As Liverpool recovers from its annual mind-bending foray into the lysergic world of psychedelia, Getintothis’ team of writers provide definitive round-up.
One very minor criticism of Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, and one that is probably only seen as an issue by the more casual armchair psych fans, is that you can sometimes be left craving to just hear a good song. The mind-bending experimentalism of much of the music is obviously the reason the festival is so unique and successful, but my god, a decent chorus would be nice every now and then. It can all be a bit too serious at times.
It was lucky then that Friday’s line up at the Furnace stage struck the balance absolutely perfectly. It was no doubt far more accessible to the average music fan with the likes of Josefin Öhrn and the Liberation, Gwenno and headliners Super Furry Animals coming from the more ‘pop’ end of the psychedelic spectrum, but with still enough to please the connoisseurs of the genre.
Super Furry Animals, performing to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, played a hit filled set of psychedelic indie that had the Furnace bouncing. With Gruff Rhys wearing his trademark Power Ranger helmet for their unofficial Welsh Euro 2016 anthem, to him holding cards in the air instructing the crowd to go ‘Ape Shit’, the Welsh mavericks brought some much needed fun to proceedings. It’s not all a joke though, and tracks such as the slow burning beauty that is Mountain People, to the gorgeous, hazy ballad of Run! Christian, Run! illustrated the depth and intricacy of the Furries‘ back catalogue.
There were a few grumbles in the lead up to the festival from the hardcore PZYK heads that the band were perhaps a bit too mainstream for the event, but the Super Furries proved more than worthy headliners. It was a memorable set, and by far one of the most enjoyable of the weekend, despite some early technical hitches. Honestly, we can’t remember the last event at Camp and Furnace we attended where there wasn’t sound troubles. It seriously needs sorting.
More Welsh wonder came earlier in the form of Gwenno, whose set of Welsh language kraut-pop was absolutely spellbinding. The former Pipette’s songs of political sci-fi are at times delicate and understated before completely engulfing you in their sweepings synths and driving rhythms, held perfectly together by Gwenno’s rich vocal. Along with the headliners, it’s great to see Welsh-language pop so well represented.
Josefin Öhrn and the Liberation put in one of the performances of the festival bringing tracks from her 2015 debut Horse Dance and forthcoming LP Mirage. The Stockholm-based singer, backed by tight-knit four piece band, although still very early in her musical career already feels like the real deal. Her sound is so well refined and absolutely mesmerising live. Tracks such as Take Me Beyond, Rainbow Lollipop and In Madrid combine driving krautrock drum beats with sharp electronics, soaring synth and chiming guitars to create a wall of sound. It’s incredibly dynamic, and matched with an impressive light show makes for brilliant viewing.
As if to demonstrate the truly international flavour of this year’s Psych Fest we’d barely had time to change out of our Friday work clothes before heading to the Baltic Triangle, where Guruguru Brain had already taken siege to Camp promising us a journey into the deep mind.
On offer to us was the pick of Japanese psych music here to throw down the torch to their Western peers. Minami Deutsch did it with a heavy guitar presence as they jammed their way through a set with minimalist vocals and krautrock influence. You can see why this a band keen on the cassette as the electronic elements protrude from the fuzz as everyone gets into a maintainable and steady head-bopping rhythm.
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.
Earlier, La Luz’s jangly, a little bit Byrds-y sound impressive over at Furnace with its gorgeous 60s West Coast feel, while The Hanging Stars, whose style is clearly massively inspired by the 1960s, get the festival off to a relatively slow start. There’s interesting aspects to their music, and have hints of early Coral on some tracks, but don’t really have any stand out tunes that stick in the memory. Lorelle Meets the Obsolete match faraway, affected vocals with crunching bass and fuzz-soaked guitars to liven things up with their dreamy but sleazy garage sounds. If you’re a fan of guitar tone, you were in the right place here. You’d need a steak knife to cut through it.
