Threshold Festival 2017
Spring can mean only one thing for music-lovers – the start of Music Festival season, and for me it begins with Threshold!
Here in Liverpool we are blessed with a large selection of quality music festivals right on our door-step. So there is no need to camp or get muddy unless you want to.
There are lots of specialist festivals to look forward to. Africa Oye, Positive Vibration, Silicon Dreams and of course Creamfields to name but a few.
In terms of more eclectic festivals, Sound City is of course the jewel in our festival crown. Globally recognised performers rub shoulders with criminally under-rated local stars of tomorrow. FestEVOL time and again catches artists who have just broken through and about to go massive. Kicking off the season is Threshold rounding up quality artists who have generally yet to breakthrough.
Unless you are a music blogger or in a band or somehow connected to the local creative scene, you could be forgiven for looking through the lineup of 150 acts and say “Who?”. Big names are thin on the ground, but it’s well worth stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a gamble.
It’s spread out across venues in the Baltic Triangle area, this year the venues were Constellations, District, 24 Kitchen Street, Unit 51 Coffee, Baltic Social and Red Brick Vintage in the old Cains Brewery. No Glastonbury style 30 minute hike between stages here – you can walk between the extremities in about 10 minutes. Just get your wrist band and you are free to wander between venues discovering the musical treats on offer.
Sometimes when I go to big festivals like Glastonbury, the bands I wanted to see have an off day or somehow disappoint – it’s always better to see the bands you really like at their own gigs rather than at a festival where half the audience might be there because they can’t be bothered walking to the next stage, which can affect the atmosphere. But what makes up for it is the acts that you stumble upon by chance.
So, why not go to a festival where all the acts are new discoveries? There are many reasons to give it a whirl:
Firstly, it’s ridiculously cheap! This year for example early bird tickets were something like £10 rising to £25 – fantastic value for 3 days of entertainment!
Secondly, the quality of acts is high. You might think with a whopping 150 or so acts on the bill that the barrel has been scraped raw, but nothing could be further from the truth. Being on the official volunteer photographer team, I ran around trying to catch as many acts as I could (around 20 per day) and the quality for me ranged from good to mind-blowing, the acts I enjoyed least, I still enjoyed and would have happily hung around for their entire set had I not had to be elsewhere.
Thirdly, and most importantly for me – it’s one of the friendliest festivals I’ve been to, where even if you don’t know anybody there, you will leave feeling you belong.
On the Saturday night a guy started telling me a long story about losing his wristband, and asking what I could do about it. I thought this was a rather odd thing to ask a complete stranger, until I remembered I was wearing a Threshold volunteer t-shirt!
We got talking and he told me that his friend had told him to come – he knew none of the acts but had an amazing time and was gutted that he’d missed the last 6 Threshold’s as he only lives down the road from the Baltic Triangle.
Festivals like Threshold and local gigs are important – without them, where would the bands who go on to play the likes of FestEVOL and Sound City start out?
As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t see an act all weekend that I didn’t enjoy to some extent. My short-list could go on forever. Old favourites such as Xander and the Peace Pirates, Science of the Lamps, Mersey Wylie and Johnny Sands were on fine form as always, but in the spirit of Threshold I thought I’d write about my selection of favourite acts who have previously slipped under my radar.
Imagine a trained opera singer with a high-energy dance beat pounding through the speakers – vulnerable introspective songs with high drama music and a theatrical performance. Minimalistic yet mesmerising. On googling him it seems I’m late to the party as all the finest music blogs have already written about him, but if you haven’t caught on to him yet I’d recommend a listen!
I’ve got to admit that although I’ve got a wide-taste in music, I generally can’t stand Country and Western! All that twanging , line dancing and obsession with Nashville isn’t for me 🙂 So it’s all the more impressive that country artist Narn was able to win me, of all people over!
The artists on the Showrunners stage only had 2 songs each, yet she left me wanting to hear more. Checking her on Youtube confirmed my initial thoughts that she has impressive song writing and performance abilities. If I were a betting man I’d wager we’ll be hearing a lot more from Narn in the coming years.
The Tosin Trio
Another act that have been quietly making waves, yet managed to completely slip under my radar are The Tosin Trio.
The stage was running late and had to be finished by 6pm. The stage manager took the decision to reduce each acts songs from 2 to just 1. Nevertheless, that 1 song was enough to set the room alight! The audience were desperate for more, the band were desperate to play more, Alas rules are rules, and cutting another act wouldn’t have been fair.
I’m sure I won’t be alone in making a point of catching them at a later date. A less rushed gig where we can appreciate their amalgamation of Blues, Funk, Rock and Soul with the odd hint of jazz.
My friend, David Blair of Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5’s nailed it:
“Sometimes a voice has that much beauty and power it leaves you standing in awe at it’s majesty.
Like a cross between PJ Harvey, Kate Bush and Anna Calvi.”
Queen Zee and the Sasstones
To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember much about their music or lyrics! What I do remember is being part of the whole room getting into a frenzy! Considering I was stone-cold sober due to being on duty, they must be doing something right.
After a busy afternoon photographing bands I decided to stop for a coffee and a sit down in Constellations cafe. Testament to the efficiency of stage staff, by the time I’d finished the coffee, Mané had taken to the stage. I quickly realised she was something special and worth hanging around for. Pure polished unashamed commercial pop, but I liked it. She wouldn’t sound out of place on daytime commercial pop radio. Excellent performance and oozing stage presence, made Mané an unexpected musical treat!
I’ve been wanting to catch Kalandra for a couple of years. This year I made a point of catching them (even though I had to leave early to cover another venue). The wait was more than worth it! If anything they were better than I expected. Powerful celtic-norse folk melodies guaranteed to captivate the hardest of audiences.
Hannah Peel was arguably one of the bigger names on the lineup, having had 6 music airplay for example. I must admit I’d had a flip through her album on Spotify and it hadn’t really grabbed me initially. Quality music often takes a few listens to get into. Live, she won me over from the start. Now, revisiting her material on Spotify and YouTube I’m starting to appreciate just how fabulous she truly is.
So that’s it for another Threshold Festival. Lack of funding meant it very nearly didn’t take place. Fortunately crowdfunding came to the rescue, and everyone I spoke to had an amazing 3 days. Will you be joining us next year for the best “secret” party in Merseyside?
Words and Photos by John King