This was the 9th outing for Threshold – the festival where you can discover bands who are relatively unknown, but should be famous.
Last year when it didn’t receive arts council funding there was a real fear that it might be the end for this popular festival, but Kaya, Chris and their team pulled it out the bag and this year was successful in obtaining funding, meaning it lives to fight another day!
Usually on the Friday night at the start of the festival, there is a lot of excitement in the air, but this year was noticeably more subdued.
The most obvious reason for this was the tragic news about the band “Her’s” being killed in a road accident. I believe they have performed at Threshold in the past, and with the Liverpool creative scene being so close-knit, most people knew them or had seen them. They weren’t on my radar, but still the tragedy hits you, particularly when you read that they recently played at SXSW and were touring in America, living the dream, and the cruel irony that from being virtually unknown, they are now a household name, known to people who don’t follow music, but for the wrong reasons. RIP.
Another thing which is clearly getting the country down is Brexit. 3 years of the same circular arguments with no consensus in sight, has left a lot of people fed up and despondent for the future.
One of the problems with brexit is that you can’t simulate it. With the millenium bug it was a single issue, and you could test your computer systems by putting the date forward and see what happens, the only real risk was lack of awareness, and the media ensured that you’d have to be living on Mars to not be aware of the threat.
With Brexit, it’s all opinion (some more educated than others). People state as fact that Germany will give us what we want because they don’t want to sell less BMWs for example, but that makes an overly simplistic assumption that tariffs will reduce the sale of BMWs. People who can afford to buy a BMW aren’t exactly counting the pennies, if the price rises by say 10%, will they really switch to buying say a Jaguar (the closest, currently British built car I can think of which is comparable to a Beamer) which will also rise in price as some of the components are sourced from the EU?
At the other end of the spectrum, will people really switch from Brie to say Stilton to save a few pennies if they want Brie? Who knows, human behavior is notoriously difficult to predict.
Whether you believe that brexit will trash the economy or give us our freedom, it’s hard to see an outcome that will heal the divisions and move help us move forward as a country. On the one hand, we might leave and discover that the scaremongering wasn’t scaremongering, or we remain and 16 million or so people will feel cheated (whether you believe they were or not, that is how they will feel) which could lead us to a very dark place.
The best we can hope for I reckon is that we leave, and it turns out to be a bit of a damp squib, with things carrying on much as before, maybe the NHS really will get that £350 million a week (which if the pound crashes might be enough to buy a couple of bandages!)
But, believe it or not, in the mid 80s we feared something much worst than leaving the EU. Nuclear war. TV movies such as “threads” (well worth a watch when you’re feeling too happy and need bringing down to earth), I fancied Jayne Hazlegrove at the time (who was also in Coronation St) but even she couldn’t lift the bleakness.
Yet we survived all the doom and gloom, and I think the main reason that we did was because we didn’t have social media.
Across the weekend, the subject of social media came up again and again, with lots of people coming off it completely or reducing how much time they spend on it.
Thing is, if you bump into an acquaintance on the street and have a discussion, with difference of opinion, unless they really offend you, you agree to disagree, and get on with your life. If you see them again you may decide to stay off the subject you disagree upon.
But on social media, posting an opinion on anything is a magnet for some bloke you once met at a festival 10 years ago but never spoken since to come in all guns blazing, determined to make you see his point of view.
Our views on things like the EU have formed, not just since the referendum was announced but throughout our lives, yet people seem to think that posting an article from a highly biased source that supports their arguments, will somehow change your mind, and they get frustrated when you don’t. Instead of taking a hint, they keep trying in the vain hope that eventually they will wear you down.
It all becomes very tiring, and it’s not just the big subjects that cause endless arguments. I’m not a fan of green peppers, so I was quite excited (I don’t get out enough) when I saw that Aldi had multi-bags with no green pepper. I was so excited I posted it up on Facebook. The green pepper lovers were not happy 😉
Of course, that was just a bit of good natured banter (at least I think it was, I hope I’m not going to be first against the wall in the great pepper revolution), but it just shows that whatever opinion you post, someone will disagree and you spend time arguing often on things that don’t matter.
I’m not going to go all Daily Mail and suggest that we ban this evil social media! (Actually the DM get a lot of hits from both sides via social media so I doubt they would) There is a flip-side, for example SK Shlomo talked about how internet trolls took him to a very dark place, but on the flipside, his fans crowdfunded his new album that helped him bounce back.
As someone who works from home and doesn’t get out much due to family commitments, social media is my contact with the outside world, but there are days when it leaves me in despair and I think we should all look at our relationship with social media and if it’s enriching our lives, great! But if not, then it’s worth looking at how we can adjust our habits.
Ok, so if you’ve read this far, you may feel I’ve gone off at a bit of a tangent and that this has nothing to do with Threshold.
But the reason I mention it, is because of the contrast in people’s moods between the start of Friday night and the end of Saturday night.
These things collectively made us so jaded that we weren’t even excited about it being the first day of a festival we love, and yet by the end of the following night at the after party, yes we were all knackered (I’d been up until 3am the night before to get my photos edited then back up at 8am to finish off, back to the festival for lunchtime and went home at 3am, which became 4am thanks to BST!) but listening to great live music, having a drink and a laugh with friends and acquaintances (many of whom only see each other once or twice a year) did wonders to lift our spirits.
For example, I’m not a fan of a cover bands, guess which kind of band played at the after-party? But it didn’t matter! We were in our post-festival happy place, and the band were damned good!
