A major coup in booking some major stars, but Planet Slop wonders if this precedent set by LIMF can feasibly continue.

A tenner to see one of the most popular touring acts in the country? Are you messing?

No. Nile Rodgers & Chic genuinely played to a 100% sold out capacity crowd in Sefton Park for LIMF.

The Chic show is quite the experience. Rodgers likes to remind us how many hits he’s been involved with, from Diana Ross, to David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Daft Punk, INXS, Duran Duran. But, then, wouldn’t you?  

It’s a genuine party. You know them all, ya’ll. He fills an hour with bona fide hits with no trouble. This writer has seen Chic a number of times now, and it’s always fun. But they have been playing the same show for a long time now. We hope he has the foresight to change it up soon so that it doesn’t grow stale. He has been on such a spectacular resurgence over the last six years, becoming a real beloved figure. We want him to maintain that, few deserve it more.

Naturally, Rodgers is why the park was filled to capacity, but he wasn’t the only star on the bill, and listening to the younger audience members, they clearly had other things on their minds.

MiC Lowry were one of those. It’s so bizarre that the Liverpool scene hasn’t seemed to have truly supported this five piece. They have more of a shot than most of breaking through. They got a certain swagger and pitch perfect vocals, and lest we forget they performed a European stadium tour with Justin Bieber (say what you want, he’s one the biggest stars in the world), and have appeared on network television in the US. They have over a quarter of a million Facebook likes. Yet, we rarely see them written about in the city. Utter madness.

Ella Eyre whipped the kids into a frenzy during her utterly fabulous performance. One older attendee we spoke to mentioned that he had no idea who she was, but marvelled at the audience singing every word. But it was Sigma who clearly has the most young fans in attendance. With a string of massive dance hits, including two UK number one singles, they were a natural to head up the extended tribute to 3Beat records.

With signings including Skepta, Basshunter and Cheryl, it is a label to be proud of. Like MiC Lowry, we probably don’t celebrate them enough in the city. So, shouts to LIMF curator Yaw Owusu for ensuring their place in the heart of this years’ festival.

There was another tribute going on at the Music City stage, one that was more mournful than celebratory. That so many turned out for Tony Butler showed exactly how well loved he was, and remains. There are a lot of people working in any local scene who always seem to be in it for self-glory and ego.  Butler was absolutely doing it for the right reasons, and that there was so much love for him from those assembled – including a surprise appearance from The Zutons – is all the proof you need that heart will bring you more glory than if you seek it.

Sunday was curious on the Music City stage; after fine performances from each of the LIMF Academy Most Ready artists, there were a number of collaborations. The first of these were Tori Cross with Luce, Lu and Kreutzberg from Hanover for a UNESCO collaboration. It was pretty chill for the most part, and seemed perfect for a Sunday afternoon. But what appeared to be an improvised cover of Robin SShow Me Love at the end of the set was the real highlight. If it was rehearsed, hats off to them for making it feel improvised.

Gazelle and New Jr also joined forces, as did Sub Blue and Deliah. They were all beyond cool to see, but we couldn’t help but notice that the collaborations were between fairly similar artists. Perhaps it might have been more interesting to see what people from totally different musical backgrounds could come up with.

Read our interviews with the Most Ready artists from the LIMF Academy class of 2019/20

The main stage seemed to be building to something, but we weren’t sure what. Nao tore it up with possibly the biggest personality we saw on stage all weekend, breezing through both her own and featured material – Mura Masa’s Firefly proving to be a particular highlight.

Then it came. De La Soul were the STARS of the day. Earlier in the year their performances on the Gods of Rap Tour were stripped back – just MC’s and a DJ. Today, though, they brought an extended De La family (minus Trugoy, who was sadly ill). Not just a full band, including horn section and bongo players, but some famous friends too; Dres from Black Sheep, and Talib Kweli.

It was a real shock. Thinking back to last year, most of the acts booked seemed to be playing streamlined sets with DJ’s. Here we have a genuinely watershed moment. This isn’t just pulling out all of the stops, it is digging up the road and re-laying it. We laughed, we danced, we crouched onto the floor and bounced back up in unison. It was a truly special moment, one that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

It was a tough act for Disco Classical to follow, but it was wonderful to hear something like, despite recent events, Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, with a full string section. Despite the rain coming down, those who stayed were in good spirits and sang along to every classic that was pumped out by the 40-piece orchestra, and gave the older lady on marimba a cheer whenever she appeared on screen.

There are gripes though. It was odd to have Disco Classical headlined by Sister Sledge when Nile Rodgers – who wrote and continues to play all of those hits – the night before. Not only that, but the orchestra went on to play Chic’s Everybody Dance and Good Times, as well as Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out, all of which we had heard less than 24 hours previously.   

Still, it was refreshing to hear them sound so huge, and we doubt anybody was complaining.

The question we have is what LIMF does now. Nile Rodgers clearly gave the event the boost it needed for numbers on the Saturday – and indeed, a tenner to see such a genuine legend was undoubtedly the bargain of the year. Having once been free, it seems people are unwilling to cough up a couple of quid no matter what the calibre of the line-up – unless somebody like Nile tops the bill. Knowingly or not, he has set a precedent.   

But the event is so cheap that we have to wonder whether they could even afford such a coup on a regular basis and maintain its outlook. Even with sell outs, could LIMF really continue to bring people like Chaka Khan, or Earth Wind & Fire, or whoever else? Only time will tell.   

There are still so many complainers, even those saying the embarrassment that was the Matthew Street Festival should return, but it is easy to overlook how great it is to have something like this in the city at all.

There are always improvements – sound bleeds from the dance tents, for example. Perhaps it would be better to streamline to a single dance tent, and make room for more stalls and rides for a more multi-faceted family day out.

If there is one thing LIMF does better than anyone else, it’s diversity. Owusu seems to take great care in ensuring there is something for pretty much anyone at the event, and he does so without making it seem forced. So if LIMF can thrive after the precedent set this year, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

Pictures by Brian Sayle