Liverpool took a step into the Inner-City Centre Festival format with Liverpool Calling last weekend. The brain child of Andy Gilbert and Krys Hudson, promoting the burgeoning talent pool of indie rock roll from across the country, Liverpool Calling followed the footsteps of events like Tramlines (Sheffield) and Live at Leeds, as a host of Liverpool venues paid stage to a plethora of musical righteousness over two days.
Although not quite having to make a ten-hour journey like some of the bands who had hot-footed it up from the IOW festival, we still fell foul of the M6 traffic and only just managed to land in time to catch the impressive Himalayas.
Seen before at YNOT the 4-piece crew from the Valleys have been making waves with their resounding stage presence, and the early evening gathering crowd at Jacaranda Records were not disappointed. The anthemic ‘Thank God I’m Not You’ highlighting their set, fine guitar riffs and sharp lyrics aplenty. No surprises that distant shores have called alongside the BBC for Joe and his quartet.
Getting around at any Festival also poses the perennial clash challenge, and Liverpool Calling was no different. Day 1 venues were centred around Seel Street in reasonably close proximity but unfortunately still meant a miss for two great bands Polar States and Generation. Apologies – next time. One that was to be never missed was the totemic sound of Avalanche Party.
Up the road at Studio 2, fresh from the Isle of Wight, Jordan Bell, Jared Thorpe (vocals/guitar), Kane Waterfield (drums), Joe Bell (bass) and Glen Adkins (keyboards) reverberate the quintessential sound of what is so good about today’s music that’s out there right now. Booming bass drops like a B-52’s pay load and searing solos undercut by a pumping drum beat and Manzarek’esque keys paint a distinctive sound field for Bell’s brooding presence. A front man with a satanic panache and a 1000-yard stare. The opening ‘I’m So Wet’ is a killer, putting a marker down for 40 minutes of live musical brilliance, the current single ‘Porcelain’ being a particular favourite. Outstanding.
Studio 2 held the stage for the next ‘must see’, the all-girl three-piece Hey Charlie. Don’t be fooled by the uniform or the trailing locks, there is no pop-manufactured sound from these guys. I made the mistake of not listening to them before and arriving with high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. From the welcome profusion of profanities in their opener (Love Machine?) and the way they owned the stage it was obvious to see what all the fuss was about. Deservedly so, a riotous mash of melody and energy.
Back at Jacaranda to quickly catch the end of a fine set from Liverpool’s Life At The Arcade and then rediscover one of life’s unknown pleasures, Strange Bones. I’d seen these Lytham lads at Leeds Festival a couple of years back and remembered the back-stage chat, but had forgotten the mesmeric, ‘What-The-Fuck?!’, stage show they presented. Bobby is one hell-of-a lead for the ferocious energy that they pile unforgivingly into their live show. There are no prisoners, there is no escape, it’s rock and roll as it should be with a distinctive nod back to 1977 and plenty of today’s drum and bass in the eclectic mix. ‘Sick of it All’ is a favourite on my own This Feeling playlist, and the guitar work grips you like a 30-foot python. It’s a banger, to put not too fine a point on it. The frenzy, the rush and the music it’s something special, and if you’ve passed the age of 17, get down and see Strange Bones and you’ll remember how life feels so good again. Blind Faith No Future – Immense.
Last up was a fitting finale to a great first evening, False Heads’ belting climax to Day 1 at EBGBs. Destined for a Croatian Centre Stage and tipped by some guy called Iggy, then you can’t fault the talent and attitude they meld into the energy of a midnight mash-up to a rapturous crowd.
Luke Griffith’s on lead guitar and vocals is a modern-day wizard, Barney’s calculated cadence of chaos on the drums and Jake’s sonorous bass melt into some merciless musical majesty. New single ‘Retina’ and old favourite ‘Steal and Cheat’ are among the highlights and leave the Day 1 conclusion on one of those ‘don’t-want-it-to-end’ moments. Talent that’s going places.
Saturday saw a shift in location over to the Baltic Triangle. No daft idea as the pubs, clubs and assortment of converted bars play host to a gaggle of Saturday afternoon folk readily imbibing the local nectar and looking for something good to watch.
Most of Saturday was spent at Constellations between the outdoor garden in the afternoon sunshine or the spacious indoor stage. The former, smaller stage gave an airing to some mellifluous hip hop sounds of Jamie Broad and Nicola Jane as well as an acoustic set from the impressive Will Varley. Broad and Nicola Jane had a complementary mix, and sounded sharp as a Mo Salah strike with ‘More Than I Need’ being a stand-out.
Will Varley entertained a sizeable crowd with a repertoire of well known favourites that had the masses singing along to the lyrics. A very enjoyable spot in the sunny stage.
Indoors, Constellations staged a succession of bands requiring Michael Faraday’s medium to pump out their belting sounds. Soeur being a notable highlight in the afternoon. The evening continued with further fine sets from DeMob Happy and Wytches setting the standard for Pulled About By Horses to follow. A decade on from their formation, the Leeds band showcased a full house with a ridiculous amount of high-octane rock and roll. Favourites ‘I Punched a Lion In the Throat’ and ‘Back to the Fuck Yeah’ illuminating a memorable climax.
The third stage for Saturday’s High Jinks was over on Brick Street. A stage that resembled the half-built warehouse in Reservoir Dogs with a big red bus parked outside the demolished outer wall of the venue was a surreal way to conclude the night with the unmissable SHEAFS.
Opening with the wall of pure wondrous sound that is ‘Fickle’ the five-piece band centred in Sheffield ripped the remains of the place apart with a frenzied set of top-quality, musical masterpieces. Despite several stage distractions the professionalism and pure intensity of the guitar driven frenzy was faultless. ‘Show You What I Mean’ and ‘Mind Pollution’ sending those lucky enough to have ventured to the front into rapture. The modern anthem ‘This Is Not A Protest’ ended Liverpool Calling on an appropriate high. A long drive back home and a flight to Norway beckoned, the sounds of a great festival weekend ringing merrily in the ear drums all the way. Memorable times: Big Thanks to Krys and Andy and to Veso.