The Eiger Studios, perched on the outskirts of town, provided a more than suitable base camp for Karma Leeds fourth annual love in. The venue is lit with the liquid lights of Melt Trip who did a sterling job ensuring that the optical side of things remained tuned into the sonic side of things. Add to that a bit of lovely Leeds sunshine, a host of like minded people, and you had most of the ingredients for a damn fine shin dig. All we needed now was music…
It wasn’t intended to be fashionable – I gave up on that side of things some time ago – but we were a tad late and missed the first band, Domesday Outfit. We were assured we’d missed a belter and vowed to check the bus time tables in future; So first band for us was Dusst. You could quite easily have been excused for thinking you’d taken a step back in time to the heady days of the late 60’s as Dusst not only provided tunes laden with the vibes of summer love, they also looked the part. Laid back and very, very cool. Especially liked the bongo-tastic interlude mid-set.
The retro vibe continued as Rhubarb Triangle, back in their spiritual homeland, took the stage for a high energy set that was certainly one of the highlights of the day, not least for frontman Alex’s masterly display in the art of playing the theramin.
French outfit Os Noctabulous were the first international act of the day. Adding a bit of Parisian flair, whilst sticking with the retro vibe of the previous bands, they lead us into the realms of the more garage / surf orientated side of things. Giving a gentle nod to the local scene, the lead singers Hookworms t-shirt was a nice touch that didn’t go unnoticed. Keep your eyes and ears primed for the release of their album soon.
Rocket Ship TV steadied the head with some wonderfully introvert shoegaze tunes. Knowingly not as far out as their Karma cohorts, they provided a subtle break from the pure psych/garage sounds of the other bands. None the less it was a sound set, and provided a blissful lull before the awaiting storm yet to come.
Helicon. Out of all the bands on today’s bill these were the ones we were looking forward to the most. The synergy between the brothers Hughes and their fellow band mates, makes it easy for them to create a genuine sonic onslaught. Pushing the ampage levels up to the mythical 11, wave after wave of sitar rich, reverb heavy sound had the crowd euphoric in its appreciation. I can genuinely state that they are quite definitely one of the best live bands I have ever seen. Wonderful!
Head still reeling we popped next door to the Space Ritual stage, decked out in foil and various other reflectives it provided a suitable setting for the chilled out vibes of Wild Birds of Britain. Packed to the hilt it was testament to the band that even though they couldn’t get in to see the band, quite a few hung around outside to make sure they could at least hear.
Sporting a rather splendid hat, that at first glance I mistakenly took for a birthday cake – it had been a long day – and an equally impressive jacket, Tau had travelled from Berlin to grace us with their presence. And grace us they did. Rhythmic almost trance like drums, fuse with more reverb rich guitar to deliver tunes that far belied the fact that only two people were on stage.
Following a somewhat unnecessary plea for the audience to get with the beats, Tau pulled out an ace from their pack and were joined on stage by go go dancers Voodoo Trip, who writhed and shimmied to add yet another tangent to the day. Nice.
What can you say about Kikagaku Moyo ? The previous bands had been absolutely out of this world, and all would be very hard acts to follow, let alone close on, but the band from Japan took an already high flying day totally out of the stratosphere. A mind bending set that at times reached almost mythical proportions and simply blew what was left of peoples minds way, way out. On tonight’s performance you can file this band under the ‘awesome’ section.
A truly amazing set of bands had graced the main stage, and would have been easy to pull the plug as soon as Kikagaku Moyo left the stage. But rather than take the easy option we all crowded in to the already over-crowded Space Ritual room for the climactic end to today’s live music with Leeds own champion of the absurd, Girl Sweat, who for at least this night, had been joined by an array of musicians to create the Girl Sweat Pleasure Temple Ritual Band. In among the theatrics – climbing on drums, much waving of arms, pounding of floors etc – and cacophony, Girl Sweat – resplendent in golden and red robes, and a chalice full of, what I was told later was, ‘virgins wine’ (???) – were chaotic, somewhat unhinged but also thoroughly enjoyable.
We hung to the wee small hours hanging out, and dancing along to tunes and chatting to those that remained. Karma Fest IV was superb. Be it the bands, the DJ’s employed to keep the silence at bay between the acts, the artists in the courtyard or the aforementioned light benders, all of them came together to make this gathering an out right success. It may be small in size compared to other psych fests, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in stature. As a certain sitar player said at the end of it all “It’s really nice to see nice people being nice with lots of nice music to be nice to. Nice.”