IN the majestic splendour of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral - the biggest, most magnificent church building of its kind in the UK - a little known rock n roll band from New York City are playing an equally majestic set.
The Walkmen, a group beloved ardently by fans but not much heard of by anyone else, are here below the stunning stained glass windows and jaw-dropping architecture for a very special music festival: Liverpool Sound City.
Over the next three days, more than 350 bands from across the world will play some 25 venues, from clubs to cafes, bars to basements and museums to theatres. It gives this unofficial capital of British pop an arty party vibe that comes on like an urban Glastonbury. And, with 40,000 other music fans here, it’s fabulous to be part of.
The Walkmen in the Cathedral are tremendous, perhaps the finest gig this writer has ever seen - and this writer saw Milburn at The Leadmill. Similarly stunning are jangly pop duo Big Deal in a cellar beneath a pub, and Boats, a gang of wired-up Canadians who perform in The Brink, a sarsaparilla and tonic temperance bar bang in Liverpool’s late night land.
That’s Sound City for you. Great bands. Great atmosphere. Great three days. If you like your music festivals to be thrilling but indoors, start thinking now about tickets for next year.
But here’s what makes the whole event (held, in 2013, just last weekend) truly special: Liverpool itself.
Because this rejuvenated, and regenerated city is well worth a visit any time.
From the moment one steps from Lime Street Station to be greeted by the grandly colonial St George’s Hall, it is a place packed with surprises: home to great shopping, stunning architecture and a little band called The Beatles.
We stayed at BridgeStreet Serviced Apartments, a complex in the heart of Liverpool One which itself is a three tier city centre shopping quarter Sheffield could, at present, only dream of. And, as well as being excellently located, our temporary home provided a clean, comfortable and surprisingly quiet base. Thoroughly recommended.
It also put us within a 10 minute walk of the city’s famous waterfront - including the magnificent Liver Building and the renovated Albert Dock.
Liverpool is a city that prides itself on, metaphorically, looking out across the North Atlantic to New York, it’s American cousin. In actual fact it looks out across the Mersey to Birkenhead. But that’s just detail. Either way, it’s worth a trip on the fabled ferry simply to savour the stunning skyline - a UNESCO world heritage site in its own right.
You can’t go to Liverpool, either, without visiting The Beatles Story. The venue isn’t cheap at £12.95 but it’s worth it, charting the band’s rise from The Quarrymen to history’s most astonishing cultural phenomenon. There’s signed guitars, old suits and a reimagined Cavern club. It has a pretty decent soundtrack too.
That’s Liverpool. It’s worth a visit, yeah yeah yeah.