With LIMF debuting their new set-up for 2018, Shaun Ponsonby and Soulfultiz take in this year’s event and ponder the future. 

The major changes to LIMF this year caused some real controversy, and we should probably address this first.

To begin with, the accusation that they began charging £5 because they want to get rich off it is preposterous. Between the caliber of acts, the licensing, the staff and so forth, we’ll be shocked if the fiver to get in would even break even.

Most people who are either a part of the arts scene, or have the ability to apply basic common sense, will know this. There seemed to be a difference between people who wanted to go see the acts, and those who just wanted to get drunk in the park – which you can do pretty much whenever you want.

That being said, LIMF didn’t really feel like the same festival this year, where you could bring your picnic and have a day out with mum, dad and the kids. It didn’t feel quite as family friendly. There was still the family area at the back, but there were no rides, save for one pretty sad looking ferris wheel in the middle of the park.

The vibe was different. Not necessarily better or worse, but definitely different.

The two days seemed to cater for different audiences, with the Saturday definitely catering for the kids.

There were some pretty hefty delays getting into the park, but at least one of our team caught DJ 2Kind’s set with the L100 Cypher in The Shubz DJ Tent. The Cypher is a revolving door of Liverpool MC’s, and this afternoon Jamie Broad, Saint and Nicola Jane were representing. The tent was packed at the start of the set and the crowd went nuts, but whoever was in charge of set times this year put them on at the same time as Beyond Average on the Its Liverpool stage, which definitely split the local hip hop heads.

Although those who headed to Its Liverpool hopefully managed to catch a mesmerising set from Raheem Alameen. He probably doesn’t have that song yet, but it definitely feels like he is on the cusp of it.

Thankfully, MC Nelson didn’t suffer a similar indignity to L100 and Beyond Average in regards to stage timings, smashing his late afternoon set with his usual vigour, bringing his soulful conscious hip hop to the Its Liverpool stage. Up North was one of the real highlights, paying homage to being a scouser.

Beyond Average

When we were finally able to make our way to the Central Stage, we were faced with an energetic Stefflon Don and her colourful dancers. We didn’t catch enough of her to get a full picture of her set, but we did witness the absolute elation from the crowd when she launched into French Montana collaboration Hurtin’ Me.

James Hype was clearly having the time of his life, and the energy from the crowd was infectious. So often the Liverpool arts scene caters a bit too much to itself, and during Hype we took a second to marvel at the fact that the kids down the front at LIMF aren’t really catered for by the other big events in the city.

The Shubz DJ Tent was probably the most exciting place to be. Every time we wandered in there, or even just walked past, we could feel the energy. It was definitely where the teenagers were hanging out, and it was a joy just to watch them having the time of their lives. Occasionally you would see older attendees walk past with a nostalgic glow in their eyes, wishing they were 17 again.

Later on during Example & DJ Wire’s set – with the former wearing the kind of Kappa tracksuit that was all the rage when I was a kid in the 90s – it struck us that with DJ’s playing on every stage other than It’s Liverpool, LIMF was starting to feel closer to something like Creamfields than what it had been before.

Nevertheless, after being introduced as the “Godfather of Grime”, we were expecting Wiley to burst on and make up for his recent disappointing gig at 24 Kitchen St. However, he created the same problems for himself; every time the crowd started getting into a song, he’d switch it up and get his DJ to stop. It was frustrating to just hear a couple of minutes of something like Gangsters, only for him to  seemingly get bored of it. You could feel the energy of the crowd dissipate. Two disappointing appearances in a row makes us wonder if Wiley just isn’t that good live.

Wiley

Jax Jones did manage to raise the energy again with a succession of props, and it was nice to see a t-shirt gun in action. He brought the party, but the crowd had shrunk considerably by this point.

Despite the nicer weather, the numbers seemed down on the Sunday, despite some of the biggest names all weekend being peppered around.

Perhaps it was because of the older feel of a lot of the acts playing on Sunday – particularly the Hacienda Classical headline spot. Although the Shubz DJ Tent remained absolutely packed and kept pumping out the Grime for the teens.

