Threshold Festival, for those who don’t know, is a grassroots festival of music and arts, taking place in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, which I got severely lost trying to find, in the rain, but that was more to do with my inability to follow a map than the actual location. Even so, this review will be tinged with bitterness. Enjoy. Showcasing a shiny new bunch of musical artists, such as Sophia Ben-Yousef (?), Carlos and the Jackal (?), and Hyper Magic Mountain (???), we’re spoiled for choice over whom to Google and then pretend we know.
Well, I’m pretty sure none of the acts are well known so you can put your phone away. There were so many acts that I couldn’t have possibly written about them all or even see them all perform, but I should be able to give a good indication of the quality of the event. The atmosphere was very relaxed, non-judgemental, with generally cool people and musicians that were just content to perform whether there was one person in the audience or a hundred. The festival acts as a gentle platform for a lot of young aspiring artists, even if it did have a massive hipster vibe, and hopefully some of the underappreciated performers I’ve seen over the course of the weekend will get a leg up in the music industry soon.
The first band I had the pleasure of seeing was Cloud, a 5-piece alternative rock band from god-knows-where, possibly Norway, performing in the venue Blade Factory (why I chose to go there first says something about my mental health). They consist of, according to my notes because I’ve completely forgotten, a loud guy with a cool pointy beard, an overly-enthusiastic guitarist with glasses and a hat (why I felt the need to write that down I do not know), a very quiet looking, handsome guy who sometimes supplies ‘oohs’ to the songs, and a long-haired beardy dude who looks way too into the music at all times, mouth perpetually agape. I also seem to have written that ‘if the enthusiastic guy could have sex with the music, he would’. I’m sure that’s a good thing. There was a drummer as well, presumably, but there was a gigantic speaker in the way so I have no idea what he looks like. By way of apology, here’s a link to some fuckity video they’ve made which just needs to be viewed by as many people as possible.
Anyhow, the music of Cloud was disjointed in a good way, with all-round skilled musicians and a much more put-together and professional style than I expected. There were all kinds: screaming, jazz and scat, weird musical combos, with a primary focus on heavy drums and guitar. They embraced the admittedly crap crowd, which was basically me and the next band that were playing, showing their obvious passion for music. I really respected that. I could have not seen any more bands throughout the festival and still left feeling like I’d discovered something worth discovering.
The second band I saw was Arc Light, coincidentally performing directly after Cloud in the same venue. They just stepped up from the sparse audience and grabbed the instruments, leaving only about ten people and a flock of startled amateur photographers, climbing the walls trying to get a good shot. I’m probably in the back of half of those photos, clutching a notepad and elbowing a photographer off my lap.
The only thing I’ve written about them appearance-wise is that one guy had a ‘weak ginger beard’. I’m fairly sure it’s the same guy who kept turning his back to the audience, just standing there in his trendy cardigan, playing the guitar while facing the wall. He also kept doing this hilarious thing with his head, rolling it forwards and backwards like some sort of musical hen.
Despite this, they were quite impressive, with precise, clear sound control. The guitars all worked in harmony and the singing was good, but nothing new. As often happens at live gigs with loud instruments, the voice was mostly drowned out, taking away something that could have been a factor towards the quality of the music, but the drummer was talented enough, hands flying around everywhere, to counteract this. What I just found horribly cringey, though, was the audience participating in the form of headbanging, the lead singer throwing his mop of hair around in a melodious frenzy. Even so, I feel the need to mention that it was the drummer, Tom’s last gig, awwwwww. I wonder why he left…
Now, onto my favourite band of the whole festival: The Wretched Pearls. I loved them so much because they reminded me of my actual favourite band, Florence and the Machine, but that’s irrelevant to their talent. They were very, very good. And may I just say that everyone in their band was looking very nice, dressed all fancy, got their nails did – ‘cept that one guy in a vest. I’ll let him off because he looks like Thor. Not like those other performers in jeans and t-shirts. Hobos!
As they started to play, I was really getting into their funky drum solo and then heard ‘this is a test’. That burst my bubble a little. I should have just walked out then and there. Outrageous. But then the same drum solo started again and morphed into an absolute orchid of a song. Energetic and harmonious, made interesting by the constant changes in pitch and combination of instruments. I mean, you know shit’s about to go down when they bring out a saxophone. The band members all had great chemistry on stage, all clearly good friends, with an obvious passion for music, the lead singer looking like the sounds where coming from the pit of her stomach and getting dragged through her body. They were just beautiful.
The Festival wasn’t perfect. Too many men with styled moustaches and topknots (It. Does. Not. Look. Good.) I got to hear some strong voices like that of Niamh Jones, and some interesting sounds like those of Forthaven, but I also had to sit through the likes of Anna Corcoran, who utterly put me to sleep. I literally went for a walk afterwards to wake myself up. But overall it was an awesome experience, and you’d be a fool not to keep an eye out for tickets to next year’s fest.
Review by: Meg Morgan | Follow Meg on Twitter