Silicon Dreams Festival 2017
Saturday 8th July 2017
@ Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room
I recently read an article claiming the top thing people hate about Facebook is that everyone seems to be having more fun than they are! Commercial media naturally tell their target audience what they want to hear so they claimed that people aren’t really having that much fun, otherwise they wouldn’t be posting about it on Facebook!
I don’t think that’s true at all. Most people I know only post stuff on Facebook that they enjoy or find interesting or amusing. So if you went through my newsfeed you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m constantly going to gigs and festivals, but the reality is that between work and family commitments I’m lucky to get to an average of 1 a month. It’s just that I don’t post on Facebook about the mundane stuff like going to Aldi for a pack of tomatoes or paying bills, so my Facebook newsfeed disproportionately reflects the fun stuff.
Regardless of whether your friends are having more fun than you or not though, you can never have too much fun, and I’ve found that you discover the most fun things when you step outside your comfort zone.
As I mentioned in my Glastonbury roundups, I couldn’t really understand the appeal of standing in a muddy field in the drizzle watching a band whilst the wind plays havoc with the acoustics, not to mention the toilets, camping (I’d done it once with school but wasn’t really keen) and all the rest. On paper it didn’t really add up, but once I went, I saw what all the fuss was about, and now like many people it’s my best 5 days of the year!
Likewise, I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the electronic music scene. Whilst I love the likes of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, New Order, Daft Punk, The Cure, Human League etc, an Electronic band I knew in London who were really into the scene introduced me to a lot of underground stuff which often felt quite generic, like the band had just been to Currys and brought back a cheap synth and hit the demo button, or so cheesy that a Brit ex-pats holiday disco in Benidorm would refuse to play it on the grounds of taste!
When I first looked at Silicon Dreams I’d only heard of one of the bands. I looked into the headliner Parralox and noticed some familiar song titles – Creep, Enjoy the Silence… I don’t mind the odd cover but I’m not generally keen on bands whose set consists mainly of covers.
So, why did I step out of my comfort zone?
Well I was familiar with one of the bands – Avec Sans from London. It was their first time playing Liverpool and I’d wanted to catch them for a while. So I knew there was at least one band I would probably enjoy, and the others looked interesting, so I decided to go along with an open mind.
And it turned out to be the right decision as I had an absolutely storming night!
The night kicked off in style with Caroline McLavy from Leicester. It must be hard when you are on first, and most of the audience are still at the bar or on their way to the venue. Nevertheless she was a true professional and gave it her all, and the audience soon started to flock in. She delivered a lively polished set of songs. Always a good sign when the opening act is so good!
Voi Vang is from Sheffield and it’s fair to say that her outfit grabbed the attention of the predominantly male audience! On the last song when her chest became covered in blood, for a moment me and one of the other photographers were concerned in case she had actually cut herself, fortunately though just part of the act! None of these theatrics could distract us from the fact that she had some great songs and tunes to match her energetic, inventive performance. She doesn’t seem to have released much material yet other than a few videos on youtube, but it will be well worth checking out her album when she releases one if tonight’s performance is anything to go by.
Whilst the first two performers were solo artists with Macbook backing tracks, Berlyn Trilogy from Wakefield was a more traditional 3 piece outfit – and musically much closer to the kind of stuff I generally listen to, reminding me of the likes of The Editors and Die Krupps. I’d definitely go and see them at their own gig. “The Drone” in particular blew me away.
Future Perfect from North Wales were another act I’d go to see at their own gig. Great songs and tunes, reminding me in places of the Pet Shop Boys, Joy Division and OMD. “Fall” was their standout track for me – though sadly not about Mark E. Smith 🙂 With 3 albums released so far, it’s well worth checking them out.
Now to Avec Sans who I was actually familiar with prior to the gig. I already knew they had great songs and tunes, but now I know they also put on a great performance too. Electronic Keyboardists often do the moody Chris Lowe look, Jack St James was in his element which made the performance even more infectious, whilst Alice Fox was effortlessly cool and polished. A joy to watch and listen to!
I mentioned earlier that I’m not usually a bit fan of acts who do a lot of covers. However I’d had such a good night that I was ready to party – and party is what Parralox are all about!
They put their own spin on the songs they cover and before you know it, you don’t care whether or not it’s a cover.
Radiohead’s Creep in particular takes on a new life of it’s own, Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence was more of a straight cover but I was singing along! Alan Parsons “Eye in the Sky” was also a highlight as was “Sharper than a Knife” which I think may be their own song.
They finished their joyous 55 minute set with a cover of “Electric Dreams” changed to “Silicon Dreams” which seemed a fitting end to the night.
At least they thought it was the end of their set!
The audience were chanting for more! Often bands keep a few songs in reserve for the expected encore, and come on like “what us, aw shucks!”, they were genuinely unprepared and had to try and find a song they hadn’t done at short notice. This took what seemed like ages and someone in the audience shouted “Just play anything” which I think struck a chord with the whole room – we didn’t care if it was perfect or not, we just wanted another tune!
It was so good that the crowd demanded another encore, which was even better!
Alas, the stage manager who I know from Glastonbury was getting twitchy as the venue curfew was fast approaching and sadly the night had to be brought to an end.
Great act to see live, seemed really nice people and John von Ahlen had come all the way from Sunny Australia to perform for us (perhaps explains why he came on stage in his rain coat!)
When he removed his raincoat he revealed a Depeche Mode t-shirt underneath! Clearly they are lovers of the bands they cover, and give the songs the love and respect they deserve!
Simon Hewitt who organised the festival pulled off a remarkable lineup there, 6 hours of non-stop joy in a friendly atmosphere. 2017 has already been a remarkable year for live music events in Liverpool, and I really hope that this festival returns in 2018 and more people take the plunge and give it a try!
Originally published in Urbanista Magazine UK
Words + Pictures by John W. King