With Friday’s psychotropic episodes behind them, Getintothis’ Laura Coppin, Jamie Bowman and Patrick Clarke pick themselves up for day two of Camp and Furnace’s incredible Psych Fest.
As midday descends on a ragtag crowd of hungover heads there’s still little to blemish the abundant joys of Psych Fest. The atmosphere’s as jovial as ever, the sun is shining, and even the derby was a draw. What’s more there’s still a slew of mammoth bookings left to savour for those groups of worse-for-wear psychonauts as they begin to once again trickle through Camp and Furnace’s doors.
Amid the midday heat, the incense is unravelling amid the shisha tent, the smoked chicken wafts enticingly as the print-makers atop of Blade Factory ready their paint pots and Piccadilly Records and their like unpack the next day’s merchandise. Paul Sullivan and the Static Gallery heads are all ready, fresh as a daisy, with their production line of cassettes all paused and phased to capture the sonics. Ah, those lovely sonics…
For those beginning their day at Blade Factory their reception is thankfully a gentle one, with the North East’s Glass Moths enfolding them in their serene, organ-filled aural embrace.
There are likewise some far away eyes attempting to get their psych on in the relaxed surroundings of the festival’s cushion-strewn chill out area. Traams’ mix of Krautrock rhythm and garage rock guitars at Furnace may not be exactly what these sore heads need but for anyone else currently enjoying their debut LP Grin, Traams provide a tonic as powerful as Phil Jagielka’s half volley.
Camp provides no respite either, as Pink Teens (though billed under former name Temple Songs) are one hell of a way to blast away the comedown. Galvanized from the off they launch scruffily into a garage attack that takes cues from the likes of Thee Oh Sees to both deafen and brace the throng for day two.
Liverpool’s Strange Collective extend the ruckus to the Blade,storming through their set with vivid energy and howling vocals. Many locals have already encountered the inimitable quartet whilst they’ve been making their own unique mark on Liverpool’s live scene (including a barnstormer of a set at Getintothis’s recent relaunch party), but for those of the crowd that haven’t it’s unlikely they’ll be able to (or should want to) avoid them for long.
Post-rockers Mazes take a more clinical approach, but one that’s no less thrilling. Professional but still charismatic, they refine their garage base through filters of kraut until it takes on a nonchalant shimmer, breathing room for the bite of cohesive, taut guitar that drifts towards the occasional demonic solo.
Next to delight Blade’s ever-growing crowd are Nottingham’s Cantaloupe, instrumental groovemongers whose sound mixes guitars, drums, and electronic beats into wonderfully entrancing avant-garde synth-pop. Despite their relatively early set, the trio immediately have bodies swaying and feet tapping throughout the room.
Islet show no such will for streamlining with a manic, vibrant set that’s heavy on polyrhythmic wig-outs, ventures into the crowd and an alt-pop leaning in the Yeasayer vein. Flouncing through the audience chiming bells as they take to the stage and wearing a spaced-out, art-schoolish faux-persona throughout they’d be irritating were it not for their impeccable songs, and with their craftmanship complimenting their zeal they leave the Camp buzzing with an atmosphere masterfully concocted.
More suitable and soothing sounds for those still battling Friday’s repercussions come in the form of Chilean hipsters Nueva Costa. The band play a lovely cocktail of cosmic psych rock with layers of organ and spacy guitar, topped off with Spanish lyrics. Their sound seems to blend inspirations from early 70s psychedelic rock with a modern, minimalistic instrumentation which evokes thoughts of early Brian Jonestown Massacre. Magically they seem to cure hangovers using little more than reverb. Impressive.
The rougher sonics of London-born Whistlejacket follow at the Blade, making for a rather jarring experience after Cantaloupe’s placidity. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable however – the band have already received a great deal of critical acclaim for their burgeoning fusion of 90’s guitars and reverb-heavy vocals, and on the basis of this set rightly so.
Half Loon are another group who have been cutting their teeth on London’s music scene, garnering a great deal of interest with their sleepy melodies and whimsical yet infectious hooks. Blade’s shape works against them however and the room is so packed that a great deal of the audience was forced to stand far back behind the bend in the room. The resulting mixture of bodies and walls serves to muffle their already delicately blurred sound, dampening much of the impetus their performance may have otherwise had.
Ten minutes late to the Camp stage, Moodoïd appear in matching gold face-paint to take Spiritualized’s flourishing atmospherics, ferocious lines of 90s computer game synths and twisted narratives of trad-psych sounding guitars, and coalesce it into something truly magnificent. Pablo Padovani strikes a claim for the festival’s finest frontman, owning centre stage with delectable contempt, while the all-female foursome behind him attack with singular force on backing vocal duty, faultless instrumentally.
