Review: Liverpool Sound City 2015 (including The Vaccines, The Flaming Lips, Belle and Sebastian, Everything Everything, The Cribs, + more)

Liverpool Sound City has always been a firm favourite of mine on the festival calendar, but after last year’s exceptional event Sound City 2015 had a lot to live up to. Watching nineteen of my favourite bands in some of the most amazing venues across town — from a packed out Circa Waves show in the loft at EVAC, midnight performances from Blood Red Shoes and Royal Blood in a garage car park to a spectacular performance from Kodaline in the Anglican Cathedral — I wasn’t sure this year’s festival would even come close, especially with the move to new venue Bramley Moore Dock, but how wrong I was!

Arriving on-site on Friday, I still wasn’t convinced by the move away from town to Sound City’s new waterfront home and was missing the hustle and bustle the metropolitan festival usually brings to the city. Whilst there was a wave of excitement in the air it didn’t quite feel like the Sound City I know and love and a quick tour around the site didn’t have much impact. Cue a few hours of live music, increasing crowds and bumping into familiar faces Sound City 2015 was starting to look very different and I was slowly warming to the new venue.

Whilst the location may have shifted the ethos had very much stayed the same with a great mixture of upcoming and established bands playing across the various stages of the festival with Friday’s highlights coming from Liverpool born Circa Waves, local band Polar States and headliners The Vaccines.

Circa Waves performance at last year’s Sound City was one of the best of the whole festival so it was no surprise a last minute announcement adding the band to the bill on Friday night was met with pure excitement by pretty much everyone I know. The boys have had a busy year from sold out shows to the release of their debut album Young Chasers so watching them play The North Stage was a real treat to which most of the Sound City crowd turned out to see. It may not have been t shirt weather, but Circa Waves definitely got the temperatures rising at Sound City 2015. Another year and another killer set by local lads done good let’s hope they make it three years in a row and return for Sound City 2016 (hint hint)!

Next up was Polar States, and as I approached The Record Store tent with such large crowds surrounding, it was touch and go whether or not I’d actually make it inside. Thankfully, I fought my way through. Whilst I only managed to catch the start of their set before dashing off to shoot Everything Everything I was pretty glad I did Polar States sounded amazing. I’d seen half of the band live previously as The Thespians, but hadn’t managed to catch Polar States live until now this may have been the first time, but it certainly won’t be the last. One song in and it was pretty clear why the band recently sold out Liverpool Academy 2, Polar States are definitely one to check out don’t just take my word for it I hear the lads from Circa Waves were also amongst the crowd!

Final highlight of the day came from headliners The Vaccines. Now it’s no secret how much I love this band, I’ve been watching them for years and their show at the Albert Hall in Manchester recently was so good it’s already a contender for gig of the year, well it was until Sound City 2015 rocked up! Blistering guitars, catchy vocals, and illuminating visuals, The Vaccines know how to put on one hell of a show. With a mixture of classic and current tracks including those from newly released third album English Graffiti The Vaccines definitely blew up the Atlantic Stage from start to finish the band had everyone in the crowd either moshing, surfing or simply dancing the night away. The Vaccines certainly brought day one to a spectacular close so much so I left pretty excited for day two of the new look Sound City Festival.

Day two kicked off with a clash of two local bands playing opposing stages Strange Collective on The Baltic Stage and The Vryll Society on The Atlantic Stage. Apart from the toilets band clashes are always the worst thing about festivals thankfully due to a fifteen minute overlap I managed to catch both. Strange Collective immediately impressed and despite having to cut their set short to dash off elsewhere they left me wanting more especially as guitarist Ali Horn told me afterwards they kept the good stuff for the second half of their set!

Over on The Atlantic stage, The Vryll Society kicked off the day’s festivities with another great set, despite the early start and the looming hangovers from the night before a decent crowd turned out to watch the local lads play the main stage. After hearing track Beautiful Faces earlier this month at Live at Leeds and again at Sound City it’s fast becoming a firm favourite and is performed brilliantly live. Despite a break last year whilst the band transformed from The Dirty Rivers to The Vryll Society the band haven’t lost any of their magic on stage and continue to be one of the most promising new bands around, their new direction certainly seems to be taking them in all the right places with Sound City just one of the many festivals the band are playing this summer watch out The Vryll Society are coming your way.

Judas were one of the bands I was most excited to see at this year’s festival and they lived up to my expectations ten times over. Having watched John Clancy’s previous band The Razz play Sound City 2013 I had an idea of what to expect however the explosive performance they gave The North stage on Saturday afternoon was something else. For a relatively new band they performed together on stage liked seasoned pros showcasing just how talented they are individually and as a band. Performing tracks such as Call Me (which I’ve had on repeat since), Judas were not only one of the highlights of the day, but of the whole festival get yourselves back up North soon please boys.

Between security and photographers, there seemed to be almost as many people in the pit as on the other side of the barrier whilst waiting to shoot The Flaming Lips on Saturday night. As the elaborate stage was being constructed the anticipation grew I simply couldn’t wait to see the show and what an experience it was. As if Wayne Coyne appearing in a florescent green ensemble complete with a pink Dora The Explora guitar wasn’t enough, two giant cannons proceeded to fire out a seemingly never ending ticker tape parade a few minutes in. An enormous “Fuck Yeah Liverpool” balloon, Coyne’s famous inflatable ball and even a marriage proposal followed to mark an unforgettable end to Day two of Sound City 2015.

Best dressed band of the weekend The Hummingbirds played the Atlantic, which felt more like the Baltic, stage on Day three of Liverpool Sound City. Suited and booted in their trademark sharp attire they played a memorable set for those who braved the freezing conditions Sunday brought the festival. Despite the cold and the large paper mache mess left by a combination of heavy rain and The Flaming Lips’ massive ticker tape parade the night before, the early start was definitely worth it to catch one of Liverpool’s finest bands. Playing tracks from their upcoming debut album the band showed off their perfect harmonies and acoustic skills demonstrating exactly why they belong on the big stage watch this space.

I’m faced with a real dilemma whenever I see The Mispers live; on one hand, I just want to put my camera down and dance yet on the other, their performances are always so captivating I just want to catch every minute and their set. Them playing The Baltic stage on Sunday was no different. The Mispers are one of the most diverse bands I’ve come across not only do they have great vocals and immense guitar skills, they have drums, keys and even a violin all topped with some of the most energetic performances I’ve ever seen live I really can’t get enough of this band.

Atlantic Stage headliners Belle and Sebastian certainly brought the party to Liverpool Sunday night with another visual and musical extravaganza. Standing directly in front of Stuart Murdoch I have to admit I was totally mesmerised by their performance it was truly an experience I’ll never forget. The band’s performance of track Party Line was one of the many highlights as was the band’s interaction with the crowd one which culminated in several members of the audience even being invited to join the band on stage well done Sound City three nights three spectacular headliners.

All in all, Sound City 2015 was an amazing adventure and whilst I may still reminisce over past Sound City festivals after experiencing three days of the new look festival Sound City remains one of the most anticipated and exciting events of the year. There’s no doubt there were teething problems with the move, but with any project in its infancy this is to be expected the biggest problem I have is having to wait a whole year to do it all again roll on 2016.

Follow updates from Liverpool Sound City here.

Review by Fi Carroll (@dirtyroknroller)

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