Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Liverpool Psych Fest 2014: Friday

27 September 2014, 13:23 | Written by Dan Owens

Aware of its substantial contribution to the development of the trippy style known as psychedelia, Liverpool has - with the introduction of its International Psychedelic Festival - become a shining beacon for those peddling an oppositional, counter-cultural sound and every September it finds itself a popular place of pilgrimage for psych-lovers the world over.

This year’s festival is once again hosted by the cavernous and compact Camp and Furnace, which, nestled away in the city’s decaying industrial heart, is the perfect setting for this collective rejection of the known. A near sell-out, the crowd ranges from young floral-haired hippies to members of the aged Woodstock generation - all united in the pursuit of dissolving the doors of perception.

First up on the Furnace Stage are the sleazy suit-wrapped, Zorro-masked Black Mekon. Live, the duo faithfully replicate their distinctive brand of adrenaline blues, whipping up a hazy fug from the put-upon strings of their modest guitars. Despite emanating from Birmingham - a mere two-hour train jaunt from our location - their anonymous frontman twists his vocals into a Southern drawl on "Black Mekon Must Die" and "You Are My C*nt", losing none of the filth of the Gothic Americana on which Nick Cave was raised, before cooling the profanity and taking the polish of Happy Mondays "Wrote For Luc" and turning it into a sizzling garage rocker.

Up at the Camp Stage, Bristol band Spectres arrive on a wave of Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons and, with a set that leans heavily on the awesome power of their debut EP Hunger, reveal that they certainly share many of the Reid brothers feedback-tarnished attributes. Disinterested, barely-audible vocals and protracted, squalling instrumental tangents coalesce on a bed of primitive, Bobby Gillespie-drumming with the fledging band forgetting none of the aloof stagecraft of the Scottish band; only acknowledging the crowd as their scorching half hour of sonic chaos comes to an end.

After such a barrage of noise, Amen Dunes brings down the tempo and offers a well-earned voyage into a mellower land. Churning out material conceived in seclusion and a self-mythologised trip to the furthest reaches of the Earth, it takes Damon McMahon time to ease into the part and, initially, his songs tend to fade away rather than coming to any sort of logical conclusion. But by the time "Lonely Richard" comes around he manages to muster the same visceral bite of the previous band from an acoustic alone, howling "have yourself a good time" to the darkness of a crowd now in thrall to his stripped-back introspection.

Where the festival has, thus far, exhibited the elasticity of the psychedelic genre, California’s Allah-Las provide the sharpest hat tip to the past. Backed by endlessly scrolling desert road visuals, their retro jangle - one part West Coast, one part Merseybeat (a conversation between The Byrds and The Beatles, if you will) - really sets the Furnace ablaze. Wondrously in tune with psych’s ‘60s origins, they strike a delicate balance between slick extended jams and breezy, harmonic power-pop, with "Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind)" proving the set’s unmistakable highlight.

The night ends with Montreal-based prog-revivalists Suuns who, after sound checking with much meticulousness, bring the same sort of precision to their set. The undulating synth that introduces opener "Music Won’t Save You" coats everything that follows, its beating pulse colliding endlessly with scratchy guitar lines before routinely exploding into a cosmic wig out, as the band continue to expand on the sparse sound that originally defined them. Closer "Edie’s Dream" packs the tenderest punch; its coarse existentialism slowing to a dull ache and sending the crowd into an acidic stupor, ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next