Broken Men are my favourite band in Liverpool. I had only seen them play once ten months ago, and was simultaneously in awe at their talent and disappointed by the turnout. How can a band this good be playing to an empty room? I guess you have to give it time. Five minutes before Broken Men are due on stage to kick off my Sound City 2013. and 25 people stand expectedly in a room that could fit 300 comfortably. Maybe it’s the 8:30 p.m. slot (comparatively early at Sound City), or maybe it’s the fact word still hasn’t spread. The five piece play a great sounding set and, although the room gets busier, I still feel a little letdown by Liverpool music fans for missing out, once again.

The Family Rain have been a much talked about band recently mainly by hype machine 'NME', but after seeing them in a packed Zanzibar I fully concur. They are a really cool band that essentially play three minute pop/rock songs with groovy bass lines and exceptional guitar work. They have an EP out on the 12th May, and I can see their fan base doubling in no time. Only a band consisting of three brothers could look so effortless and tight on stage. The Family Rain were my revelation of Sound City 2013.

Swim Deep took to the stage shortly afterwards, but for me they’re a little over hyped and arrogant on stage. The lead singer Austin Williams swears too much, they dress like they’ve just got out of bed and, due to a self-indulgent bass player in Cavan McCarthy, the mix was way off. I saw them support Spector back in October, and they were pretty average back then as well. Having said that 'The Sea' has the potential to be the summer song of 2013. Two more songs of that quality and a different demeanor on stage would vastly change my opinion of Swim Deep.

The 1975 were the biggest hit at the Zanzibar on the first day of Sound City. There was a queue outside the door consisting of begging 1975 fans, and even photographers and press were told to get to the back of the line. I heard three tracks of the Manchester based band and called it a night. It wasn’t my style, but I’ll give them another chance in the near future. For those three songs the place went pretty wild. The 1975 know what they are doing.

Day 2 started with a horrific dance guitar outfit called Concrete Knives which I thought couldn’t be worse than their name, but I was miraculously proved wrong. It was textbook Eurovision nonsense. I’ll say no more.

Lulu James can not be ignored. The half naked Grace Jones look-alike owned the stage like no other at the festival and her vocals were immense. Not the type of music I would listen to, it reminded me of 90’s dance music, but she did, however, put on a show.

Dan Croll is a name that’s billed as something quite special around Liverpool and I can see why. The man has impressively diverse songs and solid vocals. Croll split the set up well by not playing guitar on some tracks and it really worked. Smart decisions like this and constant touring will add to the following the Liverpool singer-songwriter already has.

Ex-Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones hasn’t played many gigs after going his own way, but there’s something exceptional brewing in that man. The Family Rain were my favourite band of the festival, but Ryder-Jones was my favourite live experience. Bill was clearly annoyed by talking going on at the back of the venue and voiced it numerous times in between and during songs, which culminated in the restrained “There’s people over there I got on the guestlist and they’re just talking, so thanks for that” two thirds the way through the gig. He didn’t look comfortable up there, but it added to the show. You can tell he’s spent his career at the side of the stage, but I can see him growing into a brilliant performer. 'He Took You in His Arms' is one of my favourite songs of the three days, and I can’t wait to see Ryder-Jones live again.

Everything Everything are an in fashion band, but are another act I don’t understand. I’m yet to hear a full album, so I’ll reserve judgement but from the four tracks I stayed for they didn’t sound terrible. It just does nothing for me. I can’t hear a single insightful lyric. They were also one of the most popular bands at the festival.

Darwin Deez’s first album was one of my favourites of 2010. The man can write an earworm. He can also dance and has sensational hair. What I was unsure of was the quality of the songs on his just released second album, 'Songs for Imaginative People', because I haven’t had time to listen to it. I left the venue after six songs, not impressed with the sophomore attempts. He wasn’t trying anything new. They sounded like songs that didn’t make it on the first album. I was surprised at how good a guitarist he is live though.

Sound City 2013 fizzled out on the last day. It was easily the weakest when comparing line-ups, and just walking to the venues it felt like most of the show had packed up and left town without saying goodbye. I managed to see two bands on the last day, city favourites the Hummingbirds and totally new outfit the Sugarmen.

The former I knew had quality. Having listened to their clearly best song ‘Back in Liverpool’ numerous times on YouTube, I was excited to see them live. The Beatles-influenced five piece packed out the back room of the Cavern no problem, and seemed to be the busiest band over the festival playing here there and everywhere. It was a thoroughly enjoyable set, and you could tell they loved every minute. My only worry is that every song is the same structurally and their lyrics are a bit dated. Five lads writing and singing songs about falling in love gets a bit tiresome after five songs. It also comes across as a bit fake, however good the melodies and harmonies are.

The Sugarmen impressed me over in the newly refurbished East Village Arts Club, a cracking venue that I am sure will prove to be the coolest music venue in 2014. You could tell it was one of their first gigs, but not in an entirely negative way. There were some technical issues with a bass amp going off when it wanted to, but they had some catchy choruses and the lead singer Luke Fenlon gave a confident live performance.

Day 3 and the festival was over. It ended with a whimper not a bang.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Marie Hazelwood.

















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