Liverpool Sound City 2015: Vaccines, Thurston Moore and Belle and Sebastian delight as headliners, along with plenty of new talent

What this Merseyside party has in spades is exciting new artists

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The Independent Culture

In its eighth year, Sound City Liverpool has been shaken out of a comfortable home in the city centre and into the harsh concrete landscape of the abandoned Bramley Moore docks.

It's a risky move, and one that stirs up more than a few grumbles from festival attendees over the course of the weekend.

Yet roars of approval greet Everything Everything as Jonathan Higgs' unmistakable falsetto calls out, followed by the riotous energy of Friday headliners Vaccines.

The Flaming Lips' performance is, predictably, a visual delight, with the wonderfully eccentric Wayne Coyne in an electric green suit and adorned with some kind of tortoise-shaped head gear. He introduces giant inflatable objects: a caterpillar, Santa Claus, and a giant sign that reads "F**k Yeah Liverpool", along with a blast of tickertape that falls over an ecstatic audience.

Stage positioning is a big issue as artists find themselves competing with one another from four different smaller stages – The Kracken, The Record Store, The Cavern and The North – and the sound tends to bleed from one into another.

What this Merseyside party really boasts is new artists. Wandering around the smaller tents from around 2pm each day, it’s possible to witness the dangerous energy of The Bohicas, Manchester five piece Dutch Uncles, Liverpool’s psych-folk darlings Stealing Sheep, and the astonishingly good Ady Suleiman.

LoneLady stands out even among the hordes of exciting young artists; fragments of disco and funk ramping up the drama. Lyrics are brittle and cutting, with "Hinterland" and "Groove It Out" catchy enough to chart.

 

On Saturday Thurston Moore flops around the stage like a rag doll, legs akimbo. He's keen to let his band members have a go at showcasing their skills – he fronts a veritable superband which includes the awesome Debbie Googe on bass – but when he does give into a solo it's almost frightening how casually he switches from zombie-like finger picking into rapid, intense shredding.

Moore’s set is certainly more stripped down than Flaming Lips but one where the music is allowed to speak for itself. And Sean Lennon moving quietly around the back of the stage dressed in a purple velvet jacket, floppy hat and those unnerving round-framed glasses, is something of a spectacle in itself.

Former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes delivers a smart, polished performance on the Sunday night, singing with strength and feeling despite the difficulty of projecting notes into the Liverpool breeze. There’s something of the wolverine about him with those famous sideburns, and the way he prowls the stage howling "who am I?" for "20/20".

Ground at the Atlantic stage is uncomfortably rough, uneven cement. On the Sunday large gaping holes are filled with rain from the night before so people are forced to spread themselves around them, which probably cuts out space for around 100-200 people.

Hopefully next year Sound City will also consider a few shuttle buses to take people to and from the music. This year’s choice is either brave the cold of 2am and wait for a taxi, or walk the two miles back into town.

Belle & Sebastian follow Coombes and are clearly one of the most favoured headlines of the night. The Glaswegians cram themselves onto what suddenly looks like a rather small space for the main stage of the festival, filled with cheerful bonhomie.

"The Party Line" – the gentle, catchy track from 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance – gets the crowd moving, while "Nobody’s Empire", Stuart Murdoch’s most personal effort to date, affects everyone with its brutal honesty.

Over at the warehouse near the exit, Peace begin to tear up the Baltic stage. It’s definitely the rowdiest scene: earlier in the weekend reports emerge that Fucked Up’s frontman has jumped down into the crowd to break up a fight, only to be turned on by a group of men himself. He eventually resurfaces back on stage with a bloody lip to rousing cheers from the rest of the audience.

Often dismissed as "indie kids", Peace are a little more than that during a live set. They certainly arrived on a wave of hype, after signing a major record deal, but they’re out to prove their worth on stage.

Anyone sticking around for Fat White Family at 1am is rewarded: this set is one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Their antics on stage may have garnered them more attention in the press than their music, but the latter is important, and it's fitting that they perform in Liverpool after working with Sean Lennon's studio in New York (using some of John’s old Beatles equipment).

The sweating, oozing guitar notes on "Touch The Leather" along with Lias Saudi's dark drawls, is pure sleaze-rock, while "Cream of the Young" could soundtrack a post-modern adaptation of Lolita.

Each song explores some kind of taboo, in a similarly misanthropic way to Country Teasers, the UK post-punk band fronted by Ben Wallers, but Saudi sings with more of a leering fondness for the steaming mob of youths below him.

As the audience form a mosh pit at the front of the stage, Saudi thrusts a hand into his pants, touching himself, still singing. Eventually he removes the hand to clutch the mic instead, penis poking out of the side of his underwear, as the band rage into the final few moments of their set, and Sound City 2015 goes out with a bang. 

Super early bird tickets are available for Sound City 2016 on 1June

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