My head thrums, my feet smell and my hearing is several shades off normal and I only got in … ah, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Yup, I’ve done a sequel. After a hard day’s decorating I drove in to Liverpool and parked up a street away from Camp & Furnace and strolled over to a much busier scene than the night before. It was also quite different being the soberest man in da house too, shimmying my way past those who had been psychedelicising all day.
After being star struck when I bumped into (and I mean that literally) the drummer from the Black Spiders, I had a bit of a mooch around, still studiously avoiding the vinyl, although noting that If I hadn’t had my dinner earlier I could have tucked into a Drone Dog in the Camp room. I caught 10 minutes of Icelandic psych-popsters Singapore Sling whose indie-pop psych really wasn’t my bag and waited for Leeds’ Hookworms. Interesting to note that this Saturday crowd was a whole lot more dressed up than Friday’s, amongst sundry irritatingly good-looking well-dressed cool types and the beardie-bloke contingent I counted no less than three Peter-Fonda-in-Easy-Rider-Lookalikes which is a lot for any crowd.
Hookworms were a bit of a revelation. I had borrowed their Pearly Mystic LP recently and quite liked what I heard, but that really didn’t give me any warning of the aural thrashing I was about to receive. Vocalist MJ (they only use initials, apparently) seemed to take forever messing about with his microphones and effects, but having now seen them I can quite understand why. Hookworms’ stock in trade is a white-hot Stooges-like thrashing juggernaut of sound and MJ sings through a bunch of distorting effects so that his every sound is turned into a space yelp*. He uses his voice like a weapon and I’ve never heard the like before.
Hookworms just lifted off from their first note onwards and never, ever looked back. The resultant sound was like someone trying to achieve nirvana entirely through the medium of stress – just upping the adrenalin until it all becomes meaningless background noise and impulses, then somehow finding calm in the eye of that storm. There are some calmer bits, not unlike Friday night’s Carlton Melton and their guitarist (MB, EG, SS or JW?), who is a very serious operator indeed, even hits some rather tasteful blues licks on one track, but it’s that hopped-up rage that got me there. I’d see them again in a trice.
Shuffling off towards the main stage I catch most of Fuzz set. Their sound, bolstered by Ty Segall on drums, is a cool Neanderthal take on Blue Cheer, filling a niche for those of you out there who found Mudhoney a bit too sophisticated. It’s pretty damn good and ferociously loud, but psychedelic? not really, for me. Their singer talked too much for my tastes as well, in a puzzlingly high, almost Mickey Mouse-style voice; this at a festival where most bands just gave you a muttered, but not surly ‘thank you’ made him the psych equivalent of Jon Bon Jovi. All-in-all I found them a bit too earthbound for these festivities.
Now I owe Moon Duo an apology, not for fawning all over their live set yesterday, but for heinously and needlessly accusing them of being druids. 1537 apologizes for any distress and/or offence this may have caused you/your loved ones etc. etc. They weren’t. Just as the white-cowled figures also distributing flowers at midnight weren’t Mugstar either, although one of them was definitely tall enough to have been guitarist, and all-round affable chap, Neil Murphy. So here’s last night’s crop:-
Once again I got myself right down the front so I could appreciate Mugstar in all their groovy glory, apart from using some incredibly powerful white lights the band played in almost total darkness**, so close as I was the best I could make out were either silhouettes or other vague shapes in the murk; which is a bit of a shame as Pete Smyth is a really compelling, bouncy performer – as well as knowing exactly how to slap a keyboard to get that noise out of it. The band kicked off with a frantic ‘Sunburnt Impedance Machine’, that deep, dark riff tolling home like a bell, driven home by Jason Stoll’s excellent Rickenbacker bass work, when they switched straight into ‘Serra’ I had definitely reached a higher plane of being. I think ‘Black Fountain’ was third up, but I’d pretty much given up keeping score by then. The band played faster and harder than I’d seen them play before, ‘Serra’ in particular rattled past at pace. I was so impressed with Steve Ashton’s drumming, he seemed to be the only band member I could make out consistently and he seemed to spend the night just framed by an aura of wood; he was playing that fast.
I have seen Mugstar before and they were really good then but last night they were just brilliant. There is a tendency to describe them in terms of their influences (Hawkwind, Neu!, Pink Floyd etc.) but I think there’s so much more to them than four good record collections in the hands of four excellent musicians, sure those bands are there in the mix along with some I’m probably far too uncool to pick up on, but that’s ignoring what they bring to the mix themselves – their essential Mugstariosityness^. Last night it was the energy they bought to their set that defined them. I think it’s a real lazy cliché when writers talk about anything and everything have a ‘punk energy’ to it, but last night Mugstar did. It was also pretty heartening seeing them play to a big hometown crowd in such a cool venue. Now excuse me I need to go track down some more of their vinyl, before I see them again.
So off I went into the night, leaving the hardcore revellers to the various DJ-shaped delights that followed, a damn sight steadier on my feet than I had been on Friday night, completely forgetting to snag the really cool poster I wanted. Ah well, I’ll be back again next year, and so should you, it’s a glimpse of a far better world.
259 Down (still, still)
*should that be capital letters? Space Yelp?
**okay so it makes a point, but guys? it doesn’t help with my photos!
^Mugstariosity? Mugstarish? Mugstanding?