Like the delinquent child who’s been out until all hours the night before, the District stage sparked up late, almost into the evening rather than afternoon. Scene veterans That Fucking Tank were given the duty of opening up. Veterans sure, but of what scene? Always ones to plough a defiantly DIY furrow, their set was excellent, filled with layered guitar pedals, convoluted drum fills and acid trip solos that seemed to take off in constantly surprising directions. Even when they seemed to hurry down a blind avenue, That Fucking Tank emerged kicking and triumphant.
The Blade Factory similarly kicked off with a bang and provided a blinding line-up of performers throughout the weekend. At 3:30pm on the Friday, there was an electric feeling in the air which suggested this was going to be a weekend to remember. Déjà Vega kicked off proceedings to a full house and delivered a solid set which started us off on the right foot. Go!Zilla started promisingly with a pleasing, slow building opener which gradually added layers of complexity.
After that things became less compelling with a not-terribly exciting melodic offering but enough in the rhythms to keep us watching. Cellar Doors brought a definite Californian vibe, evoking the desert heat and the drone of numerous stoner rock outfits. Swapping instruments mid-set was interesting but the songs won’t stay with us long.
While all those try-hards were busy wigging out over in main space of Camp and Furnace, back over at District the late afternoon La Fete Souterrane showcase was busy gently bending minds. A trio of Gallic acts were headed up by incongruous French miserablist electric psych folk Arlt. French, as in literally not a word in English; they even yelled at the sound tech in French. Miserable as in it sounded pretty Parisian, we didn’t get a word; “ma tête”, “le soleil”, “mon amour”. That sort of carry-on. And psych folk as in none of it would have been strange in a jazz café.
Aquagascallo followed (their name is some sort of pun on all three members’ names, we’re sure it’s fucking hilarious in French) and delivered an outstanding set. Their compositions ranged from the micro to the cosmic; jazz-inflected, multi-lingual and funky, most importantly they seemed to be having a ball. The crowd they drew was modest, but those present were both impressed and baffled, as much at the music as the monstrous, ten-string dual-necked instrument guitarist Benjamin Glibert wielded.
Hurdy-gurdy fronted three piece France rounded out La Fete Souterrane, and didn’t fare as positively. We experienced a lingering sense of, ‘is this it?’ throughout their set, changing to ‘no, seriously lads, is this it?’ as at became clear the single, droning, unchanging texture provided by their unconventional instrumentation was their one and only gimmick.
Rushing back to Blade Factory just in time for The Love Coffin to create a big impression; over-the-top and somewhat reminiscent of The Doors at their most angsty. Next up was Muscle and Marrow, the first female-fronted band on this stage, whose blend of Portishead-style vocals over seriously moody drums and guitar; a winning combination. Father Murphy had the unenviable task of playing mid-way through the Super Furry Animals set in Furnace, but happily the crowd numbers didn’t dwindle overmuch and were treated to a powerhouse performance. MDME SPKR took to the stage in an increasingly sweaty and hectic Blade Factory as the penultimate act and sounded something like the end of the world, but in a good way.
Where early offerings in Camp had us embracing brave new worlds, The Stairs perhaps suffered on account of over-familiarity. Musically it was as accomplished as always and there is no questioning their credentials or material, but it just missed the mark due to the unfortunate been there, seen it – and pretty recently too – circumstances.
Likewise Dungen suffered a similar fate. Having been near the top of our list of must-sees for the weekend it was a case of being far too excited, drunk and on a mission to see something wild to fully engage in. Your Psych Fest experience can very much be shaped by the mood you’re in at that particular moment, and bands you’d usually buzz off and be happy to see anytime get lost in the lava lamp of distractions always trying to pull you in different directions.
Away from the hullaballoo of the main stages and pinned in between the vinyl stalls and cinema above the Blade Factory the PRYZM performance area proved a positive addition. Surrounded by people stumbling around in VR headsets or just spacing out to groovy visuals, come the evening the space would be altered to accommodate only half a dozen acts across the two days, one of which being Oliver Coates.
