The Blackrays Photo's by Peter Rea

The Blackrays
Photo’s by Peter Rea


Psych purists may tell you that, if your guitarist adjusts the sound effect on his guitar slightly, you should probably consider changing your entire wardrobe and playing somewhere else. We’ll have none of that around here. Tonight’s 3 bands predominantly specialise in shoegaze and garage, with a multitude of influences in between, and they’ll be playing while bathed in bright and colourful swirling lights. Astral Elevator have compiled a strong lineup tonight in support of Dead Rabbits – a band I unfortunately missed at the recent Cosmosis festival.

The Blackrays’ only played their first gig at Fuel last month, which came as a big surprise. A fourth member has been added since, joining Two Skies drummer and the mysteriously hooded and energetic frontman. A teaser trailer on YouTube for forthcoming B-Side ‘Endless’ was enough to bring me here early doors – they describe themselves as ‘Psychedelia inspired fuzz’. It’s difficult to believe they’re fresh on the scene… their set was absorbing and thrilling and they sounded tight. I shall be following them closely.

Psychedelic rock derived partly from garage rock, and garage rock was formed in North America following exposure to Liverpool’s Beat scene… so fittingly, Liverpool’s garage rock band Strange Collective are our second band tonight. They’re not strictly garage, though – there’s a hint of Nirvana in there and they can get a little trippy… from tune to tune the list of possible influences fluctuates. Generally, they have an upbeat and playful vibe about them, making them very approachable.

Strange Collective

Strange Collective

In the past they’ve supported none other than The Black Lips and The Ghost of A Sabre Tooth Tiger, and it’s easy to hear why. ‘Sun’ can be found online but otherwise they’re pretty aloof, so you’ll just have to go see them live for yourselves. Their new bassist kindly gave me their setlist – ‘Seaworld’, ‘Frog Eye’, ‘Don’t Want No More’, ‘Super Touchy’, ‘Friendly’, ‘Sun’, ‘Four In The Same Hole’. New tune (I think it’s ‘Super Touchy’) has a rapid high-pitched vocal for an extended period of time, and is a highlight for me, as well as ‘Don’t Want No More’. I do want more (sorry), so they had better release something that I can buy, pretty sharpish… or at least, do more gigs here. Liverpool isn’t all that far away.

The psych scene is one big happy family – promoters of other nights, label managers, and musicians from other band are all in attendance, showing their support and stomping their feet. Purple Heart Parade’s bassist is goaded into some air guitar – our host is right at the front revelling in the light show – and the applause from those gathered is genuine and wholehearted. Let’s all get drunk.

Southampton’s Dead Rabbits are still to come tonight – I feel spoilt. ‘Should’ve Known Better’ from their latest album TimeIsYourOnlyEnemy resembles The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s ‘When Jokers Attack’, with Thomas Hayes distinctive, slightly off-key singing style adding a fresh twist. Occasionally, he screams in a style similar to Johnny Rotten or The Wytches Kristian Bell, like during the superb ‘Where I Go’. Their drummer Suzanne Sims nonchalantly hits the infectious beat, appearing at times as though she’s not doing anything at all, other than looking a little like The Dandy Warhols’ Zia McCabe.

‘When I’m Blue’ from 2013 album The Ticket That Exploded is, for me, the standout song of a great set. The deliberate, plodding bassline and synth carry the rhythm forward, amongst fuzzy guitars and a laid-back vocal. It’s very easy to get lost in this tune and thankfully, it continues for some time. Is it still classed as shoegazing if your eyes are closed and you’re smiling?

Dead Rabbits

Dead Rabbits

‘Vanilla Skies’ maintains the warm fuzzy glow, and they end strongly, fully deserving the enthusiastic applause. Their new album can be digitally downloaded on Bandcamp and, as they have a thing for beautifully packaged vinyl and CD’s, the physical release won’t be available until October.

I plan on being a regular at events such as this. Great sounding, talented, fresh, like-minded bands are popping up all over the place, and it’s a thrill to discover them. Keep ’em coming. I had a really great time.

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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.