Bramley Moore Dock, Liverpool, Friday, May 22-Sunday, May 24
Wayne Coyne dressed as a frog surfing the crowd in a giant bubble, Fucked Up’s blood-spattered frontman Damian Abraham brawling with an audience member, Lias Saoudi fondling himself in his grubby kecks during Fat White Family’s late-night closing set: it’s fair to say Sound City’s eighth year is memorable. With a line-up heaving with talent and a mile-long industry guestlist, this three-day extravaganza is Liverpool’s answer to Austin’s SXSW – Scouse By Scousewest.
On Saturday, Wolverhampton duo God Damn introduce themselves by saying, “We’re only filling in for Royal Blood, the drummer has diarrhea,” before impressing with a riff-heavy assault of pulverising noise that could sink a liner. Equally brutal are shouty Stevenage punks Bad Breeding. Guitarist Matt Toll scales the lighting rig and frontman Christopher Dodd, a coiled spring of righteous fury, spends more time in the crowd than onstage. During the bruising ‘Age Of Nothing’, he staggers around like a wounded bear, eyeballing audience members.
As the night draws in, The Thurston Moore Band – with Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums and My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass – deposit fuzz-drenched atonal pop on an eager throng brimming with fans in ‘Goo’ T-shirts. Subsumed in smoke, London’s Real Lies’ fill a small tent with laddish electro ecstasy; with the woozy beats of standout single ‘Dab Housing’ sounding like Pet Shop Boys meets Hard-Fi. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, scheduled against them, start a rave that has a packed crowd spilling out into the night air. Jittery frontman Ruban Nielson launches into ‘Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)’, then marshals his three-piece band through a kaleidoscopic half-hour of soul, funk and psych that peaks with a delicious ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’.
Wayne Coyne begins The Flaming Lips’ headline slot in a green PVC outfit speckled with yellow spots and an inflatable frog on his back. “The sun’s here,” he announces, as someone dressed as a cartoon sun bounds on. During opener ‘The Abandoned Hospital Ship’, a blizzard of white ticker tape covers the crowd and it feels like the flamboyant Oklahomans are doing the encore first. Things only get crazier. Silver balloon letters spell out ‘FUCK YEAH LIVERPOOL’, a man is brought onstage to propose to his girlfriend, and – as is his regular party trick – Coyne rolls over the audience in a giant translucent bubble.
Competing against the Lips, Fucked Up amass a modest crowd, but the atmosphere is less joyous. A typically blistering set from the Toronto six-piece is marred late on when frontman Damiea Abraham leaps into the pit. An ensuing fight spills out of the warehouse into a multi-man brawl, with Abraham returning topless and bloodied to finish with ‘Queen Of Hearts’. Afterwards he trembles, “This is the worst show I’ve ever played, I hate that shit.”
The next night, bleary-eyed punters cram into Fat White Family’s first date since returning from a chaotic US tour. Introduced by James Endeacott – the man who discovered The Libertines – barking, “You want Simply Red? YOU WANT SIMPLY RED?”, the Londoners’ set is a riot and Sauodi is soon stripped down to his briefs. There are no new songs but, gargling his way through the fiery pub-brawl rock of ‘Auto Neutron’ and ‘Cream Of The Young’, the frontman ensures a delirious conclusion. Fuck yeah Liverpool indeed.