Liquid Liquid headline the Electric Frog Street Carnival
New York post-punk top bill at Glasgow electronic festival
With seminal New York post-punk band Liquid Liquid headlining, the Electric Frog Street Carnival is not to be missed, Jonny Ensall suggests
The ‘end of Optimo’ we called it when DJs and promoters JD Twitch and JG Wilkes finished their Sunday night Sub Club residency in April this year. And yet here they are, curating one of the line-ups of the year for the Optimo (Espacio) marquee stage at the forthcoming SWG3-hosted Electric Frog Street Carnival – a bill topped by the band who gave Optimo its name (after one of their tracks), Liquid Liquid. Clearly nothing’s been dropped from the Optimo mission statement.
NY disco renegades Liquid Liquid disbanded in 1983 but reformed in 2000 as their style came back in favour, thanks in part to Optimo’s championing of the early 80s NY post-punk and no wave scenes of which they were a part. Having never previously ventured across the Atlantic, they played their first ever UK show at Optimo in 2003. Seven years later, with only one other UK date in between, it’s another astonishing coup to have them back in Glasgow.
A fourpiece comprising drummer Scott Hartley, bassist Richard McGuire, vocalist Salvatore Principato and marimba player Dennis Young, Liquid Liquid were originally signed to 99 Records, a tiny independent operated by Ed Bahlman out of his Greenwich Village record store. The label put out only a handful of releases, most notably by ESG, Y-Pants and Glenn Branca, but its story is hugely important. At the time New York was developing its own free-form, mutated take on the musical styles – punk and disco – that had gone before. Artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat were rubbing shoulders with bands like Talking Heads, Suicide and even a yet-to-be-world-famous Madonna, creating music and art that was both cerebral and kinetic.
Within this Liquid Liquid were pioneering a dance sound they called ‘body music’ – a chugging, percussive mix of bongos, cowbells, stuttering vocals and iconic basslines that has been used as a template for many current post-punk and disco revivalists; LCD Soundsystem most obviously. Unluckily for Liquid Liquid, hip hop picked up on this winning formula first, and exploited it. Grandmaster Flash lifted the bassline and vocal rhythms from Liquid Liquid’s ‘Cavern’ for his smash hit ‘White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)’. 99 Records eventually won a landmark legal battle against Flash’s label, Sugarhill. But when Sugarhill filed for bankruptcy, no money was collected and the strain on the band and the label put a sad end to both projects. Liquid Liquid got a raw deal (although some royalties were picked from Duran Duran’s cover of ‘White Lines’), so it’s all credit to Optimo that the band have been persuaded back to Glasgow, where they can be afforded the recognition they rightly deserve.
Beyond the headliners, the rest of Optimo’s Sunday evening bill has a lot to offer, with angsty noisemakers Factory Floor, German acid house duo Alter Ego and a live set from British electronic kingpins Simian Mobile Disco leading up to the main event. Prolific DJ, producer and electro enthusiast Felix Da Housecat will be headlining the second stage, supporting by Luke Slater’s Planetary Assault Systems live project, and Trus’ Me will be heading a fine line-up in the event’s Street Party space. Electronic music old and new, and uniformly excellent, united at one of Glasgow’s best venues – the story ends well after all.
Electric Frog Street Carnival, SWG3, Glasgow, Sun 1 Aug, 3pm-11pm. www.electricfrogcarnival.com