Tuesday, 1 April 2014

#threshold14// Day One Review

From a wonderfully warm opening ceremony at Unit 51 through a familiar but none-so-welcome downpour, I headed pretty sharpish a short while down the road to The Baltic Social, a warm and inviting rustic venue. Laden with my camera bag and myriad other assorted journalistica I felt in that moment as if I had made a grave misjudgement of my own vigor. Immediately however the embracing warmth and aromas of freshly cooked food struck me both hungry and happy, and my worries were quickly abated. A mixture of intimate enclosures and long dining tables make the Baltic Social exactly that, a uniquely social venue.

Jerusalem born Avital Raz was sat in focus at the room's end, filling the venue with her famously individual mixture of acoustic guitar and strong vocal work flirting in resolute confidence with the edge of almost unbridled and beautifully chaotic opera at times. The night was young and many of the Social's denizens were still finding their pace, as well as friendly faces and as such the venues attentions were still divided between Raz and the weekend ahead. Raz however, all too familiar with busy social scenes such as these shepherded attention expertly.

I then found myself in District, previously The Picket, who's name still hangs on the building. The renovated District was a standing room only affair and hosting the lion's share of ska and punk this weekend, including Sheffield skasters, Smiling Ivy and Liverpool's own young busking legends Bolshy.

Smiling Ivy commanded the stage on our arrival. Young and energetic but perhaps a little tired in style compared to other more contemporary ensembles, the band played their set well, if a little raw. To say that they could not move a room however would be a falsehood, their raucous tempos, and hints of uncontrollability certainly gave the Sheffield band an edge of uncertain danger that was clearly enjoyed by the vast young majority.

All this hoofing it round town had cast a pretty fearsome hunger over me, but as luck had it I didn't have to look far. As often they are, Trenchtown Truck Co. had set up shop inside District's courtyard, casting their aromas, and after a quick frisk for cash I was tempted by the curried goat, with rice, cornbread and dumplings. A fine choice my sated belly told me.

Some delicious Carribean inspired food was a perfect choice to bolster the high energy environment of the venue and provide some much needed fuel for the hours ahead. Trenchtown Truck Co. were at District all weekend serving a variety of great dishes each evening.

The rain had tired itself by this point and hung back a while as I sped from District to 24 Kitchen Street, to catch the much heralded Science of the Lamps. On my way I bumped into the ever present Threshold photographer Andrew doing an opposing dash and shared a brief but chucklesome dialogue along the lines of;

“Hey, have Science' started yet? “
“Not yet, about to go on, have Bolshy started yet?”
“No just about to go on.”

Packed wall to wall inside the industrial epitaph turned live venue, we arrived in time to hear the closing half of multinational, Liverpool sextet Kalandra's set. A wonderfully inspired infusion of folk, rock and contemporary Nordicana that was stunningly presented, even if their modesty in a brief conversation since tells of a little dissatisfaction with the night’s performance. I have chosen to regard this as nothing more than the humility of a band that is striving for, and attaining at pace, the highest standard of performance.

Kalandra shot by Helen Basil 
All talk from then on was turned to The Science of the Lamps, starring amongst some fantastic local names, none other than Threshold organizer and all round superwoman Kaya Herstad Carney. Conceived in the back streets of Prague in 2010, TSotL has formed organically if unconventionally gaining local acclaim quickly. With a myriad influences from Vaudeville to trip-hop, with Norwegian born Kaya's own Nordic flavourings added to the pot, an evening with The Science' provided, as I suspected it would, an abundance of pleasant surprises.

Science of the Lamps by Glyn Ackroyd 
Next was a frenzied run to the spectacular Nordic church, a venue that had called to me since it pulled itself over the horizon and into view, to hear Alpha Male Tea Party bring the thunder. The photos I had seen served little justice to the sheer beauty of the venue with the towering whitewashed dome of the service room, offering something distinctly different for a venue. Appearing on stage dressed in white dust-cover overalls, Thor's hammer struck his anvil hard and true in appreciation to the sounds of the boys. A talented and technical metal trio, including a charismatic bassist turned Viking berserker shook the world for a short set.

Forced to cut our time with AMTP a little short it was time to retrace my steps back the the Baltic Social to catch a fast rising Liverpool legend, the beautiful Natalie McCool. Performing solo tonight, Natalie commented that it felt a little lonely on stage without the band, but still she had pulled quite a crowd into the venue and managed to shine over the rowdiness of the now well drink-laden patrons quite easily. A relatively short set sadly, comprising some of her more recognisable tracks alongside her personal favourites, McCool shocked no-one by performing as well as we all knew she would.

As I left the Social on my way to District, the streets were quickly filling with people making their way there too, for one reason and one reason only, the Destroyers were about to hit the stage. Dressed to both impress and perplex, the huge 14-piece band from Birmingham lorded on stage ready to bring their unique and eclectic sound to the heaving crowds. Everything from eastern European gypsy-folk fusion, through civil war era Americana to blistering contemporary Jazz lay in their repetoire, ready to be unleashed.

Spirits were high, and a massive rogue balloon descended into the fray to make matters wilder, soon to be joined by many...many more. Rather than getting frustrated or anxious with the latex balloon storm before them however, as many other would, The Destroyers played it to their advantage interacting with the crowd brilliantly and proving that no matter how crazy things got before the stage, the band had a lot more crazy in their arsenal.

An incredible spectacle to close events that evening, The Destroyers are true performance adepts that are capable of doing exactly what it says on the tin, destroy.

Words  by Ash Turner. Images by Milk (Festival poster), Helen Basil (Kalandra), Glyn Ackroyd (The Destroyers and Science of the Lamps) 

Threshold Festival Past...