This Pych Fest article was written by Lorna Gray, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson
The grey and brown factory buildings of Liverpool’s Baltic Quarter become drenched in colour as the city’s fourth annual International Festival of Psychedelia takes place. Two days of effects pedals, reverb and various mind expanding substances to celebrate all things psychedelic. There were art installations, projections, colours and patterns everywhere; all setting a fitting mood for a psychedelic paradise
Starting the day off at Camp, Manchester’s The Underground Youth showcase their hypnotic shoegaze melodies and haunting sonorous vocals to a sizable crowd. Elements of post-punk and psychedelic rock merge to create an effortlessly enticing sound. The percussionist utilises the stripped back drum kit of a floor tom and snare in a unique way by hitting the rim and the skin, creating a steady and distinctive beat. Her stage presence is undeniably raw as she moves her whole body to the rhythm and raises her arms above her head before striking the two-piece kit, flicking her hair and swaying her hips in an almost seductive manner.
Hailing from Chile, BYM Records’ Vuelveteloca show the crowd at Furnace that their combination of meaty guitar hooks and drums are a force to be reckoned with. Melodic, reverbed psych guitar riffs echo throughout the biggest venue of the festival, and the repetitive sounds of that same guitar are looped with heavy drum beats. These are then merged with monotone bass vocals to create a trance-like hypnotic state that encourages the majority of their audience to sway unintentionally.
Los Angeles six-piece Dengue Fever bring their truly unparalleled mix of psychedelic grooves and ska-punk with traditional Cambodian pop vocals to an unexpected audience at Camp. Chhom Nimol’s vocals carry smoothly over a loud and upbeat union of guitar riffs, reverbed saxophone and funky bass lines. Her incredibly powerful voice creates an impressive range of notes in traditional Khmer, which raised eyebrows in the crowd. The hairs on the back of spectator’s necks were also undoubtedly standing on end as a result. Technical problems with Nimol’s microphone did not deter or distract from her phenomenal vocals. Groans from the audience when their last song was announced show that many would have been more than content to listen to this unique and intriguing band all night.
As the sun sets over Liverpool’s Baltic Quarter, solo psych act Hannes Farm develops his sound by transforming into a group for live performances and they pack out the Blade Factory for their set. ‘Holy’ is a mix of garage rock guitar drones and lo-fi psychedelic pop melodies that compliments each component of the Swedish band’s sound, the small setting of Blade Factory is a perfect match for this attack on the senses as the art installation in the venue seemed to sync up perfectly with the sounds.
The festival’s Artist in Residence Brian’s Jonestown Massacres’ Anton Newcombe is greeted by the biggest crowd of the day in Furnace, as he takes to the stage with his nouvelle musical partner in crime Tess Parks to perform tracks from the collaborations’ ‘I Declare Nothing’ album. As Newcombe creates howling sounds out of his guitar expertly and effortlessly, with a gritty bite giving that distinctive Jonestown feel, Parks – donning 60’s pigtails with flowers in her hair and twiggy-style eyelashes – plays the same repetitive chords on her acoustic guitar creating a perfect juxtaposed combination of heavy and soft guitars. She then tops off the lot with her drawling seductive and raspy vocals. Trippy visuals of the performers in an array of colours and sequenced patterns project onto the backdrop of the stage drenching this set in psychedelic atmosphere. Lovely.
The heavier side of psych is lurking in Blade Factory as French band J.C. Satan create chaos with their heavy, dirty drones of guitar and smashing of cymbals in their noisy, unearthly crescendos. Energy surged throughout the smallest venue of the festival as the crowd threw themselves around to the thrashing sounds of heavy French-edelia doom and the temperature of the room rose dramatically as not one member of the audience was motionless. One guy took it to the extreme as he crowd surfed over enthusiastic psych fans!
