Away from the madness of the main stage, Getintothis’ Del Pike, Paul Riley and Paul Fitzgerald take in a different experience at the Bandstand and LIMF Academy stages.
Sefton Park’s Bandstand is a wonderful and sadly-underused performance space. Surrounded by a small lake and framed with trees, it is a fitting stage for a LIMF showcase of the Mellowtone label’s particular brand of Liverpool talent. In keeping with the environ, a number of the artists on the bill performed custom sets which lent a sense of warmth and intimacy to the show.
Luna’s normally electronic, beatsy sound was the first to benefit from the Bandstand treatment, with a stripped-down set retaining the feel of the full show while being more focused on the piano and vocal roots of her songs. Liverpool duo Sensorites’ fingerpicked guitar and melodic bass chords sounded lush in the open space while Welsh songstress Grace Hartrey’s four piece provided upbeat and uplifting feel to the proceedings.
Paul Straws was the first solo singer-songwriter of the day, and employed a loop pedal and samples to embellish his performance. He used those extra tools to good effect, finding remarkable space and agility in his layered vocal harmonies and chord progressions.
Me & Deboe were energetic, dynamic and lovely; close, urgent harmonies which were a strong counterpoint to guitar that, at times, had an almost flamenco feel. After a worrying hour or so, the rain thankfully did one and sunshine bathed the Bandstand for Liverpool troubadour Rosenblume, whose Irish influenced Americana was ably assisted by a full band including some serious fiddle and a raucous blues mouth organ. Nick Ellis was our second solo performer, and filled the space with mesmeric fingerpicked blues chords and soulful storytelling, at times reminiscent of The Byrds.
The finale of Mellowtone’s weekend at the bandstand really couldn’t have been much stronger or more perfectly chosen than the Midnight Ramble. This fine bunch of tight, blues heavy players rely on each other like every worthy band should. They deliver an easy set of funk blues magic, to an appreciative audience who can’t help but move with it. Beginning with a Ray Lamontagne-esque stripped soulful ballad, they build with each well crafted, sax-heavy riff. This kind of music can only ever be carried off well by the most confident of musicians with the very best record collections. The songs are songs, and tightly put together and performed with all the mature swagger of a New Orleans house band of septegenarians. Boss. In all the right places.
The LIMF Academy stage was a real pleasure today. A small crowd had already gathered for the opening act, a guy who introduced himself as Adol from the Grow Wild Project. He turned out to be a spiritual soul with a political mind and after a short uplifting rap delivered two songs with his acoustic guitar that centred on his love for the Hebrew God, Jah. The most positive start to a set as you could wish for.
The Academy stage is made possible by its association with Edge Hill University and dancers from that very institution, calling themselves Edge Fwd (clever) performed a piece called Revolt by Gary Clarke that was inspired by the miners strike. The sequence was electric and incredibly moving, running the gamut of just about every human emotion in just under fifteen minutes. The dancers writhing around on the wet grass, pulling each other frantically across the space was so much more effective than if it had been performed in a studio.
As the day progressed we were treated to a range of bands including the boisterous four piece Shamona who appear to be influenced by the like of John Power and soon to return Liverpool band, Rain. Ragoon Sons offered sunny indie pop with Johnny Marr guitars and 80s synth lines, while Brasshaus raised the bar with their late 70s post-punk approach to punchy songs with names like Frontline and Mr Kennedy. Their angsty attitude and three piece line-up recall The Jam in their prime and they possess the confidence to match them.
Paddy Clegg had a haircut which suggested we might have heard something a bit rockabilly or retro at least, but we got fresh, very Liverpool sounding songs that hint towards greater things. Like Brasshaus before him, confidence is not an issue here and his stage presence will be key to his success. Despite the heavens opening at this point, Clegg managed to hold the crowd as we gave up on our rain soaked beanbag.
As did Eleanor Nelly. At just fifteen she has the maturity of a veteran. Eleanor’s guitar skills and irresistible vocals through original instant classics like Blue Eyes and well-chosen covers like Labi Siffre’s It Must Be Love were perfect and as she finished the sun came out.
Mari Hajem didn’t quite raise the same enthusiasm from the audience this afternoon, but managed to calm the mood down for a short time with her slow burning ballads that tended to build to a crescendo. The Norwegian singer, sat elegantly behind her keyboard, brought class to the stage, and songs like Confusion sounded incredibly polished, showing commitment to the quality of the output.
The two closing acts tonight brought an American flavour to the night. Maryland’s Jalen N’gonda, who now lives in Liverpool was hands down the best act on the Academy stage today. His love of Motown is clear and his songs could easily be taken straight from that vast back catalogue. He looks the part too, stood in the little red and yellow circus tent of the Academy stage with his beautiful guitar, sharp threads and no less than three Getintothis reporters arguing whether he looked more like Marvin Gaye or Curtis Mayfield. Classics just waiting for a wider audience include Holler When You Call My Name, Don’t Just Sit There and You Deserve What You Get. N’gonda is one to watch.
Last up was Amique, touted throughout the day by MC Ben Osu as Liverpool’s answer to Prince. His crew of funksters, including two brilliant backing singers and a bassist from Sunday LIMFers Galactic Funk Militia – who actually does look like Prince – are on the button in getting the crowd up and moving (for the first and only time today).
Amique himself has his own look which is 80s tinged with a jaunty hat and curly locks, and it works. He is oozing confidence and his enthusiasm is infectious. Amique was the perfect choice for a set closer and managed to hold an audience who could quite easily have left early to find a place for the Bunnymen set on the main stage.
Video by Getintothis’ Martin Waters
Photos by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody and Jazamin Sinclair