The Psychedelic movement in Liverpool just seems to keep on growing. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the Swedish mask-wearing nutjobs, Goat, are going to headline this year’s Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia, I find myself, in the company of Texas Paul, in the centre of town preparing to witness four of the finest young psych bands these shores have to offer (so it says here).
Things get off to an unexpectedly early start as Paul and I are made aware, halfway through our first pints, that the first band are not only already on, but are seemingly nearly done. A rush downstairs from the convivial drinking groundfloor level of The Shipping Forecast takes us into the dingy, scuzzy basement with the lowest roof in a venue I have come across since seeing at least one member of Black Star Liner accidently punch a hole in the ceiling at Manchester’s Roadhouse. Perfect for tonight’s offerings.
The opening band, Strange Collective, for it is they, are midway through a surf guitar infused jam as we walk in, which clearly bodes well. Unfortunately, their next song is their last, but they make the most of it with a tremendous, mostly single-note, thrash with suitably echoey vocals and the ever-present Hawkwind type whoosing noises that confirm we are in Space Rock territory. Nice wooly hats too, boys. Sorry to have missed most of your set.
As much of the audience leave between bands, suggesting shipped in family members and friends, Tex and I are left to do battle with the ear-splitting PA playing, what he assures me, is Bauhaus, and watch the next lot set up. While waiting, we discuss the bands on show and it quickly becomes clear that neither of us can remember the names of the first two bands on tonight despite having just read the flyer. We decide this reflects poorly on their choice of name rather than poorly on our mental capabilities and note useful suggestions for band names such as Emergency Exit and Staff Only that would be reinforced by our current surroundings.
We are jolted out of this little reverie by the announcement from the stage that “We are The La’s. A bold move to be sure here in Liverpool, especially when they clearly aren’t, and one that immediately makes me like The Wild Eyes (from North Wales, we find out later) a lot. I like them even more when it turns out their sound is an unlikely fusion of Dr Feelgood, The Fall and Liverpool’s own, Clinic. The lad on lead vocals prowls the stage magnificently and cuts a deranged figure who just has to exorcise his demons right in front of us. It is fantastically thrilling stuff. As their set continues, a highly repetitive bleepy noise eminates from the seated keyboardist (to be fair, actually from his keyboard) and the sound could easily be that backing Mark E Smith circa 1977. Wilco Johnson’s influence is most apparent on, what turns out to be the band’s only vinyl release to date, the 7″ single I Look Good On You, one of many highlights tonight from a band I really look forward to finding out more about and would definitely want to catch again.
Another quick change over between bands this time sees what can only be described as French people invading the stage. Rather than this being a throwback to May 1968, this is in fact the 7-piece band from Rennes, Sudden Death Of Stars. Now, I have to confess that I have been championing this band a bit of late ever since getting hold of their wonderful debut LP on Ample Play, Getting Up, Going Down last year. Their newie, the mysteriously named, All Unrevealed Parts Of The Unknown is possibly even better. Still, it was nothing other than impressive to see a stripy shirted French fella take off his boots and socks and sit cross-legged on the middle of the stage with a fuck-off great big sitar. The rest of the band squeezed on the tiny stage around him and set off with my favourite song of theirs Supernovae. A mystical, surprisingly Krautrock charged, number that really got the crowd interested. There are clearly some talented musicians on show here, and it was noticeable how many little noises being made from guitar, sitar, keyboards and even tambourine built into a massive wall of sound. Sadly, the vocals didn’t really keep up with this and either need to be turned up or shut down. The music, though, was fab, and other highlights included Halcyon Days, the perky Inside Out, and fantastic closer Deeds Beyond The Hints. I really wanted to hear The Love Substitute, but maybe next time.
The band the majority of the crowd had come out to see was Carlisle’s The Lucid Dream, another band I have been banging on about – mostly to the long-suffering Tex. Their debut LP Songs Of Lies & Deceit came out last year and was an instant hit in the O’Elves household. I’d learned about these psychedelic scamps through their Fruits de Mer release Hits Me Like I’m Stoned and was eagerly awaiting seeing them as they seem to have built up something of a reputation as a live phenomenon. We were not to be disappointed.
Playing what felt like a single song suite of a set – with tracks blurring into each other – the band really ripped the place up. Fantastically loud and with an energy that never sagged, they stormed through lengthy instrumentals that whooshed and roared and then roared and whooshed some more. The phased guitar and strobe lights just added to the unreal experience and the audience clearly lost themselves in the magic of the music. It is difficult to recall which tracks were played, but there was certainly the highlight of latest single, Moonstruck, and its equally great B-side, The Emptiest Place. Again, the talent of the musicians was notable and special mention needs to be made to drummer, Luke Anderson, who showed superhuman strength throughout, battering his kit like there was no tomorrow, sometimes at a pace that had to be seen to be believed. Similarly, bass player, Mike Denton, showed his unique style of, well, twatting his instrument very fucking hard indeed, and managed to soldier on despite seemingly severing a finger. (This may be an exaggeration.) The star of the show, though, was the super cool singer/guitarist, Mark Emmerson, who made his guitar make sounds that cut right to the soul. His echoed vocals also add another layer to the sound even if it’s hard to make out what he’s saying – it really doesn’t matter because you just know it is important. If these boys come through your town, do yourself a favour and lose yourself in their music for an hour or so.