It’s an honour to have made the journey down to Bristol Psych Fest V, and with the enviable line up I’m certain many others will have followed suit. The event split across three venues; SWX, The Lanes and Rough Trade takes off at full throttle as soon as the doors open.
The first band I catch are Anthroprophh, comprised of Jesse Webb, Gareth Turner (The Big Naturals) and Paul Allen (The Heads), who are a huge draw on today’s bill following the success of their latest album release, OMEGAVILLE, on Rocket Recordings. Their set is loud and heavy from the offset, like we would expect anything else, and it has an almost instantaneous head bobbing effect. Don’t let the volume fool you though, there are finer elements at work here from the motoric drumming leading to Can invocations, to the guitar runs, the intense bass lines and all overlaid with a distinct vocal drawl. They are a solid starting block for what is to follow.
There’s a small matter of an important football game going on, which steals a lot of attention, but that does not stop Dubi Dolczek bringing an intriguing brand of space inspired madness to The Lanes, complete with interesting attire and amusing stories. The madness is a bit too much for some, but those who draw their attention away from the football seem to whoop and cheer in the right places.
The later start in SWX due to Wolf People pulling out, means that I manage to catch some of Guili Guili Goulag, a French outfit who channel krautrock vibes through an electronic harp and blend tribal themes into their motorik beats. The only thing I can emphasise about this band is listen to them and you’ll get it, it’s not one that can easily be put into words. They are a previous unknown to me which is always a treat to find something a bit special.
Some unfortunate clashes mean I end up missing some of the bands I would have liked to have seen, but next on the radar are another French piece, Slift. The three piece have been attracting attention since their record Space is the Key came out Europe wide last year and their inclusion at the festival is most welcome. They channel a form of noise made popular by a little band called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard but add heavier elements from the spacerock field and a healthy dose of krautrock. The energy on stage is infectious and this is the first band that the crowd have genuinely been engrossed in. A highlight comes in the form of ‘Dominator’, with its high pitched vocal interlude section and it is applauded with all due accolade.
Fumaca Preta have been on most people’s peripheral version for a while, due to their heady blend of psychedelia and tropicalia, encapsulated by Portuguese lyrics. Due to a horrible clash with Captain Süün who are on my must see list, I only manage to catch a few of their songs including ‘Toda Pessoa’ with its infectious dance groove and ‘Pupilas Dilatadas’ with its sinister edge and haunting keys. They are perfectly executed with all the pinnace that fans have come to associate with their live performances, I begrudge being called away…
And so running, quite literally, from SWX to Rough Trade, I arrive in perfect time for Captain Süün’s ‘Beach Burrito’, the title track taken from their EP released on Stolen Body Records earlier this year. It is the perfect dose of musical sunshine and they execute it perfectly. The rest of the set is equally enjoyable and ultimately I’m glad I made the sacrifice.
Portsmouth’s Is Bliss are firmly becoming one of the best shoegaze/psychedelic bands the country has to offer and their inclusion on any line up quickly ensures pull. Unfortunately the vocal levels aren’t quite what they should be so some of the finer details get lost but that makes them no less enjoyable. Tracks taken from The Honeycomb Explosion EP always go down well and tonight is no exception, the full and rather hot room lap them up.
A band who need no introduction and without doubt have gathered a cult following are Bristol’s own The Heads who are a huge draw on today’s bill. Being a relative newcomer to this band I take my place with a degree of excitement building and judging by the atmosphere in The Lanes, everyone else is pretty excited too. They execute their set with style and play an array of tracks from their back catalogue, all of which are enthusiastically received. The heavier tone and pace of the set suits the mood and moves the festival into the night portion.
Australian all female Stonefield are undoubtedly the largest band on the festivals bill and have built their popularity on empowered vocals, pleasing guitar melodies and haunting synth interludes. Undoubtedly the track of the set comes in the form of ‘Far From Earth’ which takes all these elements and builds as it progresses. They are quite mellow compared to some of the other bands here and are a welcome reprieve for those who like things a bit more melodic.
Meanwhile, Bristolian’s Heavy Lungs are holding their own in Rough Trade with their blend of post punk featuring empowered lyrics, tracks taken from February EP Abstract Thoughts, lots of dancing and a good dose of sweat. They form a complete juxtaposition to Stonefield, but that in itself shows the versatility of the festival.
The US headliners need no introduction, the mighty Night Beats are a familiar face on UK shores and sell out venues across the country. There sound is somewhat dampened by a forced change of personnel, but that in no way takes away from the quality of their performance. They plan tracks that span their impressive discography including ‘Last Train to Jordan’ from 2016 LP Who Sold My Generation is a particularly feisty track that sees fans entertained and the inclusion of the incredible ‘Puppet on a String’ will never see them go far wrong and the inclusion of ‘The New World’ from Sonic Bloom was almost too much to ask for. The crowd go wild as they progress, and rightly so, Night Beats know how to entertain.
After a fantastic day of live music, most call it a night but those who do miss out on Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs who conclude proceedings at The Lanes. The somewhat, it has to be said, ridiculously named band have a reputation for the quality of their live performances and having not seen them before curiosity gets the better of me. The Newcastle entity have travelled some distance to be here today and do not disappoint with tracks taken from 2017 LP Feed the Rats and forthcoming album King of Cowards. There heavily guitar focused sound is the perfect conclusion and their placement was a stroke of genius.
Bristol Psych Fest V has not disappointed, offering a little bit of something for everyone. There aren’t many who go away without some kind of merch or at the bare minimum a smile on their face, as well as having discovered a new band or two to boot. See you next year Bristol…!