Liverpool International Music Festival returned for a fifth edition at Sefton Park, Getintothis reflects on the 2017 edition and this year’s stand out artists.
It had been a strange, somewhat muted build up for the fifth edition of Liverpool International Music Festival.
The fanfare, intrigue and relative hype that has accompanied LIMF since it replaced the nightmarish, thuggish zombieland of the Mathew Street Festival as Liverpool’s biggest summer music festival was definitely less apparent.
Gone for the most part were the annual commissions – the series of set-pieces which included talks with Gilles Petersen, Motown legend Lamont Dozier and the Bob Harris hosted Bluebird country offering.
Gone were the unique gig offerings including the 2014 Assembly Point with Boy George, Tim Burgess and Bernard Butler and last year’s city-centre based club nights featuring the likes of The Buzzcocks, Clinic and a raft of rising artists.
In it’s place was a three-day festival affair, streamlined to Sefton Park, with the now accustomed Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra opener on the Friday followed by a smaller, more compact festival site with five live stages and The Palmhouse hosting a variety of club night affairs.
Inevitably arts and funding cuts from Central Government played a big part in hamstringing LIMF’s usual considerable booking power, with the weight of names like Basement Jaxx, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Charlatans, Lianne La Havas, Labrinth and the huge MTV show all absent from this year’s line up.
The result was invariably mixed – however, the spirit of Liverpool’s people and in particular the massive range of new artists ensured LIMF 2017 had much to offer.
On balance, it’s a move to mid July with early curfews didn’t pay off. If organisers continue with the current hours, any repeats of those majestic orchestra-backed shows by Echo and the Bunnymen and the Lightning Seeds in the late summer twilight replete with fireworks seem remote. Those days are gone, despite the valiant efforts of Cast, which made the festival feel less of a truly memorable ‘event’ this year.
The timing of the Merseyrail guard strike coupled with the monsoon like weather on Friday impacted the festival immeasurably, and we can’t help but feel sympathetic towards organisers battling with forces beyond their control. Late running trains meant a half-hour wait for punters each way.
It seemed, on Friday evening, this review may have been dominated by the weather.
Certainly, the rain was the main feature on the opening evening of LIMF in Sefton Park, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who turned up. And those who did were rewarded with some class acts.
There were ponchos and umbrellas out in force at the ItsLiverpool stage where Pink Kink, Zuzu, Xam Volo and the Vryll Society all belted out cracking sets. It was music for better days than this, but the crowds stayed loyal and all the bands had a decent reception.
Pity, then the bars and other merch outlets who were having a less than great time. The weather wasn’t encouraging al fresco eating and drinking. Getintothis did it’s bit, as we always do, but for a while even we had to seek refuge in the DJ Tent to get out of the relentless rain.
And then our glasses were so steamed up we could’t see a thing, save to note the place was rammed. Not with weather refugees, but with proper music fans. Here were a couple of hundred people having a party and it was fantastic to see. It may have been the best bit of the evening – it’s a long way from being our music choice, but, hey that’s not for us to say.
Similarly, too on the main stage. Garage Classics with the RNCM Orchestra wasn’t grabbing us as a must see beforehand. But we did go and have a look and it was an enjoyable voyage through a number of fave tunes that could be said loosely to fit that description. The crowd was certainly having a good time. We guess this proves the old adage about there being no such thing as bad weather; it’s just you’re wearing the wrong clothes.
Saturday saw the rain hold off and the crowds were out in force. In front of the main stage the park was packed in anticipation of Naughty Boy and Gorgon City.
We left them to it, though, as the pickings on the ItsLiverpool and Academy stages seemed likely to be more rewarding.
So too the Bandstand with it’s chilled out atmosphere and a line up promoted by Mellowtone was well worth a visit. Lilium had an early slot there as a warm up for their more energetic stint both on and off the Academy stage later in the afternoon. OVVLS atmospheric pop provided the perfect soundtrack for an afternoon of lazing on the grass slope opposite the lake were one to be so inclined.
The line up on the ItsLiverpool stage was mostly where it was at for Getintothis. Belting sets from The Hummingbirds, Paris Youth Foundation, VEYU and The Sugarmen all had us marveling at the strength and depth of the Liverpool music scene. The future is in good hands with this lot.
If we have an issue, then, it’s the male dominated feel to the proceedings.
By our reckoning, even a very favourable count would place an absolute maximum of 30% of the acts at LIMF represented women in some way, whether as a solo artist or band member. On the ItsLiverpool stage on Saturday, there was just a single female performer featured all day.
— GetintothisHQ (@GetintothisHQ) July 22, 2017
That performer was Eleanor Nelly, who did outstandingly well considering the Brouhaha Parade was scheduled for the same time as her set began. The parade streamed past what was designed as a delicate performance seemingly endlessly.
Both were vibrant performances in their own right, but required their own respective spaces and the clash was as glaring as it was avoidable.
