Liverpool became the hub for music-lovers everywhere last weekend, as the Radio 6 Festival took over the city for a 3-day event that promised to showcase the very best of alternative music. The festival took over in some of Liverpool’s most iconic venues, with Saturday’s celebrations coming to a head at Liverpool Olympia. The night ensured a diverse range of talent, from the brightest of upcoming artists, to already established music giants, and as the crowds made their way into the venue, it seemed that everyone was hungry for a night of live performance.
The night was kicked off by Bristolian punk band, IDLES, who released their latest album Joy as an Act of Resistance last year. As they started their set with their song ‘Heel/Heal’, it was clear that the band’s outlandish punk reputation was a genuine one, with guitarist Mark Bowen thrashing around on stage in only his underwear from the start of the night. The absurdity of the bands entrance was only matched by the intensity of their performing, with lead singer, Joe Talbot’s powerful vocals magnetised by the backing of the band, whose complex melodies and basslines were handled easily by the clear industry professionals. As the set continued, the group were adamant to mix a rather socialist message in with the riotous nature of their live set, dedicating their songs ‘Divide and Conquer’ and ‘Samaritans’ to “…every foreigner that has made this country a better place,” and “…The NHS and what was left of it,” respectively. Although certainly unexpected, this riotous call to arms played in wonderfully with the anarchy of the band’s performance, setting off a mosh pit that eerily reflected the state of political disarm with which the band seemed so eager populate their performance. The group closed with their hit ‘Rottweiler’, in which the band’s relationship with their loyal audience grew from intimate to straight up in your face. As he played, Bowen descended into the crowd while still managing to play his guitar with ease, creating an electric ending to such a wild start to the night.
The night then continued with girl group Stealing Sheep, who offered a very different style to the crazed antics seen on stage so soon before. With the band hailing from Liverpool, it almost felt like they had a pre-expectation from the audience to do the city proud, and as they stepped out, it was clear that they were eager not to disappoint. Kitted out in their infamous glitter gold jumpsuits, the group started off the set with a series of fluid, slightly eerie yoga-esque dance moves, which proved intriguing, as well as very effective in calming the audience down from the riotous buzz IDLES had kicked up beforehand. They then moved to their respective instruments in order to deliver their beloved electro-funk sound, much to the audience’s obvious excitement. Although the band were slightly static – an unusual choice considering the unique, engaging movements that they opened their performance with – this didn’t stop them from capturing the audience in a wave of nostalgia, with the heavy synths and upbeat riffs, taking the room back to the golden era of the 1980s. The trippy, almost ethereal harmonies on tunes such as ‘Back in Time’ and ‘Jokin’ Me’ were undoubtedly the most intriguing part of the bands unique sound, with the originality of the arrangement shining through amidst what, was a fairly abrupt series of tracks. Although not the longest of performances, Stealing Sheep proved that sound-wise, the group is the brightest of Liverpool’s new talent, and is a band that has a very promising future.
As the night approached a halfway point, the next band to grace the stage was Villagers, a Irish indie-folk band from Dublin. With the change in acts, it was at this point in the line-up that the night seemed to turn it’s focus from performing to song writing, as lead singer Colin O’Brien lead the night with a collection of heart-warming, acoustic tracks, all with a deeply personal feel. Although the group’s set felt intensely intimate, they impressively retained an enormous amount of stage presence, with O’Brien’s mellow, vocals only made better when paired with the soft, yet distinctive backing of such a talented group. A particular highlight of the set was ‘Fool’ in which the band showed a certain degree of self-awareness to their sentimentality, beginning the song by shouting “This one’s for the sadsacks!” The band then delved into a quiet, yet highly inventive song, that featured a catchy melody with interesting textures, that had they crowd swaying as they played. Another highlight came with the end of the set, in the song ‘Nothing Arrived’. Although not the most flamboyant end to their time on stage, the soft song truly showcased the beauty of the groups writing abilities, and was only made better by the trio of trumpets, who played the song out. The mix of the trio, and the noise of the crowd, who accompanied the group by singing the final lines of the song as they played, made for something extraordinary, and seemed perfectly encapsulate the beauty of live music, and end Villagers set on an ultimate high.
With Saturday’s events coming to a close, the infamous The Good The Bad and The Queen, stepped up for the final performance of the night. Beginning their set with a humble apology from lead singer Damon Albarn for his rather damaged voice, the band kicked off their set with their song ‘Merrie Land’, taken from their latest album of the same name. The large number of instruments on stage did not stop the group from playing in perfect unison, playing the complex patterns and harmonies with complete ease. The audience seemed to be hanging on Albarn’s every word, with his admittedly tender vocals, almost becoming a feature of the softer, laid-back tracks. As the sheer variety of styles featured in the groups off-the-wall song writing emerged as the most endearing part of the set, with the talent of the instrumentalists doing more than enough to do such peculiar song writing justice, it also became apparent that the assortment of sounds featured in the band’s songs served perfectly as a microcosm for the night’s events, with each act stemming to complement each other flawlessly, despite the sheer difference in sounds, much like the band’s song writing itself. The band ended their, sadly, rather short set with ‘Kingdom of Doom’, it became obvious that the group’s main goal was to give the audience a night to remember, engaging in a call and response with the audience, all while playing the final song of the night with an indisputable passion. It seemed fitting on such a blatant appreciation of live music, and as the tune came to an end, it seemed that this celebratory last song perfectly encapsulated the spirit of such an iconic festival.