Psych Fest hit Manchester on Saturday with more than 60 bands and artists playing at venues across the city. Nigel Carr brings us some of the best bits for Louder Than War!
Psych Fest has quickly become the essential event of the festival season. Strewn along the Oxford Rd corridor in Manchester, from The Deaf Institute to The Albert Hall, there are so many must see acts to choose from it’s simply impossible to cover them all.
Getting there in the early afternoon was a breeze on the tram, then it was straight off to Circle Square, or Mushroom Fields as they call it to pick the passes.
First on the agenda is London’s Bleach Lab at Canvas, just off Charles Street. Despite the boxy appearance of this new venue, the acoustics are amazing and Bleach Lab certainly do them justice. A remarkable, nay, super talented drummer, Shawn Courtney provides the glue that holds this highly melodic post-punk four piece together, topped by Jenna Kyle’s incredible vocals. I’ve played them a few times on my radio show on Louder Than War so knew something of what to expect – thumping basslines and a jangly telecaster guitar, they put in a solid set including standout tracks, Old Ways and Real Thing.
Then it’s off to the Pink Room at Yes for a blast of Penelope Isles. The venue is rammed and It’s mayhem at the front. The band, who met at BIMM Brighton peddle their own intense Indie meets psych vibe with a big slab of sixties melodies. There’s a real freshness to the sound as evidenced by the mass appreciation of the crowd – it’s intense! Especially during Leipzig and Chlorine.
It’s a quick dive down to the Yes basement for Lennon Gallagher’s band Automotion, a band I have been dying to see. You’d expect a Gallagher offspring to do an Inhaler and fill his set full of dad-derived material but there’s none of that here. It’s high energy psychedelic rock all the way. The set sways from Battles style on Dithyram – to intense psych, with thrashing, driving guitars – uncompromising, powerful, hypnotic and engaging. The audience is completely sucked in. It’s hot down in the basement but Lennon has this heavy padded Burberry style peaked cap with huge velcro wings. He keeps his head down, humble – maintaining his cool.
We take a break only to return to the basement for the much anticipated TTRRUUCES. Their 2020 eponymous album was a firm favourite at Louder Than War, and they did not disappoint. They provide the freshest, most upbeat sound of the whole festival, from the pumping psychedelic beat of Im Alive, the emotional Sad Girl to the pure Studio 54/Funky Town sound of The Disco. “You guys are so warm, no matter how much technical shit goes on, you guys are hot” says front man Jules, referring to the stuttering start. I learn later from him that they were going to debut one of tracks off their new album but ran out of time.
We rush over to The Ritz only to just miss The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets who according to one fellow reveller provided ‘the only psychedelic sounds at Psych Fest’. I politely disagree!
Up next is another highlight – Warmduscher, and who should introduce them on onstage? The man who has been championing them from the very beginning, 6Music’s Marc Riley.
Weirdly, the opening track Big Wilma sounds just like The Fall. Maybe it was for Marc’s benefit? The band is in Devo style matching boiler suits, apart from lead singer Clams, who bounces around in his vest and white pants, looking like a prize fighter, darting forward then pulling back from the mic. The crowd goes mad for Disco Peanuts and Midnight Dipper and The Ritz is hot as hell, but no one gives a shit and the mosh pit is extending backwards to where we’re standing.
It’s brilliant, mad, chaotic, the whole crowd is on their side and Clams Baker Jnr knows it! He jogs around the stage (how does he not fall over in those shades?) at one point this big disco singer, then another there’s a touch of Jello Biafra about him. Wild Flowers is simply sublime, totally uncut for the live version of course! The band put in a cracking set – forty five minutes of pure entertainment, then we’re off to get some soup!
It’s so dark in the basement at Yes that’s it’s almost impossible to get a decent shot of the band Soup!, who serenade us with their own brand of funk meets post punk. The singer has the perfect voice for it, a deep baritone which underpins the set. There’s a track which opens with piercing synths before settling into a funk groove with cow bells, then ending in a post punk mash. It’s part Wire, Part Gang of Four part Rip Rig & Panic.
I get over to Canvas for Brighton’s Dream Wife and the contrast could not be more stark. The place is utterly rammed and they are going down a storm. It’s pure indie pop-punk – Blondie meets Bikini Kill, especially on tracks like Hasta La Vista but when Alice Go cranks her guitar up it’s like a left handed Nita Strauss just walked in the room. The sound is incredible – she ranks right up there with Marissa Paternoster as one of the best rock guitarists I have even seen – proper rock and roll. ‘Gonna fuck you up, gonna cut you up’ screams Rakel Mjöll with a mid section of I tell You What I Want – just brilliant and uplifting with the sort of mosh pit that opens up and then collapses as the kids go rushing in. You can see the excitement on their faces, especially the young girls who can’t wait to push through to the front to join in the fun!
At one point Rakel gets the audience to squat before the band explodes and everyone jumps up. It’s joyous to se so many people in one room having such a good time, to see Rakel pirouetting around the stage, back arched hair back before springing forward. I thought I’d seen it all with Amyl and The Sniffers’ Amy Taylor but this is another level! This may just be my new favourite live band especially with Ms Hendrix on lead guitar!
I head off into the night with a big daft smile on my face.
What a day, what a festival! I’d like to have seen more, especially bands like Melt Yourself Down who I learn afterwards were incredible, Kurt Vile, and the revived Coral, but there’s just too much good stuff for one person to fit in, such was the quality of the line up!
Book next year here: manchesterpsychfest.com.
Words & Photos by Nigel Carr. More writing by Nigel on Louder Than War can be found in his Author’s archive. You can find Nigel on Twitter and Facebook Listen to Nigel’s show on Louder Than War Radio – Wednesdays 9-11 pm! here and on the free Apps: https://s2.radio.co/sab795a38d/listen