It is customary for the overall experience of LIVERPOOL MUSIC WEEK to be one of blurred memories, throbbing eardrums and amazing personal memories. In a breathless10-day run (yes, it’s well exceeded a mere week now, 12 years in), the UK’s largest indoor winter festival brings you an extravaganza of music, pitching together some huge global heavyweights with a selection of Merseyside’s latest superstars-in-waiting.
This year’s programme sees over a hundred acts playing across more than a dozen events in venues across the city – and that’s just for starters. “As always, LMW will aim to strike balance of highlighting the best and most creative local artists, alongside an inventive programme of the most exciting national and international touring acts, all with the backdrop of a mixture of our favourite, most iconic and many underused city spaces,” says the festival’s founder and director Mike Deane.
As an evergreen fixture on the latter part of the city’s live music calendar, LMW has always held a fond place in our hearts, not least for the memorable shows it has brought us: Mogwai crushing the foundations of Camp and Furnace in 2014, Richard Haley charming us all over again in Grand Central Hall in 2015, and the late, great DJ Derek giving us all an education at the CUC Closing Party in 2012. But, such is the nature of Liverpool Music Week’s rich pedigree, the next person’s memories could throw up a completely different – but no less exciting – set of acts.
As LMW traditions go, the ceremonial Opening Party comes only second to the famed Closing Party, but it is the real place where Liverpool Music Week comes alive. The Grade-II listed Liverpool Dome And Grand Central Hall will act as the vessel for this year’s opening salvo, one that proves to set a high bar for the rest of what’s to follow. LA dreamsters WARPAINT are charged with getting the ball rolling on 26th October, and, with the newfound disco strain that pops throughout latest album Heads Up, they’re sure to provide a storming start to this year’s festival. Having spent the past two years since 2014’s Warpaint working on solo and side projects, the quartet reconvened with old producer Jacob Bercovici to recapture some of the smoky magic that defined their debut Exquisite Corpse EP – and the results, so far, are groovalicious.
In something of a coup for the festival, legendary film director, producer and composer JOHN CARPENTER will play a rare UK headline show in the grand setting of Liverpool Olympia (28th October), one of his first-ever concerts. The sci-fi don brings his Master Of Horror live show to put the shivers up you just as Halloween approaches, having wowed and spooked crowds in equal measure at his recent Primavera set in Barcelona. Expect to have your spine tingled by a variety of works from Carpenter’s massive back catalogue of film scores, including The Thing, Halloween and Escape From New York, as well as some of his original compositions.
Many of the highlights of this year’s LMW will come from its series of shows at Arts Club which, when put together, look like a particularly star-studded constellation. Thursday 27th October’s DINOSAUR JR. show is the first in this run, really laying down a marker early on for this to be the festival’s rocking home for 2016. The reconstituted Dinosaur Jr. continue the third chapter in their illustriously noisy history with the release of their eleventh album Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not on Jagjaguwar, the third since J Mascis, Murph and Lou Barlow got back together. Renowned for their chugging, murky slew, the trio have carved a niche for themselves in American rock that sees them straddle grunge and college rock with muscular aplomb. Their newest effort is more refined in structure, but they still know how to blast through some heavy bottom end.
Jazz, in particular the modern strain pedalled by the likes of Roller Trio and Kamasi Washington, is in the middle of a purple patch right now. Arguably one of the acts responsible for this widening of the net are hard-hitting jazz-meets-electronica three-piece GOGO PENGUIN. The Manchester-based piano/bass/drums trio of Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka and Rob Turner have charmed audiences with their skittering breakbeats and lush piano-driven melodies that recall everything from Radiohead to Brian Eno. If you want to be mesmerised, mark in a date with GoGo Penguin in your diary for 1st November (Arts Club).
Over at Leaf, Rachel Zeffira and Faris Badwan bring their chamber pop outfit CAT’S EYES to town, offering us some spectral swells and gorgeous composition. Having managed to charm their way into Buckingham Palace for one of their most recent shows, following on from their debut live performance in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, this show may not be the duo’s most opulent, but you can bet they’ll be eager to unpick the orchestral beauty of new album Treasure House for a more intimate audience.
