Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia 2016 – what Getintothis learnt and best bands at Camp and Furnace

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Psych

Liverpool Psych Fest scenes

Having just about recovered from this year’s mind-altering festival, Getintothis’ Paul Higham offers the final verdict on Liverpool Psych Fest 2016.

So the dust has finally settled on yet another Liverpool Psych Fest, the fifth and perhaps the best yet. We’re not quite sure if we’ve quite managed to digest all that happened over a momentous day and a half (was it really that brief). A few might have recovered physically, although for some a week is not nearly long enough with eyelids still being forced open against their will as the drudgery of the return to real life becomes clear.

The mental effects will take longer to subside. Perhaps they never will go away. A heightening of the senses, a feeling of expansive escapism and an ability to see the world in glorious technicolour rather than the bleak strait-jacket of black and white conformity.

It sounds clichéd to say it but Psych Fest does feel like it can expand the mind. It can awaken ideas and thoughts long buried deep. It alters perceptions and forces people to challenge and question their very existence.

The great thing about psychedelia, and Liverpool Psych Fest in particular, is that it opens you up to a whole world of possibilities that are out there within easy reach. Opportunity that feels democratic and open to all. You don’t need money. You just need an open and receptive mind. And music.

Free yourself. Let yourself go and the music will do the rest.

If you’re yet to be persuaded then come along next year. Embrace the warmth, the international collectivism and the hug of life-enhancing alternative music. It will rock your world. Trust us.

This year’s Psych Fest did indeed get us thinking, and here’s a few of the things we learnt:

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All dressed up with somewhere to go at Liverpool Psych Fest

Psychedelia really is an International Community.

When back in 2012 Liverpool first launched its Psych Fest under the somewhat grand name of Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia we confess to slightly sneering.

While hindsight will judge it as a statement of vaulting ambition we thought it a case of Liverpool being Liverpool and having an overstated sense of its own importance and uniqueness. A provincial city deluding itself that it has global reach.

Come 2016 the tables have turned, and how.

This is truly a world event, reflected in the breadth of artists clamouring to play.

This year saw a much anticipated showcase of the varied talents on underground Tokyo label GuruGuru Brain, while one of the most exciting aspects of the festival, and psychedelia in general, is how we are weaned from our regular diet of British and American music and introduced to more exotic experiences.

Latin America, from Chile to Mexico was well represented bringing a distinctive brand of hazy krautrock influenced shoegaze. Europe and the Far East were equally well represented, the former bringing both the heat of the southern reaches of the continent and the stark minimalism of the cooler north.

Divided by language, united by music, psychedelia provides the perfect umbrella. Lyrics, and specifically their meaning, matter less than in other forms of music, often just being present more to lend textural contrast than actual meaning.

Throughout the weekend there was an undeniable feeling of unity, togetherness and of hope in a divided world.

It’s a demonstration of the power of music to bring people together under a common banner. Language matters not. We all speak music anyway.

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A very psychedelic resting place

Are we any closer to defining what Psychedelia really is?

The very definition of psychedelia has been a much debated topic in recent years, with little by way of consensus yet to emerge. Where once psychedelia had its roots in a specific mutation of guitar music hailing from America’s west coast, today it feels less like it represents a specific sound or specific instruments or even music making methodology.

If Psychedelia is as much defined by its effect and how it is perceived then it can cover a much broader church, reflecting as much the individual eccentricities of the listener as it does any narrow definition of the artist.

Liverpool Psych Fest instinctively seem to understand this. Their definition of psychedelia is music that transports you and takes you on a journey. Yet what has a transcendental effect on one person, might leave others unmoved.

In the past the perception of psychedelia has veered from shoegaze, to Hawkwind-esque space rock, to repetitive Spacemen 3 influenced drones even heading back to the warped and layered melodies inspired by the first wave of psychedelia in the 1960s.

Now it appears that anything and everything can be deemed psychedelia. Perhaps that is why it has become maybe the most over-used term in music today. The good thing for us is that this year’s Psych Fest covers a broader range of styles than ever before.

The common theme here is music that possesses you, takes you over and frees your mind.

