Festival Preview : Manchester Psych Fest 2019

Like most festivals Manchester Psych Fest began life humbly, starting out back in 2014 with an evening of psychedelic sounds at Night & Day Cafe. Its growth in subsequent years saw the festival spread to other nearby venues such as Aatma, Band on the Wall, Soup Kitchen and the Peer Hat in the city’s busy Northern Quarter.

After a very successful 2018 edition Manchester Psych Fest is looking to expand even further, with the 2019 festival set to be their biggest one yet. Now in its sixth year, it’s moving out of its Northern Quarter home. This year three of the city’s top music venues, The Ritz, Gorilla and YES, will host twelve hours of non-stop music from thirty-plus acts, with performances spread across five different stages.

With the stated aim of bringing together Manchester’s psychedelic community, the organisers have made a greater effort to engage more women at this year’s festival by booking a wider range of female artists and DJ’s. From the headliners all the way down to the smaller acts, the impressive line-up includes a host of female and female-led performers from across the globe.

The biggest draw for many at this year’s festival will undoubtably be Grammy-nominated, Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, who first came to wider attention in 2013 with her humorous and heartfelt third-person lyrics on garage rock single ‘Avant Gardener’. She has since released three critically acclaimed full-length albums, including 2016’s Lotta Sea Lice in collaboration with Kurt Vile, and 2018’s solo effort Tell Me How You Really Feel. Barnett’s singles have been on regular rotation on BBC 6Music for several years now, with God Is In The TV going so far as to describe her as “one of the best songwriters in the world” right now.

A young and fearless South London post-punk quartet, Goat Girl cut their teeth performing together at Brixton’s Windmill. Signing to Rough Trade in 2016 after choosing them over Domino and XL, they’ve been described by DIY Magazine as: “as gutsy and self-assured as they come”. Widely praised for their grungey experimentalism, not only was self-titled debut a hit among fans and critics alike, their live performances have also earned rave reviews (check out their Glastonbury set on BBC iPlayer while it’s still available).

Temples were widely tipped for success after their 2014 debut Sun Structures, with the Kettering-based neo-psychedelic four-piece sounding like they came right out of the late 1960’s. After switching from rock to more of an electro-pop driven sound on their 2017 follow-up Volcano, the now three-piece are readying the release of a brand new album that’s scheduled this coming September. Based on the self-titled single they put out just last month, early indications are that they’re bringing back the psychedelic rock of their debut on Hot Motion.

The Lovely Eggs are a married lo-fi punk and garage rock duo from Lancaster, with their Northern humour and “fuck it” philosophy loved by thousands of fans up and down the country. BBC 6Music favourites, their Dave Fridman-produced fifth full-length album This is Eggland was released just last year. Ask anyone who’s seen them live and they’ll tell you it’s one of best nights out you’re likely to have. And while you’re there, why not pick up a “fuck it” football scarf too? Perhaps the greatest piece of band merchandise ever created.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (Photo: Daniel Kirby)

Tyneside heavy rockers Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (or Pigs x7 for short) have been amassing something of a cult following over the past couple of years, with sold out shows and packed out festival performances up and down the country. Their fanbase has grown massively since the release of their more accessible second full-length album King of Cowards on Rocket Recordings. If stoner rock and doom metal are your thing, then these guys absolutely should not be missed. It will be loud, it will be sweaty, and has the potential to be the performance of the weekend.

London-based dance-punk quartet Snapped Ankles have been getting plenty of praise for their Danalogue (The Comet Is Coming, Soccer96) produced second full-length album Stunning Luxury, as well as for their ferocious live performances. While The Cult of Dom Keller are another act who have been heavily praised for their shows, described as a “live juggernaut” by The Guardian. With the follow-up to 2016’s apocalyptic Goodbye to the Light currently in the making, it could be a great opportunity to hear some new material from the gothic Nottingham outfit.

The most represented nation outside the UK at Manchester Psych Fest this year is Sweden, with three acts from the Scandinavian country scheduled to perform. Taking inspiration from the late 60’s and early 70’s, heavy psych four-piece Maidavale also blend blues rock with powerful female vocals. Regular performers at festivals across Europe in recent years, Stockholm’s Dead Vibrations offer a dark and grungy take on shoegaze and will certainly be high on many people’s lists of must-see bands. While Malmö trio Echo Ladies also come with a shoegaze sound, instead blending it with noise pop and melodic female vocals.

