Festival fever is in the air in Liverpool this summer. It can hardly have escaped your notice, what with the sheer volume of events coming our way, catering to all musical and cultural tastes. The region is alive with high-class happenings, many of them free to attend, a sign that we know how to satisfy the city’s collective musical impulses. Africa Oyé, LightNight and the Sgt. Pepper At 50 celebrations have already brought us performances from a wide variety of world-renowned artists, these public displays of celebration virtually hardwired into our notions of civic responsibility. Into that bracket we can add LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL (LIMF, 20th-23rd July), which this year makes a serious move to be regarded as the city’s flagship musical event.
Centred around the three days of free Summer Jam activities, the festival embeds itself in the collective consciousness for one heady weekend. Spread across multiple stages in the glorious setting of Sefton Park, LIMF showcases artists from across the musical spectrum in what is thought to be Europe’s largest free outdoor music festival. Headlining the Central Stage on Saturday 22nd July, GORGON CITY reflect the festival’s intentions. The production duo have been touring the world incessantly since their debut album Sirens took off, a record which spawned the huge chart hit Ready For Your Love. Appearing just before Gorgon City on the Saturday, DJ and rapper NAUGHTY BOY brings his dancehall vibes to the party. Having worked with Beyoncé and been a judge on the 2016 Mercury Prize, Naughty Boy (real name Shahid Khan) can claim to be one of the most influential artists in UK urban music. Elsewhere on the Central Stage, multiple Grammy Award-winner CORINNE BAILEY RAE stars on Sunday 23rd, showing us why she’s known as the “bewitching Queen of British soul”. Also on the Sunday, local Britpop heroes CAST will be whipping the crowd up for a raucous singalong, in what is becoming a massively popular way for the festival to sign off.
Since making her musical comeback in 2012, multi-instrumental pop star KATE NASH has been a massive positive force across a number of disciplines. Nash has appeared in a number of feature films, DJed at London and New York Fashion Week’s most prestigious events, as well as and moonlighting as Music Editor for breakthrough London-based fashion magazine, PHOENIX. Nash’s self-released third album Girl Talk realigned her as an artist with a fierce independent streak with a punchy message to tell, which she’s built on with the outstanding new EP Agenda. Empowerment and smashing the patriarchy never sounded so good.
Going under his stage name FUSE ODG, Nana Richard Abiona is one the most thrilling urban music talents to emerge in years. Merging Afrobeat vibes, picked up from his Ghanaian ancestry, with the huge house sound popular in UK clubs, Fuse ODG hit the big time with his 2013 single Antenna, which marked him out as a global superstar. Off the back of his 2014 debut LP T.I.N.A. (standing for This Is New Africa), the rapper turned down the chance to sing on the Band Aid 30 project in objection to the negative portrayal of Africa in the song’s lyrics. Speaking to the Guardian about his problems with charity’s poverty-obsessed view of Africa, Fuse ODG said “I, like many others, am sick of the whole concept of Africa – a resource-rich continent with unbridled potential – always being seen as diseased, infested and poverty-stricken. In fact, seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.” The world needs the positive outlook of artists like Fuse ODG, and we’ll be at the front to party with him on the Saturday afternoon of this year’s LIMF.
Away from the Central Stage, there’s a host of other activity tucked away in corners of Sefton Park. LIMF’s flagship – and award-winning – development programme, LIMF Academy, hosts its own stage across all three days of Summer Jam. The three Most Ready artists, GAZELLE, REMÉE and MARY MILLER, will be playing live sets alongside the 17 other Merseyside acts aged between 13 and 25 who have been highlighted as among those musicians with the most potential in the region. Witness some of Summer Jam’s future headline stars in one of the most intimate of settings. The ItsLiverpool Stage also provides a place for some of the region’s current bright talents to shine, many of whom have already come through the LIMF Academy programme. XAMVOLO, ELEANOR NELLY and SUEDEBROWN are such artists, all of whom have enjoyed great success off the back of the project’s support. Alongside these, the city’s fertile music scene is represented by HOOTON TENNIS CLUB, ZUZU, LUMEN, JO MARY and loads more. We’re also delighted to say that lo-fi guitar pop star PIXEY will perform on the ItsLiverpool Stage as our own pick from the myriad talents currently making great music in the city. Make sure you don’t miss her.
Summer Jam’s offer doesn’t end there either, with plenty more treats to discover as you wander round the park. Mellowtone are once again programming a seriously chilled and fascinating bill to perform of the Bandstand: DAVE OWEN’s performance with ANWAR ALI is a particular highlight, but we’re sure you’ll find your own among their high-quality list of acts. A dedicated DJ Stage and Silent Disco will cater for those who want more of a beat-heavy way of celebrating the weekend, and the venerable ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA will be making their usual trip to Summer Jam’s Central Stage for a grand classical flourish.
In recent years, LIMF has excelled in bolstering Summer Jam’s varied activities with a series of commissioned events, bringing huge names from across the industry to the festival to look into certain genres or movements in more depth. This year’s LIMF Presents programme is no different: working under the theme of ‘Remember The Times’, five different events will explore and showcase pivotal music moments throughout the decades, which were the springboard for genres such as hip hop, house and pop. Opening up the whole festival on Friday 21st July with a free concert on Sefton Park’s Central Stage, GARAGE CLASSICAL is a celebration of UK garage music with a twist. Curated and presented by DJ SPOONY, a number of performers from the genre’s golden age – including KELE LE ROC and ELIZABETH TROY – will be joined by a 40-strong orchestra from the Royal Northern College Of Music to present some of this groundbreaking genre in a new light. Watch out for special guests SO SOLID CREW and ARTFUL DODGER joining the party too.
The remainder of the LIMF Presents events take place in the sumptuous setting of Sefton Park’s Palm House, each of them ticketed to account for the limited space on offer. Kicking off proceedings on Thursday 20th July, legendary DJ NORMAN JAY hosts GOOD TIMES, looking at the rare groove scene he helped to develop, which pushed the boundaries of the UK’s emerging club culture. The following night sees a special event that looks at the legacy of one of Liverpool’s current musical institutions. DJ and producer YOUSEF started the clubnight Circus in 2002, nurturing it to grow into a much-loved record label and club that is known the world over. Joined by partner in crime LEWIS BOARDMAN, DJ CLAUDE VON STROKE and special guest JOSH WINK, CIRCUS: YEAR ONE is a recreation of their classic party atmosphere, running late into the night.
The following two nights see parties based around more celebrated scenes from the past few decades. TREVOR NELSON leads SHOLA AMA and DAMAGE on a barnstorming tour of 90s RnB with his REMINISCE event, highlighting a lot of the music he brought to prominence through his Radio 1 show The Rhythm Nation. DJ STRETCH ARMSTRONG then rounds off the LIMF Presents series on Sunday night with a delve inside the world of New York City club life. Based around his book of the same name, NO SLEEP explores the halcyon days of the hip hop-dominated club scene in the city that ran between the late-80s and late-90s.
In one breathless weekend, LIMF supplies us all with a great reason to get outside and indulge in some good times. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun as you recline in the sun, or more of a hedonistic experience, you can find just what you need. There’s no excuse not to get involved.
LIMF takes place in Sefton Park between 20th and 23rd July. All LIMF Summer Jam activities are free, but a number of the LIMF Presents events are ticketed. Check limfestival.com for full details.