FEST EVOL @ Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool, 30 Apr
Liverpool's Fest Evol, hosted by local promoter EVOL, was originally conceived as a way to fill the void for urban gig-goers as the summer festival season began. Following the demolition of the Kazimier Club, Fest Evol was forced to move from its spiritual home whilst its date in the annual calendar switched from August to April to reflect a change in emphasis. As an event, it has "EVOLved" and grown from a gathering of predominantly local performers to an event embracing artists from every postcode. There is still a high percentage of local talent on display but this year's event, held within the cavernous Invisible Wind Factory, boasts a line-up to rival any urban showcase of new music.
A rousing set by Leeds blues-psych rockers The Strawberries, whose enthusiasm and delight in what they do is obvious, is the perfect way to kick off proceedings. Chunky guitar riffs, soaring melodies and boundless energy dominated the set with the anthemic Caramel Eyes being an obvious highlight.
The outdoor performance area – the somewhat grandly named Vermilion Sands stage, essentially a wooden shack of the kind that Jed Clampett might dismiss as somewhat basic – sees up and coming Liverpool glam punks Generation kick up an absolute storm. On this showing, it appears they have tunes sharper than lead singer Dean Carne's cheekbones, allied to a sound tighter than the band's collective trousers, and it's actually refreshing to see a group not only looking the part but also having the musical chops to match that image.
Talking of bands who blend sound and vision perfectly, what more can we say about the wonderful Pink Kink? Unquestionably one the most exciting and original new bands to emerge from the Liverpool scene in recent years, few artists have the nous or ability to fuse humour, attitude, intelligence, style and genuine substance in such a unique way.
You could throw any number of genres at them and you'd still be wrong, because the truth is Pink Kink's creativity can't simply be summed up in an all-encompassing soundbite. They are a genuinely special collective, and in the live setting they continue to surprise and delight in equal measure; witness them perform songs such as Pattern People and you'll be instantly hooked. Pink Kink's set concludes with lead singer Bridget alongside keyboard player Inés demolishing a cabbage, chewing it and tearing up its leaves as a protest against another band on the bill who take their name from the aforementioned leafy green vegetable.
Back outside, Psycho Comedy are in the middle of another gripping performance, which can't have been easy given the dimensions of the stage. Singer Shaun Powell always plays every gig like it's being held at Wembley Arena, displaying the requisite amount of charisma and swagger to keep the audience fully focused. PC are a band with a lot of potential, beginning to fulfil their early promise.
One of the best sets of the entire day comes from Dream Wife, who are in such blistering form right now that few can live with them. They mesmerise with a display of raw power and panache, featuring some epic shredding from guitarist Alice Go. Meanwhile, singer Rakel Mjöll provides the perfect mixture of sugar and spite, bouncing about the stage juxtaposing coquettish smiles and honey-sweet vocals with a fearsome feral punk rock roar.
The Big Moon, whose critically acclaimed debut album has recently dropped, demonstrate the way to engage with an audience is to simply have a clutch of insanely catchy guitar-driven tunes, and actually look like you enjoy what you're doing. Their energy and sense of fun is infectious.
On the main stage, Brighton's Black Honey strutted on and pretty much hold the audience rapt from the get-go. Izzy Bee Phillips is as compelling and stylish a front person as you're likely to encounter, and for a band who still (rather bafflingly) remain unsigned, their set list reads like a greatest hits compilation. From Sleep Forever and Spinning Wheel, through to current release Somebody Better, it's surely only a matter of time before they are headlining larger venues. The Pyramid stage beckons.
Manchester's PINS produce an incendiary performance; strident, melodic and edgy. Their new material also suggests another real leap forward for a band who have hovered on the cusp of mainstream success for a number of years now. Their set closes with singer Faith Vern jumping off stage and dancing with the audience.
A creeping menace resides within the Wind Factory basement, the dark, dank cellar proving the perfect setting for the brooding insanity of Doncaster's The Blinders. Their performance is quite the revelation, and those expecting something along the lines of Cabbage are treated to something infinitely darker, edgier and much more interesting. Quite simply mesmerising; underneath The Blinders' gothic theatrics, there's a real sense of twisted lunacy.
All in all, FEST EVOL is a fabulous event, in a wonderful venue. It's easy to view Liverpool as 'the scene that celebrates itself' and at times seasoned gig-goers complain that touring bands avoid the city, preferring to pencil in Manchester instead. EVOL saved us a journey up the M62, bringing the best up-and-coming bands to our doorstep. And really, if you can't bother your arse getting out to support wonderful events such as this, then you really have lost the right to complain.