My head thrums, my feet smell and my hearing is several shades off normal and I only got in 6 hours ago, but I’m too excited to sleep much. Such is the lot of the roving psychedelic war correspondent. Last night was the opening night of, to grant it it’s full title, Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. It’s like a better world, people, a better world.
I enlivened proceedings by starting the evening off at Liverpool Organic Beer Festival which was held in St George’s Hall, quite simply one of the most amazing and ornate buildings in a city full of them. You know the score, a room full of trestle tables, kegs of various artisan brews lining the walls, only 300 to choose from and great cheese and bread to soak it up with. It was a perfect way to pass through the Vale of Tears that is employment, to break on through to the other side.
When we got to Camp & Furnace we were greeted with the sight of the street having been cordoned off, food stalls, wristband booth and lots of excited hairy folk milling around – fashion tip: beards are big in Liverpool this weekend, I mean like Ripley Johnson BIG. It was a great scene and I have to say it did make it feel more like a mini-festival than just another set of gigs. C&F is, as I know I’ve bored you with previously, my favourite place in Liverpool right now – a brilliant collection of converted industrial spaces, full of interesting and quirky decorative touches. This being LIFOP it was full of projection screens and interesting visuals and lights. There was a pop-up record shop which I studiously avoided and some fabulous merch – I have my eye on an excellent poster I may get tonight.
If you were there then award yourself some 1537 bonus points because, as I said, this was the gentlest, friendliest, most considerate crowd I’ve encountered for many a long year. Not a foot was stepped on without apology, no-one shoved you out the way and generally good manners and consideration ruled – which is as it should be. A better world, people, a better world.
First band I saw were Carlton Melton, I don’t own a note of theirs on vinyl but I really wanted to see them partly because of their association with original Monster Magnet* guitarist John McBain. Playing in the Furnace room they performed under the sort of acid-fried liquid projection screens that would have put my parents in mind of seeing Jefferson Airplane back in the day. Carlton Melton play colossal psych jams, droning, chirruping guitars and bass setting up melodies and counter-melodies to play off, they have a fabulously hairy drummer, who may just be the most underused man in space rock right now – on the couple of tracks he played he just smoked, smashing the drums harder than almost anyone I’ve seen. This sort of music can be either an incredible trip** into the outer reaches of consciousness, or a pointless meandering amble to snooze-ville, IN (possibly depending on your mood), but Carlton Melton were really excellent, they could have played for another hour and I really wouldn’t have minded at all. A brief query though, was their second-to-last track was either a cover of Hawkwind’s ‘Time we left This World Today’, or did they just totally and utterly steal everything from it? my friend, Will, and I caused a small ripple of amusement by singing along to it. He called them ‘ambient-space-metal’ and I really cannot think of a better way to put it, curse him.
Wandering through all the arty stuff to catch the last track and a half of Dead Meadow and seeing the sort of guitar heroics which made me lick my lips, I got a good spot for Psychic Ills. Not a band I know a thing about, save what was written in the programme notes. They just dripped NY cool and Jesus & Mary Chain insouciance and sneer. Their route to the stars was clearly through repetitive driving guitar squonk and cheap drugs, possibly of the industrial cleaning variety. I don’t want to sound like a trivial dude but I was really taken with their overuse of dry ice and stark, white lights. Psychic Ills need to be investigated because they could well be the soundtrack to your next big tantrum. Plus I think, it was difficult to see, that their bass player was wearing a cape, she may just have been wearing a dress, but I think it was a cape – that suspicion alone was enough to rack up another load of 1537 bonus points. I did really enjoy them.
The main reason I was there last night was to see Moon Duo though and so I rushed down the front like a 16 year-old at his first Megadeth gig, none of this laid-back psychedelic cool for me. After a bit of a wait, during which I got to see the band set up all their own equipment, they really hit the dry ice. Just as I thought my lungs may give out, the band ambled on (I say band because they augment their sound with a live drummer, umm, live) dressed in druidic white robes and threw flowers into the crowd, to our delight. Then they shuffled off and started messing with their equipment again for 5 minutes, a bit of an anti-climax in that respect – what they really should have done was throw their robes onto the floor, mooned at us and shouted,
‘We’re Moon Duo and this one’s called Rockaway beach! 1-2-3-4!!’
But I digress. There is a reason my photographs of the night end straight after the druidic bit and it’s because I spent the rest of the show grooving like a bad thing. Moon Duo were just incredible, much more guitar-orientated and led than they are on their studio cuts. Ripley Johnson really is an incredible, incredible guitarist – I do appreciate that this is not news, but he spent the hour and a bit of their set just kicking out a churning, fuzzing, growling bottom end. Now I’m not very technical about guitars, but can anyone tell me what that white guitar he plays is? it is a thing of beauty as much as his actual playing. I like Moon Duo a lot on vinyl, but live the volume and relentlessness of it all kicks it up a notch towards great, so I danced my way on through the night, pausing only to stop and shake my head (frug?) during the guitar solos. Then after a muttered thank you they were gone, gone, gone.
So I filed my way back out through the polite crowds and into the cool wash of the Liverpool night, grabbed a taxi and some water. Round 2 tonight. Definitely a better world, people, a better world. Definitely.
259 Down (Still !!).
*All Hail, kneel and praise them! Do it now – this is not a drill !!
**see how I very cleverly used a double-meaning there? yup, all Hail, kneel and praise me! Do it now – this is not a drill !!