And so finally, after more than a week, here’s my little round-up of this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest.
There was a little bit of kerfuffle at the beginning of the set with Loop’s traditional ‘shot with a diamond’ intro drone and it was quickly abandoned for a fairly full on, slightly aggressive set.
There wasn’t really much of a lightshow going on as the ‘Psych Colony’ canopy had been removed before they started playing so, for some of the set, at least, the band was basically silhouetted against the background projections. This prompted the (now classic) quip from Robert, “these lights are about as psychedelic as my cat” (obviously this has now lead to a number of discussions about the levels of psychedelia in the feline brain. Cats can actually be pretty psychedelic at times).
Not new, but new to me. I walked into Camp, heard 3 seconds of music and sprinted to the front for a bop. This French band has the drummer-guitarist, 2 piece configuration, making fun, boppy, hilarious garage music. The guitarist looks like your square uncle, trying to act like he’s down with the cool kids. The drummer looks like the ‘way-out-of-his-league’ cool girl who somehow manages to make him cool, geek-style. This is fun 😀
Ex-Easter Island Head Large Ensemble
The Large Ensemble played on Saturday afternoon and was well worth arriving in time for. About 30 or so musicians on stage, all with guitars (laid out on tables), little hand bells, drums, tappy things, plucky things and I-know-not-what. And clapping. All together creating a varied and absorbing, almost orchestral sound. I liked this a lot and would like to see them again. Maybe in a space like a theatre or concert hall, or somewhere like the Union Chapel, perhaps. They did actually play in London recently but I couldn’t go on that date and just thought “oh well, I’ll see them in Liverpool”. I’ll try very hard not to miss them next time.
The question with The Telescopes is always “how many guitars?” They’re a band that can sound really quite different every time you see them and the guitar ratio is a major factor in this. I’ve seen them with from 1 to 6 guitars onstage, at Psych Fest, it was 4 (unless I’ve missed any out), so fairly guitary.
If you’re thinking of going to see them out of nostalgia, expecting There is No Floor and Seventh Sharp Disaster, forget it. They’ve moved on a long time ago, although they do still sometimes play Perfect Needle (not at Psych Fest), and that song works in the context of their more recent material. I like The Telescopes. I like their newest 5-track album, and I liked this set. I particularly like the Captain Caveman drumming 😀
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
AKA, Pigs x7.
The venue where Pigs x7 were playing, District, can be a bit of a faff to get into at times, and doesn’t have the best views, especially if you’re short-ish, like me. So, wanting to make sure that I could get to see Pigs x7, I got to the venue nice and early. The band were setting up and soundchecking and a polite, tidy-looking fellow in a smart black shirt was tweaking his mic and requesting some pretty specific levels of echo and reverb.
The lights dimmed.
This polite, tidy-looking fellow then proceeded to tear off his shirt, roaring, leering, wrapping the the mic cord round his neck, elbow-bashing his keyboard, speaker-stack climbing. There was an incident with a sparkly pink cowboy hat. Buckfast. Oh, and some music too. Fun 😀
The Bug vs Dylan Carlson
The Bug vs Dylan Carlson played the late night spot after Loop. I had though that I was going to miss at least some of the set (see below) but late running meant that I was in Camp in time for the start. I think that they were struggling with some technical issues which, unfortunately, meant that much of the audience had wandered off by the time they got started. This was a shame because once it did get going, the sound was great. Loud, super bassy, and slllllooooooowwwww. This isn’t exactly music to bop to but has a really power and uncompromising intensity that makes it riveting ( and sometimes, frankly, hilarious). No psychedelic lightshows here, just a single red spot and billowing clouds of smoke. And that’s how you do heavy.
After a battle-royale getting into Camp (see below), we managed get a good spot to see Sex Swing. I saw Sex Swing at the Transformer day over in Manchester and rather liked them. They play heavy, very rhythmic music. With a sax, so there’s also some honking. They played a new song (not that I’d know), which was really good.
Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi (DJ set)
Again there seemed to be a little bit of technical trouble (this year’s theme?) but once they got going, Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi provided all the bounce you need to stay later than you had intended. Lots of jazz hands, finger pointy, speaker-stack climbing and charging about the stage, particularly by Torabi. I stayed as long as I could, for the fun, and then had to head off to bed (seriously, I’d had 4 hours sleep the night before and was cream crackered).
