Liverpool Sound City 2014: Are music festivals dead?

Mike Pinnington
Photo of PINS band against a white and green tiled wall.

We take a peek at the line-up for Liverpool Sound City 2014 – and ask if the music festival is on its way out.

You can hardly move these days for people eager to tell you that the music festival is dead.  Even the daddy of them all, Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis, added his voice to the cacophony not so long ago, citing too much competition and the economy. “It’s on the way out,” he told The Guardian, adding: “We’ve probably got another three or four years.” Two years after this prophecy and Glastonbury tickets again sold out in record time: it seems that the end is not yet nigh.

However, the future of the music festival scene is still a troubled one. Fuel was added to the fire when boutique festival All Tomorrow’s Parties called time on its UK-based events last year. But if it is a dying culture, nobody seems to have told Liverpool Sound City. Founded in 2008 – the same year as the city’s Capital of Culture celebrations – this is one festival that seems more than capable of dodging those predictions of doom.

The future of the music festival scene is a troubled one

Writing in the Independent, Elena Goodison said: “Liverpool Sound City has established itself at the forefront of the UK indie music festival circuit.” One of its strengths, obviously, is in booking the right acts; although light on genuinely blockbuster names, a quick glance at this year’s crop yields a varied and pleasing line-up, including Drenge, Fuck Buttons, PINS and Tennis. Last year’s incarnation saw standout performances from Thee Oh Sees and The Walkmen, who duelled it out in a photo finish for band of the festival. But another, more subtle strength of Liverpool Sound City is in keeping an eye on, and delivering, added value.

This year, for example, there’s a roster of impressive speakers at the festival’s three intellectual strands, Conference, Panel and How?. Jumping out of the pack is the extraordinary pairing of John Cale (late of The Velvet Undergound) and sometime Sonic Youth-er Thurston Moore. For some, these men – who between them have inspired countless bands and musicians – will guarantee the attendance of those umm-ing and ah-ing, those still wondering whether to knock attending a festival on the head this year.

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