Live Review: Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia Melted My Face
Review by Sam Brewin.
It’s a refreshing time for the psych rock circuit. Bands are cropping up all over the country, indeed the world, as a potent combination of squeezed incomes, indie twang’s death knell, and a reconnection with all things vintage have combined into a want for hard beats and genuinely interesting melodies. It’s a great time for people who love having their bodies wracked by tumultuous walls of sound, and Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, billed by the organisers as a “a pan-continental celebration of audio-futurists, operating at the bleeding edge of today’s psychedelic renaissance” is quite understandably the best place to experience said sounds.
Having experienced last year’s remarkable festival, in which Suuns and Goat truly earned their headline slots, I saw no other course of action available aside from hopping on the train to Liverpool and going to see if this year would exceed last year’s amazing line-up. I was joined by Pete Wise and Danielle O’Connell, two similarly-affected psych lovers, and off we went, braving the Leeds rat race and heading to pastures rainbow-coloured.
“On the steps of Liverpool Lime St, ready to get psych-y”
Landing in Liverpool we spared no time in heading to the Camp and Furnace, one of the city’s best-loved venues and the perennial setting for all things wavy. The venue is completely roofed, and festival goers pack in to the city’s hostels and B&Bs come night-time, as opposed to your traditional welly-n-rain set-up. It’s really refreshing; especially for people such as me whose festival experiences have usually involved muddy puddles and rainy hangovers.
Due to the inadequacies of the First Transpennine Express, the first band we managed to catch where the aptly-named Destruction Unit. These lads, hailing from Arizona’s Sonoran desert, were a fitting start to the festival, blasting out hellish growls and phantasmal riffs out in to the Furnace stage. These gents are excellent, and their song, “Slow Death”, was a particularly raucous highlight.
“Destruction Unit – excellent, but marred by the complete inadequacy of my Samsung D1070 digital camera, circa 2009”
Not wanting to waste time, we hopped across the venue’s atrium and proceeded to see Pinkshinyultrablast, a St. Petersburg band who are particularly adept in blending together a mix of math, shoegaze, and ethereal vocals in to a delicious sound, reminiscent of what might happen if a pixie were given the controls of a bulldozer. The band’s glitter-dappled sound was somewhat lost, however. There’s something about an indoor festival that can make every single sound blend in to one huge, messy, crushing blast of noise, and whilst that’s great in some situations, it meant this excellent band simply weren’t done justice.
“The light shows at LivPsych are unequalled. Here’s Pinkshinyultrablast making the most of the spectacle, and, once again, my camera failing to live up to expectations”
Next up, Blanck Mass, the brainchild of one half of Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power, a man who knows how to work an electronic music machine. The entire crowd, lapping up the super powerful, photon-laced rhythms, was up and raring by the end of the set – a rather positive turnaround given that for the first fifteen minutes the music was blanked out by incessant chatter. Capturing their imaginations soon after though, by the end, Blanck Mass was one of the standout sets of the weekend.
Wanting to enjoy all of the multicoloured fruits Psych Fest had to offer, we headed off into the warren-like upstairs area. Here were all sorts of treats including art installations, a screenprint studio, a record stall, and immensely trippy videos, the likes of which included that pictured below. We wanted to stay and sit on one of those big bean bags, but Factory Floor was a-foot and our tapping toes were yearning for a bit of a dance.
Heading in to the Furnace stage, we were met by a face-meltingly lovely wall of sound being produced by Factory Floor. Their delicious ladles of pre-90s rave were nothing but sumptuous, the crowd contorting like a herd of snakes being charmed by a space-age shehnai. This is how dance music, in our humble group’s opinion, should sound. Brash, uptempo, high pitched, and sprinkled with a pinch of silly – reminiscent, but forward-facing still. Weirdly enough, at this point my hitherto-terrible camera began producing some vaguely trippy, kind-of-okay images.
“Pete was understandably impressed with Factory Floor”
We moseyed about the festival after the music had ended, catching a little of the dance fun provided by the avant-garde Blade Factory stage and chatting to the lovely people who populate Psych Fest every year. Both this year and last, I’ve found that practically everyone you bump in to at this festival has a fun story to tell and an appetite for some chatter. For anyone who’s experienced the likes of some lesser, far larger festivals, where roaming gangs high on bath salts prowl the grounds looking to glass (or something like that) it’s unendingly refreshing.
With tired legs and a want for sleep, we headed home.
After a blissful slumber and an inexpensive, yet nourishing, meal on Liverpool’s Bold Street, we headed to Pzyk for another day of wanton excitement. First up was No Joy, a Canadian shoegaze act who didn’t disappoint. Contrast was the name of the game here, with daydream-y, happily flitting tunes being interspersed by mad, husky, growling guitar. They were followed by Menace Beach, a Leeds band who does garage rock very well, mixing flutters of melody, bleepy 8-bit chants and heavy blasts of noise, all over the shop.
Fancying some shisha, we took a stroll to the Bold Street Bedouin Boudoir, a tent full of pillows, tasty coffee, and the aforementioned pipes. We received ours and began enjoying a billow or two, as a live sitar and tabla duo strummed and thwong-ed it out in front of an entranced crowd of onlookers. Psych and sitar are an intimately-liked duo, and this was one of the highlights of the weekend. Warmly, these players strummed all of the aches and pains of the previous 24 hours away. Ahhhhh.
Our chakras stimulated, we went to see Virginia Wing at Psych Fest’s newest stage, District. A great three-piece from South London, their floaty melodies and warping synths made the crowd bop and swoon, and although there was a slight dose of stress and darkness lurking behind the melody, the calm feels continued. After that, Tau, playing in the Blade Factory, upped the liveliness levels a little more, although never strayed into the really heavy psychedelic territory, instead happily strumming out their indigenous rhythms, taking the audience back to a simpler, more wholesome time.
Joined by our good friend Pat Kalemera, we headed off to see Slug, the brainchild of noise rock aficionado, Ian Black. This gentleman and his admirable band played some of the maddest, most experimental stuff I’ve heard in a while. They were glorious, and by the look of a fair few faces, held many in the room in a state of dazed wonder.
One of the highlights of Saturday though was Jane Weaver, an excellent vocalist and songwriter that anyone who has chanced upon 6Music over the past six months, or FM radio back in the 90s, will probably recognise. Her newest release, The Silver Globe, is, much like a ghost car, a haunting yet driven thing, and the star’s renditions of it were excellent. Her voice danced around the room and drew in a huge crowd, each person hanging off of every note produced.
Black Devil Disco Club was up next, so we hurriedly headed to District and would have fallen to the floor if the room wasn’t packed to the rafters. Bernard Fevre, the man behind the devil, was there sending out all of the disco beats. All of them. Winding around the pitch-black room, choked with bodies and bouncing and pure, unbridled excitement, this incessant and mystifying music made for an amazing show. Even Spiritualised – the band who so thoroughly wowed us after Fevre’s show with their complete and utter grasp of all things psychedelic – didn’t match this. Even Pat, who had only attended a quarter of the festival, was in a state of awe over the next few hours:
More festivals need to bring together Liverpool Psych Fest’s heady mix of excellent acts, wonderful people, DIY attitude, and unadulterated moxie. Any lover of any segment of the Psychedelic spectrum should visit without thinking.