The sun was out for us at Sound City festival last weekend. Blue skies for the bank holiday weekend spent at the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool’s coolest creative and cultural hub. Back to its original roots, the 11th edition of the two-day festival did not disappoint. 

As festival season has now officially begun, Sound City is one of many similar scale festivals held on the same weekend. It’s hard to pick which one to attend, especially when line ups are competing, but this year Sound City won me over! With a good mixture of well-known acts and emerging talent, Sound City showcases the best in new music along with local bands and newly tipped headliners. Set in the heart of the Baltic Triangle, warehouses, cultural offices, market stalls and bars all came together to create amazing venues for the festival. The main benefit of this being that each stage is only a short walk from one another, meaning that you were unlikely to miss your favourite acts. With everywhere you went there were volunteers to greet you and food stalls, bars and toilets to fit all your needs. 

We started early on the first day with False Advertising playing second on the bill at the Baltic Market stage. The venue, which unlike others didn’t require a wristband to gain entry, is a street food market by day and a drinking hub by night. Before their set we caught up with the band for some quick portraits. 

Regardless of the early start and sun shining outside, the Baltic Market was filling up nicely inside. False Advertising took to the stage and played a lively half an hour set, before having to rush off to play at another festival later that day. The three piece are certainly a band to watch out for, hailing from Manchester the heavy yet authentic sound is a dynamic contrast against current music trends. This band add another element when Jen and Chris swap between drums, guitar and lead vocals half way through the set, before switching again to conclude. 

Next up were lively Sheffield band RedFaces, they played the first slot at the dark and sticky Hangar 34. Having just opened and being one of the bigger venues at the festival, it took a while to fill up. There wasn’t much of an audience before RedFaces came on, although once finished they had attracted quite the crowd with everyone dancing around to the indie vibes. With each song played a short introduction was made, before going into each song jumping around the stage and playing short bits of guitar beside each other. The four-piece have probably got a long way to go, but they are making vital movements in the right directions. 

We caught up with Calva Louise ahead of their 5:30 set on the District stage for a chat and some portraits. They told me I should definitely go and see Catholic Action right before their set, so I did just that and got in early to make sure I was down the front ready for Calva Louise. Having not heard of them prior to the set, Catholic Action pleasantly surprised me with their bold style and alternative guitar sound. 

With everyone now crammed into the venue, Calva Louise put on a lively show, but did we really expect anything less? Killing it on an early slot and in a small venue, it really won’t be long before this band are playing sold out headline tours. It’s hard to pinpoint a genre for this band, but that doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is that they are an extremely talented trio who are going to turn heads, or ears should I say. Finishing on one of their only two songs on Spotify, ‘I’m Gonna Do Well’ went down a storm, with everyone hoping the set was longer than just half an hour. 

Once the set had come to a close I had an hour or so to kill, so I was on the lookout for some new music. I ran across Judas by accident, but thought I’d stay for the set and see what they were all about. The Liverpool band are obviously hugely loved in the city, proving it by playing an arena gig in the city to round off their headline UK tour later this month. Giving off good fun vibes and The Pigeon Detectives influences, this band have some potential chart singles. The pop songs are held together with rocky riffs and basslines, and audience engagement, but there’s just something missing for me. However, they did put on a good show, Judas are noticeably a popular band with an energetic frontman who looked like he was loving it. 

In the run up to Saturday headliners DMA’s, we headed to the Camp and Furnace main stage to catch Neon Waltz and Black Honey in the support slots. 

After the high of seeing Calva Louise and then being slightly disheartened by Judas I couldn’t wait to catch Neon Waltz, as they were guaranteed to lift the moods. Neon Waltz are definitely a band to watch out for, featured in our top five bands to check out at Sound City, they definitely did not disappoint. Maybe even sounding better live, the upbeat dreamy psychedelic rock band look something incredible on stage. Coming from Caithness, a tiny town in Scotland, the band sounded massive whilst playing a set full of singalong songs. Neon Waltz might just be my new favourite band. I urge you to give them a listen if they haven’t already won you over. 