The mid-afternoon slot for Ray BLK on the Central Stage showed every indication of a star in the making, performing songs from her critically acclaimed 2016 EP Durt. Before performing her latest single, Just Doing Me, she asked everyone to give a middle finger to anyone who’s trying to change who you are. We should be proud of where we come from.

But nothing on the Central Stage could compare to Young Fathers, who gave a typically intense performance that blew everybody else out of the field. There were a lot of bemused expressions about, and we couldn’t help but wonder if they would have been greeted by a more appropriate crowd in one of the tents. But it didn’t matter. We were in our element.

In truth, though, the place to be on Sunday was the Its Liverpool stage. Far more chilled out than everywhere else, it proved just how great and diverse the talent in the city is right now; Kingfast, Neil Noa and Deliah in quick succession was a perfect way to start a sunny Sunday afternoon.

We keep saying it, but Sub Blue does keep getting better. His debut EP, Suburban View, is definitely one of the best Liverpool releases of the year, and he brought most of it out today. A real stand out was Summer, which was perfectly cast for that point of the day.

LIMF 2018

Going from the suburban soul of Sub Blue into the 80s sounding synth of TV ME seemed to work pretty well. One of our team who had never seen them mentioned that many of the songs would probably fit on Netflix’s Stranger Things. But thinking more about it, the group’s pop culture references also fit with the show. So perhaps “A musical Stranger Things” is a good way to describe them.

At this point, the crowd at the Its Liverpool stage were still pretty chill. Then along comes Queen Zee.

We have eulogised Queen Zee so often in the pages of Planet Slop, and in fact we published an interview just this morning as part of our Pride Week. But suffice to say, the set ended with Zee half naked and hanging off the scaffolding at the side of the stage. Seeing Zee tear up the stage, glamorous and disgusting, when pretty much everybody else has been a little subdued only solidifies the genuine star power.

Heading back to the Central Stage, we caught a little of Basement Jaxx. This isn’t their first LIMF – a few years ago they were headlining and brought their full show. So, by comparison today’s DJ set was a little underwhelming, but they served as the perfect warm up to Hacienda Classical.

But we’re going to be honest – we didn’t pay too much attention to Hacienda Classical given what was going on over at the True School Clubhouse.

Firstly, Gilles Peterson was somebody that one of our team had been waiting to see for a long time, and that person wasn’t let down. His set was just full of bangers; African, Cuban, classic soul. There are very few DJ’s that can touch him in terms of his versatility and music knowledge, but one of them was about to come up.

Ladies and gentlemen, the magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff.

DJ Jazzy Jeff

For sheer volume, his name being announced was the loudest reaction we’d heard all weekend. Most people probably expected him to come out playing hip hop, but in fact he opened up with Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, segued into Janet Jackson’s Got Til It’s Gone, and went through a kaleidoscope of music from there.

Of course, the biggest reaction was when he played classics from his days with Will Smith, notably Summertime and especially the theme from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But he threw in everything from Toto to A Tribe Called Quest in between.

Most importantly, this is a man who takes the turntable and turns it into an instrument of a whole ‘nother beast. It was a set for real music lovers.

As we were leaving the site, we wondered what LIMF is in 2018, and what it will be in 2019.

Certainly, we were expecting teething problems with the new format, and they were certainly there. But £5 for what was on offer was probably the best bargain you could get in the circumstances. You would pay over a fiver if you were seeing most of these acts on their own.

There were elements that worked better in the new set-up. LIMF often had a problem with dickheads getting messed up on cheap vodka and becoming unruly. Although this wasn’t totally eradicated, it didn’t seem as much of a problem as it had been in the past.

On the other hand, we don’t really know what LIMF is now. The identity has changed drastically. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that there is a bit of rebuilding to do. It’s not quite starting over, but it is a massive change.

But what we keep going back to is the faces on the kids on Saturday afternoon, and especially in the Shubz DJ Tent and how, more than anything, it’s a great thing for them.

Maybe that’s where LIMF’s future is.

Pictures by Tom Adam