Armed with a host of technology and cello it’s obscene how he remains relatively below the radar, despite some extremely high profile collaborations. In front of a relatively small, but well packed room he composes the most minimal, but effective ambient dance arrangements that should be filling far larger rooms to a great deal many more people. For those there it was undoubtedly a treat and a highlight, for those that weren’t – don’t skip it next time you get the chance.
District meanwhile was soon filled with a 12-string jangle and an atmosphere of first wave ’60s psychedelia as the excellent Cool Ghouls embraced a distinctly ’90s space rock vibe. The room was packed and the Bay Area foursome’s McCartney-esque basslines owned the stage and bowled over the massed audience.
While Flavor Crystals delivered dull, sub-Mugstar uneventful space rock, The Veldt were altogether more interesting. After decades of record label ignorance, underground trawling and constant plugging away, the neo-alt-soul psych four-piece played a soaring set over on the District stage. Although the crowd was sparser than for some bands on the bill, those assembled lapped up The Veldt; cowboy hat and poncho wearing, double-necked guitar wielding North Carolinians might be few and far between, but their soulful, spacey numbers had the place in raptures. Chants of ‘we want more’ greeted the conclusion their set, and the band arrived back onstage duly obliged. Now there’s a festival rarity.
A Drenge-y guitar ‘n’ drums two piece up next in Man of Moon, with the added skittering of electronica at times and a penchant for dream poppish soundscaping ahead of all-out attack. It was a melodic and groovy set from them, but nothing particularly outstanding. The two-piece thing been done before better than this, even at this year’s Psych Fest. Man of Moon‘s was an inventive take, just not a particularly addictive one; every hook had already disappeared into the ether as soon as the crowd headed out into the early hours of the Liverpool morning.
While Cowtown overcame initial power issues to impress in a fun-filled set of endearing garage-rock silliness and Brahma-Loka‘s tastefully restrained fuzz bass and epic drums paired well with some quite lovely vocal melodies with more than a hint of NIN, Friday’s Blade Factory standout set came from Bantam Lyons. Most certainly not a ‘psych’ band, more an outfit with elements of psych, and all the better for that. Really, really strong songs and a powerfully developed aesthetic. In contrast to many performances this weekend, the vocals were crystal clear instead of drenched in effects, which only served to draw the attention to some quite brilliant lyrics.
It seems unfair to use the time it takes to walk ten yards from one room to another to criticise a festival, but there did seem to be a few issues with it in Camp and Furnace, and the bottle neck at Furnace leaving the Super Furry Animals’ headline set meant we only made it next door to Camp in time for the last couple of minutes of the legendary Silver Apples, who was kicking off the late night PZYK Colony. We probably should have anticipated it, but the fact there was only one small entrance in and out of the main venue did prove to be a bit of a problem throughout the weekend.
Once we eventually did make it to the PZYK Colony, we were in for a treat. Demdike Stare mesmerised with their haunting, electronic drones, before Gnoomes brought the gorgeous, dreamy sounds of their Repetitions EP. Sweeping soundscapes weaved between loose guitars and ethereal vocals to make a really quite hypnotic sound. Their songs seem to have this ability to put you in a trance like state while you’re listening, but to be honest, that might have had something to do with the ale.
One of the more unusual bookings of the weekend was Steve Davis, the Interesting Alternative, whose late night DJ set, for whatever reason, was unfortunately finished just five minutes after its advertised start time, so unless you were there early, you were a bit snookered and probably missed out like us.
To close proceedings at District, Flamingods brought a welcome world music influence that was otherwise absent in nearly all other acts. Psychedelia let’s not forget is a many faceted thing, and not just for guitar bands. The crowd by this point at 1:15 AM were well away, but seemed to enjoy Flamingods‘ righteous groove.
Similarly tasked with rounding things off at District Helicon left us a tad disappointed. With such a gushing write-up in the programme, we expected more than monkey masks, booming drums and distorted bass. Perhaps they suffered for being quite similar to a number of other acts over the weekend, but with such an incredible line-up it really needed something special to set artists apart.
