A scorching hot summer's day isn't the ideal time to spend in indoor venues watching bands, yet that was the choice of thousands who flocked to Liverpool's Baltic Quarter for the first day of this year's Sound City Festival. Back in its spiritual home, the festival put on over a dozen stages championing the best in new music. We caught Catholic Action, Calva Louise, Luvia, Déjà Vega, Rews and The Slow Readers Club.
First band of the day for us was at District for Modern Sky's showcase and their first two bands of the day. Catholic Action opened up proceedings, playing their first show in Liverpool and the Glasgow four-piece impressed from the off. Playing tracks from last year's In Memory Of album as well as early singles like Rita Ora, they've got a set of songs full of hooks that draw you in effortlessly and big choruses that come in and grab you by the throat and don't let go. Front man Chris is an engaging live wire and his band mates - particularly Jamie on bass - play this early afternoon show like they're headlining one of the biggest venues in town. They've got a packed audience in early, no mean feat given it's like a sauna already.
Next up are London based Calva Louise, another band playing their first show in Liverpool and it's clear that Modern Sky are trying to corner the market in young effervescent pop / indie crossover. Led by Jess, they slide from moments where they threaten to drown us in vocal harmony drenched songs that lead to involuntary nodding of heads and tapping of feet around the room to others where they threaten to rip our heads off. The likes of Outrageous, Getting Closer and I Never Do Well are the sort of songs that will have thousands under their spell should that opportunity ever arise for them.
We head over to the Baltic Social where things have gone a little awry timing-wise, so we catch the last couple of songs of Avalanche Party's set before we then stumble across Luvia's gorgeous solo set. Fighting against a bar crowd, she still manages to remain unfazed to grab the attention with a set of heartfelt intimate stories including recent single For You. There's a richness and depth to her voice that perfectly frames her songs and we're delighted to have made a new discovery, which is half the joy of these events.
Next up, over an hour late and cut to five songs as a result, are Rews. The two-piece are one of the most fun bands to watch around, there's a brilliant chemistry between Shauna and Colette, both musically and in the way they interact, joking with each other about stage positions and their sound checking routines. The songs, taken from their brilliant debut album Pyro, belie the fact that there's only the two of them. Miss You In The Dark, in particular, gets the small but energetic crowd clapping along as if they're headlining the festival, which in another world they probably could.
Stuart's left to go and watch Déjà Vega at Constellations Garden and reported back. Deja Vega have a great tea time slot. It's that point in the festival day when you've been in a while and there's still a long way to go. Déjà Vega lift the spirits and then some. They're on the picturesque Constellations Garden Stage. The sun is shining and the place is packed as they deliver a mesmerising full on half hour set. Singer and guitarist Jack uses his incredible array of pedals to create a stunning soundscape whilst the ferocious rhythm section of Mike and Tom add their magic to the mix. To the surprise and disbelief of some of my friends, this is my first Déjà Vega gig and it certainly won't be the last. From the outset, they have the power to draw you in. By the time they reach final song The Test, Jack is using his fx rack to channel his vocals and if there were any causal observers in the crowd, they are now truly won over. Awesome.
We head over then to Hangar 34 for The Slow Readers Club. It's testament to how far they've come that they can headline what is effectively the second stage of this festival and they deliver a set that's tailor made for such occasions. With only an hour to play with, they've got tough setlist decisions to make, but they select a mix of tracks of across their three albums that seems to get it just right. With their READERS army down the front they make it feel like it's their own gig, the likes of You Opened Up My Heart, Lunatic, Sirens, Feet On Fire, I Saw A Ghost and Forever In Your Debt head their long list of festival-ready anthems and they're delivered with a fire and passion that's amazing for a band that's juggling day jobs with a chart-bothering album and on the comedown from last night's Manchester Cathedral headline.
Despite some on-stage sound issues and a false start at the beginning of I Saw A Ghost, they more than live up to their headline billing, Aaron getting up close to the front rows who know all the words to the new songs less than forty eight hours after their release. It's an impressively tight bond they've built with their hardcore fans, but one that transmits to the curious ones round the fringes who resist, to the still modest surprise of Aaron, heading off to see one of the names they're still poking themselves to believe they're on an equal billing with. But that's where they operate now and they don't look out of place.
The Slow Readers Club's official website can be found here. They are also Facebook and Twitter. Read our review of Build A Tower here. The Build A Tower tour calls at the following venues : Glasgow Stag And Dagger Festival (6), Newcastle Riverside (10), Hull Welly (11), Nottingham Rock City (12), Wolverhampton Slade Rooms (17), Norwich Arts Centre (18), Northwich Library (19), London Islington Assembly Hall (25), Stoke Sugarmill (26) and Kendal Calling (July 26-29).
Rews' official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Déjà Vega are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Luvia is on Facebook and Twitter.
Calva Louise are on Facebook and Twitter.
Catholic Action are on Facebook and Twitter.