LMW sees a hat-trick of Merseyside artists taking the reins on three consecutive nights in the middle of this run, featuring three acts who are on the cusp of making the leap to the big leagues. Saturday 29th October sees bouncy indie-pop quartet CLEAN CUT KID energising Arts Club’s Theatre room as they continue their fine run of festival form into a white-knuckle ride of a UK headline tour throughout October. The group’s infectious, rhythmic drive has seen them land a deal with Polydor, so you should be seeing plenty more of them soon. Following the fantastic critical reception of their debut LP Memories Of The Future, which ultimately landed them a spot on one of Glastonbury’s main stages, SHE DREW THE GUN appear at Leaf on 30th October. The confessional nature of Louisa Roach’s lyrics, swamped in haunting and dreamy reverb, has piqued a lot of attention of late: will you be snared too? Completing the hat-trick, Halloween sees Kirkby troubadour LOUIS BERRY take centre stage, also at Leaf, if you want to get away from the trick-or-treaters. Berry’s rebel-rousing lyric attack has something of the Jake Bugg about it, shot through with Scouse wit that’s as sharp as a switchblade.
One of the more exciting parts of last year’s Liverpool Music Week was their hook-up with DIY Magazine on the Breaking Out series of shows, which put Liverpool’s music lovers in touch with the nation’s next wave of alternative stars. We’re delighted that this will be returning for 2016, with five such shows scheduled to take place in Arts Club’s Loft alongside the main run of shows. Wide-eyed, would-be indie stars THE BIG MOON get things rolling on 28th October with their bright, breezy and exuberant bounce. The quartet of Londoners chart path that’s somewhere between The Runaways and Palma Violets, and they do so with a smile on their faces. Most definitely a group who are on the rise – as are teenage duo LET’S EAT GRANDMA. These freaky 17-year-olds from Norwich throw just about every textbook out of the window as they search for the right blend of beats, nursery rhymes and recorders in their experimental pop slew. Their brilliant and strange debut album I, Gemini, written largely when the pair were 15, is a poke in the eye for all those who think girls should be docile and calm on stage – prepare for a riot on 30th October. AMBER ARCADES is the latest product of the Heavenly Records Magic Factory, and we’re sure you’ll be smitten. The work of Dutch artist Annelotte de Graaf, Amber Arcades’ soft-voiced, melancholic folk ballads will have you swooning on 29th October. Leading up to the release of the full-length album in spring 2016, which was recorded in New York with producer Ben Greenberg, with help from members of Real Estate, Quilt and Kevin Morby, Amber Arcades is releasing the Patiently EP containing several stripped-down versions of album-tracks as well as some extra, lo-fi recordings. If slightly off-kilter melodies floating over a mixture of kraut-inspired drums, cutting guitars and fuzzed-out organs is your thing, then you’ll not want to miss this. And watch out for several more shows in the DIY Breaking Out Shows series in the coming weeks.
Rounding all this off is the festival’s reliably brilliant Closing Party, the scene of many a manic, barnstorming evening down the years. This year the LMW team are taking us down to the Liverpool Docklands area in the north of the city for a multi-venue beast of a party on Friday 4th November. The festival is being tight-lipped about details so far, but they’re promising an extravaganza on the level of previous years’ festivities. Earlybird tickets at the ridiculously good price of £6 are on sale now.
And… breathe. It’s hard to summarise that feast of music neatly, so we’ll leave the final word to the festival’s organiser Mike Deane: “Liverpool is buzzing right now… It’s set to be a very exciting year.”
Liverpool Music Week runs from 26th October to 4th November. Full festival wristbands that get you in to all shows – EXCEPT the DIY Breaking Out Shows – are on sale for £50. Full details on line-ups and tickets for all shows can be found at liverpoolmusicweek.com.
Head to bidolito.co.uk for a series of interviews with artists playing this year’s Liverpool Music Week.