How true is it at festivals that the main headline acts ultimately disappoint. The Horrors eventually walked onto the Saturday night Furnace stage as if unveiling of Topman’s edgy autumn range. Following on from The Moonlandingz a band who thrived on the stage, under the spot lights, in the crowd, over the crowd, taking beers and possibly more from the crowd, breaking rules and generally providing a big slice of chaos, The Horrors commit to playing in basically darkness expect for a few lasers here and there and couldn’t really appear to care less about any kind of interaction.
Although their inclusion on the bill stretches the definition of psychedelia, we accept their headline slot as a blessing. They sell plenty of tickets, as evident from the number of Horrors’ fans in attendance, which affords the festival some creative freedom elsewhere. We do wish they had tailored their performance less for say, Reading, and more towards this evening’s demographic and so after 40 minutes of feeling like we were somewhere else we took advantage of the artistic compromises and left to see a psych band.
Immediately preceding The Horrors were a band that, if not necessarily a natural fit either, worked a treat and provided the party atmosphere that everyone so craved. And boy do The Moonlandingz want a party. Taking to the stage like a Rocky Horror/Flaming Lips hybrid storm of energy and charisma it was a perfectly prescribed dose of restorative rock n roll. Lead singer Johnny Rocket is like a 2000AD caricature of the love child of every out-of-control frontman rolled into one. It was a glam sexual meta-orgy of bright lights, boozing, smoking, bantering, surprisingly unpretentious joy (because trust us, we were expecting pretentious). A booking masterclass if you ask us, but maybe not if you ask the people that had to follow them.
If The Moonlandingz proved to be the highlight of Furnace, Saturday at Camp could only belong to one band. Who was that stunning redhead in a provocatively short pink dress? It was a Japanese dude in a wig and he was fucking awesome. Acid Mothers Temple, ladies and gents. Not to be outdone, the rest of the band also have suitably boss hair and provided an aural assault that was in parts oriental Spinal Tap and yet also of an incredibly high standard of musicianship. Monastic chanting, face-melting guitar solos, stunning grooves; completely nuts and completely brilliant.
While The Horrors were doing their best imitation of what a psych band should look and sound like, more authentic offerings were to be had at District where Electric Eye‘s Nordic stoner rock groove machine rocked so hard and so relentlessly that anyone within a block’s radius fell under its spell. A perfect antidote to offerings elsewhere, if you missed this you did Psych Fest wrong.
Day two of PZYK had started with a whimper rather than a bang for the Getintothis team. Every year, we try to be good on the first night, and every year, we fail – miserably. Things get messy around 9pm, they escalate quickly and before you know it, it’s 4am.
There are a number of ways to deal with the morning after such debauchery. You can ease yourself in quietly and hope your body doesn’t notice that you are doing it AGAIN, or you can just hit it hard. Thankfully, Camp openers Saddar Bazaar had us covered. Think instrumental Tool with sitar; what’s not to love? Blew the hangover right out of our brains. Excellent stuff that had us smiling and even attempting to move rhythmically, despite the protestations of our bodies.
Seeking further musical remedies for our recovering limbs, Taman Shud proved just the medicine at Blade Factory completing the job that Saddar Bazaar began. Filthy, raucous, two basses, mental, awesome.
Back over at Camp for some slightly more civilised fare, Yeti Lane’s bewildering setup, consisting of a clear Perspex drum kit, guitar and an indecent amount of synthesisers, knobs and buttons provided a set that was almost as much fun to watch as it was to hear. Carefully sculpted soundscapes and reverberating sub bass.
While billed as duo Tau (Gerald Pasqualin and Shaun Mulrooney) were joined onstage by a backing singer and a dancer. While the three musicians built transcendental sounds from indigenous tribal chants with nods to Jefferson Airplane, the dancer detailed increasingly complex patterns with her body, long, braided ponytail and a hand fan. The overall effect was quite hypnotic.
