On Saturday 21st July, the new look Liverpool International Music Festival kicked off. The festival, hosted in Sefton Park in South Liverpool’s leafy suburbs, previously held the impressive title of Europe’s largest free music festival.
This year however, the city’s council announced that the event would be ticketed to help offset some of the cost of the event. This, of course, meant the site had to be fenced off. Bag searches and a ban on alcohol being brought in were also introduced in what organisers called attempt to ‘prevent anti-social behaviour’. Some festival-goers called it a money-making scheme on social media, with inflated bar prices expected.
The whole new concept was not a popular one with revellers in the build-up to the big weekend. Despite still being able to bring your own food and soft drinks in (meaning picnics got the all-clear) and a ticket price of just £5 – I have to admit I was worried the unique charm of LIMF would be lost.
What I didn’t like was that the festival’s two stages and two tents were crammed in to a relatively small fenced area of the park. Whereas, the festival used to be spread across the vast acres of trees and Sefton Park’s snaking stream. The smaller site may have cut down walking distances between stages but there was something about trekking through the foliage with your bag of Dark Fruit from the Co-op down the road and stumbling across a cool new stage you didn’t know existed.
In addition to this, the organisers had released a number of ‘VIP tickets’ which granted holders access to a private area in front of the stage. The section was at about 20% capacity for most of the festival – much to the annoyance of fans with standard tickets who were forced to watch performances from behind a barrier with 40-odd yards of empty grass between them and the stage. Even Example criticised this decision mid-way through his set. It was similar to watching World Cup matches this summer with swathes of empty seats where tickets were being sold as ‘VIP’ or the like.
Despite these criticisms, the line-up was very impressive in a year where the those of a lot of festivals have been underwhelming to say the least. The ability of the organisers to attract big names year after year on a limited budget must be applauded.
Merseyside Police revealed that there was only an ‘extremely small’ number of isolated incidents at the two day festival attended by over 40,000 people. They also said no major incidents occurred thanks to close collaboration with organisers and on-site security. Arrests have been made for violence in past years so the smaller site was obviously a positive from a security point of view.
First on the central stage for the second half of a busy day of live music on the Saturday was Tom Zanetti. The Leeds DJ and MC appeared on stage with frequent collaborator Kokane. The duo went down well with the Liverpool crowd who were getting increasingly rowdy. Zanetti rattled through a short set of house tunes including hit singles ‘You Want Me‘ and ‘Darlin‘.
Serial hit-maker Example was next up. Playing a set of throwback tunes, he got the LIMF crowd singing at the top of their voice. The London musician questioned the mostly empty VIP area in front of the stage. He even had a pop at revellers sat on the grass in front of the stage and encouraged fans further back in the main area to climb the barrier despite singing the praises of the festival organisers just a few minutes earlier. He closed his appearance with smash hit ‘Changed The Way You Kiss Me‘ prompting several mosh pits around the stage.
Introduced as the ‘king of grime’, Wiley took to the stage. To be fair, he was awarded an MBE in this year’s New Year Honours for services to music. The East London rapper has been churning out underground grime tracks and mainstream top 10 singles for the best part of two decades. There was plenty in Wiley’s energetic set for the ‘grime-heads’ as well poppier tunes such as ‘Can You Hear Me?‘ and number 1 single ‘Heatwave‘. Boy Better Know‘s ‘Too Many Man‘ went down well as always.
London DJ Jax Jones was the headliner for the first day at LIMF after impressing at last year’s festival in a slot further down the line-up. Big house tunes like ‘You Don’t Know Me‘, ‘Instruction‘ featuring Demi Lovato and his 2014 number 1 with Duke Dumont ‘I Got U‘ proved very popular. Technical difficulties plagued the set, with his mic and the speakers cutting out several times. At one point, he continued playing for a good half a minute before realising the crowd weren’t hearing anything. Despite this, a host of carnival dancers, giant inflatable stage props, pyrotechnics, confetti and streamers gave the performance a real big festival feel. Jax certainly lived up to his ‘headliner’ status.