Over the weekend Far Out headed back to Bramley-Moore Dock on the banks of the Mersey for Liverpool Sound City’s second outing at the site.
After making the transition from a city centre, venue-hopping event to an outdoor extravaganza in 2015, there were a couple of kinks organisers seemed keen to iron out this year.
Stages are more spaced out in order to avoid sound clashes, and the huge Baltic Warehouse venue – which last year played host to a slightly tiresome ‘half-hour on, half-hour changeover’ running order – has been set aside to host DJ sets from some of the best known names in electronica.
Shortly after the Main Stage honours Viola Beach’s scheduled set with a recording of one of their final gigs, the Baltic flexes its newfound credentials with one of the first highlights of the weekend in the shape of Floating Points.
In a vast improvement on what was a slightly disinterested atmosphere when we caught him at the Ritz in Manchester back in February, the scousers seem to just get it that bit better.
Backed up soaring sax solos and a classically trained ensemble, Floating Points fills the space with an invigorating banquet of electronic jazz that is perfectly complemented by the rays of sunshine that subtly encroach the warehouse’s industrial confines.
A last minute drop out by Palma Violets means their set is replaced with a funky house showcase from stalwart DJ, Greg Wilson. It’s probably not the contingency that the indie fans were after, but the guitars soon return to the Atlantic Stage thanks to Southampton riff-addicts Band of Skulls.
They tear through firm favourites like ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ and ‘I Know What I Am’. Despite a slightly more sombre reception when they introduce newer material, all in all it’s an enjoyable show.
That simply doesn’t compare to the venom and animosity that pours out of Jason Williamson when the mighty Sleaford Mods arrive though. They kick the evening off with a Q&A with Dave Haslam over at the Tim Peaks Diner stage, discussing the versatility of entitling their debut record Wank, before taking on the Main Stage.
As the onset of night time comes and it’s clear a few are already sozzled, it looks like some struggle to fully take in the potency of Williamson’s trademark sneer, but each and every one seems to love it all the same. The punchy drum ‘n’ bass hook of ‘Jobseeker’ proves a high point.
The sound on the Atlantic Stage is at times a sore point, but with Catfish & the Bottlemen closing we’d long before made a decision to head elsewhere for headliners.
After a whirlwind couple of years, Far Out favourites Young Fathers now find themselves topping bills an they have the North Stage transfixed at the far end of the site.
Meanwhile at the Baltic Warehouse, the beats keep on coming courtesy of a triumphant return from Leftfield. Neil Barnes and co perfectly reimagine classics from their 90s heyday, while bringing their sound bang up to date alongside the pulsating techno and encapsulating synths from last year’s Alternative Light Source.
In the end, though, we just have to make it a headliner sandwich by heading off to catch the electrifying Cabbage at the Tim Peaks Diner. Their combination of acid-tongued post-punk and quick-whitted surf-rock has those down the front losing their minds and those at the back paralysed by intrigue. The most exciting bit is that they’re just starting out.
After Tim Peaks shuts its doors, however, it’s time to shoot back to Leftfield for a monumental finale. Their revved-up version of ‘Phat Planet’ lasts about 20-minutes, but feels like a whistle-stop rocket ride around the entire world.
After a hedonistic end to the first evening, it’s necessary to ease ourselves into Day 2 with an afternoon Main Stage set from Bill Ryder-Jones. It’s short and sweet from the Wirral singer-songwriter and former Coral guitarist, but a particularly spellbinding moment comes when he points out to the land mass of Birkenhead, the subject matter of the debut single from his recent album West Kirkby County Primary, which sits in viewing distance of the dock.
At this point in time, we become slightly concerned about the neglect we have levelled at the North and Tall Ship stages at the opposite end to the main arena – so that’s exactly where we head.
There, we find the bone-shaking, punk/psych hybrid of Crows, a London four-piece with plenty of bite. Tracks from the recent EP Unwelcome Light sound massive, as the band’s frontman bounds around the stage, and eventually into the crowd.
Other highlights on the North throughout the day include all-female grunge-pop outfit The Big Moon, who spice up their set with a cover of Madonna’s ‘Beautiful Stranger’, and the slightly more abrasive Dilly Dally, who warm up fiercely for a headline show from Libertine, Babyshamble and incessant project-hopper, Pete(r) Doherty.
The North Stage is positioned perpendicularly to the Tall Ship, a garishly Captain Morgan’s-sponsored performance space on a boat that plays host to some occasionally uncomfortable-looking bands. Organisers have attempted to avoid sound bleeding on a rather windier second day by ensuring sets on one stage begin immediately after a set on the other stage has finished. This sounds like a masterstroke in space utilisation on paper, but inevitably the North Stage gradually overruns throughout the day, with sound checks and programming thrown into incongruence.
Manchester’s Horsebeach are one band whose short performance is enchanting, fusing lo-fi guitar work with ear-worm melodies, but again the sound-check taking place on the North is a bit distracting.
After a hit-packed set from the Dandy Warhols and a massive homecoming from Circa Waves, it’s time for another local outfit to bring proceedings to a close, but unfortunately The Coral’s headline set is tainted by technical hitches. The sound, the lights and at one point the entire power supply at the Atlantic go off, meaning a busy crowd is left wanting and the full scale of the band’s new psych-edged record isn’t really flaunted to its full potential.
In that respect, it’s a disappointing end, but luckily the Baltic once again comes to the rescue with an enthralling marathon set from remix kings 2ManyDJs.
It’s been a weekend sprinkled with special moments and some mild inconveniences, but with Sound City still finding itself bedding into its new home, there’s no doubt the good times will continue to roll next year with an operation that is getting ever-smoother.