One of a handful of acts from outside Europe performing at the festival, Babe Rainbow are a super mellow psychedelic pop quartet from Byron Bay in Australia. With two albums and one EP under their belt, including 2018’s Double Rainbow, their lush and summery vibes have caught the imagination of many across the US and Europe in recent years. From across the Pacific in Northern America, New York-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Evian will bring his blend of country pop, soft rock and 70’s psych to Manchester in late August.

And from slightly further north there’s Toronto-born singer Tess Parks, who first formed a band on the advice of Alan McGee, with the Creation Records founder describing her as “a true believer in the church of rock’n’roll”. Best known for two collaborative albums of hazy psychedelic folk-tinged rock she has released with Brian Jonestown Massacre founder Anton Newcombe, she will be performing with her band The Good People at Manchester Psych Fest.

Representing South America, Chilean duo The Holydrug Couple have been regulars at psychedelic festivals across Europe for a number of years now. With five full-length albums behind them, they have plenty of dreamy, synth-led psychedelic pop numbers to showcase. The most international act at the festival is undoubtedly Yama Warashi, a Bristol-based Japanese musician and member of experimental rockers Zun Zun Egui. Inspired by the natural world and human relationships, her eclectic chamber folk borrows from her homeland, as well African music and free jazz.

Bonnacons of Doom (Photo: Daniel Kirby)

More locally, Liverpool-based drone rock collective Bonnacons of Doom know their psychedelic festivals very well and are regularly amongst the most raved about bands wherever they perform. After finding a home at Rocket Recordings, they released their self-titled debut last year. Led by the fantastic Kate Smith on vocals and numbering anything from five or more members, all dressed in black robes and wearing convex mirror masks, if you’re looking for something completely different then they’re an absolute must-see.

Among Bella Union’s most recent signings, Penelope Isles are led by Manx raised siblings Jack and Lily Wolter and could not have picked a better label on which to release their debut Until the Tide Creeps In. Blending beautifully crafted lo-fi dream pop and fuzz rock with boy-girl vocal melodies, the Brighton-based four-piece are the pick of the newer acts performing in Manchester.

Also travelling up from Brighton are the fuzz soaked trio Our Girl. They released their Bill Ryder-Jones produced debut album Stranger Things just last year, and have been described as “one of the most exciting new bands around” by Line of Best Fit.

In addition to this, the hotly tipped Yorkshire trio Working Men’s Club will offer up plenty of new wave groove, while Anglo-Nordic duo Belle Sonder bring their post-rock influenced sound to the festival. Adding to the diversity of styles on show, Melbourne garage punk outfit Civic, with two highly rated EP’s behind them, will likely cause an absolute ruckus. If that’s your kind of thing, then you may also enjoy the ragged sounds of Manchester’s Loose Articles.

Other local acts scheduled to perform include riff heavy four-piece Witch Fever, hazy pop-rockers The Bleachés, as well as shoegaze five-piece URF and Irish-born psych rock and folk songstress Solis. If you’re after something a little more atmospheric and alternative then you may enjoy East London’s Indian Queens. Also from London, Cosmic Strip have been praised for their blend of indie rock with a heavy psych crunch.

Among the DJs spinning a wide range of tunes at Manchester Psych Fest will be Death In Vegas founder Richard Fearless. After achieving widespread acclaim during the 1990’s alongside Tim Holmes, he turned his focus to producing and DJing and is known for blending rock, pop, techno and drone in his sets.

Liverpool-born, Manchester-based Jean Weaver has been creating her own brand of psychedelic pop as a solo artist for the two decades. The former Kill Laura member founded Bird Records in 2006, a sub-label of her husband Andy Votel’s Finders Keepers imprint, and will be spinning tunes from her collection at the festival late next month.

Donna Leake is an extremely talented London-based DJ with an very eclectic taste. Blending together everything from jazz to afrobeat in her sets, she will be sure to take you on a musical journey like no other. Also DJing throughout the day and night will be The Orielles, Crocodiles, Bad Vibrations, Fat Out, Panda Palm, Shell Zenner, Astral Elevator and The Beat Chics.

In addition to thirty-plus artists and DJ’s performing at the festival, there will be pop-up street food stalls catering for all your preferences and tastes, as well as art installations from local artists and illustrators. The full details of which will be released closer to the event, along with stage splits and performance times.

Manchester Psych Fest 2019 takes place on Friday 30th August from 4pm to 4am. Tickets are available for just £35 and can be purchased here.