Saturday at District began with Ashtray Navigations whose shambling, frazzled old school psychedelic guitar noodling, Doctor Who synth loops and seemingly random drum pads felt improvised to the point of unrehearsed. With half of the two piece outfit sitting on the stage floor, nobody really knew if they had started or not. Things got more focused with programmed beats for their chunkier psych-blues second track and incomers stuck around. But early attendees at District decided it was too early and they were way too hungover for this shit, so slunk off in the mammoth break between songs in favour of Tangerines over at Furnace.
Undoubtedly pitched at the more accessible end of the psych spectrum, Tangerines‘ music is loose but the band are tight, producing foot-stomper after foot-stomper full of “that sounds a bit like” moments. We for one caught flashes of Belle & Sebastian type melodies and drawly Dylan-esque vocals, neither of which are a detriment for the band who mix and mash styles to their will. It’s an easy listening and unobjectionable start to the day from an act we could easy see work their way into a more mainstream (for a lack of a better word) setting.
The crowd for ambient drone-scaper Chuck Johnson by contrast was meagre, but those there were treated to the work of a master craftsman. Wandering around the stage eyes closed as if sleepwalking, ringing hypnotic riffs from his Strat, his was a meditative and masterful set.
Having seen Methyl Ethel only a couple of weeks ago we were certain they’d excel in the kaleidoscopic womb of the Furnace and we weren’t wrong. The trio keep things simple and once rise up through their set which is an example of how to pace a live show. Give them a few years and we could be looking at a future headliner, they’ve certainly got all the potential.
On at pretty much the same time in Camp, Ulrika Spacek are a five-piece that sound at times like a full orchestra and at other times like a disturbingly melodic avalanche. Delicate and beautifully-arranged sections are interspersed with Juggernaut-like slabs of powerful, driving rhythms. The overall effect? Bloody glorious.
Following them proved a tough act and LA Hell Gang were unfortunately a bit of a let-down, plodding and anonymous. Never mind, Eagulls were up straight afterwards and we had heard great things. They started strongly; there’s a lot to be said for bands that cut out the atmospheric builds and just go straight for the jugular from the first bar. Unfortunately, the momentum thrust upon the crowd quickly slackened, and the singers Robert-Smith-esque vocals went from intriguing to grating in a very, very short space of time.
The Lucid Dream were well-received by the packed-out crowd in Camp, but sadly they didn’t really stand up against the sheer bombardment of genius crazy musicianship that was almost ubiquitous throughout the weekend. On a less wonky line-up they may stand up well but today came across as rather pedestrian.
With a few neat programming decisions festival organisers on Saturday somehow managed to turn Blade Factory, it has to be said one of our least favourite rooms in town, from a dull box into a sweaty, chaotic party. The trick? Nothing more than putting a lot of raw garage-influenced bands on the bill.
Brain Washington kicked off with squally turbo-charged power-punk that ultimately promised more than it delivered, while Ye Nuns packed the room out at a commendably early hour with their squonky, offbeat gypsy rhythms and insane by-the-moment key changes. A much smaller crowd gathered for Yaya Futuro who nonetheless revealed strong My Bloody Valentine influences amid their melodic shoegaze as well as heavy nods to Dinosaur Jr in their more muscular moments. They deserve special credit for playing inspite of technical difficulties which left them a keyboard short – if only more would heed their show-must-go-on attitude.
In Zaire, whose tracks are all named after planets (apart from Moon if you want to be picky about things), melted a few brains with their fuzzy space-prog, packed with groove and epic guitar voyages, before New Candys made an early claim for set of the day, and also for the most stylish bassist of the weekend. Great scarf game. New Candys sound is just no nonsense psychedelic rock and roll, and a perfect match for the space. It’s an energetic set which finishes with the lead guitarist playing in the thick of the audience. Boss.
Tomaga, a band tipped to us by many fellow revellers as ones not to miss, kind of float by without much impact. To be honest, we didn’t realise they’d even started for about five minutes. Their atmospheric sounds just meander along in the background, and although it’s probably great on record, was a little bit of a buzz kill following the chaos that came before them. Has A Shadow were equally unspectacular, and although it may have been because of the sound in the venue, the vocals were completely lost within the melee of scuzzy guitars.
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.
