As Liverpool Disco Festival returned to The Baltic Triangle for it’s second year of disco delights, The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight and Shaun Ponsonby were on site to get in the groove.
Liverpool has, throughout modern music history, been a hub of creativity. It has continuously pushed the envelope in terms of the artists it produces, the venues that line its streets, and the events that provide a draw for thousands of music fans year-in, year-out.
On the weekend of Saturday 6th May Liverpool Disco Festival demonstrated exactly why Liverpool is a bastion for musical creativity, as they celebrated 30 years of the Southport Weekender. With a series of events spread across venues in the Baltic Triangle area, we headed down to see what was going on. We were glad we did.
Getting wristbands proved to be a little chaotic. There were just three people (by our count) at the box office, meaning the queue snaked around the building quite a bit and caused long waits for those trying to get in. However, after about 25 minutes of queuing, we were in, wristbands trapping arm hairs to eye-watering effect, and drink in hand. We headed, with haste, to the huge garage space that is Hangar34, where none other that DJ Jazzy Jeff had just started wrecking the decks.
DJ Jazzy Jeff was on surprisingly early, around two in the afternoon. This had its positives and its negatives; although a lot of people would have missed him, it did ensure that Hanger34 was busy early on. Aside from being an early highlight who held the room in the palm of his hand (unsurprising given that he is such a legendary name), there was something about his set that reflected the crowd.
To say his set was eclectic is an understatement. He may be known as a hip-hop DJ, but he dropped disco, funk, pop, hard rock, folk, soul and not to mention his own hits like Summertime and even a slice of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme. All of it masterfully mixed, showcasing skills that prove turntables can be instruments to. Consistently dropping party bangers across the sea of bouncing heads in front of him, Jazzy Jeff‘s performance left all in attendance drenched in sweat – evidence, if anything, that we were all having a ball.
The diversity in the music he played matched the diversity across the whole festival, which is a major plus for Liverpool Disco Festival. Looking around each venue, we were struck by the differences in age, gender, race, sexuality. This is truly an event that appeals across the board, a manifesto that harks back to the original aim of disco.
The garden at Constellations was laid back and groovy. Although it was the one day over the course of the previous few where we were not treated to glorious sunshine, it still felt like it was baking. And you know we love it when the DJ drops some Funkadelic.
Mr. Scruff was by far and away our favourite in Constellations Garden. His set illustrated perfectly why he is consistently booked for large events such as LDF; he is a top selecta, and kept everyone shaking ass throughout the entirety of his set. His mix of bumpy house, disco, and latin flavas got everyone in the mood as the evening wore on, by which time we were all ready to give it some real welly.
We caught D-Train performing live at Hanger34, though he kept confusingly shouting out “Let me hear you, Southport” – probably out of confusion given the link-up with Southport Weekender. As much as they delighted with their early 80s hits such as You’re The One For Me, it was a Prince tribute via a full-length performance of Purple Rain that seemed to hit the crowd hardest. The sentiment and change in pace was palpable.
Jellybean Benitez is as known as a producer as much as a DJ, most notably producing much of Madonna’s debut album (think Holiday, Borderline, Lucky Star etc).He also had a fair number of Top 20 hits in his own right in the late 80s, not that he felt compelled to play a lot of them. The lack of Borderline was particularly disappointing. But a set comprising of the more obscure side of late 70s/early 80s funk hit the right spot, and by the time Change’s The Glow of Love came blasting through the speakers, everyone was happy.
Joey Negro capped off Hanger34 whilst our tired legs started to give way. Meanwhile, over in Furnace, Tony Humphries was smashing the back out of everyone with a wildly eclectic set that included disco, house, and even a little bit of techno, which had the entire crowd throwing shapes until the room closed at midnight. By the time we left, we were well and truly exhausted (although that didn’t prevent the afterparty lasting into the early hours).
In all, our team felt that this year’s LDF offered a marked improvement on last year’s. The sound issues that plagued the New Bird Street Warehouse during Odyssey‘s performance in 2016 had been completely overcome, with all acts being heard perfectly around each venue. Any other little foibles had been ironed out completely, making this an enjoyable festival for all.
The only issue was that some venues drew much larger crowds than others (most notably the Furnace as the festival proper drew to a close) which meant that some were left disappointed at not being able to gain entry. However, this is simply a health and safety precaution, so we recognise that nobody is to blame, and that the festival organisers and security staff should be commended on doing such a fantastic job of controlling the crowds.
LDF 2017 was a testament to the hard work put in by the organisers since 2016’s festival closed and we will wait with baited breath for the announcements pertaining to next year’s festival.