Musings in Drone – AUDiNT : A Century of Zombie Sound
On the other occasions that I’ve been to Psych Fest, I haven’t managed to get to any of the Saturday afternoon talkie sessions, but his time I was keen to, especially the talk entitled ‘ A Century of Zombie Sound’. I’m glad that I managed to get there because it did cover some really intriguing developments, theories and uses of different kinds of audio and visual recording technology since WW2.
These included such jiggery-pokery as the US military’s WW2 ‘ghost army’; the positing of ‘Stone Tape Theory’ as an explanation for ghosts; the uses and abuses (real and imagined) of ‘backmasking’; and, more recently the resurrection of dead rappers as holograms. It alos looked forward to future developments, although not too far into the future, just to about 2050, so this was extensions and developments of existing technology.
Trad, Gras och Stenar
OK, I know that these are on a lot of people’s ‘good’ lists but they were just way too prog for me. My bad.
Lordy-lord. Me and my pal walked into Camp and were confronted with what sounded like the Tweenies playing the Foo Fighters. This was not good. We left soon after.
I’ve seen KVB a couple of times before and found them a bit lifeless. It’s like they want to be all ‘pumped-up-power-pop-duo’ but they’re just so weak. In the biggish space of Camp they sounded even more weak and tinny. They just don’t excite me at all.
What happened? A half-hour queue for chips? This is daft. The food offering was pretty limited and just not worth the wait. We learned our lesson on Friday and, on Saturday, we went out for an early dinner.
The crazy bouncer at Camp
Picture the scene: a band finishes playing and Camp empties out as people go off to catch other bands, buy drinks, have their brain scanned etc. A large crowd has formed outside Furness, as the venue is full with people seeing W.I.T.C.H and wanting to see Black Angels. People wanting to see Sex Swing start to make their way to the virtually empty Camp but are stopped by the bouncer who tells us that we have to go in via Furness. “But Furness is full!” we say. “They’re not letting anyone in because it’s full!”. The bouncer insists that we must go to Furness and then enter Camp via the little narrow corridor between the two venues. The crowd outside Camp grows a little larger. “Let us in!” people shout. “Furness is full” people shout. The bouncer become increasingly agitated, shouting, lunging at people, waving his arms around, adamant that no-one will pass. After about 10 minutes of this, there is quite a bit of a crowd outside, the almost completely empty, Camp when, suddenly, the bouncer just goes off in a strop. “He’s gone. Quick! We can go in” someone shouts. And so we all bundle in and disaster is averted. Sex Swing play to a decent sized audience rather than just the bar staff.
Need to see more
I had really wanted to see Acid Arab, enough to sacrifice some of The Bug’s set for them, but didn’t really work out very well. They were playing in District, which is a tricky venue and, having got past the door security which was enforcing 1-in-1-out, I couldn’t see them at all (really, not even a bit); I was surrounded by very tall people who insisted on carrying out very loud conversations, so I could hardly hear them either; I seemed to be on the route to everywhere so I spent the whole time being pushed this way and that, not by people dancing but by people going to the bar, going to the door, going to have a chat with the other very tall people, so I couldn’t even just have a dance. In the end I gave up and went back to Camp for The Bug (who were late getting started so I didn’t miss anything). I think I’d like to try again somewhere with a bit more of a conducive atmosphere and (hopefully) audience.
Nonn are a Fuzz Club signing from Sweden. I like Fuzz Club and, although I’ve never actually been to Sweden, I’m quite prepared to say that I like it too. I was a little bit conflicted about Nonn though. On the one hand, I rather liked their electro-y New-Order-Lite set. On the other hand, I felt that they seemed to be in serious need of a bit of oomph. Maybe it was because I could barely hear the guitar (seriously, get some pedals on it and turn it up!). If only they would pump it up a bit I think that I’d quite like this band.
Didn’t get to see, dammit!
Gnod, WH Lung, Duds, Container. You’re on my list. I am (eventually) coming to getcha.
Right. So that’s Psych Fest for 2017. Good? Or rubbish?
There was lots of other stuff too; popping in and out of the venues to see a bit of this and a bit of that; the coffee tent; the drinks token system which worked well, I thought; upstairs at Furness is a nice place to just hang out. Some people have mithered a bit about headliners – are they psych? Are they big enough to headline a festival? Are they any good? I think that for me, Pysch Fest is a festival where the headliners don’t necessarily make or break it. They don’t have to be the main draw (for me). There are so many other bands to see, things to do, VR to play with etc, that the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. It’s a good way to spend a weekend.