Live Report: Sound City 2022

Live Report: Sound City 2022

A whistle-stop new music tour...

Even if the weather is on the turn, there’s no dampening the energy in the air at Liverpool’s Sound City. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the festival line-up continues to prove just why it’s become such a staple in so many people’s musical calendars; with so many genres on offer, the event is truly the hunting ground for fresh, exciting new talents. There’s no saying who you’ll discover in one of the many city-centre venues - from rough punk to floating bedroom-pop, the selection on offer is dizzying… so there’s not a second to waste.

With a pint at the ready and a clashfinder to hand, let’s delve into the thick of it all!

Day One

Kicking off the weekend in style is the gorgeously brooding Buggs. Their introspective bedroom-indie sound perfectly suits the intimacy of the small Shipping Forecast space, dreamily charming the packed crowd. The haze of jangly indie is quickly switched up over in Kazimier Stockroom, however - Dirty Laces’ garage rock has the room buzzing, easily infusing the air with a scrappy rock and roll buzz.

The Oozes carry on the scrappy energy with their charged, tongue-in-cheek punk energy. As frontman Tom Gilbert bounces around in his frilly red neck ruffle, knocking out belters about strap-ons and infantile political leaders, you can’t help but be won over; their charisma is undeniable, and their sound is a bright wallop of playfully charged delight.

Sprinting over to Jimmy’s, it’s time for the glorious Phoebe Green. Her set is as expected - ethereal. Despite being hungover (naughty, Phoebe), she has the room eating out of her hand, her voice totally gorgeous. The lighting only adds to the dreamy atmosphere, thick smoke and woozy blue heightening the weight of her already hypnotic set.

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One of the stand-out performances of the weekend comes in the form of synth-pop duo Speedboat; brothers Johnny and Will Griffiths are a total hidden gem. The pair perform their new-wave inspired, pulsing melodies with conviction, as if performing to a totally packed out club. Their sound oozes innovation and experimentation, playful synths paired with nostalgic vocals - definitely an act to keep an eye on.

In an equally as experimental vein is North Macedonian act Funk Shui. Their art rock fills the room, everyone gripped by their eclectic sound and liminal presence. Grandma’s House follow on, the rumbling of punk guitars and floor-thumping basslines quickly shifting the atmosphere. The queer punk-trio’s sound is intimidatingly fierce; as the trio croon out “there’s no place like home”, it feels like a twisted fairytale, Yasmin Berndt’s deep vocals filled with a dark, ironic edge.

Liverpool’s own Crawlers are the star performers of the day, however. Knocking out not one but three sets over the weekend, it’s clear that these alt-rockers were set on being heard this weekend. And, believe us, it’s impossible not to - their sound is loud, proud and distinctive. Their ability to move from gorgeous, creeping soundscapes into formidable, sickeningly cool guitar anthems is magnificent - all-the-while singer Holly Minto charms the masses, fizzling with excitement, winning over everyone in the room.

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Day Two

Canadian ensemble Super Duty Tough Work are the gold-standard of contemporary, innovative jazz. Fusing brass with a fierce dose of hip hop, the collective gorgeously transport you into a classy speakeasy, all before dragging you back into the basement as they churn out emotive, raw rap. The combination is a treat, truly honouring classic sounds and dragging them into the here-and-now. Truly spellbinding.

Over in the Arts Club Theatre, KAWALA take to the stage. The group are the embodiment of bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, charming the room with ease; it’s impossible not to totally fall in love with the guys, especially as singer Jim Higson is dancing round the stage, physically infected by the flow of percussion from head to toe. As the guys call out “sing along if you know it - and if you don’t, just pretend, that’s what we do!”, that’s the final piece of the puzzle - nobody can stop themselves from dancing along to their shimmering, afrobeat-infused melodies.

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In EBGBs, we find the pop-punk-tinged rockers stayMellow. Their quick, poppy flow is a treat, easily brightening the dark depths of the chamber-like basement setting. The bright, bouncy singalongs are a joy to behold, every track grin-inducing. Over in The Shipping Forecast, West London artist Xadi treats the crowd to a healthy dose of introspective rap. His melodic flow is mesmerising, the R&B and grime elements easily merging together and resulting in a totally gorgeous burst of rich, compelling sound.

Multi-instrumentalists Mumble Tide follow on, the bedroom-pop duo wowing the crowd with their hectic, ever shifting selection of instruments. Trumpets sound while singer Gina Leonard is still wearing her acoustic guitar, while Ryan Rogers performs on a pair of electric keyboards. The patchworking of sounds works a treat, totally shimmering with rich, gorgeous textures.

Speaking of gorgeous - let us take a moment to honour true alt-pop royalty. Baby Queen takes to the Arts Club Theatre solo, and every moment is a blessing. From the wobbly, giddy charm of ‘Internet Religion’, to the heart-melting ‘Want Me’ (which Baby Queen takes a moment to confess was written as a love letter to Killing Eve Star Jodie Comer), the crowd is truly invested. Despite not having her band with her, the performance is magnificent, every track capturing exactly the spark that they do on record. The set feels like a crowning moment - Baby Queen is truly the queen of soul-baring, nihilistic indie-pop.

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Returning to the catacombs of EBGBs, we catch the firecracker that is Bambie Thug. Their gritty, sensual hyperpop is a curious treat, every track punchy and bold. As they prance around the stage, vixen-like vocals exploding out, you can’t look away - their spiky stage outfit only emphasising their sharp dance moves, Vogue-like movements perfectly matching the eclectic, dark beat of each track.

As a weekend of marvellous talent draws to a close, we find ourselves in the thick of Self Esteem’s crowd to see Sound City off. And, boy, is it a way to end things on a high - Rebecca Lucy Taylor is a bona fide star. Her experimental pop bangers are magnificent, her charisma oozing into each track and elevating it, each note full of charm and life. As you stand in the crowd, soaking up the magnitude of tracks like ‘Fucking Wizardry’ and the anthemic ‘MOODY’, there’s no questioning why her previous album ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ was crowned the 2021 album of the year by The Guardian - this is the height of modern pop.

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