Liverpool Psych Fest’s second day looked to head into uncharted territory, Getintothis’ Harry Sumnall and Mark Greenwood dropped in and out at will.
Crawling into the sunlight, Getintothis manage a relatively early start in order to catch a Saturday afternoon of psych.
We make our way to the Camp and locate a cosy spot near the bar in the shade of a lava lamp. Finding ourselves within the simulacrum of a magical forest, it’s quite apt that the first band, The Woken Trees, are the newest offering to awaken our frazzled senses.
There’s a good eclectic mix of psych on offer here. The Woken Trees deliver a set of poppy post punk drenched in amyl nitrate with more than a splash of Danish nihilism, while Novella glide through a slick set of lush indie pop. We found ourselves slowly drifting back into the twilight zone, but our transcendental meditations are interrupted by some nasty patches of unwanted feedback and inevitable on-stage whinging about monitors. It’s still early in the day but the sound issues in Camp soon become perplexing.
Despite this, Lola Cult go down as easy as the teaspoons of magic mushroom jam that are passed around the attendant congregation. Powerful, soaring vocals dominate a desert landscape of rattlesnake guitars as the audience begin to settle in warm, velvet grooves.
For much of the day it was hard going in the Furnace. As a central focus for the festival congregation it was ideal, but the sound quality meant that the musical experience was like a pretty heavy STP trip (check your psych history books, kids).
Of course, you don’t expect perfect accurate sonic replication at gigs but most bands, at least during the daytime when the crowds were less dense, really seemed to struggle against its cavernously blurred sound.
Alfa 9, so harmonised on record, came across like a particularly nasty street fight in Burnley while Resonars, exponents of smooth American powerpop, may as well have been playing thrash covers in their mid-range battles.
Things improved somewhat with the Nouvelle Vague chic of Liminanas and the playfully lollipop psych sound of The Paperhead, but you would forgive Trouble in Mind Records for thinking their exposition was cursed by a particularly vindictive spirit. Where was Ed Sanders and his Aramaic levitation exorcism when you needed him?
Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs at Liverpool Psych Fest, Camp and Furnace
We soon find ourselves outside, wandering amid colourful clusters of hippy hats and winkle pickers and a fenced off Greenland Street begins to resemble a post-industrial Woodstock populated by strange cybernetic urinals that are beginning to leak.
This scenario leaves us quite hungry for a bit of Northern speed and The Lucid Dream are quick to step up the tempo with their brand of Seeds inspired garage psych. This band have improved immensely since the last Psych Fest and it good to see the Cumbrian four-piece stepping on the gas.
Meanwhile, over in the Blade Factory, first band Psyence were among the best, presenting a commercially appealing riff driven sound that suggested a prosperous future. Later, London’s Mo Kolour, equipped with just a sampler, percussion, loop station, and a whole load of talent, was undoubtedly one of musical highlights of the day; demonstrating the liberation that comes from stepping outside the conservative psych rock template that seemed to trap many of the day’s guitar based bands.
The importance of generating new perspectives on a 60 year old movement was reinforced by one of the most interesting non-musical segments of the festival; Andy Roberts and Dr David Luke’s talks on (respectively) the history of LSD in the UK, and synaesthesia and psychedelic symbolism.
If there really is a global psychedelic renaissance taking place at the moment, then this has mainly been driven by new ways of thinking about and understanding these drugs and their impact on society rather than through musical or other artistic developments. We’re not so naive to think you can sell 4000 tickets for performances of Aeolian harp, Buchla 200e, and Bulgarian throat ululator (much as we would have liked to have heard that particular combination), but overall, the relatively narrow musical palate on offer sometimes posed genuine problems.
The evening does, however, rev up with a strong set from The Wands. Whispered, ghostly melodies fit snugly into revolving fuzz tones and anti-clockwork rhythms that echo and shimmer across the Camp walls. However, Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs strangle any momentum with some predictable pastiche that’s as exciting as the cold bean water that dominates their visual assemblages.
It’s at this point in the evening that iPads begin to appear in the crowd as any sense of retro-realism is cruelly suffocated by plastic artifice.
A histrionic performance from Singapore Sling restores a sense of liveness to proceedings, dispatching a series of shoe-gazing funeral drones and primeval wah despite some serious sound problems.
Hookworms at Liverpool Psych Fest, Camp and Furnace
As technicians faff about a bit, entertainment can be found in observing ambivalent acid heads wandering around in small circles and occasionally pausing to contemplate crumpled plastic glasses on the floor. Eventually Hookworms explode onto the Camp stage with a staggering and sincere performance that matches a spasmodic visual/sonic barrage.
They quickly become one of the highlights of the evening with an ensemble that balances wild noise and sheer energy with intelligent and textured soundscapes. That said, White Manna also stand out with an innovative mix of heavy Krautrock coupled with MC5 intensity.
Fuzz were a big draw, warmly received, and on any other day would have been a joy, but we struggled to reconcile their route one rock out approach against all that had been written and discussed in the preceding weeks that this festival would be about the ‘weird, wonderful, and mind expanding’. Luckily, Mugstar and Clinic closed Furnace for the weekend on a very high (literally and figuratively) note. The former mainly through the power of their visual assault, to which credit should be assigned to Psych Fest designer Sam Wiehl.
Both, however, were upstaged by the four mysteriously hooded figures who preceded them onto the stage, their incantations sound-tracked by crackling analogue synth drones as we hope for the ushering in of a Zendik Farm Orgastra style ritual, but alas, as they departed so did our hope that we were going to witness something truly freaky. Instead we were left to wander amid the dub-drone swamp fudge of a Peaking Lights Sound System DJ set.
So, another Psych Fest done and dusted as Getintothis board an interstellar black cab armed with a clutch of vinyl. While we still wince slightly at the obvious paradox presented in the concept of the contemporary psych event, we can’t ignore a number of bands that continue to challenge the genre in a more aesthetic, visual and performative sense.
Praise must also be awarded to Camp and Furnace for applying a slightly smudged jewel into the crown of a vibrant and refreshingly speculative Liverpool music scene.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Nata Moraru.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia 2013: Camp and Furnace & Blade Factory, Liverpool – day one
Liverpool Psych Fest 2013: Camp and Furnace, Liverpool – picture gallery part one
Getintothis exclusive: Liverpool Psych Fest 2013 returns with two-dayer at Camp & Furnace.
Getintothis reviews the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia featuring The Time And Space Machine, Dead Skeletons, Wolf People and more at Camp and Furnace.
Getintothis‘ Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia – picture gallery.
Getintothis talks to Will Sergeant on his love affair with psychedelic music.