Photography: Stuart Moulding Photography: Tomas Adam
Liverpool International Music Festival @ Sefton Park 20/7/19

Sefton Park is already glowing with atmosphere by the early afternoon. NILE RODGERS playing an open top stage in South Liverpool seems too good to be true. But, with the day of the festival here and the name still on the bill, much of the city has taken its chance and bagged a coveted ticket on the door, resulting in a sell-out.

There’s a different feeling around the festival this year. Debate on the new(ish) wall is being drowned out by the sounds of four stages, chart toppers, DJs and some of the city’s top emerging talent – all for the same price as a couple of pints in your favourite bougie bars in town.

The main attraction tonight is CHIC. Perhaps the biggest band Liverpool will see in Sefton Park this year. So there’s a certain anticipation running across the festival space, and a pretty big release when the ensemble hit the stage in the low end of the sun.

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Nile Rodgers seems God-like, other, elevated. He’s a different species to the city that’s turned out to see him and his band play. The spectacle is huge, but his music spares on the closest affinity between families, friends and strangers that are celebrating one another in unison, in circles, arm in arm – not here to just celebrate the good times that are blaring across South Liverpool. Every note, jangle and interaction from Rodgers oozes personability, the kind that leads you into rooms with the biggest artists in the world; whose walls have seen multi-platinum, lyrics etched into your consciousness, kinds of songs plucked from the ether and placed onto paper. And with that, the band play hit after hit after hit. It never stops. At least it feels like a continuous song for a full hour. Immaculate. Pure ecstasy, release and escape. The summer moment for funky Liverpool, that’s for sure.

The Music City Stage is in full swing for a Sunday afternoon of top local talent from the LIMF Academy. Every year the academy enrols a group of the region’s most exciting young artists and provides them with the tools and knowledge needed to progress in their music career, with the chance to play at LIMF being one of them. One of this year’s cohorts performing today is TEE, who takes to the Music City stage to treat the chilled out crowd to a selection of his RnB, spoken word tracks. Having been compared to the likes of Loyle Carner, Dave and early Kanye, his eloquent lyrics keep us all gripped throughout his set. A great addition to the thriving Liverpool RnB scene.

Up next is an upcoming Liverpool soul sensation, GAZELLE, who has teamed up with NEW JUNIOR for a one off collaboration. Gazelle brings her powerful soulful vocals to the stage whilst New Junior provides his complimentary rhymes. Backed up by a brass section providing a smooth jazz sound, they combine their many talents together for a creative and imaginative set. To top it off, New Junior throws a curveball and pulls out a saxophone to make their performance all the more inspiring. There are not enough saxophones making guest appearances these days.

Having been working his way around the local RnB scene, Tyler Mensah, or better known by his stage name, SUB BLUE, appears for another special collaboration with DELILAH. Working their way through a collection of their own individual songs and a cover of Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana, their personal styles shine through on each track. Sub Blue’s melodic vocals, reminiscent of those of The Weeknd’s, blend effortlessly with DELILAH’S powerful melodies. It’s as if these two artists were meant to share a stage together. Their performance proves why this stage at LIMF is such a great addition to the festival. You never know what you will come across.

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Headlining the Music City stage this evening is LIMF Academy alumni, PIZZAGIRL. After accepting the Jan McNicholl LIMF Academy Spirit Award on the main stage earlier in the day for outstanding potential in the field of music, Pizzagirl, also known as Liam Brown, rightly shows the crowd why he deserves the accolade. Inspired by 80s pop and jingly TV show tunes, the Scouse singer kicks off his performance with new song, Body Biology, a zany track that has the crowd up and dancing. With just himself, his MacBook and Denise (his guitar) on the stage, he continues his celebratory set with a collection of songs ready and waiting to be released on his first LP. With standout tracks such as Gymnasium, Coffee Shop and Favourite Song performed in his unique blend of styles and gelled together with his trademark humour, Pizzagirl proves his worth with an award winning performance on a special stage for everyone involved in the LIMF Academy.

DE LA SOUL, one of the main attractions on the Sunday, do their part to live up to the hype. Even if you don’t know every song, you’re still bouncing around. They’re bringing the party to even the more reserved watching on. There are plenty of collaborations with members of Black Sheep leaving all of the hip hop aficionados grinning from ear to ear during their set.

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The final act on the Sunday retains the disco feelings that lit up the Saturday night sunset. DISCO CLASSICAL is amazing to watch, but as soon as SISTER SLEDGE come out, the park ruptures with excitement. It’s a slew of hits. Kathy Sledge proceeds to welcome people on stage to compete in dance offs and sing alongs, and during intervals, Disco Classical provides a beaming range of hits as the rain begins to bucket it down. Everyone stays, awaiting the ceremonious closer We Are Family. The entire park is in harmony, the people and the landscape undeterred by the layers of pouring rain.

LIMF has some shortcomings, but the fact it can bring such a massive community together, a community of different ages and backgrounds, under the unity of music and a love for Liverpool deserves celebration.

Words: Elliot Ryder, Georgia Turnbull, Sophie Shields

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