That feeling when you’re standing, the music wraps you in its embrace and gradually (or sometimes all of a sudden) you lose any sense of perception of your immediate surroundings only to open your eyes when it stops and be confronted with the surprise that you’re not actually in your own world. That’s psychedelia.

The broad church is reflected in the variety of acts on offer (when we say variety, we do so within reason; it is after all a genre festival). Yet this genre is wider than it has ever been. Expected touchstones are covered. Ultimate Painting box off 60s-inspired melodious psychedelia perfect for a Saturday afternoon, Lorelle Meets the Obsolete bring dream-pop and shoegaze influences to bear, Yaya Futuro embrace fuzzy Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine influenced walls of sound.

The Stairs showcase blues-y influenced passionate garage rock, Rats on Rafts offer a spikily energetic post-punk sound, while Cowtown‘s punk DIY spirit feels far from any conventional description of psych.

Much of the festival is built around rhythm and repetition, with krautrock and relentless motorik being common reference points for the likes of The Early Years and Electric Eye, while tribal-inspired polyrhythms feature elsewhere.

Some deal in guitars that play melodies, others in imposing walls of sound. Some such as Eartheater build woozily textured soundscapes while others such as Josefin Öhrn and The Liberation marry shoegaze introspection with widescreen cinematic soundscapes.

Demdike Stare assault with gnarled electronica, just as Gnoomes hypnotise with trance-like Can-inspired grooves, all proving there is no thing as your standard Liverpool Psych Fest Band. Heck, in The Moonlandingz organisers booked a band self-described “as putting a square peg in the arsehole of psychedelia

Such was the wealth and variety on offer here, and so compelling were the effects that a range of different bands had on us we’re no closer to defining psychedelia in terms of a specific sound.

But on the basis of what we were able to take in here, does anyone really care?

Super Furry Animals

Super Furry Animals

Headline acts – are they all they’re cracked up to be?

When the Festival line-up was announced it was fair to say that there was not a universal sense of approval from long-time festival-goers. If we all love Super Furry Animals (and we do, that’s not in doubt) it is undeniable that there were murmurings of disquiet about them playing the festival – and don’t even get us started on The Horrors.

The latter have their place for sure, but as our reviewer discovered they’re just not Pzyk enough. Not whacked out enough. More in here than out there, if you catch our drift.

That said, we can see what the organisers have done and to an extent with the booking of Spiritualized they did it last year too. Except Spiritualized felt more right. Much of the festival’s musical influence can be traced back to the legacy of Spacemen 3 so having Jason Pierce headline felt authentically appropriate on the one hand, even if a concession to wider commercial and ticket-selling appeal on the other.

However much most of us want to see the niche, the whacked out and the downright weird, it is necessary to sell tickets to cover their costs.

Lots of us are prepared to commit in parting with a not insubstantial chunk of change to see a host of bands we haven’t yet heard of. We feel able to place our trust in the organisers and curators safe in the knowledge that they know what they’re doing and glad that we’ll come away armed with a host of new discoveries rather than merely having our existing taste reinforced.

How then does this restless voyage in search of the new fit in with the booking of Super Furry Animals and The Horrors to headline the festival?

In truth they get people through the door and it is this boost in ticket sales that matters to a festival that thrives on booking niche and leftfield acts. Without it they couldn’t survive. As ATP found to their cost, a booking like Drive Like Jehu just wouldn’t have had the same effect.

Where did it all go wrong for ATP? Find out here

So while we all had a bit of a self-satisfied cooler-than-thou grumble at the booking of The Horrors, without them there’s every chance we wouldn’t have got to see Electric Eye in District or In Zaire in Blade Factory or whichever of the countless great bands that left a seriously lasting impression on you.

And let’s not forget, every cloud does have a silver lining. Sometimes you just want to be entertained – and on Friday that is what the Super Furry Animals undoubtedly did. Armed with more hits than you remember them ever having they managed to inject a dose of pop fun at just the right time. Amid the new discoveries sometimes the time is ripe to settle into something warm and familiar. And the addictive pop-fuzz of the Super Furries managed to pull-off one of the sets of the weekend.

