We’re soaking up the ambience at the annual LIVERPOOL SOUND CITY festival, now the largest metropolitan music and arts festival in the UK, and an event that Liverpool and the north of England can be very proud of.
Arriving at the Hilton Hotel on Thursday 2 May, we’re greeted by blistering sunshine (yes, we really are in Liverpool), friendly staff and a multinational crowd of press, industry and visitors. Conferences are going on in the background as we queue for our passes. EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL’s TRACEY THORN has just finished her “in conversation” segment, talking about her new autobiography “Bedsit Disco Queen” – it’s an eclectic start to a 3-day music extravaganza.
We can’t gush enough about this festival: all venues (including some fantastic pop-up venues) within easy reach of each other, the sound pretty much great in all (we are hearing rumours of power cuts and tech delays, however, as we move around), there’s a respect and understanding of the needs of the press, and the artists look relaxed for the most part. There’s a real community feel to this event, with a lot of students visiting for research purposes, and the locals enjoying the buzz around the city. Bottom line, this is a festival offering a great mix of top-quality established and up-and-coming bands – and all presented with minimal attitude, which is quite an achievement for an event that could easily go the way of many festivals that have become heavily commercial and disconnected from their community.
We have a nice entry into the live gigs with Taipei’s TIZZY BAC. Comfortably established in Taiwan and other parts of Asia, the band led by female vocalist and keyboardist Chen Hui-Ting is back at this festival to woo the Liverpool fans. Choosing to build alt-rock sounds around Chen’s extraordinary piano moves, without the traditional use of a guitar, the band has Hsu Che-Yu bringing smooth bass sounds to the unit with surgically precise drumbeats provided by Lin Chien-Yuan. Winning the top prize at Taiwan’s Indie Music Awards in 2002, they have accumulated an array of albums, having soon become the country’s poster child for bands who don’t follow conventional music paths. We’re keen to see how a band who sings mostly in Mandarin and who promise a diverse sound we (sadly) rarely here in the UK these days will do live.
We arrive to a smattering of East Asian fans perched on the front barrier, cameras at the ready, and I already feel at home. As the band starts up, the venue starts filling with a range of visitors and photographers who are bouncing gently to the sounds.
I’m really impressed by the tightness of this band. The sound balance is great, and from a serene piano start to a sudden blast of drums and bass, Tizzy Bac are not holding back in demonstrating their live appeal tonight. The energy from the stage becomes intense as each member fully absorbs themselves in their technical craft while taking time to maintain good eye contact with each other. They ooze professionalism, and the opening track is greeted with applause and whoops. It’s not easy to draw in a crowd when the sun is shining outside and a festival is just warming up, but this band is doing just that.
Tizzy Bac have a natural way of captivating an audience. They are wonderfully polite and have an onstage charm that must have helped to generate the somewhat cult following that they enjoy. Just from one live performance, you get a clear sense of their passion for music and their admiration for each other’s craft – they set an example that a lot of bands in the West could well do with studying: that you don’t have to be obsessed with the PR game to make brilliant music and write lyrics (some of which are pretty hilarious, it has to be said: “I wanna be your lover / Don’t wanna be your mother / But if you have some others / Don’t bother, I can have fun all night without the special treatment“) that resonate with you, and to generate a loyal fanbase so that you can continue to play and tour round your country and the world.
Mid-gig, Chen announces their new album which is due in June. We look forward.