Across the Threshold Festival
Friday 13th / Saturday 14th April 2018
@ Unit 51, District & Hobo Kiosk, Baltic Triangle, Liverpool
Threshold Festival is a grass roots music festival showcasing some of the best under-the-radar music and arts talent around. It has been running for 8 successive years, this year it was called “Across the Threshold” because it is a transitional year between what it’s been and what it’s to become.
Why does it need to change? Lots of people love it just as it is, but as ever, the fly in the ointment is money, or rather the lack of it, ticket sales don’t generate enough revenue to fund the scale of the festival, and last year when arts council funding was turned down, it took a crowdfunder campaign to save the festival.
Of course there are lots of things that could be done to bring the festival into the black, but it’s a fine balancing act, modelling it on festivals that make money could erase that special “something” that makes us love it so much.
Part of the problem was summed up by someone I met last year. He lives near the Baltic Triangle and one of his friends has told him he should go, but he looked at the flyer, didn’t recognise any of the bands, so decided not to go. Bored, watching Saturday night telly (and who can blame him!) he decided he’d nothing to lose by checking it out, and he loved hearing all the genres of music and was surprised how talented the bands were.
I’m sure if more people would just step out of their comfort zone and give it a try, they’d love it as much as we do, but sadly many are of the mindset that if they haven’t heard of a band, they can’t be any good. On the contrary, I feel that a lot of bands who make it big swap what made them good in exchange for wider popularity. Of course, few people will like every band on the lineup, but there is such a diverse range of genres on offer that all but the hardest to please would find something that appeals to them.
It’s an age old problem, that all promoters putting on grass roots bands face, and I’m not sure what the solution is.
I remember back in the 90s when I used to drink Cider, it was seen as an uncool drink for underage drinkers, and people teased me about it. A few years later, Magners did a huge advertising campaign, and before long, those people that were teasing me before, had a bottle of cider on their table themselves (with the obligatory ice!) the drink hadn’t particularly changed, but people’s perception of it had through the subtle psychology of advertising. If only someone was able to make the public more adventurous in seeking out new bands, it could be a thriving festival both creatively (which it already is) and economically. But nobody in grass roots music has millions for a big advertising campaign.
The people behind the festival, Kaya and Chris Herstad Carney put together a panel this year to discuss possible avenues the festival can take, with representatives from Skiddle (ticketing site) and Liverpool Calling festival. Obviously with such a tricky problem, lots of possibilities were aired, but there is no obvious de-facto solution to the problem.
But one thing is for certain, if anybody can find a solution it’s Kaya and Chris, who work tirelessly throughout the year with passion and devotion, to bring us the little bit of April sunshine we call Threshold, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with for 2019, I’m sure it will still be a festival by creatives, appreciated by creatives, and hopefully reach out to a wider audience in order to make it sustainable financially.
Despite the year’s festival being reduced from 6 venues to 3 (including the fab but tiny Hobo Kiosk) it was by no means any less entertaining or special.
A concept that I felt worked particularly well was to have the cabaret acts in a cornered off area of District, so that whilst the next band were setting up, there was still entertainment going on.
Many of my regular favourites were on, including The Mono LPs, Mersey Wylie and Kaya’s band Science of the Lamps. But in the spirit of the festival, I’ll shortlist some of the stand-out bands I heard for the first time at this year’s festival.
In a way it feels unfair to single out bands for praise, as they were all excellent, but these are the ones who were new (to me) and I felt stood out.
Much as I was enjoying Threshold, lack of sleep from editing photos until 4am, and photographing some 36 acts, I was starting to flag, so with one last act to go I thought I’d get some photos and head home for some much needed sleep.
But within moments of the start of their set, it was clear I was going nowhere until they were finished! Fun, uplifting, visually entertaining, impossible not to dance to, and such a cool name! I ended up not only watching their set, but staying for Galatic Funk Militia DJs and I didn’t leave until after 2am!
Coming all the way from New York, this was the second year they played Threshold (silly me, managed to miss them last year!)
They said they enjoy playing in the UK, so let’s hope they come back soon!
Blending techno, haunting electronica, trance and hypnotic, soaring vocal melodies, Foxtrap certainly had the room in the palm of their hands.
WIth their facebook page just slightly shy of 10,000 likes, I can see big things happening for this band.
Admittedly, their Friday night performance washed over me a little, I’m not sure why, perhaps it was just the hectic schedule of trying to get around and photograph every act, but fortunately I got a second chance to sample their performance when an artist had to pull out and they filled the gap.
A stunning set, experimental, and hard to pigeon hole, and I must admit (not being much of a music writer!) I find their sound hard to describe, so here’s their official bio which expresses it much better than I could:
A collaboration between artists Oli Rushen, Elliot Hingston, Roman Banwell, and Ella Joy; Nányë is the brainchild of four progressive individuals. Nányë is built upon the philosophy of progressive living, and creative expression through sound. Their sound is a hybrid of electronic and analogue, luring an attentive listener through vibrant soundscapes, from electronic doom to experimental nujazz.
Nányë’s sound represents the fusion of four vibrant compositional approaches, bound by a love of electronic rhythm and the passion for taking a listener on an unexpected journey. The percussive and melodic voices of Nányë blend into a body of work that is full of strong transitional soundscapes, spiralling production and delicate instrumentation.
Their live performance is something to behold, but make sure you give them your full attention!
Ironically for a band called Vide0, I can’t find them on youtube 🙂 But if the likes of Metronomy and Hot Chip are your thing, then they are well worth fighting the auto-correct to track down! Formed out of the ashes of Bathymetry and Prowies, Alex Brown and Emily Garner are lining up shows including this year’s excellent (by all accounts) Bluedot festival.
Hailing from Manchester, they site their influences as Arctic Monkeys,The Cure,Joy Division,Foals,Editors,Notorious B.I.G,The Killers,The Cribs,Depeche Mode, David Bowie, though whilst these influences are very apparent, they manage to add their own spin. Well worth checking out!
After editing photos until 4am, and with stuff to do for work on Saturday morning, it took a bit of effort getting down to Threshold for the first artists of the day, but my effort was well rewarded. Daisy Gill looks and sounds amazing, Amy Winehouse is an obvious point of reference. Looking at her youtube account she’s been making music for a couple of years, but if like me you haven’t come across her before, then do have a look and listen!
It’s no surprise KingFast won the Merseyrail Sound Station prize in 2017. He has an incredible voice, song-writing ability and a distinctive look. Born in Jamaica, raised in Belfast and living in Liverpool, he fuses many genres to produce classy soulful pop.
I was already aware that Jazamin is a multi-talented artist, and have met her at the photo pit a couple of times, but I’d never heard her music before. Tonight she performed as a 3 piece with the wonderful Luke Moore on Cello (he was surely the hardest working person at the festival as he also performed with Science of the Lamps, Operation Lightfoot, was a judge at the 24hr songwriting challenge, etc), and also Dawn on harmonies and Glockenspiel. A real treat!
Salsa Groove Familia
Threshold really does embrace a lot of different genres, and what better way to get a Saturday evening going than some authentic, groovy Salsa!
What 2019’s Threshold will look like, nobody knows, but I bet it’ll be worth the wait!
Words + Pictures by John W. King
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