Photo’s: Peter Rea


The website insists that this venue didn’t used to be a squat… to be honest, it looks as though it still is a squat. Graffiti covers  any area that’s reachable, inside and out – electric extension leads twist through holes in the walls and ceiling like overgrown vines – the delicate and ornate hallway staircase leading to The Observatory stage appears as though a post-band exodus could cause a collapse – colourful chemical projections flood the ceilings, drawing attention to the rising damp – random doors leave you wondering whether you’re entitled to stroll in or not, and what sinister scenario could be occurring inside. This place is PERFECT for a Psych Fest.

The Outer Limits stage is really just some sort of a shed in the garden, whose roof has been temporarily replaced by a tarpaulin; behind which, there is a tent for buying secondhand clothes and arts and crafts, a fast-food stall, and a live artist is busy at work spray painting some canvases. TVAM sets up his VHS player and plugs in his guitar as the natural light begins to fade. It’s a tough crowd here, mainly consisting of people who have ventured outside for a smoke, or a conversation, or a pizza.



Edited retro images stream on TVAM’s television set, consisting of a cool blend of downright bizarre cult footage, described by the man himself as ‘technicolour trash’. A drum machine is synced with the visuals and he plays along with great skill, adding snarling guitar through a combination of foot pedals that create a soundtrack for his thrilling nonsensical montages. ‘Kryptonite Semen’ appears to be one of the track names? The microphone is malfunctioning, but there’s enough here to entertain anyway. ‘Total Immersion’ is introduced on-screen, and the set becomes pretty epic – the gathering crowd are getting well into this and the guitarist is working hard on a spectacular crescendo… but the power goes off. An old gentleman in the corner with big hair has unplugged him, so he can switch on his lamp. Can we let him start that tune again? Apparently not. Apologies from the power thief are accepted kindly. No hard feelings. More of this though, please.

The rest of the evening is chaotic, on a larger scale – there are more technical issues to come, resulting in last-minute lineup swaps on the other 2 stages. My hastily crafted schedule between the 3 areas is thrown into complete disarray. Lets just see what happens. Unfortunately, I miss The Altered Hours and Dead Rabbits, as I try to get my bearings. The Watchmakers are on downstairs now instead of upstairs, and I just catch the last tune… which sounds great, as expected – ‘Before Questions Became’ involves a reprise of personal favourite ‘To Be Part Of You’, a tune that impressed at Night and Day’s Psych Fest II a few months ago.



There are 3 bearded and tattooed musicians onstage now, and a decent crowd has gathered, so I hang around in the hope of hearing something a bit heavier. Liverpool’s Mugstar are happy to oblige,  crafting a mesmerising rock set, inducing dancing at the front, and rapturous applause. The music ebbs and flows from quieter spacial moments that bubble and promise much, to crunching, progressive, heavy metal assaults on the ears that release the tension and reward our patience. There’s no keyboard with them here tonight, and I think I prefer it that way.

The Oscillation have a tricky start – the vocals are at an ear-piercing level and I’m forced to leave the room. While sitting in the corridor, Jason Simon from Dead Meadow, who has just arrived, asks to borrow my phone so he can check the lineup schedule that I was looking at. I tell him it’s running a little late… that turns out to be a big understatement. I give The Oscillation a second chance, and I’m rewarded with the impressive ‘Waste A Day’, which sounds a little like Spiritualized at times – refreshing, repetitive and patient; it crawls into your brain with it’s infectious baseline and repeated lyric.


Antwerp Mansion Observatory

The punters are a mixed bunch – girls wearing too much face glitter, and wide brimmed black witch hats, mingle with bearded blokes who have generally made less of an effort; apart from one lad who is dressed as a Russian military officer, or something. Half of the people here have consumed far too much, but there are also plenty of straight lacers, and even a couple of heavily pregnant psych fans, who sway their bumps gently along to the more ethereal acts. There are a number of older punters here as well, who aren’t afraid to express themselves.

