Sound City 2021 transforms Liverpool city centre into a taste-making trail of new music discovery

Credit: Jazamin Sinclair

Offering an essential insight into some of new music’s most exciting prospects, the return of Liverpool Sound City this weekend felt long overdue.

Returning to it’s city centre roots following two years in the city’s Baltic Triangle, the three-dayer served not only as an introduction to a world of new talent, but a vital reminder of Liverpool’s fantastic independent venue scene and its scope to support rising talent for years to come. From the sweaty nostalgia of Jacaranda Club and The Shipping Forecast to the atmospheric room at Leaf, all the way through to main stage at the lofty Grand Central; this is not only a city with a thriving new music scene, but one with a stepping stone arrangement of venues suited to each essential stage of any new artist’s development – something to be cherished now more than ever.

Twenty-year old Molly Payton set the weekend in motion with an endearing showcase of material from her new mini-album ‘Slack’. Captivating Grand Central’s eager early arrivals, her honest lyricism added an intimate touch to a big room.

Over at Leaf, Zoe Graham’s debut live outing was met with a packed room and praise in equal measure. Gracing the stage with an air of charming and cheeky confidence, the Scottish newcomer’s blend of folk and electronic elements paired with goose-bump inducing vocals provided the perfect warming escape from the evening’s gloomy weather.

Back at Grand Central, the ever-growing onstage character of Baby Queen stirred up the first pits of the weekend. Commanding the room with fan-favourites ‘Internet Religion’ and ’American Dream’, Sound City offered yet another glimpse into a headliner for future years.

The gloomy weather intensified on Saturday, a stark reminder that festival season really is on it’s way out now. With torrential rain battering Seel Street and its surrounding areas, the full capacity crowd eagerly awaiting NOISY in the cramped basement of Jacaranda Club assisted in lifting spirits.

Delivering unrivalled and infectious energy by the bucketload, the trio’s explosive presence was laced with genuine excitement. Defying the heavy heads of the evening before, their genre-bending set was undoubtedly deserving of one of the weekend’s biggest stages, and felt almost a little wasted on the tiny space of the Jacaranda.

Around the corner in the more spacious basement of Jimmy’s, rising outfit Sad Boys Club showcased their equally engaging persona with a plethora of pleasant indie-pop. There’s a hint of The 1975 there, both in sound and stage presence; though you may not find Matty Healy bringing random festival goers on stage for a spontaneous collab.

Underground at The Shipping Forecast twenty-one year old Dirty Hit addition beaux offered an effortless showcase of intimate yet enthralling synth driven pop. Paired with a subtle yet impressionable performance, material from his new EP ‘a love letter to the moments spent outside’ gave another nod to Dirty Hit’s reputation for nurturing some of the UK’s strongest new talent.

In keeping with recent years at Sound City, local talent was also thriving across the weekend. Monks drew a hefty crowd at Grand Central with their groove-led 70’s & 80’s inspired alt-pop. With equal hints of Parcels and fellow Liverpool lads The Night Café lingering in their sound, the five-piece certainly asserted themselves as ones to watch in coming months.

The local theme continued with Pixey and Red Rum Club taking to the stage shortly after, both packing out venues to full capacity and operating on a one in, one out basis. A proud day to be a northerner? You bet.

Drawing the weekend to a slightly sunnier close, Liverpool felt almost refreshed on Sunday. With a buzz in the air, be it from the festival or the footie, Sound City felt like a fond reminder that the north is very much awash with potential - and maybe deserving of more showcase style festivals just like it.

The cramped stockroom at Kazimier was thriving on said buzz when Katy Alex took to its stage in the early afternoon. Armed with just an iPad and an acoustic guitar, Katy’s infectious personality and stripped back pop provided one of the weekend’s stand out performances. Covering Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ and sharing new single ‘Maliblues’, the scouse starlet seemingly left the room in awe.

Luke Royalty followed suit, gracing the already busy stage immediately after. The Darlington newcomer’s soulful single ‘I Could Get Used To This’ subtly lifted the energy in Kazimier, while simultaneously creating a blissed out atmosphere, effortlessly relieving any remaining sore heads.

In a testing year, the team behind Sound City pulled off a truly impressive trail of discovery. With independent venues dropping like flies, the weekend brought excitement and nostalgia back to the city right when it was needed the most. A testament to the northern music scene, it sees festival season draw to a close with a hunger for new music and new names stronger than ever before.