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Psychedelic beanbags

It is all about the music though, right?

Yes and no. Well, OK it is mainly about the live music. We’d be churlish to suggest otherwise.

But the festival has in the last couple of years become something much more than that. The canny addition of District in 2015 and the expansion of the festival away from the previously overcrowded and chaotic Greenland Street has lent it a more relaxed and, appropriately for a psychedelic festival, a more spaced out (literally and figuratively) vibe.

This is definitely a good thing. The whole place now feels like a festival. It has social hubs in the form of the relaxed and hippified refuge of the Bold Street Coffee tent and the more energetic DJ-led space in front of the main entrance. Places to relax and let your hair down in equal measure. Places to congregate, places to meet, places where troubles and strife can be cast aside, however temporarily.

All this of course is without mentioning the space that exists above Blade Factory. Where Alice fell down the rabbit hole, we venture up the narrow staircase and another world awaits.

It is here that absolutely demonstrates that the Psych Fest experience can offer more than merely standing in front of bands for a 12 hour stretch. The Pzyk Pryzm returned once again to offer immersive art installations that challenged and stretched our sense of perception and actually featured some of the best festival performances in its most unusual setting. Bonnacons of Doom and Virtual Forest delivered standout sets on Saturday while Oliver Coates proved his warped cello-tronica from latest album Upstepping to be the work of the madcap genius we always suspected him to be.

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Virtual Reality at Liverpool Psych Fest

Proving definitively that the festival was more than just its many live musical offerings was the Pzyk Virtual Reality which, through a range of dystopian and Orwellian experiences explored the twin transportive powers of Virtual Reality and music, with Bonnacons of Doom, Demdike Stare and Huw Bunford of Super Furry Animals sound-tracking the experiences.

Ordinarily we’re heavily sceptical of things like this at Festivals. Often put in because, in part, it’s what people expect these days and also to provide a sense of distracted entertainment for people who don’t really like music but nonetheless want to take in the festival experience, here it truly works.

Firstly it holds that most people are here for the music, that much is self-evident throughout – concrete just isn’t made for Kate Moss and her designer wellies. But crucially the installations become part of the whole, they augment the experience and reinforce the belief that music can take you places, heighten experiences and broaden minds.

These aren’t installations that sit on the periphery of the festival to look nice and make vaguely irrelevant social commentary. Rather they are an integral part of the fabric of the festival and as central to the whole experience as any of the bands that are playing.

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Psych Fest Crowds in Camp

The festival goes from strength to strength, but is it too big?

Don’t doubt it, Psych Fest remains as popular as ever. Rightly so it’s very much a destination festival, with people travelling from far-flung corners of the country and beyond to attend.

That again makes it unique among the many events on our near doorstep. This isn’t one where you see the same familiar heads, it isn’t like another night down whichever venue has filled the void left by the Kazimier. Of course, they’re all there, it’s just that they’re overwhelmed by an influx of new arrivals and it’s easy to see why.

The festival remains the biggest and best of its kind in the country, one of the few that caters solely for psychedelic music on such a scale and is surely starting to rival Austin’s famed Levitation in its reach and reputation.

Check out the top ten bands from Austin, the self-proclaimed music capital of the world

With this comes growth and expansion as demand rises. Clearly the festival has expanded in the last couple of years and taking in District has allowed the numbers to swell. On arrival on Friday afternoon it felt immediately busier than last year, although the availability of day passes on the door suggests that we weren’t quite at full capacity.

Notwithstanding, there did seem to be additional pressure on the venue with its narrow entrances and exits proving to be pressure points at times while the increased number of festival-goers creates a problem for those seeking to gain entry to the fixed capacity venues for some of the higher profile acts.

There was something of an unsightly scrum outside the main entrance to Furnace prior to the start of Super Furry Animals while others equally struggled to gain entry to Camp to see The Stairs on Friday night, such is the esteem in which they are held in these quarters.

Festivals in indoor venues are, by necessity, going to be restricted capacity. Yet by and large, and with a bit of forward planning and an only occasional element of sacrifice, pretty much everyone should be able to get to see what they want to see.

