The idea behind Liverpool International Music Festival is to provide a platform for home-grown talent that gives them the opportunity to share a billing with globally successful artists.
The annual summer festival in Sefton Park is ran by the local council and recently went from being an unrestricted free festival to introducing a ticket fee (which started at £6 per day), fences, and – much to a lot of people’s annoyance – a restriction on bringing your own alcohol in. The result, for this family festival, is a feeling of security and control but with the common frustration shared by many inner-city festivals of big queues at the bar.
With the Saturday selling out by 4pm, this year feels like a success and it will be interesting, now that they have all of the components of a major festival in place, to see how it develops. Tramlines in Sheffield started as a free festival and then introduced a small fee and is now a major capacity festival pulling in huge acts for a larger ticket price successfully with the past two years selling out in advance. Will LIMF go the same way?
LIMF also provides an opportunity for promising local artists to become festival ready with its own development programme. The first live act we see on the main stage is LIMF Academy alumni Raheem Alameen who gives a confident performance and his poppy and interesting R&B feels like the perfect fit for this line-up.
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MiC LOWRY also get main stage billing with new single ‘Legless’ getting a lot of love from the huge crowd. These local lads are a 90s-style pop vocal group that were selected by Justin Bieber as his tour support a few years ago but haven’t quite hit their mark yet with gaining that breakthrough.
Over on the Music City stage, buried in the woods so it feels like its own mini-festival, the line-up is a showcase of some of the most talked about local talent in the city. Many of the acts sell out their own shows and some have albums out. Even though this is a local gig for them, we’d guess that many are playing in front of a whole new audience.
We join the stage in time to catch Yammerer, a band best known in Liverpool for their intense, engaging and inclusive live performance. The frontman Jason is definitely a fan of blurring the lines between stage and audience, often delivering his tightly-wound lyrics from the crowd. How does this work in broad daylight in the middle of a park? Well, it does. He’s imprisoned on the stage, which he paces intensely. Their performance is frenzied and the songs stand up.
Back on the main stage, Ella Eyre delivers a polished and crowd-pleasing set including ‘Just Got Paid’ co-written by headliner Nile Rodgers. A song that the audience clearly relate to, by their response.
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We are then treated to the start of local record label 3Beat’s 30th birthday extravaganza. DJ and A+R Anton Powers opens proceedings with a DJ set showcasing the wealth of music the label has released or been involved in over the years.
A record shop worthy of a pilgrimage during the heyday of Liverpool super-club Cream that gave birth to a label, which has kept its head above the trends and forged its own path releasing so many cult club hits along with global smashes such as Sigma, Geko and M-22, all of which are here as part of the celebrations. It is rare that a successful record label’s head office stays in a city outside of London, and this is truly being celebrated today.
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We head over to the Music City Stage again, this time to catch Eyesore & The Jinx who are fresh back from playing in Russia, an opportunity that came about through Liverpool’s UNESCO City of Music status. It’s fitting they’re given a slot quite high up on the bill, particularly as they’re one of the latest bands to pick up support from Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens. They fly through their three singles including latest release ‘Swill’, before launching in to a barrage of new tracks. The set is a short assault and confirms their status as one of Liverpool’s bright talents.
Up next on the stage is a conveyor belt of performances in tribute to the late Tony Butler, owner of The Zanzibar, who passed away in 2018. This involves a secret acoustic performance by The Zutons, that may have been a wee bit too secret as Dave McCabe asks “are we on the same time as Nile Rodgers, yeah?” They are.
CHIC’s last show in Liverpool is still a very vivid memory for those that witnessed it, as they headlined Liverpool Music Week at the Arena in 2017. It seems that Nile Rodgers enjoyed his time in Liverpool so much he wanted to do it again. His Sefton Park headline slot was a condensed look at his back catalogue. How he manages to slim it down to an hour is beyond us, but it’s hit after hit with little snippets of stories in between.
A particular highlight is when the stage is full of samba dancers in full costume from Liverpool’s very own Brazilica festival. A colourful and vibrant end to a great day.
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Photo Credit: Robin Clewley
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