Manchester Psych Fest 2019


As the title shows, the event primarily caters towards a genre half a century in age, although that didn’t stop the promoters from cherry picking enough non-psych bands to give off the impression it was a name only title. I mean understandably you need a healthy balance of differing styles and realistically festival organisers are often hard-pressed to find idyllic people-pleasing line-ups, but it does appear a little on the moot side when certain bands use the rudimentary troupes of the aforementioned genre to lure the wide-eyed kids into the Gingerbread House that is fact-manufactured pop in disguise.

Our Girl open the event at the O2 Ritz; as far as sounds goes it isn’t anything too riveting, the sort of three piece alt rock trio you’d like when you are still in school and haven’t quite found your real taste in music. The drums sound great, although that’s probably down to the trusty PA more so than the band itself; their set picks up the pace and goes out with a climactic instrumental charge typical of the dramatic end/finish that happens with absurd frequency. I learn that the basement is also a venue stage, and descend down to see Bleaches perform a half hour set, the first vaguely psychedelic entity I encounter; the jangly guitars and somewhat BJM derivative chord progressions don’t really blow me away as much as I would have liked but perhaps a brief set isn’t enough to convince me.

I leave the crematoria-like basement to go back upstairs to see The Lovely Eggs, a mistake on my part as the guitar/drum two piece demonstrate many instrumental characteristics typical of punk/riot grrl alignment; the lyrics are rather weak and the vocal melodies veer on the annoying. It’s really not what I’m looking for, so about a third of the way through their set I leave for the Gorilla to catch MaidaVale, one of the wiser moves of my existence.

The Swedish four-piece set the bar as far as I’m concerned; within just a small timeframe their riffs metaphorically gut expectation alongside a dynamic rhythm section and a high-pitched, idiosyncratic vocal style that compliments the aggressive sound perfectly. It’s as though they’ve translated a blues-orientated guitar style into something more modern; at one point these dissonant chords are blared out and you really get the sense they have tapped into something odd and interesting; I’d certainly keep an eye out for them in the future.

I go back to the Ritz to see Goat Girl, which falls into the same ‘alternative’ cliché from earlier, the harmonies are interesting but placing a textured synthesiser on top of the guitars doesn’t captivate me as much as I would have liked, perhaps the studio is more their domain. Following on from this, Temples predictably fill out the venue as their rather accessible style of psychedelia (perhaps I’m being a little kind) is played to the masses gathered. I get the impression the band probably has a contract that forces them to undertake a kind of fan service sonically and visually; a kind of thin, paisley wallpaper that coats the walls of the aforementioned ‘house’ deceptively. The bright timbre of the vocalist, happy-go-lucky tone of the keyboards as well as enough guitar changes to make Jimmy Page look frugal appears to only amplify the weak, commercial premise of this band (alongside the robotic drumming).

In spite of what I just witnessed, Babe Rainbow was next on the timetable at Yes, and having already seen them 2 years earlier I knew it would be a bit silly to pass on them. Their funkadelic approach creates this serene landscape where everyone appears to groove along at their mercy, of course not a bad thing at all. Familiar numbers like ‘Super Enchanted Broccoli Forrest’ and ‘Johnny Says Stay Cool’ seem to invoke quite a few lyrical nods to the band’s parent genres; perfect for an environment as sterile as Yes’ Pink Room in that the band essentially lets you join in on their metaphysical warp into what I presume is a romanticised account of life on a Southern Australian peach farm, although that analysis could quite easily (probably) be wrong. Odd vocal melodies and kazoos aside, the instrumental side of things has never quite had the audience in such command, and the ease of which they do it only serves to reinforce the growing mystique surrounding whatever this band could be.

Babe Rainbow: Official | Facebook

Angus Rolland

Recent career decisions have compelled me into the journalistic... thing; I could list my literary influences or even debate which 3rd rate beverage has the best economic value per litre (But I won’t). Oh, in addition, I write reviews for the Independents Network.