Day two of Liverpool Sound City saw us avoid the big venues and headline acts and concentrate on some of the smaller stages and bands that have been on our must-see list for a while or those we'd missed when they were last in Manchester. Across another scorching hot day in Liverpool, we caught The Seamonsters, Violet Youth, Dishpit, White Room, Dirty Laces, Peaness, Hey Charlie, Average Sex and Berries.
We're up and at them much earlier than the day before on Sunday, and the main reason is The Seamonsters opening up the Pirate Studios stage in Baltic Market at the very un-rock and roll time of 12.45. They're more than worth it though, their brilliantly off-kilter songs are the perfect wake up on a beautiful sunny day. The likes of Blue Movie, recent single Max And Archie, Anonymous and a new song L'Amour Est Un Jeu Fou (we think) are a lot of fun, but with a message that you probably shouldn't mess with them either. They don't sound like anyone else, they don't look like anyone else (not even each other) and they finish their final song Lost And Found all lying down on the floor. It'd be a mistake though to just look at that playfulness and their gang togetherness and ignore the fact that they're a great live band.
Violet Youth are up next in the Baltic Market, and like us, they're probably more suited to a dark venue than this cavernous space on a baking hot summer day. That aside, the Blackburn four-piece have assembled an impressive set of songs, in particular recent single She Said and the stand-out track Lucid Dream. Owen, their front man, has a bit of Ian McCulloch about him, which goes down well with the assembled locals. There's little show to them, but the strength of their songs does their work for them.
As they finish there's two women dancing by the speaker who catch our eye. It turns out they're the next band, so we're intrigued and hang around. It's that sort of brilliant chance at festivals like this that allow you to discover brilliant bands. Dishpit could be a real mess, their songs have little structure to them, dashing, darting, jumping all over the place, their opening song Trash Queen feels like it's about six different ones by the time they're done with it. They say they hate their new single Bender because it's too poppy, when it's nothing of the sort and they've got a song about a dead rat. Nora, Jack and Brianna might seem like they're completely nuts, but by the end of the set they've got a room full of people eating out of the palms of their hands and baying for more chaos.
It's then over to Constellations Gardens where we were expecting to see Fuzzy Sun, but instead got Brighton's White Room due to schedule changes. In the baking heat they deliver a set of dark songs like Cannibal Song (which talks of eating someone like beans and rice) and Twisted Celebration from last year's Eight EP. They're at their best when Jake's vocals merge with Josie's backing vocals to give songs an extra lift that matches their ambition to create something that's both challenging for the audience. Having their slot changed at the last moment means most of the audience were probably there expecting someone else, but they get one of the best responses of the weekend.
Next up are Dirty Laces, a band that wear their love of their hometown Manchester on their sleeves, but do it with a style and an ear for a tune that you can't do anything but forgive them for it. The likes of In Time, Contagious, Back In The Light and the title track of their recent EP The Modern Age bear all the hallmarks of those guitar-led classics that you immediately feel like you've known all your life even if it's the first time you've heard them and they've got that cocksure arrogance about them in both Charlie's vocal delivery and the way his band mates don't go for big gestures but let their playing do their talking that shouts out the belief they've got in what they're doing.
We head back across to Baltic Market for Peaness, a band we haven't seen for quite a while now. They've still got some of our old favourites in their set - Oh George, Same Place and Skinsurfing from their Are You Sure EP - but it's their forthcoming single Kaizen that really stands out, possessing all the jangling elegance we've come to love from Balla, Rach and Jess, but which continues the progress they've made over the three years since they first started out. They've still got that insatiable joy of performing, they make the audience have a great time by osmosis and by the end they've charmed a whole load more new people.
The Baltic Market isn't really set up for a moshpit or the band being in the crowd, but that's exactly what Hey Charlie do. Fabulously blending rock, grunge and pop, they aurally assault the crowd with a set of songs - including singles Hey, Love Machine and Young And Lonesome - that wouldn't be out of place headlining one of the bigger stages. Lizz, Sophie and Lauren share backing vocals and a uniform of sorts and revel in the melee that they create in front of the stage even when beer ends up over some of their kit. Heartbreaker, a not too distant relative of Dream Wife's similarly named tune, probably tops the lot though as Hey Charlie deliver the most energetic exciting set we see all weekend.
It's then back to Constellations Gardens for Average Sex, one of our unmissable bands of the weekend. "We are Average Sex, hence all the shit jokes" Laetita tells us, one of the twenty or so times she tells us her band's name. She laughs with two guys down the front, dedicating You Suck to them and making reference to twelve inches when plugging their EP. Average Sex are fun. Musically they're a joy, songs are two minute or so punches to the nether regions, never standing still, always on the edge of breaking down, with lyrics about licking faces before they melt (Ice Cream), setting cars on fire (We're Done) and the joys of going out and getting pissed and having sex (Ugly Strangers). Their new material, including Melody and Come Over, from an EP that's coming out in July is every bit as scattergun and brilliant. They veer between effortlessly cool and just the right side of bonkers and are the highlight of our weekend.
Last up for us before we depart back home for work on the Monday are London's Berries playing on a makeshift stage at Birdies Bar. They threaten to knock our heads, and those who've escaped here for a pint in the shade, with eight songs of the highest order. Holly, Lauren and Lucie have developed so far as a band in the last twelve months since they released their debut Those Funny Things EP that they're almost unrecognisible. Even the fact that they're not playing a traditional venue (and Birdies have done a great job putting this stage together) doesn't faze them at all. Faults and Vow, their latest two singles are joined in the set by other new tracks Discretely, Dangerous and another new one that they don't introduce to make their presence felt. You sense people stopping conversations to get closer and listen to them and we leave with the conviction that's going to be happening on an increasingly frequent basis from now on.
This was our first time at Sound City and we have to say the experience was on a par with The Great Escape in Brighton, the benchmark for these types of urban street festivals. There were a few problems on the Saturday with stage times being thrown out of the window and the app not reflecting them and bands unsure of what was going on, but that's a minor quibble. Venues weren't overfilled despite a sell-out on the Saturday and generally easily accessible, staff friendly and knowledgeable and the location of the Baltic Quarter with no more than five minutes walk between venues making it an almost perfect location.
Berries are on Facebook and Twitter.
Average Sex are on Facebook and Twitter.
Hey Charlie are on Facebook and Twitter.
Peaness's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Dirty Laces' official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Dishpit are on Facebook.
White Room's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Violet Youth are on Facebook and Twitter.
The Seamonsters are on Facebook and Twitter.