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The Mathew Street Festival

How did the Mathew Street Festival fare? Vinny Lawrenson Woods reports

Published on August 26th 2008.

The Mathew Street Festival

In true Glastonbury style Liverpool’s Mathew Street Festival returned after a year off due to health and safety concerns that wrecked last year’s festivities. Unlike Glastonbury, welly’s or tickets weren’t required for the virtually rain-free weekend of music.

Sayers the bakers, an official sponsor of the Capital of Culture year, were enjoying brisk sales making sure the festival didn’t lose its typically Liverpool feel.

The pressure was on, and the world was watching, as Liverpool’s Culture Company promised a festival bigger and better than in its sixteen year history for Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture year.

The new Mathew Street Fringe Festival kicked off the weekend on Saturday. Giving local unsigned bands a chance to perform gave this year’s festival an extra dimension, not to mention some quality music by many city favourites. Among the bands on stage were The Neil Campbell Collective, The Prelude and The Cubical who all played amazing sets at the Zanzibar and Seel Street on Saturday. The Liverpool Academy, Bumper, Barfly, Heebie Jeebies, Korova and Magnet were also offering performance spaces as part of the fringe.

Sunday and Monday marked the end of Liverpool’s International Beatles Week Festival with 80 hours of music performed live on 6 outdoor stages and supported by a number of indoor venues, many of whom were involved in last year’s smaller indoor festival.

With more stewards, toilets, bins and even signs, the weekend had a more professional, less parochial feel. The new themed outdoor stages gave the festival a more organised feel as enormous numbers descended on the city centre. Sayers the bakers, an official sponsor of the Capital of Culture year, were enjoying brisk sales making sure the festival didn’t lose its typically Liverpool feel.

Alongside the usual tribute bands from around the world with great names like Fake That and Kaiser Thiefs, east-end favourites Chas and Dave performed their crowd-pleasing piano tunes to a massive crowd on Sunday at the new Main Tunnel stage, with more onlookers sitting off St John’s Gardens. 80’s chart toppers Right Said Fred were also having a lot of fun at the Water Street Diva stage on Monday to an equally large crowd.

The Exchange Street East and Superlambanana Stages offerings included Brit Pop and Blues/Soul tribute bands.

The Derby Square Beatles stage was one large sing-a-long tribute to the fab four, including an appearance from old favourites The Mersey Beatles, donning their mop tops once again. If The Beatles stage was a reminder of the festivals past, the Williamson Square stage was all about the future.

Sunday presented the 4th year of Streetwaves, a competition for aspiring young musicians from the Merseyside boroughs. The winning local bands were also joined by their international counterparts from countries including Turkey, France, Germany and Poland. Monday offered the stage to new bands The Mojave Collective, KOF, Blue Ruby and many others from Liverpool and beyond.

Walking through the city centre streets highlighted a lack of outdoor spaces and open air seating. Pubs and restaurants could only offer limited rest stops for the massive crowds and many people will have left the festival because of the underused pedestrianised areas.

Seating aside, what began as a celebration of The Beatles and Mathew Street has grown into a great festival of music. The embarrassment of last year’s cancellation of the outdoor stages was forgotten, as people of all ages enjoyed the on/off sunshine and entertainment. With well positioned stages, big screens, many indoor venues and even a chill out zone, the city centre music festival was a huge success for the city and the Culture Company.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Freddie fanAugust 26th 2008.

Queen as usual were fantastic. The screen helped the not so tall get a glimpse of what was happening. My only gripe is there still wasn't enough toilets to cope with all the crowds that attended. Queues were at least 20 deep in the ladies so come on fellers give up your loos and join a queue somewhere else.

DigAugust 26th 2008.

I thought the highlight of the festival was the Prof performing the remiximatosis of 'Rabbit' with Chas and Dave and Echo and The Bugsbunnymen. A future No1??? The memories will live with me for the rest of my life. Thanks Prof I owe you a drink.

professor ChucklebuttyAugust 26th 2008.

Well done Liverpool. That will show the cynics who regularly mock the Custard Company in there so-called subcustard evil cobbles blogs. I spent most of the day looking for the Anita Harris tribute stage but got lost and ended up with the Beverley Sisters. Well they said they were, but I don't remember them having ginger beards. Still they gave a fine rendition of Doggy In The Window outside Venture Place. All in all a great success. just one thing spoiled it a little for me, the Japanese Simon and Garfunkel tribute band doing Bridge over River Kwai was in bad taste, especially when the Alec Guiness tribute band blew up their stage.

freakyzAugust 26th 2008.

Matthew St Festival had it's hey day in 1999-2000. Great bands on good stages at the Pier Head, Chavass Park and an area easy enough to move stage to stage. The sheer number of stages, and money wasted on creating an infrastructure across town was rather silly. In future years less stages,a centralised arena and spend the money saved on better acts. If I wanted to see Fake That, The Keiser Theifs etc I'd have gone to Pontins.Come on we're a great musical city lets not subscribe to filling our streets with back street bar tribute acts.

SoulfulAugust 26th 2008.

Marvin Ruffin and band were sensational on Monday afternoon (on the Superlambanana/Tithebarn Street stage).More soul and Motown in Liverpool please!!!

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

I was there on Sunday, what a completely fabulous day!!Really enjoyed all the bands on the main & merseybeat stages - well organised, free water from united utilities and plenty of ladies loos ! Cant wait til next year, my highlight - the glorious Roxy Magic :)

WappingAugust 26th 2008.

Missed the flash mob at Church St/Lord St junction at 1 o'clock on Monday did you? Dumbfounded police and stewards hadn't a clue. And no mention of the mystery pegger either.

Eleanor RigsbyAugust 26th 2008.

Hmm. Did Professor Phil Redmond have a hand in penning this? With all of its resources you would have expected nothing less. Your corrrespondent was too, too kind. Of course the big test will come next year when we are no longer CoC. Who is gonna pay then? Money, that's what we need, but who will hand it over.

jenny33August 26th 2008.

What a brilliant day yesterday!Well done Liverpool. Tremendous, great atmosphere. Everybody dead friendly,had a really good time.Best band for me was 'Moses' playing in Zavvi store (Clayton Sq) - fantastic! Great to see local bands there yesterday.For me some/most of the stages had 'tribute' bands - what's the point they are copies.Give us more Merseyside acts on the stages next year please.Jen

AnonymousAugust 26th 2008.

The festival was great, only gripe is that they could do with a few link screens around the city, so that you can see what is happening on other stages, as there was lulls trapsing between the stages.

Serge TrouserinAugust 26th 2008.

Well done, boubcers mentioned above! Civilised adults don't wear shorts in public unless they are on the beach or playing for a cheap laugh by imitating Eric Morecambe!

wonnie the wanterAugust 26th 2008.

a great weekend only to be spoilt by the lovely doorman on heebee jeebees and the largo refusing entry to people wearing shorts. get a grip.

AndyAugust 26th 2008.

Credit Crunch? What Credit Crunch. Watched a couple of rather pedestrian 'Beatle Bands' at the Derby Square stage and fancied some refreshment at the Pret a manger opposite. It closed at 5 o clock! Thousands of potential customers outside, may trying to gain entry as the last few diners were locked in. Obviously don't need the thousands of extra spondulas they could have easily generated. The (few) fast food stalls present had queues too long to even contemplate and you couldn't get a drink because of - yes you've guessed it, the queues. It seems that they always under estimate the level of demand. Go to the grand national for example and you can't move for food outlets or mobile beer sellers. Why not at Mathew Street festival. having said this, it was great atmosphere and I was reminded just how great Jimi Hendrix really was!

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