The main criticism stems from the bottlenecks. Changes were made this year to try to separate the two venues of Camp and Furnace. The convoluted one way system was discarded which may have resulted in greater confusion. And if pressure was eased in the main Atrium then entering and exiting Camp through the small rear entrance was too often a torturous test of patience.

That said, we reckon the festival currently gets it just about right. We can tolerate the bottlenecks as an unavoidable effect but we’re not sure there’s much room for the festival to further expand on its current site.

Casting aside the congestion, and even forgetting for a moment the stellar line-up, one of the reasons for the festival’s success is its supreme organisation. Multi-stage events are all about timing. There’s nothing worse than making an early dart from something you’re enjoying only to find that the stage you’re headed to is running late or delayed. Sure, things happen and things from time to time do go wrong.

But here everything seems to work. Stages are managed with metronomic precision (the sheer panic on the faces of the assembled throng of stage crew when Harald Grosskopf threatened to get carried away in his obvious enjoyment was an unexpected joy) and everything runs like a Japanese railway. No leaves on the line here.

Soaking up the festival atmosphere

Soaking up the festival atmosphere

Beer tokens, who’d have thought it?

It is often said that Liverpudlians learn to read between the lines before they learn to read. Thus it is fair to say that when the festival announced that all bars were to accept prepaid tokens instead of cash we approached it with a degree of cynicism.

Was it to be little more than an additional money making scheme? One that would either cause us to dissociate the number of tokens from the actual price of a pint or to cause us to groan when we pull out a fresh sheet of ten tokens from our jeans on Sunday morning.

While we don’t necessarily recall having to wait too long at the bar last year, it is fair to say that we barely had to wait any time at all this year for a pint.

When a schedule is as tightly packed as Psych Fest, so full of many good things to see who wants to spend it waiting at the bar desperately in search of liquid refreshment. This year’s experience contrasted nicely with our recent experience at End of the Road Festival, another supremely well organised festival, where often queuing times – particularly where the interesting beer was to be had – were one of the few drags.

Here Psych Fest got it pretty much right. Rarely were there long queues and our thirst was (perhaps too frequently) slaked. Best of all we planned it nearly to perfection, having only a souvenir-sized half token in our jeans on Sunday morning. Result!

Wood-Fired Pizzas - delicious!

Wood-Fired Pizzas – delicious!

A festival can’t be all value burgers and overpriced warm lager anymore.

By rights a metropolitan festival need not unduly concern itself with food. After all, it’s not like a camping festival where you live it 24/7and are pretty much solely reliant on it for your sustenance for a long 4 days. Here it seems less relevant, the festival is, after all, less than two days long and doesn’t really get going both days until mid-to-late afternoon. A big fat lunch and you’re set up until the ale-induced early morning munchies take over. Right?

Wrong.

Here Liverpool Psych Fest have made an effort. More than an effort. There is a plentiful supply of enviable looking food outlets.

From heart-attack inducing over-filled luxury cheese toasties from Bold St Coffee to soft and succulent chicken wings bathed in rich and punchy buffalo sauce to impeccable pizzas authentically cooked in a real wood-fired oven to lamb and halloumi burgers the choice is wide-ranging. And the quality? Well on the whole it is pretty good. Better than we might have expected from a festival a stones-throw away from the centre of town and only lasting two days.

As for the booze, well we felt well catered for on that front too. Special mention must be made of the inclusion of the nearby Black Lodge Brewery who set up the craft beer bar at the back of Furnace.

Where too often such events are in thrall to the corporate dollar, it was a welcome change not to have to make do with the likes of Tuborg or Heineken. Of the offerings the GuruGuru Brain Pzyk IPA was very pleasant but the standout tipple for this writer was the Rocket Recordings V6 IPA although at 7.8% abv (or there or thereabouts) it was sensible not too overindulge too early.

Elsewhere the Liverpool Craft Lager went down a treat, with our only main quibbles being that the draught Love Lane Pale Ale tasted a tad sour and the range in District felt, in comparison to elsewhere, somewhat lacking.

