Live: Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, Day 1, 26/09/2014.

For reports and pictures of Day 2 of the Liverpool PsychFest click here.

Seriously we must be living through some golden age of experimental and/ or left field music, because what I have just witnessed over two days in the post-industrial landscape of the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool could surely not have happened during the average year since the old blues singers of the deep south strummed their first chords. I saw thirty one bands at the festival, and every single one of them had something different to offer the listener, and I’m sure that the ones I didn’t see were equally good. Was it all psychedelic? That depends on your views, I don’t much care whether or not it was.

What I do know is that the curators of this event really went the extra mile to bring something special together and create a vibe that is not easily formed. In this post I am going to go through the bands that I saw on the first day in order, say a little about them and share some photos that I took. It’s always a difficult balance between taking photos and concentrating on the music, I hope I got the balance right, but in the cases where there aren’t that many photos it is perhaps because I got so into the performance that I forgot to take them. For those unfamiliar with the festival site, there are three stages. The biggest are the Camp and the Furnace which have enough space on and off stage to accommodate a good sized band and crowd. The third, the Blade Factory, is very intimate and does not have barriers between the band and audience. I’m sure that you’ll see from the photos what the differences are.

For reports and pictures of Day 2 of the Liverpool PsychFest click here.


The festival opened in The Blade Factory with a bit of Mancunian swagger, something you always get with Purple Heart Parade. The band warmed up the crowd nicely, and lead singer Peter Cowap’s performance was as edgy and restless as ever. We immediately forgot that it was light outside as the band ripped through is repertoire of guitar-led psych which sounds like it could only be made in Manchester.



Plank filled the Camp with a sound that was both lush and angular. Also hailing from Manchester and citing the likes of Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Clash and The Misfits as influences the trio ripped through a a great set, which to some extent reflected that, to get the programme on the Camp stage underway.



Al Lover is something of a legend in psychedelia circles, a DJ who has been responsible for some fine remixes and whose excellent Elevated Transmissions mix tapes, available to download for free from the Austin PsychFest website, can act as a primer for the ‘scene’. I didn’t catch all of his set, but what I heard sounded to be a pulsating and uplifting mix of amazing tunes both known and unknown that was getting the Furnace crowd bouncing.



West Yorkshire quartet Formes will be no strangers to regular readers. It is six months since I last saw the band, who seem to be taking an increasingly heavy direction toward extreme metal. Previewing material from their forthcoming album, Dysphoria Part 1, in The Blade Factory I witnessed a more varied set than expected which built up to a really tumultuous finale. From this evidence the new album shows all the signs of being both strong and different.



I had been looking forward to seeing Spindrift, and they did not disappoint. Most obvious about the band is its Spaghetti Western image and Ennio Morricone influenced music but, as this performance showed, the band, which produced a really tight set that had the Camp audience entranced, are much more than that. I found them to be a great addition to the PsychFest because they really have the power to transport you somewhere else. Great stuff!



Asteroid #4 were one of my must-sees at this year’s festival, and their relatively early stage time meant that I was potentially in for a early high. Their eponymous album, first released digitally last year and on vinyl into for Record Store Day ’14, has been one of my most listened to this year and the eclectic selection they played from it underlined how difficult the band are to pin down such were the different styles on display. From the meditative sitar soaked ‘Yuba’ to rockers such as ‘Back Of Your Mind’ the band delivered a set that will live long in my memory. As hoped I got my first real transcendent moment of the festival during ‘Rukma Vimana’ too. Blissful!



Les Big Byrd are part of a very strong Swedish contingent at this year’s festival, along with Sudakistan, Hills, Goat, and The Janitors (did I miss anyone). Whether this constitutes a scene is moot, but what the band did was introduce a very driven set on the Furnace stage which was as danceable as it was listenable. I was particularly taken with the illuminated hands, braces, etc… of the various band members – if this has been done before I’m not sure when or by whom. If you haven’t checked out the album ‘They Worshipped Cats’, you really should do so. Unfortunately I could not catch the whole set because of a gutting clash with Holy Wave.



Coming in halfway through Holy Waves’ set on the Camp stage I was immediately struck with how wrapped the audience was in the performance. Concentrating on tracks from the band’s latest, excellent, album ‘Relax’ they played with a sort of effortlessness that can only be achieved by a band that is comfortable with itself and its material. It was every bit as good as I expected, I only wish I could have heard it all.



