FESTIVAL REVIEW: Liverpool International Music Festival 2016

limf 2016LIMF 2016

23-24th July 2016, Liverpool

Words: Gary Lambert
Photos: Elena Katrina


limf 2016 posterAs Leanne from Radio City’s Breakfast Show screamed every time she was on stage, Liverpool International Music Festival is the largest free music festival in Europe. This has to stay in our minds throughout the event. This is not a festival where I am rewarded for spending £150 along with 30,000 others to go to an event catered to my taste in music, but an event designed to entertain a wide variety of people, who would not necessarily choose to go to music gigs for their weekend entertainment, and to showcase Liverpool’s offerings as a musical city. In a way it has more in common with The Lord Mayor’s Parade or Bristol Balloon Festival than say Festival Number Six or End of the Road.


This needs to be in the mind of the more regular music fan when they visit this annual event because it is too easy to focus on what does not suit us or how the Liverpool music scene is ghettoised onto the three smaller stages rather than given a shot in front of the big crowd. It is a parochial version of Radio One’s One Big Weekend which cannot offer national radio, television and online coverage as an incentive to get the biggest bands to show up in an unlikely place.


The festival events are not just at Sefton Park either. There are various events throughout the city centre over the four days which celebrate and educate on Liverpool’s musical history. And my thanks cannot be stated enough that this musical heritage is not just Beatles, Cunard Yanks and Merseybeat. This is an era which already suffers far too much coverage with BBC Radio Merseyside basically dedicated to the 50’s and 60’s 24/7 with the exception of awkward timeslot minority shows such as BBC Introducing.

wombats limf 16 elena katrinaWith that open mind, we will start on the offerings from the main stage. For me, the highlight of the weekend on there was the finale from The Wombats. The usual high energy performance from them came to the fore as you would expect with Murph bouncing like Tigger and Tord somehow not ending up in the photo pit whilst launching his bass towards the crowd, thankfully still strapped to him. Considering that the main focus of the events is towards easy dance music, the crowd absolutely lapped it up and the youngster ones who were at the front bounced, cheered and sung along like they were the regular crowd watching The Wombats. As it was my first time watching The Wombats play an outdoor stage, it was great to take in how suited their sound is to big spaces like this. The hometown boys did good.


Another person making a return to Liverpool was Frances who managed to cope with a few technical issues to show off her wonderful voice. Despite now having some other musicians with her, the focus of the set was Frances and her piano, which, could be quite daunting – especially when you do not yet have the massive hits to be able to play the first few bars and then let the crowd do the work. She coped well though and deserved the cheers she received.


lahavas limf 16 elena katrinaAs Sunday was a bleak example of traditional British summertime, it was apt that a gap opened in the clouds in order to let some sunshine hit the stage and performer. It should not have been a big surprise that someone who had previously been picked by Prince, Lianne La Havas, provided one of the most gorgeous sets of the day and when the sunshine picked her out it was a beautiful moment supported by the roar of the crowd.

Other memorable performances were provided by Wretch32 and Saturday’s headliner Sigma; and of course the cool delights of Craig Charles’ spinning for his Funk and Soul Roadshow.


The most chilled out stage for the audience at least had to be the LIMF Academy. This stage saw plenty of acts picked out by LIMF talentspotters who have been providing support and this opportunity to perform on a bigger stage than usual for some of them. Daryl David, despite nerves, performed a set of urban smoothness following an RnB style without resulting to cliché. More stage time will be needed to make the performances of the future, stronger and more confident; but like several other acts he stayed around the stage, cheered on contemporaries and took the compliments of those others.


Our friends Scarlet turned up for a mid-afternoon slot which showed they are currently a bit further along the line than the rest of LIMF Academy. And with coming up this week a performance on the Main Stage of a festival in Georgia in front of 50,000 people that was definitely to be expected. One act who always like to perform as though they are in front of 50,000 people every time are Spares – who did what Spares do and fired enough confetti out to hang around for the rest of the day. Suiting the sunshine too were Hicari who provided some sweet synth pop which showed enough promise to make the afternoon set enjoyable and worth listening to again. More is needed from them going forward though for them to become memorable rather than just promising, but with the quality of their pop there is hope. Norwegian, former LIPA students I See Rivers were another of the key sets on that stage with their mystical folk offerings.


cck limf 2016 elena katrinaOver on the It’s Liverpool stage focus was more on the senior members of the Liverpool music scene. Radio One favourites Clean Cut Kid played to a large, excited crowd which showed the appeal of their instant pop favourites. Playing their 22nd festival set of the summer, they were at home on the big stage proving that there is more than just hype and pop songs in their arsenal.

One of the most disheartening experiences for a band must be to play to limited numbers, early in the day in a rain soaked field, but for me Rongorongo suited the drab, grey skies and the band didn’t let it get to them and crunched through their set. Speaking to lead singer Mick Chrysalid afterwards, he said “it’s tough, but you look around and get on with it” and that is exactly what they did.


It was not just the regulars on the likes of Buyers Club that were on stage, we had the treat of a couple of special events. On Saturday, local record label Mellowtone Records, who also curated the Bandstand stage as per tradition, put together a union of local musicians for Yes Indeed. A series of old blues numbers saw different vocalists such as Xam Volo and Mersey Wylie bring a dash of modernity to them. It was quite delightful. Sunday’s collaborative set was based around Liverpool’s traditional favourite sixties’ classic, Love’s Forever Changes, with various artists such as Edgar Jones and John Power joining Love’s Johnny Echols to run through tracks from the Love back catalogue. Why Liverpool has such an enduring love affair with this album I do not know, but I am so thankful it does.


STEALINGSHEEP limf ELENA KATRINAAs well as those retro collaborations, we also had a set from eighties favourites, China Crisis. This was a baffling suggestion, but did get a number of less likely music fans coming into the field for their set. A number of them left when Stealing Sheep started though. If the fans of eighties pub rock coped with the almost-see through white costumes of the Heavenly Recordings trio, by the time the art pop kicked in it was too much for some to handle. As I watched in awe, as I do every time Stealing Sheep play, I was bumped out of the way of a man who needed to “get away from this weird stuff”. It was the greatest vindication of Stealing Sheep yet.


To finish the festival, I managed to get across town after The Wombats to watch some of Pete Wylie and The Mighty Wah, achieving a lifetime ambition of seeing the Elvis of Allerton Road sing The Story of The Blues. After that, came The Lightning Seeds who proved that Ian Broudie’s songwriting ability, born in Eric’s nightclub but taken around the world, hasn’t lost it’s glimmer and shine. He truly could make a shopping list tuneful. Pure and simple every time.


Liverpool: Such A Lucky City.

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