In general, however the bars were sufficiently plentiful to keep us well lubricated and it was especially welcome to see a strong Liverpool presence and the festival prepared to give a leg-up and introduce the frankly excellent if fledgling Black Lodge Brewery to a wider audience.

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Furnace Stage

How does Camp and Furnace work as a venue these days?

In the past we’ve been critical of Camp and Furnace as a venue and rightly so. With the Steve Mason and FestEvol debacle still fresh in our minds we hoped desperately for no further mishap, especially not in an event of such national and international standing.

Fortunately any such mishaps were averted and for once we had little to grumble about sound-wise. All venues offered relatively clear sound with a broad dynamic range. Too often the sound can disappear up in the air, yet here it felt full on and powerfully propulsive, sufficiently loud but not excessively so. We’ve been critical in the past, so credit where credit’s due this time around.

The only drag was Blade Factory and District. Both feel a tad ill-suited to events of this size, mainly on account of their unfortunate layout. Performances in both followed a similar pattern of people arriving early and hanging back and not fully filling the area immediately in front of the stage, those arriving later then cluster around the entrance creating overcrowding at the rear despite there often being plenty of room closer to the front.

Blade Factory has never been our favourite venue, with sound issues often proving something of a problem. Yet organisers deserve a pat on the back for putting some of the more raucous garage-punk acts on here, where the ability to create rambunctious racket mattered more than precisely recreated sound.

We still have reservations about the long term future of Camp and Furnace as a music venue but thankfully they came through this test without any major sound-induced catastrophes

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Psychedelic scenes in Furnace

Was the Liverpool music scene under-represented?

If on the one hand we’ve lauded the festival for embracing a truly international flavour and eschewing any sense of parochialism we can’t really be too critical for failing to book many Liverpool-based bands to play.

After all we get to see them play all the time and Sound City has provided a window through which their many talents can be allowed to shine out to the wider world. Surely it is better to take in the new rather than bask in the company of bands we see on a regular basis throughout many of the city’s venues, week-in-week-out.

Well, yes. And no too. Psych Fest is all about expanding minds, opening our ears to new sounds, forging new links and building new friendships. For that we always want to hear new music. New music from far flung corners. Music that adds something new to the mix. Psych Fest does all this and more in exemplary fashion.

Yet it’s not just about us as festival goers, it’s about our bands too. More should be given the opportunity to play, to show their talents to a whole new audience and perhaps to build relationships and share ideas with fellow performers. It also would show to the world Liverpool in its best light too; as a city at the cutting edge and doing what we know to be true: making some of the freshest and most vibrant new music from anywhere the length and breadth of the country.

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Dusk-time frolics at Liverpool Psych Fest

Yet on reflection the festival does indeed show Liverpool at its best. A historic city, once the second in all of the Empire and now with renewed self-confidence and mounting ambition. It doesn’t look inwards, not up or down, but truly outwards. Open-minded, welcoming and accepting of travelling kindred spirits that challenge and refresh its identity rather than reinforce a narrow insularity.

Psych Fest in many ways inhabits Liverpool’s history as a global melting pot, a safe-haven for people from all corners of the world to be themselves and be a part of something forever changing that looks restlessly beyond its borders for the next big thing.

More than anything Psych Fest reminds us all that ours is a truly world city, and we can’t think of anywhere else that could pull off Psych Fest with quite the same panache as Liverpool. Bravo.

Getintothis‘ best artists and bands from Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia 2016

Cavern of Anti-Matter

Cavern of Anti-Matter

Cavern of Anti-Matter – Camp, Saturday

Tim Gane’s post-Stereolab outfit bear even more striking krautrock influences than his former band, which is not surprising given his relocation to Berlin, a city whose underground culture is having a profound influence on this psychedelic sub-genre. This was a Pzyk Colony performance of face-melting intensity, full on near-techno beats delivered with such power that the hairstyles of those at the front were disfigured. Gane stood back silently in the shadows as if it all had nothing to do with him. Majestic.

