We asked our writer Emma Davidson to spend the day of May 5 experiencing the sights and sounds of SFTOC – here’s her review of our 15th birthday party
It was the morning of the 5th of May, and a sneakily sunny corner of Salford was about to turn into the best paradisiacal place this side of the pond. A place where beer is poured from the inside of a caravan, Britney Spears is belted out the door of a portaloo and tequila is shot straight into your gob from the spout of a water pistol. It is, of course, Sounds From the Other City 2019. Here to celebrate its 15th birthday, I donned my Dr Martens for a day at Regent Road.
Arriving at the site early Sunday afternoon, I’m greeted by a man in a flattering blonde wig asking if I’m Jenny and “did I order a L-Uber?” to which he gestures at the empty shopping trolley he is moving backwards and forwards beneath him. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that in fact, I was not Jenny, but I was sure I’d just saw her standing on the corner of Unit 2 looking a little lost! Off he went into the eye-catching site, decorated in glittering tinsel moving in a gentle breeze briefly catching a quick glimpse of your cheesy festival happy reflection. It’s not quite the flip flop weather we were graced with last year, but It’s the perfect place for a bunch of artists from far and wide to gather under a tin roof that on every other day of the week houses a printer’s and a paint stockist. Sounds From the Other City fits right in with its similar DIY ethic and a plethora of overalls.
I start my day at unit 2 catching the remarkable Aadae who played a beautifully, industrial poetic set that comprised of only her and her drummer. The bass driven performance had notes of afro-beat, at times drawing a stark contrast to Ibibo Sound Machine who Aadae has just recently finished a set of dates with. Her songs provoke an emotional response from the packed-out crowd that are huddled into this warehouse like a herd of cattle, and her presence is enough to provide an angelic atmosphere to warm us ready for the rest of the afternoon.
With a vocal as powerful and poetic as it is, it seemed only natural that Aadae breaks into a beautiful Etta James cover which transfixes her audience and displays just how incredible her voice is. Her music has the ability to give everyone that pleasant groove and happiness, a familiar feeling that usually washes over us after the first couple of beers on a sunny afternoon.
Feeling cleansed and super excited to see what the rest of this year Soundstown has to offer, it was time to check out Yorkshire based garage punk rockers Avalanche Party. Residing in unit 3, the band have already started when I arrive, the walls dripping with the sweat of their frontman Jordan Bell, who is in the crowd topless and completely lost in the bands energetic dynamic. Their performance is theatrical at times with each member in a possessed state, angst driven and wildlife-like. Avalanche Party create a frenzied environment that I could watch for hours, the perfect band for any frantic festival goer.
Sneaks was next on my list, an enigmatic character that took to the stage of unit 5 hidden behind a pair a darkened sunglasses, clearly prepared for the 11 degree heat that just wasn’t showing up. I was intrigued by what I was about to witness as she danced robot-like to songs such as ‘Look Like That’ which merges pogo punk bass lines with trap beats. Her performance is somewhat minimal compared to what I have already witnessed, but her celestial hip-hop transports the room to the realms of outer space, overlooked by a huge grey planet that hangs above her as she plays. Maybe if I stay here long enough, that’s where I’ll end up?
After Sneaks’ captivating stripped down aesthetic, Babii was next to take to the stage at unit 5. Another one-man band, she had been top of my list to see since I’d first taken a look at this year’s lineup. Her on stage set up is like a huge jigsaw puzzle. Drum pads, machines, pedals, buttons, cables, lights, similar to that one draw we all have in our kitchen that houses everything from cellotape to a charger for that phone, emotionally parted with in 2007. However, Babii has an insane talent starting her set with the industrialised ‘SEiiZURE’ that sees her beautifully portray an electro-pop paradise, using every possible limb to bash out beats that could have been recorded under the roof of this very warehouse.
She sheepishly explains how she is surviving on only two hours sleep but that in no way affects her performance. Her music is refreshing as her sweet vocals lie beautifully over the dark, layered synth sounds she has managed to curate so uniquely. Babii was undoubtedly my favourite performer at this year’s SFTOC, I was not only amazed by her music but by her performance. There was so much to focus on that as an audience member you also felt fully immersed and engrossed with every movement. Her set was flawless and incredibly exciting to witness, it’s hard to even compare Babii to anyone else on the current music spectrum. If you haven’t already, then please grace yourself with her mind-boggling music.
Then I was suddenly transported to unit 4. Emerging from the tinsel that provided the perfect Instagrammable entrance, I was greeted by four bearded men dancing to the baby mobile beats of Tirikilatops’ ‘Snail Party (Wah!)’. The set is a blur, with one member of the band slumped, confused in the corner of the stage only leading me to question if he was part of the performance or a mere festival goer that had possibly peaked too early. Anyway, their set was a crazy explosion of neon hues and cult kawaii inspired costumes. With this being my first ever introduction to Trikilatops, the experience was eye-opening and a little over whelming but nevertheless they’re a band who fit perfectly into the SFTOC sphere that inhabits all things weird and wonderful.
After witnessing the world of Trikilatops I found myself in a lengthy queue for the hidden toilets inside unit 4. You may think that my toilet experience is completely irrelevant, but I doubt you’ve had one like it. I could already hear the bass pounding from behind the closed doors of each cubicle. As I stepped foot into the bathroom, three people dressed as red chillis and a couple of makeshift coppers armed with water pistols full of tequila were dancing hard to ‘You’ve Got to Show me Love’. It was a secret rave that provided the best post poo party going.
It was now nearing the end of SFTOC 2019 so it was time to head over to unit 3 and immerse myself in the 90’s dream pop of The Orielles. Packs of festival revellers stormed over to watch the quartet who had filled the unit to the brim and made everyone forget about the unfortunate beer shortage that had just hit the bars. The Orielles painted the walls of this bare venue with their positive, pastel pink garage rock that has grown so organically from the back rooms of local sweaty bars. Their sound is new but nostalgic with undertones of Luscious Jackson in the slick riffs and baby-faced beauty that the band so elegantly portray.
Songs such as ‘Bobbi’s Second World’ are a stand out on stage performance with funk fuelled melodies showcasing the bands unique post dance punk firmly rooted in nostalgic disco. They’re having an absolute blast on stage with guitarist Henry Wade transforming into a Dr Feelgood – Roxette-esque dance jolting his body in time with his stiff guitar playing, and front woman Esme Halford’s sweet spirit projects across this venue filling it with vibrancy and those proper festival vibes that are hard to find anywhere else.
Sounds From the Other City is a one of a kind experience, giving you everything you could ever dream of from a festival situated in a sunny little corner of Salford. It celebrates everything about the city and the artists that inhabit it, it’s welcoming, charming and completely incomparable to any other festival that is around at the moment. Living in this spectacular city is already an honour, but to be able to celebrate everything I love and share an undying passion for on my doorstep is an absolute blessing. Again, SFTOC has outdone itself. If you haven’t allowed yourself to dance around a car park, sipping cans and immersing yourself in art and culture from every corner of this small world, then really, what the hell have you been doing?