As the hazy days of summer have nearly finished (remember that thing? Summer?) right at the very end Manchester gets an injection of good time vibes with the arrival of the Manchester Psych Fest.
This year the line up was as varied as the choice of carbs at Wetherspoons, with different takes on psychedelic music spread throughout. Unlike other multiple venue festivals, this one was spread across three key venues within cosy proximity; Night & Day Café, Soup Kitchen, and Band on the Wall. The digital art installations were supplied by Manchester designer Jane Bowyer and were used as the backdrop for each performing act. Think brightly coloured, multi patterned trippy animated visuals that perfectly matched the trippy music. For the real thing, check out Jane’s Instagram page. We went along to the festival to have a nosey at what psychedelic music sounds like in 2017…
Freakout Honey // Night & Day Café
Six-piece long haired psych/fuzz band Freakout Honey were the first act on the Night & Day bill and broke the ice with a quick set of quick paced tracks. Track ‘Marinate’ was a treat that helped to set the tone of the festival of what was to come.
Verdict? Elegantly Pleasant Psych.
Britain // Soup Kitchen
Down in the Basement of Soup Kitchen psych duo Britain offered a more sombre take on the genre that is an acquired taste that took a few songs in for BagThing to appreciate. Singer Katie’s elastic like vocals wrapped round the never-ending thick chords. All the tracks had a slow mid tempo pace that were sort of entrancing to witness. Bass player Joey had his face down the whole time with his hair covering it so maybe he had a good time, who knows? Good bass playing though. Pretty, pretty good.
Verdict? Intense Psych
Warm Digits // Night & Day Café
Who knew that two guys who look Geography teachers would be the highlight of the festival? I didn’t even know Warm Digits were a duo until their set. From listening to their tracks beforehand they could easily be a six-piece band. But multi tasking Andrew on drums and Steve on guitar proved two is as good as six. Their heavily multi layered instrumentals started off slow, dipping into tracks featuring vocalists like Sarah Cracknell and Field Music, then back to their lengthy epic ‘Wireless World’ for the last track. Steve’s guitar playing and Andrews manic drumming, played against sickly synthy sounds had the whole venue dancing; definitely unexpected hit of the whole festival.
Verdict? Powerfully Effective Psych
Ryley Walker // Band On The Wall
American singer-songwriter Ryley Walker was billed as one of the line up’s biggest acts. He had a knack for turning purely acoustic folk instrumentals into a more fluid sound reminiscent of psychedelia. He had good banter with the eager crowd “…thanks for putting up with some pussy ass folk music in the midst of all this psychedelia”. His take on the genre was a good break from the faster paced and full on line up elsewhere.
Verdict? Folk Friendly Psych.
SULK // Soup Kitchen
Back to the delightfully dingy basement at Soup Kitchen for SULK. They’re a psych rock/shoegaze group from London. Maybe if I’d listened to The Stone Roses’ first album I wouldn’t have bothered checking this group out; but that’s not bad, they sounded like a replica. Tracks like ‘Black Infinity (Upside Down)’ and ‘No Illusions’ were decent tracks with amazing guitar riffs reminiscent of the ‘Roses early work.
Verdict? Copycat Madchester Psych
Flamingods // Night & Day Café
One of our personal highlights was the multi-instrumental, diverse-genre dipping, lively sounds of Flamingods. Originally formed in Bahrain, Flamingods are a five-piece group of uber talented instrumentalists who have a love for wearing multi ethnic prints all at once. Lead singer Kamal Rasool leads the way of fusing an experimental sound that emerges as upbeat, funky psych you can hardcore dance to. They opted for a set of joyful tracks that flowed from one to the next. ‘Taboo Grooves’ was full of Asian polyphonic textures with disco like beats. Members of the group swapped and changed instruments throughout tracks, with two sets of drums, three different keyboards, bass guitar, electric guitar and half a dozen others I don’t even know the name of. They peaked with their new dance ditty ‘Mixed Blessings’ which exploded its infectious joy onto the entranced crowd. They ended with a near 15-minute explosive instrumental edit of I don’t know what track but it lasted so long it could have been a whole album for all I knew. Their unpredictability and craft for creating colorful music to enjoy summed up the whole festivals ethos and was the perfect way to end yet another legendary Manchester Psych Fest.
Verdict? Addictive Joyful Psych.
Words by Tom Frodsham. Manchester Psych Fest took place on Saturday 2nd September, 2017.
Fancy listening to some of the best artists performing across Manchester in the coming months? Listen below for our latest playlist previewing those in town for this month’s best shows!