Though the last edition of LIVERPOOL MUSIC WEEK in 2011 might seem like a blur for the many thousands who attended, the event will always throw up personal memories. Maybe you attended one of a plethora of free shows that have characterised the extravaganza since day one. Maybe you lost your mind at one of the legendary Closing Parties. Maybe, just maybe, you saw your favourite band during a particular edition, or found your new one. Three years might not seem like a long time, but in between bands have risen and fallen, venues set up and closed down, and giants have walked our streets (twice). When news broke that the largest indoor winter festival in the UK was being resurrected for its tenth instalment after a two-year hiatus, it wasn’t just the usual wave of excitement that permeated the air: there were smiles warmed by nostalgia shade, as if an old friend had come back to town.
This autumn, Liverpool Music Week entices us in from the windswept streets to gorge upon its very special tenth edition treats. Camp and Furnace is where it all begins this time round, with a thrill-packed opening party on 23rd October which features the snakily funky electronica of CARIBOU, which acts as the perfect re-introduction of a festival that’s been a beacon of quality to regular gig-goers since its inception. The following night sees leftfield rock titans MOGWAI headline the same venue in an ATP-style event curated by (and featuring) FOREST SWORDS, with a trio of Liverpool’s own avant-garde creators MUGSTAR, EX-EASTER ISLAND HEAD and CLINC (DJ set) also on show. The party then stretches to the O2 Academy as Liverpool Music Week plays host to WILD BEASTS (30th October, in association with Evol) and THE WAR ON DRUGS (4th November, in association with Harvest Sun). Add in to this the ubiquitous Closing Party (more on this in the accompanying sidebar) and we’ve the prospect of over 250 acts across 50 events. That’s a far cry from the handful of shows in one venue that launched the event in 2003; yet, eleven years later, it’s good to know that the same vision that started the process burns just as bright.
Given that such good momentum had been built up over nine consecutive years, why pull the plug? Well, even Glastonbury pulls in the reins every now and then but, with new commitments demanding his attention, organiser Mike Deane decided to put things on hold – and he reckons the event is all the better for it. “I have pretty much run Liverpool Music Week as a one-man-band for a few years; if I stop working on it, the whole operation shuts down! After the last edition, I began working for a London talent agency called Elastic Artists, and I certainly didn’t want to be running the tenth edition of a festival I’ve worked on with blood, sweat and tears at a fifty per cent work-rate.” He remains adamant that letting the grass grow back has worked wonders for the event, even though a very tempting offer last year nearly broke the silence: “We actually had My Bloody Valentine lined-up for a 2013 headliner, which almost pulled us out of our hiatus. But the band dragged too long, and ultimately we decided it was better to hold off and go full-throttle in 2014.”
It’s now back to business as usual; sure that sounds mundane, but why change such a successful formula? With each edition, Deane and his team endeavour to curate a line-up that balances acts that will deliver the most exhilarating performances with artists that have yet to tread on Scouse soil. In doing this, each event encourages a higher calibre of live performances, along with enticing gig-goers to open themselves to new bands, genres and live experiences. There are all kinds of emotions that burst forward when finding a new favourite band, and for ten days Liverpool Music Week is the ignition behind the flames.
For those who aren’t as enthusiastic as others to try something new, the free shows step into the picture. A trademark staple across each edition, these events aren’t merely a taster, but a full five-course meal with a sparkler in your knickerbocker glory. “It’s proven to work extremely well for the venues, artists and sponsors over the past decade,” Deane enthuses about the free shows. “We’ve had some incredible free shows when you look back: Florence & The Machine in Korova, Friendly Fires in Bumper and Wild Beasts in Alma de Cuba to name a few.” This edition sees The Kazimier stepping up as the festival’s hub as it hosts seven shows in as many days. The itinerary caters to everyone’s palette, from the gritty post-punk of EAGULLS to the boggling scree of HOOKWORMS. LIARS will conclude the series with a special Halloween closing party hosted by The Quietus, a close encounter of the experimental kind if there ever was one. With The Kazimier’s sterling reputation for accommodating an all-encompassing programme, the venue will demonstrate what the Liverpool live experience is capable of: an introduction for some, and a reminder for others. But this part of the programme is just one voice in the hubbub clamouring for your attention.
One thing Liverpool Music Week isn’t always given due credit for is the scope of innovative commissions it has hosted during the last few instalments. This year sees Bristol producer VESSEL collaborating with the exhilarating IMMIX ENSEMBLE, a pioneering collective of forward-thinking musicians from across the North West. Liverpool AV promotions collective SYNDROME are also part of this collaborative process, conjuring up a backdrop of visuals in the beautiful Leggate Theatre at the University of Liverpool (22nd October). Given Vessel’s obsessive nature for highly detailed sounds, the result promises to be an intriguing blend of electronic and classical themes, and Deane sees the success of these commissions as being the beginning of a new initiative: “With these events as a stepping stone, the programme will continue to grow as the festival continues in future years.” The soil already seems fertile enough for London label Hyperdub Records, who’ve chosen to host a tenth anniversary showcase as part of the programme (KODE9 and COOLY G, 30th October @ The Kazimier).
But, while there is a spectacular array of choice for you to ponder over, Deane now stresses the importance of restricting the number of shows during the festival’s run, contrasting with the 2009 edition where twenty-eight venues were running at the same time. This now means that punters are not overwhelmed by choice and each event has the best attendance possible. Here, going to see as much as possible doesn’t mean zigzagging from one event to another and accumulating a lot of stress along the way.
Just as you’d expect from anything to come out of Liverpool, the sense of community saturates the festival’s genes. “In my years as industry professional, I’ve not known a more exciting time for Liverpool,” confesses Deane. “The city is buzzing right now with hard-working, risk-taking individuals and collectives, gaining international recognition for themselves and the city as a whole.” The return of Liverpool Music Week will stand as testament to the tenacity of its contributors in devising such an imaginative and embracing series of events – and that’s even before the music starts playing.
Liverpool Music Week runs from 22nd October to 4th November across a variety of venues.