Liverpool Psych Fest is this weekend and here is who you should see…
By Cath Bore
Liverpool has had a love affair with psychedelia ever since the Sixties, so if any city was going to have a whole festival in honour of it, it would be ours. The UK’s largest celebration of psychedelic sub-culture is now in its fifth year, and to mark the occasion boasts its strongest bill ever.
Psychedelic music is united by its experimental and trailblazing nature, meaning that the Festival – over two nights, Friday 23rd September and Saturday 24th at the Camp and Furnace, Blade Factory and District in Liverpool Baltic Triangle – has a truly eclectic line-up. The genre has had so many offshoots since its early days and this is demonstrable in the Festival’s musical offerings, which cover garage rock, neo-prog outfits, electronica, and dance music.
Here are the artists we’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s Psych Fest:
1 – The Super Furry Animals embody the spirit of psychedelia in spectacular fashion. To get the full benefit of their music one has to see them live, and the visual spectacle of the band can be fully experienced. They are musical eccentrics, who love to dig up strange and wonderful sources of inspiration, and have never found a musical form they can’t have their wicked way with, consume and make their own. The band are also renowned and respected for their bond with their homeland, Wales, and have always included Welsh language songs in their sets. Watching the band expand, mutate, and become more mature over the years has been fascinating to watch. Their set this year is bound to be a pivotal part of the festival. Catch Super Furry Animals on Friday night before they hit the road for a lengthy tour, performing their first two albums Fuzzy Logic and Radiator back-to-back in December, around the UK and Ireland.
2 – Also bound to turn heads this year are The Horrors. It has been hard to keep up with them; in their early days they seemed quite retro with their big hair and skinny-jeaned horror punkery, but their sound has got progressively more expansive and beat driven with every successive release. They have used elements of Germanic electronic music in their sound and since become more dancey and psychedelic-tinged, so whatever they bring to the stage this year is bound to be compelling.
3 – We can’t get enough of Brighton’s The Wytches. There is as much doom rock as there is psych in their sound, and added to that heady brew is some amazing surf guitar. Vocals are muttered and screamed by their singer Kristian Bell who makes Mudhoney’s Mark Arm appear conventional. They are a powerhouse live, cataclysmically noisy, and extremely exciting. They’ve come a long way in such a small period, and recently added keyboards to their line-up. They are the garage band we have all been waiting for; their last album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ – co-produced by Bell and our very own Bill Ryder-Jones – was superb, and their second album ‘All Your Happy Life’ is out on 30th September. They played a cracking show at Skeleton Coast Festival in Hoylake back in August, and return to Liverpool again on 13th October supporting Jamie T at Liverpool Olympia. But don’t miss them this weekend.
4 – Silver Apples can lay claim to having founded the whole electronica genre, at least in terms of popular music. Their early records, tunes like 1968’s ‘Oscillations’ were so far ahead of their time, it’s almost ridiculous. Main man Simeon built his own synthesizer from scratch as the only people who could afford to buy them back then were superstars and recording studios. Silver Apples weren’t big sellers at the time, but their influence has been enormous, so why not see them this year?
5 – Gwenno was once a member of retro-chic indie pop project The Pippettes, but her new solo material is very different. Most noticeably it is Welsh language and uses very technology based arrangements. Synthesisers can sound icy and cold, but somehow Gwenno has managed to sidestep that effect and create very dreamy and emotive atmospheres in her music. Her pop instincts are still very much to the fore too; there are melodic hooks everywhere. Her recent album Dydd Olaf sold out its initial run on Peski Records and has since been rereleased on Heavenly to rave reviews, and last year won the Welsh Music Prize. She played the Heavenly 25 year celebrations at the Kazimier in 2015, and we’re so pleased she’s back in Liverpool for a return visit.
6 – To anybody who is serious about psychedelic music Acid Mother’s Temple don’t really need an introduction. They are justly one of the most acclaimed live acts working in the genre, and are hugely prolific in the recording studio too, putting out at least 70 albums of material since 1996. They’ve had 30+ live albums out in addition to that too. They don’t do anything by half; even line-up wise. The band has thirty members; some of whom are admittedly artists and dancers, but that is still a lot of people. That’s more people than some of the audiences I’ve seen at a few live gigs this year. Most of all though this band are HEAVY, and not to be taken lightly. Their music takes you into all kinds of unexpected territory; some thrilling, some frightening, some apocalyptic. Acid Mothers Temple are Japanese but their songs are more in the tradition of San Franciscan Acid Rock and/or Hawkwind, their songs marathons of improvisation, noise, and the avant garde. The band idolise Stockhausen so that may clue you up to how extreme it can get.
7 – Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia 2016 has some outstanding DJs this year including 6 Music’s Mark Riley, snooker legend Steve Davies – yes really -, Tom Furse from The Horrors, and The Quietus’ Julian Marszalek. Local names feature as well; including Dig Vinyl, who will also be selling vinyl records in a special pop up shop, in addition to Bernie Connor, Joe McKechnie, and Nick Power from the Coral plus many more.
So once again, the Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia has pulled out all the stops for what promises to be a memorable and varied event this year. Make sure you’re there to enjoy as much of it as you can. And don’t forget to connect with others over the weekend by using the #PZYK hashtag.