I have to admit that Montreal’s Hellshovel was not a band I had identified as one I wanted to see, but from the moment I walked into the Blade Factory I was taken by them. I had only intended to stay long enough to take a few snaps, but stayed for the whole set. Playing to an enthusiastic audience the four piece banged out a series of country influenced (think Johnny Cash rather than Garth Brooks) Nuggets style tracks that sound at the same time rooted in the sixties but also bang upto date. Most of all Hellshovel are a hugely enjoyable band to listen to. Great fun!



It’s inevitable that Bristol noise band Spectres get compared with the Jesus and Mary Chain given the wall of noise, mixed in with some real tunes, that hits you as soon as the band launch into their set. There certainly is that visceral aspect to their performance, but I also though that there was a subtlety to their sound which helps them stand out from the pretty big crowd of JAMC copyists. Great set!



I’ve seen Wolf People a few times now, so I had to be a bit pragmatic this time and prioritise the Spectres. Nevertheless I did catch the last few numbers of their set, and they were as good as ever. As I’ve said before in this column, if you were to explain to me how Wolf People sounded I really wouldn’t expect to like them, but the way they mix folk with more psychedelic influences works in such an alchemical way that brings me back to their music again and again. Performing in front of pastoral projections on the Furnace stage, the band delivered a vibe that was perfectly balanced between folk and baroque psychedelia.



I had heard a bit of the Vacant Lots before on the odd compilation, but I had not really got it into my mind what they were all about. But, given they’ve released stuff on the Sonic Cathedral, I had not doubt that they would be interesting. What I heard was a real mix of repetitive beats and drones, a rock aesthetic of the likes of Television with song structures that reminded me of old school electronica of the sort that used to come out of Sheffield (think early Human League and Cabaret Voltaire). The duo from Burlington, Vermont played a great set that was really well received by the Camp audience, and provided yet another tangent to the festival programme.



I’d seen Amen Dunes relatively recently and didn’t really want to miss the Vacant Lots but because of timings I was able to catch the last quarter hour of what seemed to be a really intense set from Damon McMahon and his band. The New Yorker’s most recent album, Love (on Sacred Bones), was a real step forward in my opinion and the tracks from it were well suited to the great vibe at the PsychFest, the visual setting really adding to the visceral nature of the material.



I was really looking forward to seeing Portuguese trio Black Bombaim after hearing a number of their heavy riff-laden albums. The band delivered a real spaced-out jam in the manner of the likes of Earthless, hitting us with wave after wave of brain-frying improvisations. That this happened in the small Blade Factory provided a pressure cooker atmosphere which built into a huge climax which left me totally breathless, and so lost in the music was I that I forgot to take any photos until the very end (sorry). Band of the Day for me.



With a set infused with Krautrock influences this London band showed why they are regarded as a collective who revel in free flowing jams and experimentation. Playing a set based on their more recent output for the Sonic Cathedral label, they really have the ability to take audiences somewhere else.



Next up in the Blade Factory was Portuguese duo, and Lovers and Lollypops label-mates, Jibóia. Having reviewed their most recent album only about a week ago I really wondered how it would translate live. The answer is, brilliantly. Using only a Casio keyboard, a guitar and Ana Miró’s vocals the pair delivered a set that was the perfect antidote to Black Bombaim. With Miró’s classically Indian influenced vocals being offset with deep groves, and a almost droning guitar underneath this. For me was both surprising and magical and, with Black Bombaim, my highlight of the day.



One of the best things about festivals is that there is nearly always at least one band who you hear about, have even listened to their music, without really getting them…then you see them. As an old punk, POW! immediately hit me with a sound that could have been made in the late 70s (Ramones, Clash, Television) but then hit me with the post-punk synths and Velvets aesthetic. This is a band who have many, many parts – but are far more than the sum of them. They’d taken their vinyl away by time I got to the merch stall then next day, I’ll be seeking out the Hi-Tech Bloom LP as its a real winner!



This was a fitting place for me to finish the first day of this amazing festival. A chance trip out to see Besnard Lakes at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds was my starting point in getting into the contemporary ‘psychedelic scene’ (as it is broadly defined) and so it was great to see the band again and come full circle. This band help me to open my mind to new music and I can trace a clear path from the first time I saw them to my being at this festival. As usual they gave a brilliant performance of their own take of Laurel Canyon infused psychedelia. Thanks people!


For reports and pictures of Day 2 of the Liverpool PsychFest click here.


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