Liverpool Sound City returns to its roots to show why it’s the lifeblood of new music discovery.

Words: Karl Johnson | Photo (header): Sam McMahon

Few bands can wake you out of the trance of a very early train journey from London to Liverpool, but one name on that very list is JOHN. The London duo took to the Arts Club Theatre stage with their signature lightbox and wall-of-noise set up, hammering the crowd with ferocious new cuts from their upcoming third LP Nocturnal Manoeuvres. At the Leaf stage, a short walk through the cobbled streets of the city centre, arrived moa moa. A bustling café-bar downstairs and a spacious and airy NYC-esque loft space upstairs, the venue provided a perfect backdrop for left-field pop chameleons moa moa, the band bringing hits-in-waiting Yellow Jacket and Speedy Wunderground single Coltan Candy to life on stage.

Photo (JOHN): Elinor Haskew @ehaskewlive

Slater street venue The Jacaranda is heavily associated with the rise of the Merseybeat phenomenon in the 60s and once boasted The Silver Beetles – soon to be known as The Beatles – as their house band. Fast forward to 2021 and Brighton art-rock quintet Youth Sector are setting up in the sweaty basement venue. The band barely fit on the arrowhead-shaped stage, but for the lucky few people who’re crammed into the low-ceilinged basement, they’re treated to a slick set of chorus-heavy angular pop brilliance. The Sound City line up is littered with Merseyside talent, none more exciting than The Mysterines, who found themselves playing to an almost capacity crowd (pre-Red Rum Club’s headline) at the festival’s largest venue – a stunning 1,200 capacity theatre opened in 1905 called Grand Central. Vocalist Lia Metcalfe leads from the front and delivers the most ferocious and captivating performance of the weekend, as the band power through a set of psych-scorched alternative rock gems. Despite being one of the most heavily-tipped new acts in alternative rock, you feel that this band are only just scratching the surface of their potential.

Photo (Courting): Elinor Haskew @ehaskewlive

Oxford’s Enjoyable Listens set the moisture-laden cellar of EBGBS alight with his Jarvis Cocker meets Future Islands-esque stage strut and a brand of anthemic and heartfelt songwriting that is truly timeless. Later at the Arts Club Theatre – a 10 second walk down the road from the previous venue – we set up to watch Nice Swan-signees Courting, the local lads proved why they’re one of the most talked about indie groups in town. Their live set is equally as raucous as the band are on record, as they rattled through tracks from their 2021 EP Grand National. Straight up afterwards we were treated to a high-octane and devastatingly emotional set from Dublin outfit The Murder Capital, who offer a performance worthy of headlining. They rip through cuts from their 2019 LP When I Have Fears, with frontman James McGovern stopping at nothing to send the crowd into a frenzy.

It was close to midnight when Leeds outfit Fuzz Lightyear stepped on stage at the Kazimir Stockroom, their set offered a cleanse for the soul as it melded dark-hearted psychedelia and riff-heavy alternative rock to incredible effect. London’s Social Contract shone bright in the depths of the EBGBS basement the next day, the dynamics of their set and the sheer heavyness of their sound was equal only to the songwriting talent within their debut EP Buzzards Wake, which worked perfectly live. The Shipping Forecast played host to one of the last sets of the entire weekend, welcoming buzzy Leeds newcomers English Teacher to the stage. The hard-hitting quartet are flying the flag for a new wave of alternative guitar music, with recent single R&B hitting the spot live as well as on record.

Its been a difficult two years for the live music industry, especially for those artists waiting in the wings for their chance to shine. Over three days of new music discovery, Liverpool Sound City awakes the sleeping giant which is the live music industry.

Photo (English Teacher): Elinor Haskew @ehaskewlive