Tess Parks, as at Psych Fest II, has just her guitar for company. It’s late and she’s had time to enjoy herself… it initially appears she has forgotten to play at all, with the stage looking ominously empty 20 minutes after her scheduled start time. She apologises continuously through the set amongst microphone and guitar tuning issues, and bears her soul maybe a little too much at times. It’s a heart-rending performance due to her deep and powerful lyrics that are punctuated by her rather personal confessions in between – expressing her gratitude for having her boyfriend and other people around her, when once there was no-one, and her head was in a dark place… her lack of cohesion makes for a more powerful, very real performance. When she has exhausted the lyrics of her final song, she emotively strums the last few chords while knelt on the floor, draped over her guitar.

Many of the soundcheck’s seem to have gone on for far too long tonight, but after 45 minutes, do The Black Ryder actually want to start playing? They must be aware there’s a band on after them. They start with the lazy sounding ‘Santaria’ – it’s the wrong tune at the wrong time. I need something uplifting to feed life back into my weary legs. ‘Throwing Stones’ helps a lot, with a chorus that sounds like Primal Scream’s ‘Movin’ on up’. I’ve been busy racking my brain for a band that sounds similar to them – it’s The Morning After Girls… little wonder, as half of The Black Ryder were in that band. ‘Let It Go’ brings the set to a thrilling close, sounding like Curve or Tamaryn. The projected images throughout their set look like blood splatters. It’s past 2am.


Jason Simon – Dead Meadow

The strongest, most dedicated, and least wasted, are left standing. Their reward – Dead Meadow. They’d better be good because I’ve already bought  their t-shirt. Jason Simon, Steve Kille and Mark Laughlin approach their instruments – a very welcome sight for the weary, gathered crowd. A few chords are played, and it’s as though it’s 10pm again. They treat us to extended tracks from their latest album ‘Warble Womb’, blending The Jimi Hendrix Experience with touches of country and blues. Powerful riff’s from Jason continually replace other powerful riffs. Steve’s bassline becomes noticeable often, as he and Mark, in turn, add flavour to the arrangement.

Although a big fan of the new material, I’m delighted when they announce they’ll be playing some oldies. During the intro to ‘Eyeless Gaze All Eye’s – Don’t Tell The Riverman’, I can’t hide my content grin. It’s a slower version to the album track, which had a pretty lazy beat as it was. It works perfectly and captures the mood. There’s an enthusiastic drum solo to follow the inevitable guitar solo, which brings a great response. It fades gently in a rather Pink Floyd manner. The crowd are now louder than they have been all night.

One of my personal favourite’s, and one of their most accessible tunes – ‘At Her Open Door’ starts the dancing, and the crowd begin to bond. Strangers hug and exchange friendly gestures… there’s a real sense of togetherness, as if congratulating each other for making it this far; experiencing this moment together. Basically, most are at the soppy tail end of being really very drunk.

The house lights come on. It’s after 3am. We’re not done here – the crowd groans in disapproval. Jason start’s another song anyway; possibly his most anthemic riff chugs into life like a steam locomotive setting off up a steep hill. It’s the 13 minute untitled bonus track from ‘Feathers’. Our hosts decide to switch the house lights off again and they continue for a delighted audience. This really does feel like a unique and rather special situation – culminating in what is, for me, one of my favourite gigs of all time. Jason produces further mind-blowing guitar solo’s, and Mark’s drumming solo is a little less energetic this time. He looks spent. The crowds last scraps of energy are used to show their appreciation, before the security kick us out. Thank you, Dead Meadow, very much indeed.


Dead Meadow

Cosmosis 2016 has been hinted at already, and I’ll be watching with interest to see what happens. Sure, the venue is a bit of a dive and it didn’t exactly run smoothly, but could your average psych fan really care less? There was plenty of alcohol to ease the pain. It’s the kind of event that you can just turn up to and wander aimlessly… much like a psychedelic prog guitar solo. However, if I’d missed Dead Meadow, I’d be irate.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.