Strange Collective All-DayerConstellations 11/8/18
It’s the day when the summer shows the first signs of cracking. Constellations is hosting a range of the finest exponents of garage-psych that Liverpool – and further afield – has to offer. With two stages, alternating between its garden and interior, there is plenty of opportunity for dodging the wind and rain – although the unpredictability of the weather is rather in keeping with the sonic chaos that is to ensue.
The music kicks off with the illustrious SPQR, sounding fuzzy, snarly and extra powerful in al fresco surroundings, watched by a score of early revellers. Lead singer Pete seems delighted to be here, not least with the band’s poster for the event: “It’s our first print!” he declares, before launching into one of the trio’s trademark garage-grunge anthems. Relative newcomers LEMONADE FIX are next on. However, with the band combining former members of Sugarmen, FUSS, and Strange Collective, they show little stage weariness. An all-male piece, they start with instrumental blues-rock that slips into something more spacey – like a Scouse take on desert-rock.
It’s gloomy inside the venue as HANNAH’S LITTLE SISTER begin, although this is owing to a problem with lighting, not the weather. It doesn’t faze HLS, illuminated by a single bare spotlight, which only adds to the raw, no bullshit, Pixies-via-Burnley caterwaul the group supply. FLOORMEN, on the other hand, garner applause merely for their soundcheck. They then courteously advise the audience that their set hasn’t actually started. When it does, their sound is one of melodic psych, taking influences from krautrock. It’s a bit Hawkwind towards its close, not least in the epic length of each song. In the half-hour, it’s possible to only count three tracks, with only one pause for applause.
A sea change comes about with post-punk/garage trio LENNIE DIES. The group combine harmonies within the flurry of riffs, a little like American rock-pop stalwarts The Hold Steady – albeit with a drummer wearing the tiniest pair of shorts. DANYE save the end of their outdoor set to announce that, sadly, this is their last ever show. Their waves of summery melody and crooning vocals are somewhat at odds with the rain. Call it pathetic fallacy, but the contrast adds a poignant note to their finale. MINCEMEAT’s only announcement is to apologise for early tech problems that, in truth, barely hold back from their Gories-style rattle and roll. The band’s secret weapon is their lead singer’s vocals: all angry barks and yelps, rolled out over spikey old-time rock.
YAMMERER represent a newer and angrier fringe in music. Similar to The Fall, if Mark E. Smith had been around 20 years earlier, the group combine spoken-sung-shouted lyrics over creepy blues-rock. It’s a bleak sound, but the crowd are receptive as the afternoon beers start to kick in. The awning by the outdoor stage in Constellations shakes as lead singer Jason ventures off-stage and briefly ignites a mini-moshpit. It’s a riotous lead-in to the heroes of the hour, STRANGE COLLECTIVE, whose lead singer Alex Wynne is happy to confess that he’s already drunk – and he’s not the only one in a jovial mood. Bluesy, psychy and screechy, today’s hosts take the cake. But this isn’t all. Outside, Birmingham trio TABLE SCRAPS find the rain has stopped for their set, encouraging an already enthusiastic crowd. The trio are their usual monster garage selves, rounding off the outdoor performances in perfect fashion. With sets still to come from Portuguese duo SUNFLOWERS and local lads SPILT, the punters start to melt away, drained after an epic non-stop cavalcade of live music. I follow suit.
With everything from special one-off beers, prints for each of the performers and a diverse group of attendees (special shout out to the people who who’ve brought their dogs along), the all-dayer acts as a goodbye of sorts: farewell to heat waves and to day and night parties at Constellations. But it’s also a marker for this scene, that it’s not going anywhere. The shows will go on, elsewhere.
John McGovern / @etinsuburbiaego