Despite the huge potential for clashes at this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest on account of the stellar lineup, I managed to see pretty much everyone I really wanted to see on Friday, including Os Noctambulos, Plankton Watt (part), The Cosmic Dead, Carlton Melton, Night Beats, Moon Duo, and Psychic Ills (part). I’d like to have seen more of Plankton Watt, but there was no way I was missing Carlton Melton, and Eat Lights Become Lights were on way past my bedtime, so unfortunately they were sacrificed on the altar of sleep.
Indeed it was telling that I didn’t see an average or substandard performance all weekend, and that was especially true of Friday night, where Carlton Melton quietly took to the stage stage, tuned up and then eased seamlessly into what was for many the best set of the festival. Equally spectacular during the quieter passages where it was possible to lose yourself in the spaces between the notes, or later when they transformed into a thundering psychedelic juggernaut, filling the cavernous Camp auditorium with palpable, energised fuzz and pounding drums.
It was good to see some of the guys from The Cosmic Dead off to one side of the stage they’d vacated an hour or so earlier, digging the heavy Carlton Melton vibes along with the rest of us. A little before they had wowed us with a two-number improvised set that saw them circled around and facing in, riffing of one another and building to an energetic and climactic finish.
Another great act that night were Os Noctambulos who drew a decent crowd in the much smaller Blade Factory. Not a million miles away from related band 39th And The Nortons in their sound, they managed to pack loads of passion, commitment and excitement into their thirty minute performance.
The bulk of the sets were forty five minutes long, and, despite initial misgivings, actually moved things along nicely, apparently encouraging the artists to be disciplined in terms of time spent between numbers and song choices. And unlike Kozfest, where an energetic punter could conceivably have dashed between the two stages, catching most if not all the acts, there were small sacrifices to be made at Liverpool Psych Fest on account of the geographical spread of the three stages and the timings. In my case I missed out on the end of Plankton Watt in order to get down the front for Carlton Melton, which is a shame as I would have liked to see the end of the set.
Night Beats were one of the big draws for me and whilst they certainly didn’t disappoint, their constantly over-driven sound occasionally came close to taking the edge off of their moody, energetic and stylish performance. It culminated in a pretty spectacular speaker stack ascent on the part of the bassist, topped off with a perfect dismount that thankfully left both bassist, bass and speakers intact.
Later on Moon Duo surprised everyone when they were joined on stage by a drummer whose incredible metronomic performance caught the eye of The Cosmic Dead’s Julian Dicken, causing him to mutter his amazement as he grooved along. The stage was bathed in predominantly red light, occasionally back lit with strobes, and therefore perfect for the intense swirling sound of Moon Duo, but hellish for non-flash photography. However, I was ultimately content to set aside photographic aspirations for the music, as I’ve waited a long time to see Moon Duo and they certainly didn’t disappoint with their new ‘plus-one’ configuration.
Depending upon when you committed to buying a ticket they could be had for as little as £17.50, which if you lived locally would almost certainly qualify for festival bargain of the year. So, what if you lived three hundred or so miles away and had to factor in accommodation? Well, having bought a bundle ticket to stay at Hotel Indigo (£157.50) and forked out for a rail ticket (£113) on top of that, the warm fuzzy glow is still not diminished, although I might be tempted to do it differently (and cheaper) next year having gained a little knowledge of Liverpool.
Indeed, we used our new-found knowledge the following day when we went out in search of four vinyl stores, guided by Santtu’s maps and fortified by the excellent breakfast offered by Hotel Indigo. In the end the latter proved to be the more essential of the two, sustaining us as we walked a few miles around the city in the unseasonably warm sun, fruitlessly searching for three stores that turned out to be closed. However, we finally struck vinyl gold with the legendary Probe Records, who were well stocked with material by several of the bands performing at the festival, and as such did pretty well out of the four of us.
The odd thing that struck me was that Trouble In Mind Records didn’t have a dedicated store on site, with record sales instead being handled by a local trader who seemed to be doing a fairly brusque trade but didn’t appear to have much by way of the bands appearing at the festival. Fortunately though he did have a good supply of the LPF 7″ and the Trouble In Mind LPF 12″ samplers, which were flying off the shelves, and rightly so.
So, having recovered from our trek by drinking beer and the Finn’s Salmiakki liqueur (think yummy alcoholic cough mixture) it was back into the fray with The Lucid Dream, who were the surprise hit of the second day for many of us, given that they were appearing so early on and only had thirty minutes to knock us off our feet with their enormous rush of sound. This, combined with the amazing and ever-present light show, created a psychedelic alchemy that was almost physical in its intensity.
Afterwards, having spent an hour or so watching the world go by while breathing in a bit of fresh air outside the venue, it was time to return for Jacco Gardner and the Limananas, who passed the time pleasantly enough until Fuzz appeared on stage, drawing what looked like one of the biggest crowds of the weekend.
Too tired to battle my way to the front I watched from the back, as Fuzz gave us 45 minutes of heavy, heavy psych, which in one sense was about as far away from Segall’s recent Sleeper album as you can get, but still distinctively stamped with his hallmark sound.
Fortunately for me I was able to find a spot on the front rail for Mugstar, the last of the bands on my must-see list, and their energetic performance sustained me through to the end and on into the next day, when their infectious riffs were still rattling around my brain on the long journey home.
That said I think we were incredibly lucky with the weather, which was warm and sunny and allowed us to get full use of the street immediately outside the venue. Had it been raining it might have been considerably less comfortable inside, where there was the odd choke point as people moved between the Camp and Furnace stages.
I saw no obvious sign of friction between the punters and the security team, who despite being constantly visible, were generally friendly, polite and certainly not as heavy-handed as they might have been given the abundance of aromatic smoke wafting around out in the street.
The food was good and reasonably priced, as were the beers (once you found the real ales). The toilets were clean and adequate in terms of availability, although most of them were of the ubiquitous Portaloo variety and located out in the street.
Aside from the stellar line-up I think the festival’s greatest asset was the crowd, who were friendly, enthusiastic, polite and about as diverse as any audience I’ve seen anywhere. My festival buddies (Michael, Santtu and Harri) were enormous fun, and it was a pleasure to finally meet people like Gavin, Neil, Dave and Brett.