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Liverpool Sound City is back

It's not just The Wire that's hitting these shores from Baltimore. Heather Smith gets tangled up in the noise pop of Animal Collective

Published on March 31st 2009.

Liverpool Sound City is back

AFTER 2008's massive inaugural success, Liverpool Sound City, the four-day, South by South West-style music festival and conference, is back.

It announced its line-up, which will run 20th-23rd May, with a party at the O2 Academy last week and, aside from a few sheets of A3 pinned up behind the bar, you could be forgiven for thinking you were at a run-of-the-mill, Thursday night gig. A banner would perhaps have been useful as a hefty chunk of the crowd looked as if they needed reminding where they were.

I tried a quick trusty web search to check out what the launch night headline band, Animal Collective, was all about. One for the blogging, Google-generation of music nerds was the feel. I'd never heard of them, but I got quite a picture going in my head on the bus. The gig would be in the smaller O2 room, filled with 14+ Alexa Chung-alike art students, back-combed hair, blazers, you know the sort.How wrong I was. The gig was in the larger room where Amy Winehouse, Seasick Steve, Arctic Monkeys and anyone who is anyone has played. It was when passing the sizeable merchandise stall that I discovered Animal Collective have eight albums under their belts. Eight. I've never felt so out of touch.

Squeezing to get to the front of the crowd were working-size macho men, not the skinny jean, fuzzy haired indie type. There was many a beard in sight, many of them greying.

During my brief state of stereotypical shock, the only support band, Dent May, arrived on stage. Who needs a guitar, a set of drums, or even a bass to make a band when you can make a perfectly pleasing pop with no more than a ukulele, double maraccas and a tambourine?

I should have relished the simplicity of the Mississippi duo's sound and the do-do-do, la-la-la lyrical style, for when the famous headliners arose, you couldn't make head nor tail of what it was they were going for. They call it skewed pop. Skewed, definitely. I'm all for a mish mash of genres, just not when it sounds like ten different songs played off at different speeds through the same speakers (eg, see below).

Most of the crowd stood stunned as the Baltimore boys, backed by a spectacular light show, busted their gut, making the most out of “psycho folk” and noise pop. The handful who got it were surely dependent on an array of illicit substances, but nevertheless got down having a whale of a time.

I don't know what I was expecting. At last year's Sound City launch, where the Rascals headlined Barfly's loft, the crowd were subject to a half-hour bare-breasted hoo-ha, courtesy of Ezra Bang and Hot Machine's Lilly Lotus (this NYC quintet are on the bill again for 2009, many will be glad to hear).

Liverpool Sound City, which will take up 30 venues this year, thrives on diversity and, let's say, an assortment of talents. Over the course of the four days you're bound to come across both the barmy and the brilliant. White Lies, Seal Cub Clubbing Club, Little Boots, Soft Toy Emergency, Cage the Elephant and Mongrel are just a handful of the 60+ bands to have already confirmed, with many more on the way.

Also moguls and maverics will be chewing the vinyl and asking searching questions about the music industry - obviously not: “Who exactly are Animal Collective?” - but you get the drift, in a series of conferences and a trade expo. For more information visit www.liverpoolsoundcity.co.uk

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