Amongst the dozens of official Psych Festivals in the world, from Levitation (Austin Psych Fest) to Eindhoven Psych Lab, while Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia showed they aren’t in the little leagues.
Throughout a two-day festival, we found ourselves trapped in an experience of other worldly performances and visuals, all created and curated to blow the minds of attendees who came for the ultimate psych experience, and it delivered.
We’re going to tell you all about what we saw, who we saw and why Psych Fest is the highlight of our 2016.
We arrived at just past four o’clock, it’s immediately reminiscent of a little town, vendors serving food, people walking, laughing and having fun, all in an enclosed space behind the Camp and Furnace. We walked around for a while, got our tokens and such to get ready for the night. We walked into the lightly attended Furnace location to see the surf-psych act La Luz.
La Luz are a band I regularly listen to, they have a style I enjoy and I was excited to see them live. They arrived a few minutes late, looking quite tired and burnt, their set ended up short and disappointing. Not-to-say that the band themselves were bad, they noted the nine-hour drive to get here and such, they seemed tired and rushed. Although, given the chance, I’d see them on their terms.
Afterwards, myself and the team quickly rushed next door to the Camp. Aiming to see one of my favourite bands ever Kikagaku Moyo, they were setting up as we arrived. The room quickly packed, it was anticipated. The Japanese psych rockers were brought in as-part of the tremendous Gurugaru Brain showcase.
Kikagaku Moyo began, treating the audience to a high-energy set, all eyes on the band. After jamming quite a bit during the penultimate song, the band found they were left with one song left, they preformed “Green Sugar” from their recent album. Their tremendous performance set a high-bar for any act to follow. Liverpool icons The Stairs did.
After last year’s reunion, The Stairs have been one of the most anticipated bands in the city, everybody wants to catch them. The Camp was full. Opening with “Mary Joanna” the band pulled out everything they could to deliver the best set, a highlight would be the medley of “Fall Down In The Rain / Right In The Back of Your Mind”, followed by “the one before the one about public transport” explained frontman Edgar Jones, “Skin Up”.
Finally, The Stairs ended with the big-one, “Weed Bus”. After seeing Edgar play an acoustic version at Skeleton Coast in August, this was a bigger, quicker version that had the room of Stairs fans singing. If everybody came to play, The Stairs came to win.
Afterwards, we went to grab a drink and see Super Furry Animals, the Friday headliner. The security was implementing a one-out-one-in rule by time we got there, it was a struggle. Pushed against the wall and fence to gain access to the Furnace, in the end I wish we went elsewhere.
Of course, everything exciting always happens to us. Just as SFA entered their first song, a man in-front of myself and team coordinator Jess collapsed into us, we were able to get him up and he went again, this time smashing my camera on his head, the third time he went he smacked his head off the floor. After that whole conundrum (he was taken out by medical staff), we was set. The opening of SFA‘s set was a tad tarnished by the mixture of noise, lights and adrenaline, at least for us anyway.
The Furries delved deep into their catalogue for their headline set, but the ratio of slower songs ended up killing it. While hearing songs like “Run! Christian Run!” is a delight, but having that within a slow mixture of songs seemed tiring. Their highlights were “Bing Bong”, “Golden Retriever” and that lot.
Overall their set was tiring, badly balanced for a band who can actually preform. The feeling was disappointing.
Just after that, our tired bunch landed in the lovely District to see Man of Moon. The Scottish two-piece guitar/drum combo worked with the pedals and backing track, almost giving the act an identity. Their Apollo style countdowns over the backing and great musicianship impressed the small gathering crowd.
We opened the following day in the Blade Factory to see the Mexican psych rockers Vaya Futuro. Bringing their style over to Liverpool, the Blade Factory was perfect surrounding with the visual projections pressed against the band as they preformed a 20-odd minute most-impressive set.
Shortly after, Aussie act Methyl Ethel were performing to a small crowd in the Furnace. The quiet and quirky band preformed a tight set showcasing their style of modern psych, kept with their wonderful lyricism.
Just afterwards, we caught a tad bit of LA Hell Gang‘s set, thunderous waves of music struck the crowd from the opening song and stayed with the band’s loud and brash offering. We didn’t stay long, but we somewhat wish we did.
Over in the District, the Swedish doomjazz (or simply, improvised jazz-psych) band Flowers Must Die preformed an amazing set, all over the place yet a tested method of music for the band who seemed in control the entire time. Their set can still be see at Impatv‘s YouTube, and we recommend it.
Pure Phase Essemble 4 was on our list next, their featured artist Mark Gardener added to this highly hyped set, it didn’t disappoint. The band offered a transporting sleepy set, not in necessarily a bad way but more in a way that allowed us to flow into the music, we ended up leaving halfway through to catch others and have a drink, practically hoping to wake ourselves a tad.
We went back down the rabbit hole afterwards (also known as, the Camp) to catch The Lucid Dream. Their return to Liverpool propelled the band onto another level, with their consistently energetic set that seemed to be fulled by fire. We stayed longer than expected before heading next door.
The Moonlandingz, there’s nothing really to say apart from the word insane. Led by crazed frontman Johnny Rock, the band preformed on a headliner level, filling their set with partial nudity, crowd invasions and beer throwing madness that claimed their spot with the crowd. They came to party, they succeeded.
Saturday headliners The Horrors took to the stage next, performing a set in near-darkness, the band isn’t thrown in the with the psych name often but deserved to be with their set.
The band kept their interaction to a minimum, going for a more somber set which may have lay bad with some. They gave a headline performance full of darkness but struggled with following the wild party attitude of The Moonlandingz, it seemed many left before the end.
After an hour or so of looking around, we ended with another Camp outing for the PZYK Colony set by Caven of Anti-Matter. The cubic projected set-up was fascinating and astonishing, but evidently gave a sickly feeling with crazy electro-psych sounds of Caven of Anti-Matter. The act preformed well, the crowd danced, everything the Colony was meant to be.
Overall, Psych Fest is a one-of-a-kind festival filled with psych bands and people. It feels like a little high-school reunion of old weirdo friends who only want a good time, and you’re there to have one too.
The line-up was varied, massive props for the international additions to the bill. However, we wish for two or three more Liverpool based bands next year and while The Horrors gained goodword in our book, more specialized headliners would be appreciated, more bands that fit with the “psych” word and style.
We hope to see you next year, it’s way worth the price of admission just make sure you look around, you may walk away with a new favourite.
Words by Jack Cinnamond, Photography by Jess Sharpe and Phil Johnson.