Strange Collective’s second all day festival finds Getintothis’ Del Pike amidst stage invasions, psych-rock wig-outs and a wrestling chicken, strange days indeed.
While the North Liverpool Docklands may not be the most welcoming location in the world, a land of greasy spoons and mobile butty bars, taxi ranks and abandoned tyres, there is a welcome in the Invisible Wind Factory today, dished out by the fabulous Strange Collective.
The first all-dayer was mega-successful, and while this latest gathering of Liverpool’s finest may have been a little thin on the ground crowd-wise, there were still enough bizarre moments and glimmers of wonder to make the whole shebang well worthwhile.
Wandering into an almost deserted main bar at 5.30 wasn’t the best of starts as Eyesore and The Jinx are still sound-checking between snippets of Jeff Wayne’s War of The Worlds emanating from the sound-desk. Surreal, yet fitting to this most epic of performances spaces. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one.
When the band finally get their shizz together, about 45 minutes behind schedule, it’s worth the wait for the most part. Sounding almost impossibly similar to the gone but not forgotten Gun Club, all tight psychobilly riffs and angry bursts of vocal berating, each track threatens to segue into She’s Like Heroine to Me. They may sound like they’re from the Mississippi Delta, but they just look like three ordinary lads, strangely the illusion works. Another track sounds like Parquet Courts’ Forget About It, which is a good thing and then it all falls apart. False starts, a guitar swap and what started off great fizzles into disrepair.
Wild Fruit Art Collective have been waiting to start for some time, down in the Substation. Three Ketwigs and a 12 pack of Carling pretty much sum these lads up. They make a brilliant racket with little in the way of a discernible tune, all circular psych-rock solos played at the same time. At one point all three go off on their own and find a space to play in with both guitarists lying on the floor, like a pair of kids on Christmas afternoon. The band are probably best served pissed, not this early on in an all-dayer, but there is still enjoyment to be had. A trusted source revealed that the majority of the set was improvised, which kind of made it more impressive.
Pale Rider are much more focused, holding the crowd with tightly crafted songs that could survive much larger stages if success allows it. Edge like guitar patterns do draw frequent comparisons with War / Boy era U2, and threats of Bullet the Blue Sky keep emerging. Not sure if they would appreciate that comparison but there it is. New release, Iron and Rain is solid, verging on the apocalyptic (hopefully not a bad omen). Frontman Fran Codman has bucket loads of charisma and great shoes, and they are a band who have the right tunes to propel them to a much larger arena.
It’s busying up and downstairs Shy Billy are doing their thing. What that thing is, is unclear at first. Awkward Dad dancing in a very small space seems to cover it. Given time though, things become clearer and tunes become stronger. Henry Pulp channels Marc Bolan on occasion, backed with some beaut Mike Joyce style drumming, and this is absolutely fine. At times, a joyous cacophony, elsewhere a bit of a jumble, more due to the small stage, they do move about a bit. Dad dancing forgotten by the end of the set, redemption achieved.
The drummer of Wild I is wearing a CAN t-shirt which bodes well. A great deal of the set is drum driven and although not quite exhilarating in a CAN fashion, the extraordinary vocal style of Huw Roberts brings something that is equally unique. Formerly recognisable as The Wild Eyes, this new order alternate between unashamed melodies and angular post-punk, a combination that works well and for the first time today has folks up and dancing. The party is on. Bring out the Rongos.
When Mick Chrysalid of Rongorongo dedicates the whole set to Episode 8, you can spot the Twin Peaks fans in the room pricking up their ears. Introducing the band tonight as Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine it’s business as usual for one of the city’s most easily lovable bands. Mick delivers as usual with his visits to the audience to admire the fine playing of the band and predictably, shoes are removed during the brilliant Faster. It’s always slightly surreal to see Mick’s not quite Ian Curtis stage dancing, but wholly acceptable with stunning songs like A Slice of your Heart up for your perusal. Love this band.
Fuss bring much joy with their almost unique brand of 80s style psychedelia. The kitschy 80s vibe comes from a curious instrument that falls somewhere between a synth and one of those iconic Simon flashing-light toys from that very era. Whatever it is, it drives most of the set and compliments the buoyancy of the drummer like magic. Vocalist Dave has a strange reedy voice, but in the best possible way, bringing a sense of the unique to the band. Fuss are one of the most highly anticipated bands on today’s menu, due to a string of blistering appearances across the city, and they really don’t let us down.
Danye are perhaps the most unusual choice on the bill as they are just so different to everyone else. Embracing the jangly indie pop ethic of the 80s in an unashamedly retro style, vocalist Dan possibly uses Roddy Frame, Lloyd Cole and even Paleys era Mick Head as touchstones in radio friendly songs, Family Man and Ha Ha Ha. Make Believe is as summery and shimmery as you dare to get in an old warehouse basement, and it’s difficult to discern who the band’s ideal audience may be in this strange old age of pop. Regardless of that, the set goes down well and offers contrast and respite from otherwise heavy acts.
Party hosts Strange Collective take their turn and they are the highlight of the day. Within seconds hair is being routinely whipped back and forth in a Willow Smith style as the crowd goes chicken oriental for these seasoned pros. Face it, they are ace, tight as hell and as soulful as they are ridiculously heavy. When Alex is screaming out “I don’t know what’s going on”, this is clearly a lie, this is a band who are well-aware of their all-out greatness. Every bugger in the house is a fan today and are there because they know this band can throw a party as well as they can write a tune. This is the most fun we’ve seen folk having in ages. Skill.
Psycho Comedy are off the scale. Almost agit-prop in the old fashioned Deaf School way but with a 21st Century sensibility. Shaun Powell carries the ghost of Pete Burns with him with his acid barbed tongue darting out of his potty mouth. Sheer scouse wit imbibed with narky shout-outs punctuate each song. A well-dressed Matthew Thomas Smith takes the stage to repeatedly chant “We want proper music” before the short set which pays shameless but honoured stamp duty to the Sex Pistols, The Cramps, Iggy and Spiritualized. It’s a mad bad performance that embraces the punk ethic, and the silence is audible when they leave.
OHMNS are well into their set as we return to the main stage and the party has gone hedonistic. Bare chested lads and gyrating girls have joined the band onstage for a hypnotic invasion. The band’s heavy sonic garage offerings are perfect as the night almost closes in. More are welcomed onstage, clothes are strewn, landing on the lampshades above the stage and it’s pointless to even work out what is being played. It’s just one big beautiful mess of people. More of a jam than an actual set, the crowd may have dwindled post-Collective, but those who have remained are loving it. The closest thing to a happening in many a while.
The chaos continues downstairs as Yammerer close the all-dayer. A drummer wearing a Lady Di / Mother Teresa apron almost steals the show, until a singing caped chicken glides through the slim audience clucking out inaudible lyrics. Once disrobed, said chicken is attacked by various members of Strange Collective, beaten and floor-slammed repeatedly. Others join in and the band plays on. As the set moves into more audible territory with even a sense of melody, folk start to waltz slowly and sway rhythmically. It’s a strange moment, and it’s all over as Yammerer get frantic again before the night draws to a well-timed close.
The crowd may not have descended with the alacrity seen in volume one, but those who came made the most of the fab line-up today and it was a party bar none. Strange Collective have much to be happy about, given the smiles on the faces of the shiny happy people wandering out into the sweet night air of the dock road. Till next time…