It was an almost impossible ask for Eartheater to follow it up. You’ve got to feel sorry for her, as her delicate, ethereal sounds didn’t really stand a chance. She was enjoyable however, with intriguing melodies and intriguingly effected vocals throughout. Vanishing Twin are equally understated, but with so many layers to their songs really are a joy. The Conservation of Energy is a standout track, and has a slight hint of The Carpenters about it, particularly the vocals. We’re a big fan.
Baba Naga’s riff-heavy set is another highlight of the day, with their pummelling drums and huge guitars rattling the walls of the Blade Factory. Their songs generally burn quite slowly, creeping along before bursting into colossal, grungy walls of noise. It’s completely dark and menacing, yet finds smalls beams of light through the airy vocals.
Dutch rockers Rats on Rafts feel right at home in Liverpool, with their music having hints of Echo and the Bunnymen to it. They’ve got riffs that Will Sergeant would be proud of, and real groove to go with it, but maybe lack the odd tune to be a real standout. Silver Waves bring a long but eclectic day to a close with some piercingly loud and disorientating electronics. It’s an absolutely punishing sound and a little bit much for us, but nonetheless impressive.
Some of the infectious energy from Blade Factory might have helped us better appreciate Pure Phase Ensemble 4‘s exceptionally composed early evening set in Furnace that was performed with restraint and poise. Already starting to flag, we stood standing swaying, eyes blinking slower and slower for longer and longer before nodding off briefly. This isn’t an insult, we found ourselves too receptive to the transportative nature of the music and on waking at the end of their set we did have a sly look around to make sure we hadn’t embarrassed ourselves.
We awoke in sufficient time to enjoy a set from the entirely lovable Harald Grosskopf. Accompanied by some interesting bespoke visuals the performance wouldn’t have been out of place at a dance event as the evening well and truly gets into gear and pulls away into its crescendo.
Suitably enlivened we nipped up to PZYK PRYZM to check out the wonderfully oddball Bonnacons of Doom, who must be in with a shout for the most bonkers thing of the weekend; no small feat at PZYK. Imagine if one of Macbeth’s witches decided to give up the old toil and trouble for some doom-laden soundscapes and six blokes in black robes with shiny silver hubcaps strapped to their faces. It is not often you get to write a sentence like that.
Later Virtual Forest similarly excelled in the same space with some spectacular, 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 euphemism. Real incense.
Elsewhere, Saturday headliners The Horrors could have taken a leaf out of Guadalupe Preta‘s book who provided a eureka moment. Now this is a band. They put every single inch of their instruments to the most effective use. The music itself is like a dirty acid tinged spaghetti western and it’s captivating to watch.
All three members remain in communication via looks, stares and glances to keep up the galloping rhythm and stop abruptly before accelerating back off again, the drummer calls upon a range of playing styles and percussion methods, at one point de-tunes his snare and uses the tom casings as instruments themselves. Lead guitarist and singer is as equally fascinating to watch and, despite the language barrier, we assume his lyrics are as pained as the expression on his face as he growls them. The third member of their ensemble switches between guitar and a range of very DIY instruments.
It’s neither a gimmick or for the sake of it. He’s playing a string over a bucket because that’s literally the best noise for the job. Their musicianship and inventiveness shines through. They get permission from the crew to play one last tune and bring their hot and dusty set to an end to duly receive warm and worthy applause.
Where Desert Mountain Tribe impressed only with their middle of the road blandness, 10,000 Russos were much more worthy of our attention and indeed that of the many who packed District to the point where getting in and out proved a near insurmountable challenge. Yet the rowdy mob who assembled were treated to a hypnotically loud krautrock-driven set. Drawing influence from Mark E. Smith‘s repetitive vocal style, the band duly delivered in front of their rabid audience, who responded with by cutting some irrepressibly dodgy shapes. They converted everyone in the place, who got right down to their pounding sledgehammer rhythms and slabs of guitar noise.
