FESTIVAL REPORT:  Manchester Psych Fest 1
Credit: Julia Mason

FESTIVAL REPORT: Manchester Psych Fest

When: 3rd September 2022

Where: various venues, Manchester, England

Surely one of the most stressful and / or enjoyable jobs when preparing to attend a festival is working out which bands you are going to see. Trying to get the balance right between:
–  live favourites
– seeing bands that you haven’t seen before
– experiments and others recommendations
The stress of clashes is inevitable and the 2022 version of Manchester Psych Fest was no exception. Wristband collection was a heck of a lot smoother than in 2021 when there were long queues stretching around the block. This year was more organised, better staffed and, thank heavens, no Covid checks required.

And so straight to O2 Ritz Academy for Gruff Rhys. However, the room was so packed I gave up, a little worrying for the first band of the day in one of the largest venues!  Wandered downstairs to the basement for a pint and to wait for Splint who were first on my list anyway.  I have learnt that running around is not always the best option – you have to be tactical – especially for the bands in the smallest venues.

Splint were the first band on at the O2 Ritz basement and it was absolutely roasting in the venue at 2pm!  I’m so impressed with the stagecraft of these bands.  There’s no sign of panic as the setting up is tweaked, simply a bit of improv by band members.  Splint have four guitarists plus drums and yet this isn’t your traditional guitar music.  There is a rawness and edge to their music and having just released their debut single ‘Military Procedures’ it’ll be interesting to see how their sound develops.

A dash upstairs to the main ballroom to breath and watch Loose Articles. The four-piece chose to ignore the fact that it is 3pm and got us dancing.  Their energy is infectious and when the lead singer Natalie jumped the barrier and into the crowd it was completely authentic. With their second EP ‘Chaos‘ due out in a couple of weeks it was pure joy to hear a couple of new tracks.

At the last minute the venue Gorilla was pulled for the festival.  It transpired that this was because of work being undertaken by their landlord Network Rail. What a heart-breaking economic hit for what would have been an exceptional income day for the venue. 

Their statement online explained: “We have recently been informed by Network Rail, the landlord for our building, that essential work needs to be carried out for six weeks from July 18 in our music hall. This means we are unable to proceed with any events during this time.

The substitute was Canvas which turned out to work well with great sound and light plus airy atmosphere. Keg bounced back onstage having already done their soundcheck in front of the crowd!  Another unavoidable quirks of these festivals.  Keg are such entertainers.  Their music is pure fun and you catch yourself singing lyrics like “I missed my wife’s wedding” and “I don’t like my children”.  Their charismatic lead singer with his unconventional dancing and the trombone player who also plays the conch!  What’s not to love? The crowd lapped it up and chanted for more from the seven-piece. No space for encores at a multi-venue day festival.

A last minute change of plan and went to see O. in Yes basement.  The duo of a baritone saxophone and drummer.  First, and not the last, appearance of a saxophone today!  No released music yet but O. did support Black Midi on tour which they admitted was terrifying. Stoking creativity using pedals to distort the sound, it was phenomenal.  And with new music due out in November on the Speedy Wunderground label I have a feeling we will be hearing more from O. Next up in the basement was Automotion.  This is not your traditional guitar band, but more experimental in sound. Yes, there may be three guitars and a drummer but their set is dominated by music rather than vocals.  In fact any lyrics sung were not easy to hear but I suspect that is partly the point.  It is about the soundscape which was dark, intense and brooding. One of the guitarists is Liam Gallagher’s son Lennon who has to be applauded for attempting to stay under the radar and do things his way. To be clear, Oasis this is not.

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A dash back to O2 Ritz for Australia’s Psychedelic Porn Crumpets in the Ballroom, perhaps the most appropriately named band for this festival!  And oh my goodness the moshpit.  Went straight to the balcony and watched a seething mass of folk moving and literally going mental. No surprise that the first crowd-surfer of the day was spotted here. Back to the basement for Dream Nails the self-proclaimed punk witches from London. Great to see the room fill up once the Psychedelic Porn Crumpet’s set finished. This band always brings the energy and this was one of the fastest 30-minute sets of the day! They ask Girls and Non-Binary to move to the front if they so wish. Great news to hear that the second album is in the works and the four-piece hung around to speak to fans after the set and had time for everyone. Next onstage in the basement was local band Maruja. They describe themselves as a Post-Punk/Jazz infused Alt Rock band from Manchester.  That says it all. This was wild music, and to have a saxophone in the mix with their post punk energy was a twist. The moshpit needed no encouragement and there were a lot of fans in the basement. They were phenomenal and definitely one to watch.

It was then a run back to Canvas to catch the last 20 minutes of the Dream Wife set. Again, more jumping into the moshing crowd by the lead singer and a fierce performance. Melt Yourself Down were one of my sets of the day. Not one but two saxophones. They seemed larger than life but it was an illusion created by the sheer exuberance onstage. Another lead singer who brought the party. Not only did he crowd surf but he then got a security guy onstage and got him to crowd surf, so funny to see him back in his position a few minutes afterwards. The musicians would move forward and whip the crowd into a frenzy. Scalping then brought a whole different dance vibe. A couple of guitars and drums but their stage was packed with an impressive mix of synths, keyboard and laptop. This was electronica at its very best, and the perfect music to follow Melt Yourself Down.

A stroll back over to Yes basement for my last band of the day, 12 hours after I’d started. Fake Turins are just the combo you need at the end of the night. A groovy funky band with 11 members

What a day! As it progressed I recognised people and easily chatted to strangers who were all here for the music. The earlier sets were around 30 minutes but as the day progressed the bigger bands played longer sets. Thank you Manchester Psych Fest, I did not see one poor performance. When do tickets go on sale for 2023? Asking for a friend………..

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.