Tess Parks - Photo by Peter Rea

Tess Parks – Photo by Peter Rea


Psych! A few years ago, if you’d asked me to define the genre, I’d have had an easier job. It seems the category now encompasses any new band that’s influenced by anything from the 60’s and early 70’s; no longer restricted to the output of those on hallucinogenic drugs, or who sought spiritual enlightenment… maybe that actually covers everyone in the 60’s? If Oasis were just starting out now, they’d probably be playing this gig. No matter, whatever it’s called… let’s have ourselves a fest!

She’s got an Oasis patch sewn onto her bag – Clinic have dropped out due to illness, and some other band cancelled too, but thankfully, this means I can catch Tess Parks at a more reasonable hour. The Toronto born musician/photographer stands alone onstage with her red and white Epiphone, amongst mirrorball reflections, an oil projection, the smell of josticks, and occasional smoke. Her band aren’t present, but her vocal and a few choice chords are all that’s needed to impress the attentive audience.

It’s only 5.30pm, but she’s sipping neat vodka between beautiful, raw, haunting songs that are taken from her superb debut album, ‘Blood Hot’. She’s also recently been collaborating with Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre on a soon to be released album, and it’s easy to see why he chose to work with her. Describing herself as “lo-fi alternative drones with a hypnotic vibe”, she’s like Tamaryn or Mazzy Star and The BJM, but with a distinctive, deep, raspy voice. One of those Anton collaboration songs ‘Wehmut’ is a highlight tonight, as well as the finale – a slow version of ‘Some Days’. No doubt, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Tess Parks.

Fruit Tones are up next, creating a tight, impressive, up-beat garage sound that maintains a decent standard throughout. That is until their last tune – a cover of Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, which really made me sit up and take note. Maybe they should venture further into Space rock? Otherwise, there appears to be a missing element that would have them stand out from the crowd and push them on to greater things. Nonetheless, they are very good indeed.

I nip out to get some food. Rice and vegetables, if you’re interested. It was good.

The Watchmakers are possibly the most psych act here, armed with backwards guitars and suitable haircuts. I guess there’s no harm in comparing these to Oasis? Richard Maitland’s vocal occasionally sounds like a cross between Noel and Liam on the heavier tunes (and he looks a little like Ray Davies), but they’re generally more like The Verve, especially during their slower songs. Either way, they sound distinctively Mancunian, although originally from Stoke – their tracks are all strong and the crowds appreciation is obvious to see. Tess Parks is spotted springing forward to get a shot of them with her camera.

The Watchmakers

The Watchmakers

The Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ appear to have influenced them most of all. There’s a song about a stairway that I really liked (no setlist, sorry) and another that contains the lyrics “lost on the ocean”, was also superb… until the power cut out. Not the first time it’s happened during that tune, apparently. “It’s cursed”. Recently released cassette/download single, through Blak Hand Records, ‘To Be Part Of You’ is the undoubted highlight – if the new material that they’re about to record is in a similar vein to that tune, the locals and beyond will go nuts for it. More, please! (I bought a cassette).

Unfortunately, I miss the beginning of Throw Down Bones set, because I was having a breather outside. When I return, the 3-piece made of Piatcions and Frankie Frankie are hard at work laying down a relentless, vocal-less, shoe-gaze drone wall of sound. One tune successfully manages to draw me under it’s spell, placing me in a completely blinkered trance – my brain blocks out all that surrounds me as I’m goaded into exclusively concentrating on the beat, guitar and synths… but then the power cuts out again – it’s like a slap in the face. The hypnotist has snapped his fingers.

I hoped they would start that tune once more, but they continue with their set, which ends with the synth player abandoning his equipment for 10 minutes while Dave Cocks smacks a floor tom in a tribal fashion, and the guitarist whips and kicks his instrument as it leans against an amp.

I must admit, I was sceptical about Brown Brogues at first. Amongst all the glowing praise and press quotes on the Manc Pysch Fest website for the other bands, theirs just says “Probably the best ever duo to come out of Wigan”. Now I’ve seen them live, I understand the humour in that statement – these guys are hilarious. They’re a garage/psych/punk 2 piece consisting of drummer Ben Mather, and guitarist Mark Vernon. Ben smacks the snare of his minimal drum kit with great force, breaking between song to make us all laugh with his dry sense of humour. Meanwhile, Mark struggles to keep a straight face, searching his brain for a retort that can compete, before giving in and just laughing to himself.

“This next song is dedicated to Matthew Green, the strongest man I know” – the same intro is used for at least four of their songs, tonight. They request the crowd take their tops off, promising the bar will give them a free drink if they do (I’m sure the staff are oblivious to this). Ben is heckled to take his shirt off, but informs us he has too many nipples. “Don’t we all”. Someone throws his t-shirt at him, which annoys him at first (he’s quite drunk), until he realises the sentiment in the gesture. He couldn’t look happier. Highlight of their set ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ is dedicated to Tess Parks… “The strongest girl I know”.

Half of the band PINS, who have been DJing and getting progressively more drunk throughout the night, lead the dancing at the front and are invited onstage at the end of the Brogues set. A Fruit Tone gets dragged up as well, and some guy who’s taken his shirt off… a christmas tree branch gets launched viciously into the crowd and someone falls over. “Psych, Pysch, Psych!” repeats Ben, over the mic, sporting a large blob of glitter under his right eye. This is the closest I’ve seen a Manchester audience get to a proper garage gig atmosphere. All that’s missing is flying beer, and more moustaches.



Gulp, the new headliners, now have the enviable task of following that. Their debut album ‘Season Sun’ made 15th in the record-shop-over-the-road’s famed top 100 albums of 2014 list (Piccadilly records). It’s also in my top 10, but the chaotic drunken atmosphere at this late hour may not be ideal for them to do their thing. Super Furry Animal bassist Guto Pryce, and Lindsey Leven, have created a lush and brooding understated psych-folk sound – they’re less lo-fi than Cate Le Bon, and they have a fuller sound than Broadcast… if that makes any sense. The album has a number of strong songs, but ‘Vast Space’, ‘Clean and Serene’ and ‘Play’ impress most tonight.

To summarise – it was a very good fest indeed. Tess Parks album with Anton is much anticipated, as well as the impending new material from soon-to-be local heroes, The Watchmakers. Gulp didn’t disappoint and filled in admirably for the missing Clinic, while Brown Brogues ensured the night will remain long in the memory. I’m not sure some present tonight will remember the last few acts – an old fella was left falling asleep on the front of the stage next to a speaker, making bad smells, and I’m sure half of PINS managed to break something. So… when is Manc Pysch Fest III?

Peter Rea

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