The samba carnival of thundering drums plus Daft Punk blaring from a PA jarred against Nelly’s bare-bones performance. Heads were shaken and exasperated looks exchanged as those onstage gawped at the carnival making its way past. A different route, or time, for Brouhaha surely isn’t much to ask for at a venue the size of Sefton Park. Nelly’s rhythm and nuance was lost as a result.
Closing out the Academy stage, in perhaps an unenviable slot, given many people were strolling out of the park by then, was a strong set by Mary Miller who seems to be growing in confidence as an artist every time she steps on stage.
Come Sunday and the effects of the rail strike were making little apparent difference to the faithful with the park even busier than Saturday. The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra kicked off proceedings on the Central Stage before making way to Etta Bond and Kate Nash.
But it was when Louis Berry hit the main stage at a canter – literally – and proceeded to roll out a barnstorming set of tunes that we knew this was going to be a cracker of a day. He should surely be better known not only in Liverpool but in the country as a whole. He is full of swagger and confidence, his bluesy style always seems to hit the right note. His half hour set was a real change of pace for the day and really set the scene for what was still to come.
Jo Mary brought their usual brand of anarchy and mayhem to the ItsLiverpool stage early on. They too deserve a wider audience. Jane Weaver‘s kind of swirly, kaleidoscopic pop tunes followed on and seemed just right for the brief appearance of the sun.
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) July 22, 2017
After No Fakin’ DJs gave some respite, almost an interlude for many to go check Louis Berry at the Central stage, the ItsLiverpool stage saw the triple threat that just took things to next level.
The area filled to brim for Hooton Tennis Club who presented pop songs with rock and roll sensibilities – full on inclusive of behind the back blistering guitar solos. The front rows danced, the mid rows lounged in awe and the back end saw people stop dead on their tracks to catch up with the excitement.
The winner of the day arguably was She Drew The Gun that turned the sun kissed day to cloudy seriousness with prophetic socio-political style.
Easily the crowd-favourites, they had the audience singing every word to their tunes like Where I End and You Begin and the ever-popular Poem, which turns more and more anthemic with every performance, and the light drizzle only helped its case.
The packed crowd danced it off with Tea Street Band whose celebratory dance rock fits any and every festival. Indeed it seemed a celebration of all that which had gone down the past three days with the light drizzle, families dancing on their picnic spots, friends bouncing off friends shoulders and kids dancing in their ponchos to what can be classified as a rock band – representing all the elements of this year’s LIMF.
It was raining for the Tea Street Band, but their disco groove had all the dads dancing like they’d never heard the like before. It was engaging stuff and we weren’t laughing at them, we were laughing with them.
We should take a few words – unusually so, perhaps – to thank the weekend’s security staff.
We saw them laughing and dancing with festival-goers, playing football with kids, and just generally not being complete ruffians that sometimes stereotypes other festival staff. The stewards were friendly and helpful and overall a refreshing credit to the festival. So, too the bar staff and the organisation in general was handled with panache.
It’s the edges and the stuff away from the festival that needs looking at.
And, so, to Cast. A magnificent and worthy finalé to a weekend mostly of highs. This really was something to see and hear. We should perhaps disclose John Power lives a few doors down the road from us and we’d heard him rehearsing during the week.
But nothing prepared us for how good he was going to be when he hit that stage on Sunday evening. It was magnificent.
The Getintothis team’s top picks from the weekend
Dave Owen & Anwar Ali – Bandstand stage – Friday
A big crowd is a rarity when you are one of the first acts of the festival and the sky shows signs of inevitable downpour.
So on Friday, when everything from the stages to weather was intense, Dave Owen & Anwar Ali’s sound and guitar blend of African-british folk provided the perfect meditative space.
With a mild rainfall causing ripples in the moat between the stage and the audience, the then soft rain, the greenery and the stage’s scenic setting seemed to be tailor made for the duo’s sound. Amaan Khan
Lilium – LIMF Academy stage – Saturday
We’ll admit it – we are a sucker for spontaneity. It is what makes each show different and keeps the audience want to catch each of them.
Enter Lilium as the gurus of spontaneity and incredible energy – saving us during a bland hour of the festival first at Bandstand stage but more importantly and fervently at the Academy stage.
From jumping off stage to dance with a security officer to the ever-present on stage charisma, never a dull moment during the band’s set.
Musically? Well, let’s just say they take a line like “You taste like chocolate in the morning, I want to wash it from your face” and somehow make it work! Amaan Khan
Charlie Straw – ItsLiverpool stage – Saturday
Strong-voiced youngster Charlie Straw’s lone gunman, spaghetti western moodiness went down a treat on the ItsLiverpool stage.
His husky vocals, and easy stage manner all pointed to a star on the rise, and he quietly summoned welcome and almost Springsteen-esque levels of intensity at times.
Straw has just released his debut EP and certainly oozed confidence and star quality, milking his minimal setup of just guitar and voice for all the atmosphere it was worth. David Hall
Paris Youth Foundation – ItsLiverpool stage – Saturday
Are Paris Youth Foundation Liverpool’s next big breakthrough band? We’re calling it now: abso-fucking-lutely.
