Across the Threshold: Festival Diary

© Tony Knox

Across the Threshold: Festival Diary

2018: the year that Threshold wasn’t, or so the organisers thought.

Described as a “fallow year”, Across the Threshold was a paired down iteration of the best-loved Baltic Triangle Festival in its eighth incarnation. As such, 2018 marked a year of self-questioning and identity.

The organisers recognised that the fringe festival was experiencing something of an “adolescence” and wanted to know how to make it count among the vast array of already popular Liverpool music festivals.

Since 2011, Threshold has been hosting musicians, bands, street performers and visual artists across a variety of venues located in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. Many of these artists are home grown talent or have a strong connection with the city.

This year, the venues were Unit 51 (including the Shed), the Hobo Kiosk pop-up pub, District and an outside mural on the Ley Holdings Group Building.

The majority of the music acts performed in District and Unit 51. Unit 51 offered a cosy and intimate environment to enjoy small-scale sets, while District invited a carnivalesque party atmosphere incorporating upbeat, roof-raising performances interspersed with cabaret acts.

Friday Night Warm Up

Friday night warmed up the festival. We spent the evening in Unit 51 enjoying the sounds of Tortusa / Breistein, an instrumental duo hailing from Norway. Tortusa’s electro rhythms were in perfect harmony with Inge W Breistein’s saxophonic overlay, which transported the audience into a high-octane film chase at their rousing crescendo.

Thoroughly immersed in the party vibes, we were able to take a deep dive into the dark soul of Foxtrap, the captivating Celtic-sounding vocals of Helen Morrison blended with energetic electronic that brought audience to their feet for a heady rave.

Saturday Morning Creativity

Despite an early night, there was no rest for us festival-goers, as Saturday morning brought us into the thick of the artistic scene. Early risers were rewarded with an insightful programme that included a series of talks and two workshops for some serious creative self-care.

I attended a presentation by Line Hilton from iSing that gave a detailed walkthrough of the trials and pitfalls experienced by singers. Had I been aware I would be the only one in the room who was not a professional singer, I might have stayed away. In this case, however, the ignorance played in my favour.

The workshop provided a scientific platform for something that is considered in the wider music industry as an easy or soft skill, unlike a “proper” instrument that takes years to master. In fact, singing is an athletic pursuit, Line argued, labelling the attendees “vocal athletes.”Just as a sportsman warms up, takes charge of his/her diet and employs the services of physiotherapists, Line feels that singers needn’t be afraid to adopt a similar approach to the voice. Line gave participants a demonstration in warm up exercises, introduced the singer’s toolkit, and offered a generous discount for an annual membership of iSing magazine, a publication aimed at the professional singing community.

Clearly the focus this year has been on helping artists to create. The Liverpool Acoustic 24 Hour Song Writing Challenge involved singer-songwriters composing a piece within a 24 hour period. We were privileged to catch Alicia Rose, Alison Benson and Emily Callacher showcase their contributions to the competition.

The Shed Talks provided a platform for discussion around the music business and event management. I attended a “town hall” where panel members were invited to make suggestions for the future of Threshold with some audience questions at the end.

© Tony Knox

The Serious Stuff

Then it was onto more serious stuff as the tempo picked up for the late afternoon musical performances.

In Unit 51, Mica Jane gave us a feel-good performance with her breezy vocals gliding easily through each lyric backed by lively beats.  R & B artist Sub Blue followed with a soulful voice, getting everyone ready for Saturday night dancing.

Meanwhile, District was fired up with Latin vibes thanks to Salsa Groove Familia. But really getting her groove on was Nana Funk, who delivered the world’s first political campaign wearing fairy light underwear to the melody of Les Misérable’s “I Dreamed a Dream”.

Science of the Lamps were next in the line-up and ramped it up a few notches to deliver a highly competent performance that filled the room.

Fallow year or not, Across the Threshold was the place to be for anyone who wanted to be bold and declare summer officially open. One thing in my three years’ experience has shown me is that Threshold gives you that warm fuzzy feeling of a community, even though I still don’t really know many people there. Festival organiser and performer Kaya Herstad Carney quoted someone as describing Threshold as the “Christmas party of the creative scene” and I feel that sums it up rather perfectly.