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City Series: Liverpool

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Photo – Explore-Liverpool

I think Adidas did it first, and I love the idea of a ‘City Series’, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to write about bands, venues, and gigs in Liverpool, which is still arguably the greatest musical city in the country. It’s in the blood. Someone once wrote that when a child is born on Merseyside, the midwife wraps the newborn in a blanket, places it in a cot and then hands it a copy of The Beatles White Album. There is a whole genre of music named after the area, Merseybeat. Whatever period of modern music you examine there are groundbreaking and iconic bands in there from Liverpool. The same goes for venues – The Cavern, Eric’s, Nation – home of Cream. The city has not one, but two museums dedicated solely to music, The Beatles Story and The British Music Experience. It even has it’s own ‘Fame Academy’ in LIPA, whose past alumni include The Wombats, Stealing Sheep and All We Are.

To give a more rounded view of the city, and to make the whole process more enlightening I’ve enlisted the help of Tom Dempsey, singer/guitarist from local band, The Kairos.

Favourite venue.

Me: This changes from week to week, but if I’ve got to pick one today, it would be The Invisible Wind Factory. It’s a bit of a hike from the city centre north along the docks, and it doesn’t look like much from the outside, being in an old converted warehouse. Once inside it’s a different story. It’s a big venue, 1200 capacity and there are epic, moving, industrial sculptures, hanging from the ceiling and built into the walls. There are loads of little raised areas and steps around the edges so even the most vertically of challenged punters can get a good view of the bands.

Tom: To play, The Invisible Wind Factory. I couldn’t wrap my head around the sea of people in front of the stage with all the big crafted sculptures moving around. Brilliant. To watch bands, I’ve always liked The Arts Club. I’ve seen some great up-and-coming bands there.

Favourite gig.

Me: Michael Head at Liverpool Grand Central Hall. You’ve got to see Liverpool artists perform in Liverpool. Michael Head is almost revered in the city. It loves its own, it loves its singer songwriters. It loves those who have had their flaws. Head ticks all the boxes and his Liverpool gigs sell out very quickly. His December 2018 concert at Liverpool Grand Central Hall was no exception. In the Grade 2 listed building on Renshaw Street, which was once briefly the home to the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Head produced a memorable night. Backed by a full band, including backing singers and a brass section Head played a brilliant set of his extensive back catalogue, and as gold confetti floated down from the ornate rose ceiling during Comedy, I swear I saw grown men crying.

Photo: Michael Head at Liverpool Grand Central Hall, @GrantDuncanj
Photo: Michael Head at Liverpool Grand Central Hall, @GrantDuncanj

Tom: Liam Gallagher at The M & S Arena. Ripped the place a new one!

Favourite pub.

Me: Being of a certain age, I prefer to avoid the fleshpots of Concert Square and Mathew Street, so I’d have to pick one of the pubs around Dale Street. It would be a coin-toss between the historic Thomas Rigby’s, and The Ship and Mitre. The latter shades it. It’s got one of the best selections of beers in the city, the bar staff are knowledgeable and friendly, there’s no TVs so you can avoid all the football ‘telly-clappers’ on a weekend.

Tom: We always seem to end up in The Merchant, off Parr Street, either before or after a gig. The pizza in there is top class as well.

Photo: Tom Dempsey of The Kairos, by Ian Dunphy

Favourite current bands.

Me: Too many. The Mysterines, The Cheap Thrills, RATS, Eyesore and The Jinx, and The Kairos are bands I’m looking forward to seeing again, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Tom: We’re good mates with The Sway. The two tunes they have on Spotify are boss (Changing and Step Right). They’re good lads as well.

Photo: The Sway by Ian Dunphy

I’ve got no doubt that the bands will be ready when this is all over. I can only hope that many of our favourite bars and venues make it safely to the other side too. When they do, see you down at the front or by the bar.

Ian Dunphy.

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