Bearded’s Guide To… Liverpool

Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia previewed plus the latest musical goings-on in Merseyside.

Posted on Sep 19th, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Richard Lewis
Bearded’s Guide To… Liverpool An avalanche of musical shenanigans in Liverpool these past few weeks and into September as the gig circuit, despite being reasonably busy during the summer months goes interstellar.

Sound Food and Drink, a new independent venue of the eating/drinking/live music variety has recently opened its doors, joining the Kazimier Garden as a new music space this summer.

On the releases front Edgar Summertyme erstwhile leader of cult garage band The Stairs scored excellent reviews for new long player Sense of Harmony. His first LP since 2005’s Soothing Music for Stray Cats and a longtime favourite of Messrs Gallagher Snr and Marr, the LP runs the gamut from Elvis Costello-esque confessionals to twisting Latin rhythms and gentle psych pop.

Elsewhere folk singer/hugely acclaimed playwright Lizzie Nunnery and Wave Machines multi-instrumentalist Vidar Norheim have collaborated on excellent new LP Black Hound Howling.

Talking of the English/Norwegian ensemble, Wave Machines have just unveiled ‘Ill Fit’, a superb piece of precision tooled synth pop, the lead track from their forthcoming second LP, the follow up to their sterling 2009 debut Wave If You're Really There.

Euphoric dancefloor doyens The Tea Street Band meanwhile build on their burgeoning reputation as event live band par excellence with the release of new single ‘Disco Lights’. Bathed in warm Balearic rays the track is instantly capable of transporting the listener to sun-kissed climes, free from truculent weather.

Labelmates on Jack to Phono Records ethereal/dark dream pop trio Bird meanwhile have been winning praise from Steve Lamacq for their superlative recent EP Shadows which is launched with a gig at The Kazimier on 21st September.

On the events front, now into its seventh outing, the largest contemporary art festival in the nation Liverpool Biennial 2012 has been receiving overwhelmingly positive press nationally.

Beginning its ten week run at various locations around the city centre in mid September, the season was opened in spectacular style with a performance of A Crimson Grail by revered minimalist composer Rhys Chatham.

A collaboration between Liverpool promoter Samizdat and the Biennial, the event was a return visit to the city for Chatham following a performance at arts hub The Bluecoat last year.

An integral part of the New York arts scene of the late 1970s-early 1980s, Chatham was a huge influence on guitar texturalists Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth and Swans and went on to work with Robert Fripp and Philip Glass.

Comprising of one hundred guitars and eight basses A Crimson Grail is an undertaking so vast only two performances had previously been staged, at New York’s Lincoln Centre and the Sacré-Cœur in Paris.

With a suitably spacious venue required to house all the musicians necessary the jaw-dropping edifice of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral was pressed into service.

The size of the venue also proved expedient as the recital was a lock-out, as the 800 plus seated crowd filled the entire hall.

Assisted by four section conductors overseeing 25 guitarists following Chatham’s lead with the audience sat ‘in the round’ with the guitarists around them, players included luminaries from local acts Wet Mouth, Ninetails, aPAtT, Ex-Easter Island Head along with Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis.

Mooted as a live album in the near future, the organisers have made a recording of the monumental work prior to its official release available here

While we’re on the subject of national/internationally recognised events, pivoting on our heels to look ahead, one of the biggest new fixtures on the city’s music calendar is readying itself on the launchpad prior to lift-off towards the end of the month.

The inaugural Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia held at the vast Camp & Furnace in the Baltic Triangle district sees the city become the undisputed centre of the psychedelic universe on 29th September with a line up that would give the heads attending the Austin Psych Festival thoughts of crossing the pond.

A city with a long-held fascination for psychedelia, as the Liverpudlian likes of The Teardrop Explodes led by arch druid himself Julian Cope exemplify, traces of Pink Floyd, Love, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa et al can be detected in many of the city’s groups.

Boasting a bill compiled by promoters Harvest Sun and venerated music mag Bido Lito! the line up takes in pastoral pop, ambient, progressive jams, drone rock, shoegazing and all points in between.

Mesmeric Icelandic drone-rockers Dead Skeletons make their debut in the city as part of the headlining triumvirate.

Led by Jón ‘Nonni Dead’ Sæmundur, ver ‘Skeletons broke into international consciousness with near nine minute motorik masterpiece Dead Mantra, which after a low-key upload to MySpace four years ago has snowballed to take on classic proportions.

Hook ups with psych godhead Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and a run of hypnotic, bewildering live shows has seen the band placed at the vanguard of psych music.

Appearing as an über-loud XL edition seven piece live band, the septet’s sonic behemoths are surely set to rattle the venue’s Victorian brickwork.

Co-headliners The Time & Space Machine are piloted by psych overlord and acclaimed DJ/remixer Richard Norris, a former resident of the city whose playlists at The Hangout in the 1980s marked him out as an unparalleled authority on psychedelia.

A fully fledged band live, the quintet’s vast psych jams are constructed from woozy mellotron and hammond organ surges and swirling backwards guitars all drenched in cavernous reverb.

Elsewhere the genre’s cross pollination with blues comes into effect with fellow headliners Wolf People and their sprawling heavy grooves, inspired by the late 60s likes of Cream and Traffic.

Former Spacemen 3 sticksman and multi-instrumentalist Rosco is a high profile addition to the bill as are Austin Psych Fest veterans, Ancient River who bring their garage/grunge melee from the Sunshine State of Florida to show Merseyside how psychedelia is done in their manor.

Drone rock outfit Mugstar and the uncoiling heavy jams of Mind Mountain comprise the progressive end of the local contingent while the aforementioned Edgar Summertyme and electro act Baltic Fleet deal in classic pop and pulsating ambient soundscapes respectively.

Echo and the Bunnymen linchpin Will Sergeant showcases the avant-ambient side of his work away from his signature spiky guitar sound highlighted in his Glide side-project and early solo recordings.

London quartet Palma Violets, one of the biggest buzz bands in the UK at the present time bring their scuffed Walkmen/Doors psych-garage to the party.

Bands with a tougher take on psychedelic sounds include Liverpool trio The Wild Eyes who meld Stones swagger with stargazing atmospherics redolent of early Verve and My Bloody Valentine, while Leeds’ diviners of sound Hookworms deal in Zeppelin-esque psych riffage.

Elsewhere the fuzzy indie pop of the much-tipped Milk Maid along with dazzling shoegazers Kool-Aid Electric Company appear on a bill packed with almost a dozen more sonic adventurers.

With a plethora of DJs and a Screenadelica exhibition of the finest psychedelic poster art also taking place, the Psych Fest’s cosmic vibrations are set to shake the converted warehouse of Camp & Furnace to its very foundations.

Beyond the mind expansion on offer at C&F meanwhile, anyone not truly sated are directed towards veteran NYC electronic act Silver Apples at The Kazimier on the Sunday (30th September) who showcase their groundbreaking, oscillating tunes in a rare live outing.

Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia takes place at Camp & Furnace on Saturday 29th September