Factory Floor are Friday night’s headliners and Furnace is full of unexpected fans as the new stripped back act have ditched live drums and have now essentially become an electronic psychedelic DJ duo. This didn’t deter the drug and alcohol-fuelled- psych heads as the trance style beeps and the trills and steady up-tempo drum machine beat had absolutely everybody up and dancing. Colourful visuals in sync with the unapologetic repetitive electronic music were projected onto the walls and screens hanging from the tall warehouse ceiling, creating a rave-scene straight out of the 90s. It’s not a set typical of a psychedelic celebration, and it was somewhat challenging to endure the raw intensity of the full hour set. It could well have been hours long; it was all too easy to get lost within those sounds, which in itself, is was psych fest is all about.
The sun is shining brightly over the converted warehouses and factories of the Baltic Quarter and Liverpool’s very own psychedelic garage rock four piece Strange Collective start the day off at Furnace, and do so with a bang. Signed to Salvation Records, the scouse quartet draw in a huge audience for such an early slot and do not disappoint. Their catchy bass riffs and distorted guitars dripped in effects combined with the tight drum beats and screechy vocals are reminiscent of psych heroes Thee Oh Sees, and they fully engage an entire audience. Their familiarity with the city’s music scene works in their favour as tracks such as ‘Sun’ and ‘Super Touchy’ have members of the audience mouthing along to the lyrics. What better way to kick off day two of Liverpool’s celebration of psychedelia than have Liverpool’s own show us how it’s done?
Fantastic music is not all the Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia has to offer, as art installations and unique experiments and experiences make the festival what it is year after year. The audio/visual virtual reality installation PZYCH PRIZM was a particular highlight, as headphones and goggles allowed users to forget the world as they know it and enter an alternative reality. This other world featured flashes of psychedelic art, patterns and scenic views of space with sandy beaches. All the while mellow and trippy psych sounds synced perfectly with what you were seeing. Four minutes spent transported into that other realm may well have been hours, as there was no way of keeping track of time while your mind was kept so completely occupied.
Jane Weaver’s haunting pitch-perfect vocals echo throughout Furnace as she performs a collection of tracks from her album ‘The Silver Globe’. Despite the vast space of the venue being full of fans chanting “WEA-VER, WEA-VER”, the performance feels intimate as she introduces each song in her timid and shy voice, and tells little anecdotes in-between atmospheric performances of her distinctive songs. “I love Liverpool,” she murmors into the microphone, “it’s much better than Manchester” which of course causes an eruption of cheers. The audiences’ noisy appreciation for the artist contrasts with the performance itself, which is a unique creation of hypnotic and eerie loops and mellow psychedelic tones in the lengthy tracks which are sang with ease and comfort. Finishing her song with her most recent single ‘Mission Desire’, left an already passionate crowd yearning for more of the mellowed elements of the festival.
An entirely different performance comes from the return of Leeds psych/garage group Hookworms whose popularity is proven through the strict one in one out entry conditions in order to catch a glimpse of the psychfest third-timers. Entering just in time to catch the single played frequently on BBC 6Music, ‘Radio Tokyo’, which involves shout-y vocals and repetitive fuzzy guitars along with electronic elements which all demand attention. Everybody within the room seems completely into the bands’ extraordinary sound. Hookworms’ set was cut short due to other bands running over, a massive shame as it was evident the crowd were hungry for more.
Almost twenty years since the 1997 release of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating In Space’ – the album that put this band on the psych map, for many here Spiritualized’s Saturday headline slot is a nostalgic trip – in both senses of the word – down memory lane as viewers will be able to reminisce smoking weed for the first time listening to psychedelic sounds while Brit Pop dominated the music charts. Projections of concentric black and white swirls accompany soft, gospel style backing singers and slow speed, distinctive bass riffs while J Spaceman sings in his droning yet smooth rock and roll voice. The unusual stripped-back set allowed more attention on the gospel elements of the neo-space rock band, as former tours have seen orchestral backing, the humble duo of backing vocals allowed an almost intimate experience with the performance. Possibly the first sing-a-long of the festival came from the band’s rendition of ‘Shine A Light’ and the chorus from the crowd was enough to give anybody goose bumps. It’s beginning to come clear why the former Spaceman 3 band changed their name, as soft and mellow repetitive tones mixes with psychedelic electronic pulses combine with the crowds’ gentle swaying and singing was almost a spiritual experience. A wonderful end to a fantastic weekend.