Ostensibly a charity fundraiser for Liverpool’s Whitechapel Centre, promoters Fat Sister have managed to bring together an exciting bill comprising four of Liverpool’s most promising acts, with each offering a different take on how best to fill a set.
Up first are hotly-tipped SPQR. Taking to the stage, moving equipment around, leaving, and then taking the stage once again, the band seem to be off to something of a false start. And yet, this doom-tinged garage rock threepiece tear into their songs with fervour, trying to leave behind any initial awkwardness. Lead singer-guitarist Pete is a kind of genteel, nascent Josh Homme – reflected in the band’s sound, influenced by the likes of Rated R-era Queens of the Stone Age and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s ‘Punk Song’ pomp. At one stage, Pete flings away his glasses and falls to his knees, still fretting wildly – it’s that kind of set: chaotic and enervating.
With the strains of SPQR’s final notes still ringing in the ears of the audience, Danye offer something a little different. It’s a pleasant contrast though, as the ensemble curate a set of shimmery, spaced-out songs, combining multiple guitar lines with heavy effects, synths, and harmonised vocals. The band seem at ease, working gently through psych-pop that takes in Byrds-y jangle, the soft vocals of MGMT and the overlaid melodies of Tame Impala.
The mood changes again with the performance of King Hannah – a four-piece built around lead-singer Hannah Merrick. If the band seem stripped back, and louche, in appearance, it belies the engrossing and emotional content of the set. Evoking the dark country-tinge of Angel Olsen or Lera Lynn, lead singer Hannah (well, obviously) has a voice that silences the growing crowd in the room and is a bewitching certain star in the making, whilst the band create the backdrop of sound over which she tells her tales. Mesmeric, beautiful, dark and strange – this is real music for grown-ups.
Finally, it’s left to local heroes Sankofa to close the show – with singer Ste taking to the stage sporting a ‘Vote for Labour’ t-shirt, in Stranger Things style font. The band specialise in blues-rock, with a recent leaning towards the kind of dark tales espoused by Black Lips or, going further back, The Animals or Them.
The band have been gigging round the city for a while, and it shows, as one water-tight performance follows another. Lead guitarist Joel is the driving force behind the set, switching from Western-style tremeloes to beat-combo chords, to slide, and back again. In truth, the band evoke many bands from the past, with a set split between the blues sound and a ’60s British Invasion r’n’b: it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s rare for a band to do it this well, at this stage in their careers. The only downside comes when, with the show over-running, the sound guy is forced to cut the band off in their prime, and they’re left to shout apologies, before leaving the stage. It’s a brutal cut-off to a night of contrasting, compelling music.