Dungen

Dungen

Dungen – Camp, Friday

After seeing a euphorically received set by The Stairs just previously we decided to hang around for Dungen and we’re glad we did. The Swedes delivered a masterclass of beautifully restrained prog before ushering in sweepingly climactic psychedelic rock which ebbed and flowed with captivating composure and prowess. Things were slightly curtailed owing to a malfunctioning organ but this was nonetheless a tour de force. Magnificent.

Eartheater

Eartheater

Eartheater – Blade Factory, Saturday

Eartheater was extraordinary in Blade Factory on Saturday, a clear highlight of the weekend. Part singer, but her voice is all synthesised, part guitarist, but it seems like her guitar is looped and part performance artist.  When she started to “sing” and no words came out, it was clear this was something special.  When she slowly started arching her back until she fell almost crab like onto the floor we were sold.  And then she rose again, like some sort of dawn flower opening up, without using her arms for support.  It was magical and a privilege to watch.  This was much more than the music; it was a full on spectacle and one of the best things of the weekend.

Electric Eye

Electric Eye

Electric Eye – District, Saturday

Taking their name, we assume, from the Judas Priest song, Electric Eye are a Nordic band that have clearly had more than one ear on the propulsive droning space rock of Wooden Shjips. This was a relentless swirl of guitar wonderment, played with a thunderous intensity and dripping with fuzz-drenched lysergic energy. Full on, almost straight-up rock but with just enough bent and whacked-out riffs to hold the audience rapt. This felt a bit special and as our main reviewer commented, if you missed this you did Psych Fest wrong. Very true.

In Zaire

In Zaire

In Zaire – Blade Factory, Saturday

Playing an unforgiving early slot, In Zaire melded tribal rhythms with propulsive psych guitars to create a distinctively kosmische atmosphere. WIth strong space influences and an LP’s worth of songs suggesting planetary inspiration, the Berlin-based Italians made a big impression and will be one to keep an eye on.

Kikagaku Moyo

Kikagaku Moyo

Kikagaku Moyo – Camp, Friday

One of the joys of this festival is that you’re constantly uncovering mind blowing acts and occasionally, ones you fall in love with. Enter Kikagaku Moyo. The Camp stage’s set of the day by, as it becomes apparent, a fair distance. Firstly, there’s not a short back and sides between them. They look like they just stepped of a VW camper and visuals are an essential element to any psychedelic experience so we have no shame in confirming these dudes look the part. Where many similar bands can remain mellow and somewhat down trodden Kikagaku Moyo look like their having an absolute ball while they play, a feeling that spreads across the room.

It’s upbeat psych music that teeters on the edge of a ripping guitar solo, or sitar solo on occasion. It’s effortlessly danceable and you can hear so many influences weave in and out of their music it would be irresponsible to list them all. This is what we come to Psych Fest for: to fall head over heels for a band you hadn’t even heard of a couple hours prior.

Moonlandingz

Moonlandingz

The Moonlandingz – Furnace, Saturday

We didn’t really want to include this, but the set was so compelling, so intoxicating, so staggeringly bonkers-yet-brilliant it just demands inclusion. It was over the top and outrageous enough to make like a cliché, yet Johnny Rocket (aka Lias Saoudi from Fat White Family) carried it with panache and, in the main, a tongue-in-cheek snarling malevolence (special mention to Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club for playing sidekick to his increasingly unpredictable antics). Its glammed-up take on psychedelia married some fantastically overblown playing with an infectious musicality that couldn’t help but get the party started.

The Veldt

The Veldt

The Veldt – District, Friday

The Veldt represent something of a late discovery on our part. Hailing from North Carolina, the band are a rare example of soul-influenced shoegaze. Contemporaries of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins the band were admirers of Ian McCulloch and Prince in equal measure and it shows in their music. Throw in a spoonful of My Bloody Valentine and you’d get somewhere close. They even got an encore. Unprecedented.

