Freakout Honey photo by Leanne Crowley

Freakout Honey photo by Leanne Crowley


On the back of two successful events last year, Manchester Psych Fest brings about their third installment with an eclectic line up which does have one questioning what exactly is ‘psych’ these days.

First on the bill we have one of the newest members of the Manchester psych generation, Freakout Honey. This is their first gig and they commence with a shoegaze wash of sound which is harmonious and aurally pleasing. The volume of instruments on stage fills out the sound nicely; the three guitars from Ryan, Sam and Taous draw the most attention creating a soothing lull to move to – but the jangle of the tambourine and pounding bass of Natalie line work in unison to bring you back to reality. Powerful vocals from Sofia are the next drawing feature and it is pleasing to hear how the levels work well and every element can be distinguished in its own right. ‘The Witch Surf’ which was debuted on social media earlier in the week is the stand out track of the set, with its fast paced and edgy drum beat courtesy of Tomas powering the track forward. The crowd lap it up and as the band progress into their last track, ‘Garage 222’ which packs an extra punch, it is clear that they were a great choice to open today. I’ve got to say, if this is what they can give at their first live performance, they are a very intriguing proposition indeed.

Three-piece Black Lung are up next, offering an interesting set up of bass, guitar and synth with a synthesized drum beat to add to the fray. There is a heavily synthesized sound to the first track which is absent vocals but as the set progresses they move toward the sound familiar to fans of The XX. The set goes down well for the local group and so far everything is going swimmingly.

After a three year absence, White Noise Sound are eagerly anticipated today and the room has filled to await their presence. They start with a wall of noise before slipping into a very shoegazey feel which in places channels My Bloody Valentine to perfection. With six band members on stage, the appearance is somewhat cluttered and the sound disjointed, but by the time the second track begins they appear to have come into their own. The tempo is increased and offers a heavier (more expected) psych rock feel. Bass is the driving force in most tracks and there is a beautiful guitar sound offered from double Vox’s. The swirl of the synth accompanied by hypnotic vocals is mesmerising and the quality of the track and music increases as the set progresses. Alongside an ethereal glow from the lights and smoke machine, the effect is almost spectral.

The fourth offering of the day is Déjà Vega, and what a treat they are. A completely unknown entity to me, I watch with anticipation and I am not disappointed. This trio are a full on thrust straight into pure psychedelia and the motorik drumming draws them into parallel with krautrock greats. Repetition builds the sound and a tight rhythm section allows freedom elsewhere in the music. As you watch them perform, it almost looks effortless. The effected vocals are utilised to full effect and as the set continues, it is not hard to see why these guys have been termed as “one of Manchester’s best kept secrets”. The energy on stage is a delight to behold and the execution of each track is careful and precise. For creating such a wall of sound it would be easy to dub this as noise; it is far from it.

White Noise Sound photo by Leanne Crowely

White Noise Sound photo by Leanne Crowely

Hey Bulldog are not one would traditionally class as psych and channel more of a blues rock vibe overall, however they are not out of place in the line-up today and there set does testament to their skills as musicians. In places they offer up a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club vibe and I don’t think they’ll be too upset with that comparison. The guitar solos which swoop in and out mercilessly are pleasant and the vocal range of Rob is impressive. The sound is ever fluid and keeps the approach fresh.

From neighbouring Liverpool, The Sundowners are a band that need no introduction and to see them on the bill for today was indeed pleasing. They take the stage with their usual zing and once more the sound levels are perfect, drawing attention to guitars, bass, drums and vocals simultaneously which is a privilege to witness. Stand out tracks come in the form of dark number ‘Into the Light’ which utilises the minor key, with mesmerising guitar effects, tambourine jangling throughout and the beautiful vocals of Niamh Rowe and Fiona Skelly. ‘Back to You’ and ‘Hummingbird’ are the more upbeat numbers and the crowd dance along dutifully, basking in their radiance. The drums from Jim Sharrock are the real driving force and it is easy to see how these guys have appealed to general consumption, bringing in the crowds wherever they go. What is also pleasing is that you can see on their faces that they have really enjoyed being here tonight, and the music they have created reflects that.

Billed as ‘Special Guests’ it is beyond exciting to see The Watchmakers take the stage. Straight off the bat from Isle of Wight Festival, the fast becoming local legends take to the stage to many cheers. With their unique take on jangly feel-good psych, The Watchmakers really know how to put on a show and they have honed their set to perfection. ‘Before Questions Became’ is an early highlight with its thought invoking lyrics and luring drumbeat courtesy of Ian. The real stand out track, and indeed the one that I think is going to push these guys to the big time is ‘Stairway to your Mind’. With its double guitar riff from Rich and Adam, which is quite frankly so catchy it’s still in your head two weeks later and the pounding bassline in the background from Andy, this track has every wonderful psych element sewn up into one neat little package. ‘Waves’ concludes the set and it’s almost with a saddened heart I see them leave the stage; they were an extra tonight, but they have done an excellent job here. The mood of the crowd is jubilant and they’ve certainly stirred up a storm in the packed venue.

Arguably the most sought after band in psych right now are next up in the bill, and with always having had huge support in Manchester it is debatable that they are the headliners tonight. The Lucid Dream went down fantastically well at Eindhoven Psych Lab last week and do the same here tonight. Starting with eight minute plus symphony ‘Mona Lisa’, the band ease into their stride and their performance is immaculate. This band have tightened every element to precision and are in top form. It is clear to see how they have honed and developed their sound over time and they are now very capable live performers. The new track they put out gets a huge cheer and even though there third LP was only released in March, it is clear there is no rest here in their ambition. ‘Unchained Dub’ also receives a large amount of attention and the band are very well received. As they leave the stage, again it is clear to see that they have enjoyed themselves and the crowd have too. If they keep up this standard, who knows what they can achieve.

Crocodiles Photo by Leanne Crowley

Crocodiles Photo by Leanne Crowley

Billed as headliners and taking the stage last the San Diego band who play live as a quartet Crocodiles offer up their take on noise indie pop, with an ever so slight psychedelic twist. They have received attention on both sides of the pond, particularly with their common comparison to Jesus and the Mary Chain attracting attention. They tour on the back of album release ‘Boys’ in May and although the number of people in the room has decreased, a decent crowd draws near. Their set is polished and delivered with precision and these are good tunes to dance too, particularly after a long and intense day of a full frontal psychedelic assault but unfortunately for them, they seem somewhat lack-lustre after The Lucid Dream and one can’t help but feel it is an anti-climax after the fan favourites have just been on.

Overall the day has been a roaring success with bands unknown and established giving their all and providing a thoroughly enjoyable day of music. Hats off to the promoters for putting on such a successful event and let’s hope there is more in store for the future, Manchester needs events like this.

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Walker Creative/Silent Radio video of Psych Fest III

Music: The Watchmakers ‘To Be Part Of You’

Lover of all things psych and shoegaze and the mind behind Astral Elevator; constantly seeking new musical experiences in a world full of noise.