but they’ve kind of passed me by since then. Was great to reacquaint myself with them, and remind me why I liked them in the first place. They’re heavy, sludgy and intense and the performance sounded really tight. Yet another band I need to make sure stays on my radar.
Sweet Deals on Surgery – having listened to their record ‘The Snake and the Snoozer’ previously, I was undecided on SDOS. Now that I’ve seen them live I feel that I ‘get it’ with the raw, punky edge coming out a lot more. Despite obviously being unhappy with their sound set up, and their drummer and bass player having a small falling out on stage, I still thought they sounded really good, and definitely ended up implanting a few earworms, none more so than set closer ‘Take My Hand, Punch Me In The Face’. Will definitely be back for round 2 of SDOS soon!
Echolines – best described as “not Dead Houses” who I’d purposely shown up early to see. Turns out Dead Houses had pulled out last minute, and whilst I was trying to figure that out, I probably didn’t give Echolines the attention they deserved, with me ending up leaving before the end of their set so I could go and check in to my accommodation.
Eyesore and the Jynx – I was back in time to catch the back end of their set. Their bass led art punk type sound isn’t particularly my type of thing, and consequently they didn’t really leave much of an impression.
Elevant – my first nice surprise of the weekend, Elevant were right up my street. A nice grungy backbone laced with an element of rock’n’roll swagger, their frontman was a real performer, and I loved his wobbly-legged dancing, whilst watching their bass player working her fret board was impressive. My only complaint would be the lack of that one knock out song that you can tell everyone about, but I will definitely listen to Elevant more and get to know their stuff.
SPQR – quite a big crowd gathered to watch SPQR, and there’s definitely a bit of a buzz about this band. I’d had recommendations from 2 different sets of friends to make sure I go watch them, and I can understand why. They have a great set of songs which have a slightly quirky sound to them and largely play on the quiet/loud/quiet pattern, except the quiet bits are really tender and heartfelt and with sense of vulnerability, which only makes the louder moments sound even more brutal. Definitely check out their EP ‘The House That Doubt Built’.
Peaness – perfectly pleasant pop ditties largely about rather mundane things such as food waste, Wagamamas and living in Chester. Not really one to mosh to, but catchy and upbeat. I loved how smiley the trio were, seeming to be absolutely loving being up on stage performing, and their harmonies were ridiculously good.
Pale Rider – I didn’t really get it. The guitar was overly fuzzy and hard to distinguish and the vocals also seemed drowned out. Three of the band wore smudged black face make up, though apparently the bass guy was too cool to join in. They struck me as being a bit “style over substance”.
Sœur – I’m fast becoming a tragic Sœur fanboy, but I don’t care. I think they’re ace. I was several beers deep at this point, and went and did the same thing I did last time I saw them, which was to head to the front and dance away to myself. Gutted there wasn’t a bigger crowd for them. New song ‘Fight’ to end the set sounds a bit special, gradually building and building to a dramatic finish – can’t wait for new material to be released later this summer!
Will Varley – I’m a big fan of the folk man, but I wasn’t really here to see him today. Was a nice bonus to see him do a couple of songs out in the yard, including ‘Talking Cat Blues’, before I headed in to watch Demob Happy. I already have tickets to see him on tour in October and he’s playing a couple of other events in between that I’m gonna be at, so hoping to take in a a lot more of him over the summer.
Demob Happy – come the end of the year, somebody, somewhere is surely going to give ‘Holy Doom’ an album of the year award? Such a great record, and I love watching the tracks from it live. I got a bit giddy during the set and decided to start making friends with the rest of the audience, and then I danced around the front of the venue without a care (probably looked a bit of a douche, but meh). The crowd really grew in to the set and there was a real buzz about the place by the time they finished with ‘Be Your Man’.
The Wytches – second time this year I’ve seen them live, and the second time I’ve come away feeling underwhelmed. I love The Wytches, but the set seemed short and unengaging, which is a shame, because I’ve seen them really tear it up when I’ve watched them as headliners.
Pulled Apart By Horses – ace! Still absolutely buzzing that they played ‘Meat Balloon’, one of my favourite PABH tracks and a song so old that it precedes them landing a record deal. I’ve never seen them do it live, and kind of presumed it had been retired from their live sets. The whole venue bounced for their performance, and it meant the event ended on a proper high!
And so it ended… There was an after party back at one of the venues in town afterward, but I was well cooked by that point. Hats off to the organisers, because I thought it was a great weekend. Big enough to feel like a proper event, but small enough to retain a certain level of intimacy that helps make these kind of things feel more special. My decision to go along this year was pretty last minute, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for announcements about next year and if they can deliver a line up with a similar vibe I’ll definitely look to get onboard earlier as it was such a great experience.