Harald Grosskopf

Harald Grosskopf

Harald Grosskopf – Furnace, Saturday

Whisking off to the land of classic kosmische, the former Ashra wizard’s set was an exercise in sublime synth symmetry. Expertly judged scheduling saw the pioneer taking to Furnace at 7 bells and he eased any fatigue by coasting us along a fizzing set of silver beat-waves and swaying grooves. There was almost an audible sigh of satisfaction as his music soaked into the soul. – Peter Guy

Pzyk Pryzm

Pzyk Pryzm

Virtual Forest – PRYZM, Saturday 

Playing the upstairs stage in the Pzyk Pryzm Virtual Forest was spectacularly, hypnotically good, white noise drone textures soothing for all who sank into the beanbags and inhaled the incense on offer. No, that’s not a euphamism. Real incense.

Wooden Indian Burial Ground

Wooden Indian Burial Ground

Wooden Indian Burial Ground – Blade Factory, Saturday

A real highlight came in the shape of Wooden Indian Burial Ground, all the way from Portland, USA, who punched us right in the face with their heavy, loud, brash garage rock. With tracks such as the swaggering Helicopter, the trio transport you to a dirty basement New York club in the 1970s. They make you wanna dance, they make you wanna drink, they make you wanna take your top off (don’t worry, we resisted the urge). It’s pure filth, and we love it.

Vanishing Twin

Vanishing Twin

Vanishing Twin – Blade Factory, Saturday

Tucked away from the drone and feedback of crossover big guns The Horrors and The Wytches, London collective Vanishing Twin cooked up a modulating brew of ray-gun sonics set to gently stun the mind. The quintet didn’t so much blow your brains but slowly frazzle them amid gurgling synths, rolling tribal pads and Cathy Lucas’ coquettish vocal. Their’s is a world of vintage grooves, Stereolab sounds and futuristic sci-fi loops and the results eased us into Saturday night in the best possible way. – Peter Guy

Bonnacons of Doom

Bonnacons of Doom

Bonnacons of Doom – PRYZM, Saturday 

Out of sight from the main drags of the action, Psych Fest regulars and Liverpool Psychonauts, Bonnacons delivered one of the weekends most ferocious sets. Aligned to the perma-flickering PRIZM – itself a wall of nasty colour and epilepsy-inducing fragmented light – the hub-cap-faced juggernaut build walls of rhythmic chaos driven by front-woman Kate Smith‘s versatile howl; at times beautiful, still and hushed – others banshee-howl and manic. We’ve never been hit by a wrecking ball – this is perhaps as close as we’ll ever get. Well, we hope so. – Peter Guy

Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation

Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation

Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation – Furnace, Friday

Pop. Well, it may not be Ant & Dec (though Psych Fest bookers if you’re reading, surely they deserve a crack?) but Josefin and her hairy Liberators injected some much needed easier-on-the-ear propulsive melodies into the cavernous Furnace in the plum spot of 7pm Friday evening. The crystalline glow of Take Me Beyond filled the room with dazzling colour bouncing off in-house set designer’s Chris Tomsett (aka Innerstring) and Sam Wiehl‘s beautiful artwork while Dunes is a block-rocking slammer which finds the Psych Congregation in full swing. But it’s recent single and centre-piece In Madrid / Rainbow Lollipop which sets the benchmark for the entire weekend as hissing modulated synths build over 11 minutes before exploding into a kaleidoscopic funk brew. Compulsive stuff. – Peter Guy

Prairie WWWW

Prairie WWWW

Prairie WWWW – Camp, Friday

If there’s one striking asset of Psych Fest which is sometimes lost amid the cacophony of hazy noise, it’s that every year international label showcases are cherry-picked for their quite outstanding rosters. And 2016 was no different with Tokyo based Guru Guru Brain taking over the afternoon and early evening of Camp – all of it was magnificent – but our picks for sheer oddball contemporary psychedelia at it’s finest were the face-painted, warlords of drone Prairie WWWW. Imagine a wronged Samurai warrior who retreats to the mountains to serve his apprenticeship under a master Titan who teaches him the ways of vengeance and after months of repetitive, near-endless training he emerges ready to take on the world – well, Prairie WWWW would be sound-tracking this mammoth undertaking. Invigorating, searing, draining stuff – Peter Guy

Photography by Getintothis’ Brian Sayle, Peter Goodbody, Ryan Jafarzadeh, Tom Adam and Vicky Pea.

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