The Janitors are appropriately more punctual over at the Furnace, and though they may have one of the more underwhelming names of the weekend, their own brand of “stockpsych” is powerfully memorable. Clearly in thrall to the late 80s UK psych sound of Spacemen 3 and Loop, the Swedes seem to have made it their mission to rewrite the former’s Revolution with extra black bits. It’s pummelling and propulsive with edges as sharp as the cheek bones on vocalist Jonas Erilsson. Full marks too for proclaiming an anti-facist message at this most dozily apolitical of proceedings.
Their predecessors Moodoïd were a festival highlight, and enigmatic experimentalists Bonnacons of Doom have quite the task in following. They take the battering ram approach in doing so, their set one colossal sequence of inexorable noise and potent, vivid visuals. It’s as experimental as the stage will get, and given their kaleidoscopic billmates that’s achievement enough, though the set undeniably lacks depth.
Speaking of highlights, of all the new breed of UK neo-pyschers it’s hard not to put Cumbrians Lucid Dream out in front. Equally comfortable producing huge slaps of noise as they are sneaking in a gamut of pop hooks so delicious you could imagine them on daytime radio, they absolutely storm the early evening crowd with a wonderful set of confident noise rock. They even survive an interesting foray in dub with a soundscape dedicated “to all the King Tubby fans” that crucially manages to sound nothing like UB40.
Cheval Sombre may well have been the next to suffer from Blade’s growing overpopulation, but thankfully we manage to scrabble our way into a choice position at the side of the stage to fully appreciate the band’s acoustic beauty. Weaving a spellbinding tapestry of soft guitars, floating violins, and silky-smooth vocals, Cheval Sombre prove a hit with the eager press of festival goers before them.
Lay Llamas kick off Rocket Recordings’ Transmissions from the Outer Realm in style via their colossal, drone-based sound that takes a cue or two from the prior night’s headliners Suuns. The band flow unruffled from one audacious groove to another, emphasising each with vigorous assertion but never overstaying their welcome, never compromising their momentous progression.
Hailing from Belgium, Bed Rugs are next to take to the Blade to peddle their catchy hooks to the waiting masses. Whilst their performance shows a lot of promise, there were a few points at which they betray the early stage they are at in their musical career. French jazz-folk-progster Orval Carlos Sibelius (real name Axel Monneau) holds the stage with more confidence, mingling lively, varied instrumental sounds with his melodic pared-back vocals.
Meanwhile on a day of contrasts, Grumbling Fur offer up one of the more interesting takes on psychedelia with their beautifully lilting and organic sounding mixture of acid folk and eighties synths. If that sounds a cross fertilisation too far than you’d be wrong as the duo’s gentle pop sensibilities somehow seem to recall Depeche Mode jamming with Boards of Canada. It’s wildly imaginative stuff and on The Ballad of Roy Batty they even manage to sample Blade Runner without sounding like know it all geeks. Odd, bewitching and utterly beautiful.
Anthroprophh bring back the brutality to the Rocket curation, their jarring and uncompromising set leaving the disjointed challenges of their recorded output firmly unblunted. Twisting the rigidity from krautrock and lashing it with gallons of glitching noise, this is not a set for the faint-hearted. Beneath the fuzz and the mania, though, there’s a true sense of visceral fire, and the night is no weaker for the trial.
Since the departure of female vocalist Rachel Fannan, soaring desert rock band from the old school Sleepy Sun seem to have moved further into the realms of classic rock with a hairy abandon that’s written all over the face of singer Bret Constantino’s grimacing Robert Plant-isms. At their best they recall Storm In Heaven era Verve with a wide screen ambition that pulls in the Americana sound of their homeland with Bret ready to soar away on the imaginary rug beneath his feet.
All the while round the corner at Camp, Hills‘ soundcheck morphs into the actual set, and an erratic start soon turns to utter absorption, their salubrious strain of expansive psych fit to burst with eclectic textures and divine grooves of a middle-Eastern bent. Besides the everpresent Goat they’re Rocket’s finest act, and prove it with a monstrous set of Herculean beauty.
Taking the Blade down a darker route, one-man-wonder Theo Verney makes use of his prodigious backing band to bring his sludgy rock-pop to life. His depth of sound is sadly not matched by the following all female quintet September Girls, whose set feels rather unremarkable despite their obvious technical prowess.
