FestEvol Gardens Part 2 – Reviewed

Loved Ones’ Nik Glover crossed the invisible line from musician to critic. How did he cope in the role of ‘the enemy’?

For a musician, reviewing other musicians doesn’t come naturally. Of course, we do it constantly behind closed doors. It happens in private, and occasionally (when drunk) in public, but we’re always careful to keep our voices down, or at least to make sure that the person we’re telling will be discreet. Sometimes there’s jealousy in it, sometimes we even lie and say we like things that we don’t. After all, our own time will come, and everybody is capable of a bad gig. For this reason, I’ve always avoided reviewing, but when FestEvol had sold out, I decided to bite the bullet.

FestEvol has become quite the Liverpool institution. Steve ‘Revo’ Miller has attracted some of the world’s most interesting acts to the Northwest, and the rise and rise of the Kazimier meant it made sense that, following the closure of the Masque Theatre, this yearly bonanza should find a new home just down the road, spread over two stages.

The Kazimier Garden stage is just big enough to allow bands the space they need to perform, and the courtyard narrow enough to create an atmosphere from even the smallest of crowds. Being in this little wood-block oasis under the shadow of the Kazimier clock tower feels a bit like being in the Crystal Maze’s Aztec Zone.

Attracting the punters was never going to be an issue; from four p.m. onwards a decent crowd filtered in and out as stage times criss-crossed. DJ’s Samizdat and Deep Hedonia kept the narrow strip between the two stages alive, with a pleasing mixture of beats, bleeps and boom bap, as well as what I’m reliably informed is ‘Juke’, a kind of chopped up electro hip-hop, without much colour to it.

The first band that stick out on the long, long bill are The Temps. The four-piece channel a great deal of rage and blind anger into their own brand of early 90′s Sub Pop-inspired rock, with some nicely tremolo’d guitar flourishes of a simplicity that Joey Santiago would be satisfied with. They’re not exactly bringing sand to the beach, more building their own little castle before the waves come back in, and they get a good reaction from a crowd which has largely restricted itself to polite applause thus far.

Coming out of the gents later, Revo wryly asks ‘are you going to be reviewing these then?’, which I’m guessing was a reference to the fact that the next band are signed to Jack To Phono Records, my old stomping ground (with Seal Club Clubbing Club). I suppose that should make reviewing them a doubly difficult situation. Thankfully, they turn out to be great.

The band in question is Bird, and they are the first to really impress themselves upon me as strong enough to deserve their own show. Their lead singer has a striking voice when it’s hushed and restrained; when she throws back her head and really lets loose it upsets the tone of the very considered, nicely painted autumnal tones of the music. The songs are suggestive of Central Reservation-era Beth Orton, but have enough charm to create a distinct mood in the Kazimier’s dark interior. Other acts tonight will slam into their songs like they’re making pasta dough; Bird weave something sweeter and more sophisticated.

“Bird weave something sweeter and more sophisticated”

As the Kaz gets ever busier, and the crowd ever drunker, moving in and out gets a little fraught. George Rix’s DJ set (under his band’s name, Ticks) includes crowd pleasers galore, and as he hands over to Bido Lito, the ‘mixing’ becomes rougher, the tracks older, and the tempo faster. They start chucking in little interludes; one nice little dub track jumps out, and everyone starts moving. Those sat in the DJ corridor become swamped by dancers and drinkers. Inside suddenly doesn’t seem so dark.

My ignorance of the next few bands on the bill is unfair on Kusanagi, who produce a tidy, mathy sound which has some nicely heavy riffs and a drummer on extremely good form, sporting a Taylor Hawkins-style cap and vest and barely missing a beat. Their mixing of the epic textures of Grails with more light-hearted sections gets a good reaction from the crowd. The set doesn’t seem to balance so well, with the final track pulling off the neat trick of seeming to finish too soon and with the shock of an asthma attack. Very good. As well as the marquee performances of the two days’ headliners, FestEvol is ground for blooding rawer talent. Kusanagi can be filed under ‘strong newcomers’.

By the time the band I’m guessing are Carousel come on, I’m a little the worse for wear. Their backing vocals are lush, but by this point I’m looking forward to Outfit (and then the night bus home). At last they appear, and for the first time the whole crowd seems to be in the mind to dance. Everything All the Time travels effortlessly from recording to gig, Dashing In Passing is the best thing I’ve heard by them yet, and the final, elatory Two Islands is spectacular.

For an act who rarely shun four-to-the-floor, there is light and shade in the too-brief set, which stands both as a headliner and as the crowd’s introduction to the home straight of bands. Outfit aren’t purely a dancing band, their final track is a rare one which doesn’t take a large step sideways when it enters its chorus. Standing right at the front is a little daunting, under the shadow of the twin wooden units that house most of their electronics. It reminds me of the Kazimier clock tower, and the thought of all that height makes my head spin. Home time.

Nik Glover

Posted on 14/08/2012 by thedoublenegative