On the other hand Pure Joy binned it. In a problem-strewn set there were dropped songs, instruments lurching all over the mix and electronics that never seemed to trigger properly. They had a shocker, shaken heads throughout their set and an inquisition that began before they left the stage told its own story. Sorry lads, but it was a mess.
Bonkers psychedelic contingent Flowers Must Die had everything. They were trippy, they were folky, they were noodly. Their set also marked one of the first Psych Fest run-outs we witnessed for that classically psychedelic instrument the Theremin. So bless them for gracing us with their bizarre, unctuous sci-fi material as imagined through the dubby filter of mystic, motorik basslines.
Multi-national conglomerate Cairobi provided mad, mathiness and a high energy setlist on the District stage. They proved themselves much greater than just the well-known single Zoraide which they closed out with, but its uncannily swaying groove does highlight their key strengths. Cairobi were all weird time signatures, unexpected jittering tempo changes and obtuse guitar lines; undulating basslines zip the whole thing along, keeping the zany, jazzy drum fills in check. Their clean, spick and span sound was quite the non-fuggy palette cleanser.
Instrumental progressive rock next from Manc three piece Plank, who made a noise far beyond their numbers onstage. For those watching, it seemed the mathier and more technical Plank‘s material the better. So when their songs turned down dark alleys and corkscrewed into bewildering labyrinths of concussive guitar riffs and swarming electronica, the District stage lapped it up. All this and probably the calmest inter-song string-change you’ll ever see a guitarist make.
As the night wore on confrontational New York noisemakers Pop. 1280 turned up the volume, the heaviness and the threat level. Frontman Chris Bug looked every inch the deviant scumbag rock star, Birthday Party-era Nick Cave strut, with a scowl and a voice to match. On a deliberately dimly-lit stage, the band cut near demonic figures at times. The crowd refused to be captivated however and, perhaps owing to the lateness of the hour, ebbed away by degrees proving that while they can absolutely talk the talk and look the look, there’s still work to do for Pop. 1280.
By this time the PZYK Colony at Camp was in full swing and, having made quite a name for themselves in the past few years, The Wytches came with high expectations and managed to fulfil them. Visceral, compelling and utterly entertaining. By the time Cavern of Anti-Matter took to the stage, a large part of the audience were certainly feeling the effects of being well into the second day of the festival. Luckily the performance managed to jolt the jaded and out-drone the rest with a throbbing wall of sound that was felt as an almost oppressive physical presence. Serious stuff.
With just enough time to nip over to District, Early Years‘ widescreen, inventive spaciness wowed the crowd without reaching the thrilling heights of some other acts of the day. They were followed by Bristolian Sonic Cathedral signees Spectres, whose layers of ferocious noise belied the pure pop they dispatched to end proceedings.
On the home stretch as far as Camp’s live offering was concerned, and both The Oscillation and Acid Washed delivered, astonishingly, two further stunning performances; the former awash with guitar feedback and glitchy electronics, and the latter drawing on elements of house, disco and techno in what was a near-perfect way to close the stage.
When you go out to watch live music, the aim is to feel something and be taken somewhere, and this is never truer than at Psych fest. You travel further than you ever would somewhere else and feel such a range of things resonating through you.
Psych music is all about the headspace it puts you in and it’s remarkable how contrasting and changeable it can be depending on who you’re listening to and what they’re fucking up your mind with. It’s ups, downs, inside outs. Inwardly looking, outwardly looking, introverted and extroverted to the extreme.
Psych gives us the opportunity to explore so very many things and Psych Fest provides an environment in which we’re comfortable to express it, share it with others and embrace the positive benefits of this most incredible genre of music and art.
In bringing together performers from all corners of the earth it really feels like a meeting of a global community celebrating, despite all our outward differences, a shared culture under the gloriously unifying banner of music. And it all happens in our melting pot of a world city. Aren’t we the lucky ones.
Words by Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson, David Hall, Paul Riley and Vicky Pea.
Photography by Getintothis’ Brian Sayle, Peter Goodbody, Ryan Jafarzadeh, Tom Adam and Vicky Pea.
Watch the new video for Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation’s new track Rushing Through My Mind below.