If the more folky end of the psych spectrum has been a bit lacking over the weekend, Boston’s Quilt more than make up for it with a stunning set of languid pastoral harmonies, and a suitably comforting lysergic sensibility that can’t help but make you want to wear flowers in your hair. If at times it’s all a bit too hippy dippy, there’s just enough mind bending material to keep it from going completely silly, especially if you focus on the downright beautiful frontwoman Anna Fox Rochinski who breaks hearts across the room with every breathy utterance.
Another vocalist to stand out from the crowd is Woods frontman Jeremy Earlwhose high soulful tones add a new dimension to his band’s lilting stoner folk. Gone is the sluggish lethargy so apparent in so many of their contemporaries only to be replaced by a clear, warm psych sound which recalls the likes of Big Star and Buffalo Springfield. At times it’s a bit too safe and nice and could do with a few more fuzzy flourishes but in reality it’s hard to fault such perfectly constructed songs as Moving To The Left and Tambourine Light.
Teeth of the Sea boast an edgier bent, taking the drones of their Rocket labelmates and ramping them up with the fiery tempo of unholy-sounding synths. A cornucopia of timbres fly in from all angles, most notably the wist of Screamadelica trumpets and distorted, fiendish vocals, and the set’s major success is in the collation, an epic and expansive display of psych at its most kaleidoscopic.
As the evening begins to creep to a close, its the turn of One Unique Signal to entertain the busy crowds. Sadly the band fail to live up to their moniker, instead issuing forth a confusing tangle of musical signals which felt oppressively repetitious.
Gnod live up better to their moniker, and are appropriately euphoric given their religious aesthetic. Though their sound isn’t as rich as some of their billmates they carry themselves on an edgy, brooding charisma that’s quick to capture hearts and minds. The set ramps up intensity as it goes, culminating in rapturous guitar-led cacophonies which builds to such a trance-like hypnotic state of noise-bliss we’re not even sure we’ll hear things the same ever again.
Combining an almost unfeasible array of sounds into a single psychedelic onslaught, Satelliti’s performance that closes the Blade feels appropriately enough like the sonic manifestation of the end of the world. For many (ourselves included) it’s a marvellous experience, but it must be said that Getintothis’ companion for the evening found it so wildly all-encompassing that they fled out of the building in desperate search of the open sky.
With the world’s biggest bouncer guarding the gates of Goat‘s packed show, White Hills provide a worthy alternative next door at Camp. Teeming with attitude their vicious riffs teem with fire, the band flooding with a captivating snarl. The tunes swagger and stride, earth-shattering riffs and sadistic basslines dovetailing into a mountainous masterclass in live performance.
For all White Hills‘ heroics however, all weekend it feels as if the festival has been building up to something special from Swedish oddballs Goat. With a back story that takes in shamanism, African masks and live performances so incendiary they have become as rare as hen’s teeth, it’s difficult to know what to expect from a band whose itinerant membership claims to be drawn from the isolated Arctic village of Korpilombolo.
What does emerge on stage is simply extraordinary both visually and aurally as two female singers dressed either as Aztec warriors or Zulu tribespeople (it’s been a long day) launch into a swirling mixture of African rhythms, Middle Eastern swirls and UK freak beat not seen on these shores since Arthur Brown set fire to his head. Like watching an archive clip of Funkadelic or Sun Ra it’s impossible not to immerse oneself in the whole tribal atmosphere of a crowd that is undeniably doing its best to lose it completely. Musically the band are all over the place with the looped guitar lines recalling Tinariwen’s Saharan-blues one minute before morphing into a Velvetsy drone so groovy it’s hard to believe these are not covers of some ancient legendary band you’ve known all your life.
Songs regularly reach astonishing climaxes often more than once in the same song and by the end of Let It Bleed, jazz trumpets have taken the lead and we’re in the kind of territory you might label avant garde if it wasn’t so fun. As Goat stir a maelstrom of incessant and downright dirty funk with the type of sizzling guitar solos to make Eddie Hazel proud, any doubt that this a band built merely on gimmick and rumour is blown out of the water. A legend is born.
Camera end the night in admirable fashion, though as the festival winds up feel a bit like the end credits. Where countless of the festival’s acts take indubitable influence from krautrock, the three-piece sieze the genre at its purest, slipping straight into a Neu! groove, injecting a bit of added fuzz and letting things flow. Given the day’s mania they’re a suitable end, a chance for re-composition following what has been one of Liverpool’s most extraordinary events, and a phenomenal festival like few others.
Pictures by Getintothis‘ Vicky Pea, Gaz Jones and Tomas Adam