Next up were Black Honey, although initially confused, as a performance piece took over in the middle of the standing area right before their set was about to begin. Not sure if it was something to do with them, everyone was looking at each other in confusion, only to find out afterwards that it was a performance piece by Edge Hill University, who couldn’t have picked a more inconvenient time or place. I’m sure it was a great performance but by this point I had already been let into the photo pit, where I had to stand not being able to see anything for half an hour whilst this went on, outside near the Baltic Market would have been a hell of a lot more appropriate… 

Anyway, after what felt like hours, it finally ended, Black Honey rushed their sound check whilst their stage manager crossed off songs from their set. Even though the performance made them late on stage they still smashed it even if they were only left with a short amount of time to impress. Singer Izzy sets a huge example for women in the music industry, her attitude and stage presence is full of sass and confidence, just what we need. She is a great frontwoman, but the rest of the band back her up musically to create a pretty impressive line-up. Although their set was cut short, this snippet of Black Honey might have changed a few perceptions. 

Our recent favourite Aussie band DMA’s were up next for their headline slot. Seeing singer Tommy O’Dell walking around the festival without a care in the world earlier on in the day, showed his modesty towards the fans. This humble, yet oh so cool, attitude shines on throughout the set too. It makes me wonder if they ever expected to become so well loved? They are a band who are going far, two albums in and they are smashing it. Especially with already headlining a festival half way across the world, it’s pretty good going. Their dreamy Britpop love songs win over the audience, who are tightly compact inside the sweaty Camp and Furnace. 

What a great first day! 

Due to a hectic first day whilst we caught up on sleep and recharged batteries, it appears everyone else has had the same idea. Regrettably missing earlier bands, the first band we see is Indoor Pets. Prior to their gig we met up with them for a chat and some portraits. 

Indoor Pets have a level of energy many bands would be envious of. Playing upstairs in the Blade Factory, the four-piece are all clearly into it, making the tiny room jump. Everyone is having a great time, swaying and bopping around with their mates like its 11pm on a Saturday night (in reality it’s 5:50pm on a Sunday). Again, a band I don’t think necessarily fit into a specific traditional genre, their unique style has attracted many fans to the set. Although upstairs, the dark square venue hugely reminds me of the basement where I initially heard their music, it was played at a house party in Salford over two years ago. With a name change, much more experience and now a record label behind them, Indoor Pets are going to be huge in no time. 

Their set clashed with another of my artists to look out for, JW Ridley. Fortunately for me, they were playing the same venue, one upstairs and one downstairs, his set was running a few minutes behind so this meant I was able to catch them both in full. Hurray for festivals not being on time and running to my schedule instead. 

Echo-y and hollow sounding on recording, whilst watching his set it came to life. Standing alone on a floor level stage under a vivid red light, he almost looked like an art installation. Unsettling yet beautiful, his songs are a work of art in their own sense. It’s hard to say where exactly JW Ridley will be in a few year’s time, as he’s at such an early stage in his career, but there’s certainly a gap in the music industry waiting for him and his distinctive sound. After his art installation enthused set, Jack had a few portraits taken. 

Back to Camp and Furnace for Sundays headliner act, Peace. Beforehand we were treat to a set from The Night Café, who impressed me. They are a band I have never really chosen to listen to, however they appear on my Spotify more times than I can remember. Their songs catch my attention, so I check who it is and 9 times out of 10 it’s The Night Café, maybe I should just listen to them properly rather than relying on Spotify to do the job for me (this is not a Spotify ad). As the crowd were jumping around having fun, their compelling and cheerful indie songs won me over. 

We didn’t have to wait long before Peace took to the stage. Having just released their third album, jokingly saying it’s their last, we know the band are onto big things with this one. Initially feeling slightly slower than their previous releases, this album holds a handful of live anthems. Opening up with latest single ‘Power’, everyone is set up for what proves to be an amazing set. Playing a lot of first time plays off the new album ‘Kindness Is the New Rock and Roll’, the audience had soon learnt the words and were singing them back to the band with passion. It quickly becomes apparent how these songs mix perfectly amongst old favourites to create a spot-on festival set list. Peace are just heading out on their latest UK tour, which runs for the next couple of weeks, go see them if you can, you won’t be disappointed! 

Overall what an amazing weekend! Support local bands and businesses by going to small scale festivals. They are a lot less commercialised and you’re guaranteed to have fun and stumble across your new favourite band. Sound City is a perfect example of a well-run Northern inner-city music festival, we already can’t wait until next year. 

Words and Photography by Abbie Jennings for When The Horn Blows

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