So, in my rather long-winded way, I think as a country we need to chill the f**k out, spend less time on social media, less time arguing about deeply polarised issues, and spend more time at Threshold and festivals like it! They really do bring out the human in humanity!
It was interesting to speak to a guy who was the dad or grandad of the drummer in one of the bands. He’d never heard of the festival before, or any of the bands playing, but he absolutely loved it, and the venues reminded him of his days when he was into punk in the late 70s.
I’m sure most people who like music would enjoy the festival, but we’ve all been conditioned by the industry to gravitate towards famous bands and assume that if they aren’t on the mass-media radar then it’s because they aren’t good enough, which of course to anybody in the know, is nonsense.
In music promotion, if you book someone famous, say Gary Numan for argument sake, then he has an established fan base, many of whom will go and see him, and the challenge is to get the word out to his fans within a budget.
But when you’re putting on “unknown” bands (what we would have called unsigned back in the day) you’re aiming at an audience who doesn’t really exist any more.
In my day, lots of us were desperate to discover new bands, because whilst many people as they get older look at their youth through rose-tinted glasses as some kind of golden age, re-runs of Top of the Pops shatter that illusion, because for every Echo and the Bunnymen there were a dozen Black Lace and Grandma we Love you!
We didn’t have the internet or DAB and what few radio stations there were, and the odd TV program that featured bands, were typically tied to the Top 40 and bands who were being heavily promoted by their labels.
Also, seeing a band before they became famous carried a lot of kudos.
But these days the internet gives you access not only to every current band, but pretty much every band who ever existed! You don’t have to look far for something new (even if it was recorded in the 50s but is new to you).
So it’s not just getting the word out to people, but it’s also convincing them that despite their preconceptions and red flags that they haven’t heard of anyone on the lineup, that they will enjoy it and become a regular.
With such a difficult proposition, all credit to Kaya, Chris and their team for all their hard work and sacrafices in keeping the festival coming back year after year.
Next year will be the 10th year. I do worry whether they will decide to call it a day, I mean nobody could blame them, it must take over their lives and financially it must be a drain. Though there looked to be a good crowd there, once you take out the bands, volunteers, photographers, bloggers etc who are on the guestlist, there probably aren’t enough paying customers to break-even, even with arts council funding.
I used to put on gigs, and the buzz of putting them on, especially when the bands sounded good and the (usually small) crowd enjoyed it, and people would come over and say things like “that’s the best night out I’ve had in ages) justified the personal financial drain, even though I couldn’t afford it, but eventually I had to stop.
Those of us who love the festival really need to think about what makes it special, find ways to persuade others to throw caution to the wind and give it a try! Otherwise, one day our April’s may be decidedly darker without this wonderful beacon of light to kick-off festival season.
So, on to the lineup!
Firstly, if you were wondering why there are no photos from the “Best Before” stage, they had a no-photography policy. Indeed at the press launch we were in the ridiculous situation where Kaya the festival director was on stage, and Andrew AB who heads up the official photography team was being told off for taking pictures.
I do understand that many people would like to go back to the days when people weren’t always on their phones, photographing everything. Without sounding too ancient, I’m glad I grew up in an era where I could get drunk, make a tit of myself, and NOT go viral, or have it brought up in interviews 20 years later.
But we are where we are, and I’ve no time for venues who try to control what their customers do, so long as they aren’t harming anybody else.
Had the bands asked not to be photographed then fair enough, but since they are trying to become better known, I suspect few would have done. I was looking fwd to Foxtrap, Ovvls and Gallia too! On the plus side it meant I had more time at the other stages!
It goes without saying to anybody who’s been, that the festival stalwarts such as The Mono LPs, Jazamin Sinclair, Mersey Wylie, Science of the Lamps, Emilio Pinchi and so on were superb as always.
How about new (to me) discoveries?
Paddy Steer? Wow! He knows how to get a party started!
Just how good are Seafoam Green?
I’d seen The Tosin Trio before, but forgotten just how amazing they are!
I’d head the name “Skinner’s Lane” but never seen them before, this time around I’m glad I caught them – fantastic band who remind me a lot of another local band from a few years ago, Newspaper Lovers / Fake Union. I would have signed them if I knew anything about running a label, arguably Skinner’s Lane are even better (indeed I’m listening to them as I write this).
I’ve heard a lot about Silent Cities, and I’m so glad I finally managed to catch him, no wonder people rave about him!
New to me, but on my “Must see again” list standouts were People in Museums, SKAAR, Gen and the Degenerates, SK Shlomo and Reid Anderson.
I was looking fwd to seeing Bang Bang Romeo again. I remember seeing them at Sound City a few years ago, and when Anastasia Walker started to sing, everybody stopped what they were doing to stand and listen to her in awe. I was speaking to a few people at Threshold who’d never heard of them, so I knew they were in for a treat, and I was right, they loved them! Perhaps more than any other band at the festival, they really are on the Threshold of breaking through as they support P!nk at Anfield ! Good work by Popped Music who curated that stage and had some excellent acts on.
It was also great to see Elevant again and Life at the Arcade both of whom seem to get better and better.
Away from the music there was lots of other events to entertain, such as the secret circus with pole dancing, belly dancer and the interesting lecture ’How to Use Gay Nazis in Job Interviews’ by Alexandros Papadopoulos, which to be honest is a tip for applying for jobs that my careers officer never mentioned, how strange. There were also some hilarious songs from Jollyboat, as well as more serious discussions such as Planet Slop’s excellent thought provoking panel session “Diversity in Liverpool arts scene”.
And that is about it for another year… hopefully see you next year?