Returning for its fifth consecutive edition, LIVERPOOL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF PSYCHEDELIA continues to swell and multiply each year.
Boasting two headliners that, simply put, surpass anything that similarly-sized boutique festivals have on offer, Liverpool Psych Fest showcases a stunning collection of supporting psych acts and a dazzling selection of additional events that complement the main music programme across the two days. Held in the Baltic Triangle’s former industrial heartlands of Camp and Furnace and District, the walls will reverberate to guitar drones, krautrock rhythms, dream pop melodies and everything in between.
Friday night’s assembly of scintillating acts is capped with an appearance by iconic Welsh trailblazers SUPER FURRY ANIMALS. A band who have inspired scores of groups over the course of their 20-year history, including many on this year’s line-up, the Furries’ amalgam of krautrock rhythms, psych folk melodies and sonic experimentation bound up in a hallucinogenic spirit entirely their own, has flowered with each succeeding release. With a nine-album back catalogue to draw from, since their reformation last year the band have picked up where they left off, rubber-stamping their reputation as one of the best live acts these Isles have produced over the past few decades.
Saturday night sees a group who barely need any introduction to psych fans bring proceedings to a close on the main stage, as Southend psych/krautrock harbingers THE HORRORS headline. Since their emergence in 2007 the band have developed their garage rock template to blossom into a fully-fledged shoegaze/dreampop outfit, amassing increasing praise as their career has progressed. A firm favourite on Merseyside with legendary shows across to the city to their name, the group are a sparkling live proposition. On record the quintet’s most recent LP, Lumious, in tandem with previous records Skying and Primary Colours, won universal critical acclaim and saw the group’s profile increase worldwide.
Shining a light on legendary underground psych stalwarts is another feature of this year’s Psych Fest. One of the loudest, not to mention prolific, bands in existence, Japanese ear-drum manglers ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE showcase the harder-hitting end of the psych spectrum as their colossal 20-minute plus space rock jams unfurl in mesmeric style. Fully revived and soaking up long-overdue acclaim are Liverpool’s very own psychedelic progenitors THE STAIRS, who make their Psych Fest debut this year. While frontman Edgar ‘Summertyme’ Jones is no stranger to the festival, having played at 2012’s inaugural event, this will be the trio’s first Liverpool date following their hugely acclaimed sold-out show at the legendary Kazimier late last year. Looking across to Scandinavia, Swedish cult heroes DUNGEN have become revered for their unique mixture of prog, psych and garage rock over the past decade and a half, slowly emerging into the mainstream with each album release.
Switching focus to the newest harbingers of the psych style, Brighton-based garage quartet THE WYTCHES have become firm favourites on Merseyside with a clutch of highly praised shows on these shores over the past four years. The band’s anticipated second LP, All Your Happy Life, is due for unveiling at the end of September, with PZYK patrons in store for a pre-release airing of tracks from it. A labelmate of the band on storied indie set-up Heavenly is Welsh psych pop artist GWENNO. Formerly a member of pop art band The Pipettes, the singer’s debut LP Y Dydd Olaf was released to huge acclaim last year for its melodic dreampop-influenced tunes. Described as “one of the most experimental psychedelic bands in existence”, FLAMINGODS were founded in their native Bahrain and are now based between there and the UK, and have a beguiling, innovative sound that showcases their borderless aesthetic.
Turning to focus on two unfairly overlooked psych pioneers: NYC-based collective THE VELDT have re-emerged with their idiosyncratic take on psychedelia that owes as much to Otis Redding as My Bloody Valentine, with new material from the band imminent. Referenced as a major influence on Oneohtrix Point Never, meanwhile, German psych/prog groundbreaker HARALD GROSSKOPF was the first drummer and percussionist in the world of electronic music accompanying electronically-generated melodies on drums.
A superior raft of crate-diggers are slated for appearances this year, with DJs including hugely revered BBC Radio 6 Music stalwart MARC RILEY, who returns to the festival. Making his debut on the ones and twos for Psych Fest is six-time World Snooker Champion turned respected DJ and prog/psych authority STEVE DAVIS – THE INTERESTING ALTERNATIVE.
Elsewhere, a portion of the festival that grows year on year, the wider programme of collaborations and showcases at Psych Fest held throughout the performance spaces in the labyrinthine Camp and Furnace are events in themselves. Again underlining the ‘International’ focus of the festival’s outlook, Tokyo-based label GURUGURU BRAIN will be presenting NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP MIND at this year’s event (more on that on page 10). The highly influential French underground label La Souterraine – who have been uncovering the cutting edge of French pop since 2013 via a series of compilations – present FÊTE SOUTERRAINE, which features AQUAGASCALLO, ARLT and the Quietus-approved kraut outfit FRANCE. Featuring Mark Gardener, the lead singer of shoegaze legends Ride, international space rock collective PURE PHASE ENSEMBLE have a revolving annual line-up, bringing together a wide range of collaborators from the psych underworld: you can read more about the first-ever UK performance of this stunning project on page 14.
A brand new addition to the festival for 2016 is PZYK COLONY, a 360-degree immersive audiovisual installation which takes place in the Camp performance space from midnight on each evening of the festival, transforming the room into a trance den/live space that plays host to some of the event’s most eagerly-anticipated sets. Led by Tim Gane of psych pop ensemble Stereolab, drone rock collective THE CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER feature alongside hard-hitting psych fest alumni THE OSCILLATION, dark ambient pairing DEMDIKE STARE and legendary US electronic pioneers SILVER APPLES.
Continuing the event’s series of art installations, 2016 sees the development of a major new series of three virtual reality artworks, reflecting the ongoing discussion of VR as a potent new cultural force. The first of these, PERAMBULATOR V.1, will bring together the singular, off-kilter madness of long-time Super Furry Animals illustrator and designer PETE FOWLER, brought to life in harness with Liverpool creative agency Draw&Code. Promising to be a mind-warping excursion into a wonderfully off-beam netherworld, the piece will be soundtracked by SFA guitarist Huw Bunford.
Alongside all of the above are returning features including the record shop, where all of the featured acts plus the latest psych compilations will be on sale, as well as the consistently fascinating MUSINGS IN DRONE spoken-word programme. A new hook-up with FACT for the PSYCHEDELIA IN FILM season, meanwhile, sees a clutch of lysergic celluloid being exhibited at the organisation’s Wood Street premises across the two days. FACT will also be curating the on-site PZYK Cinema programme this year, a zone in/zone out area that’s become a vastly popular addition amid all the cosmic goings on.
A breathtaking selection of audio visual delights await – all that’s required now is your presence, and the open invitation is right in front of you. Come join the PZYK Colony.
Full line-up and ticket details can be found at liverpoolpsychfest.com