They’ve got the tunes, they’ve got the arch look, and they’ve certainly got the cocky youthful swagger. Their main draw is definitely those tunes though. Even now, with their first EP just crossing the horizon, their hooks are already huge, the songs resolving themselves so snappily and satisfactorily.
If the Maccabees were combined with a less MOR Catfish and the Bottlemen, then they still wouldn’t sound as good as Paris Youth Foundation did in Sefton Park. David Hall
Veyu – ItsLiverpool Stage – Saturday
Like a less gothy, more mathy version of The Cure, Veyu stepped onto the stage for something of a comeback gig, having lacked live outings lately.
Although they did get impressively doomy at times, imagine Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor fronting Interpol and you’re getting pretty close to Veyu’s sound. Their towering swells of noise were loud enough to drown out the low-flying police helicopter hovering overhead, but the melodies caught and caged the audience ruthlessly.
As if anybody was in any doubt as to Veyu’s powers, a pair of two-year-old girls went absolutely wild for Running, dancing and jumping around with glee. Tough crowd. David Hall
XamVolo – ItsLiverpool Stage – Friday
Offering a short but sweet set, XamVolo‘s laid back vocals presented a temporary escape from the seemingly everlasting torrent of rainfall. Well, not literally but you get the idea.
Forever dressed in black with a right hand that never leaves his pocket, Volo himself was assisted by five other members, a mix of bass, drums and a dash of electronics added into the mix, creating a sound that would make for some smooth Sunday morning listening.
Like many other artists, XamVolo was extremely thankful to those who stuck round in the wetness to witness his criminally calm and collected delivery, which trumped the weather with ease. Ryan Craig
We Were Glue – Academy stage – Saturday
Had an unenviable early slot, but got the crowd going with some really catchy pop songs. These guys should go far.
The Vryll Society – ItsLiverpool Stage – Friday
Generating the largest audience so far, The Vryll Society took little time in diving into their set as dozens swept forward towards the stage, attracting listeners with their distinctive brand of hybrid psychedelic oomph.
Created by blurring the lines between psychedelia and a modest dose of funk, the two time GIT Award nominees have sat on the radar for little over a while now.
Introduced as ‘the perfect festival band‘ the five members, including a pair of brothers, are set to continue their rise as one of the most compelling live acts around. Ryan Craig
She Drew The Gun – itsLiverpool stage – Sunday
One of the most anticipated acts of the festival, the group not only fitted but commanded the atmosphere.
While the crowd seemed to sing along to every word of their songs – a testament in itself to the connection the band has made with the city’s audience, they even gave us a notable ‘moment’ with their crowd-pleaser Poem.
The marching drums resounded wit the lyric-driven song and the cloudy skies and wet wind only aided the propagation of a feeling a powerful togetherness for a cause.
Definitely one of the more dynamic and memorable set that we have seen from the act. Amaan Khan
Limerance – Bandstand stage – Sunday
The duo has been around for an year and what once was an open mic specialty are now festival acts thanks to being regulars at the Mellowtone roster.
Their sweet folk Americana sounds with its two part male-female harmonies sounded especially intimate fit perfectly with a sunny Sunday afternoon next to the ponds, the greenery and the general scenic setting of the bandstand stage. Amaan Khan
Tea Street Band – itsLiverpool stage – Sunday
Tea Street Band arrived as the perfect celebratory band at the end of LIMF 2017 as they tread the middle ground of being a rock band that makes you want to dance.
Almost anthemic and sonically similar to U2, the band provided just the tightest beats, bass lines and hooks to get the people to happily celebrate the happenings of the three days.
They turned almost every lounger to dancers and saw the colourfulness of their sound perfectly supported by colourfulness of the kids, families and youngsters dancing in their ponchos.
They were given the task of carrying on from some highly successful sets and give it a concluding finish and they did just that with remarkable success.
Throw in a cover of Donna Summers‘ I Feel Love on the 40th anniversary of the day it was number one in the UK singles chart and it was just about perfect. Amaan Khan
Louis Berry – Central stage – Sunday
He’s Kirkby’s best known rock and roller and with a well deserved slot on the main stage he really raised the bar for what came afterwards.
Cracking blues style guitar and a Jack Daniels powered voice, this a man who knows how to deliver and delivers what he promises. Peter Goodbody
Cast – Central Stage – Sunday
The headliners, and rightly so. Here was John Power and co showing what they can do and with style.
It was a fitting end to LIMF and we were left wondering why they haven’t been before.
This was a top quality headliner and, make no mistake, they weren’t just filling in at a free festival – we would have paid good money for this. Peter Goodbody
Getintothis LIMF reporting and photographic team: Amaan Khan, Ryan Craig, David Hall, Lucy MacLachlan, Chris Flack, Martin Waters, Peter Goodbody and Peter Guy.