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FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Portsmouth Psych Fest; Psych, Post- Punk & Much More All for Under £20 Featuring YAK, Egyptian Blue, Black Country, New Road and More.

‘Portsmouth Psych proved that wanted to make as bigger impact as possible in a saturated market.’

Independents come and go for many reasons (obvs, money) but often they’re too focused on what they love personally and not always compromising on their loves with what is relevant; as soon as we saw the line up for Portsmouth Psych Fest 2019 we were shocked, we couldn’t find a fault so we had to go down and check it out. Before we arrived we’d been extremely impressed by firstly the line up (more on that later), secondly the ticket price (£17 plus booking fee or no extra fee if you bought one physically) and lastly Portsmouth Psych chose to use both The Wedgewood Rooms and it’s smaller attached sister venue Edge of the Wedge scheduling acts so if you wished you could ping-pong back and forth and see every band; what a privilege! Last thing we’re going to say before we get on to the music (because that’s why you’re reading this) is what a powerful atmosphere the marbled visual backdrop added to the stage; Portsmouth Psych proved that wanted to make as bigger impact as possible in a saturated market.

‘With an American influenced twang throughout their set Sleep Eaters set themselves apart sonically and visually from their contemporaries.’

Our first band of the afternoon were South London’s Sleep Eaters who’ve been sharing stages with prominent figures such as Crows and Drahla recently. South London and the Brixton scene has a particular sound right now which Sleep Eaters had their own take on, impressing us with their variety. Post-punk slacker styling is broadly Sleep Eaters genre but the band added a step of professionalism and a polished sound which can often lack in this genre; with an American influenced twang throughout their set, Sleep Eaters set themselves apart sonically and visually from their contemporaries.

Mystic Peach

‘Mystic Peach were our favourite act from the Portsmouth Psych Fest stage, presenting in a manner far more experienced than their 1 single history.’

Playing an indoor all-dayer on a cloud-free sunny Bank Holiday is not a task many would have risen to but when Curtis Gale of Mystic Peach stepped onto the PPF stage at 5pm quite frankly he didn’t give a fuck, he’d been booked to play a gig and damn right he was going to win you over; failing that he looked like his next stop was the psychiatric ward (maybe that’s what he thought psych fest was). Although Mystic Peach is very much ‘The Curtis Gale’ show in many ways it is not a solo project but more a trio who know their role in the band, without Joe and Jimi holding down a rigid rhythm section ‘it’ and most likely Curtis would fall apart; and we mean that literally. Some of the most revered band members throughout history have not been the wild guitar solo players but rather the members who have their job to play and stick to it knowing when the limelight is theirs and when to stand in the shadows. With all this praise it’s worth noting that Mystic Peach were our favourite act from the PPF stage, presenting in a manner far more experienced than their 1 single history. The frenzy, the fury and the passion emitting from Curtis every pore, vocal chord and body language outplayed the majority of players on either stage all day; Curtis literally fell to the ground after many songs, unable to cope with the inferno within himself. Mystic Peach are in equal parts psych and punk but the crowd showed their appreciation regardless of what they had hoped for.

Egyptian Blue

‘[Egyptian Blue brought] deliberate orchestrated chaos… [which] was extremely well received with the stage being at capacity regardless of the fact it was the hottest set of the day.’

Egyptian Blue first came to our attention supporting industry favourites The Murder Captial which was a damn good double header as a tour. Egyptian Blue barely fit into the ‘psych’ category bringing their post-punk assault to the Edge of The Wedge ‘Calamity Cratediggers’ stage. Punk has forever been linked with the idea of anarchy and chaos whereas post-punk can often feel more deliberate orchestrated chaos which summed up Egyptian Blue’s set; the chaos was extremely well received with the stage being at capacity regardless of the fact it was the hottest set of the day due to the time of day and windows coupled with the size of the crowd.

Black Country, New Road

‘At present BCNR have the difficult task of bringing an unheard set to a crowd that are going to be naturally critical due to BCNR’s connections and when thought of in that manner their set was brilliant and we cannot wait to see the band flourish and to hear their further releases.’

Black Country, New Road have one single out, a single that was produced by industry whizzkid Dan Carey on the Speedywundergrund project/label which brings about high hopes for their set; clearly we were not the only ones with this view with BCNR being welcomed on stage by a watchful crowd. The 7 piece brought variety of instruments in tow with them to the stage which brought the level of diversity in their sound that you would expect of musicians who are clearly extremely proficient. At times the static performance led to the feeling that they need some miles ‘under their belt’ as a band to bring the live performance to that same level as their musicianship. At present BCNR have the difficult task of bringing an unheard set to a crowd that are going to be naturally critical due to BCNR’s connections and when thought of in that manner their set was brilliant and we cannot wait to see the band flourish and to hear their further releases.

GURU

‘[Guru] far exceeded [our high expectations] becoming our favourite act from the [Calamity Cratediggers] stage.’

Guru have recently been highlighted by our Brighton writer Georgia Balson in her Washed Out Festival recap as a band worth watching so we stepped into the Calamity Cratediggers stage with high expectation; expectations that were far exceeded with them becoming our favourite act from the second stage. Guru were not satisfied with the natural stage/crowd invisible line with lead singer Tom spending the majority of their set moving rapidly around the crowd dancing, singing and chatting with crowd members. Both live and on record the band infect you with their brazen and as they described narcissistic post-punk;  we’re thankful to report that the band have managed to catch their live energy in the studio on their singles leaving a timeless reminder of the beads of sweat that dripped down our necks at PPF as our eyes transfixed on the explosive energy in the corner of the room housing the over filled stage. It feels like an arrogant but deserved premonition that out of their three singles one of Guru’s singles is called ‘Fixation’.

Snapped Ankles

‘Snapped Ankles are probably the perfect booking for PPF; they make no sense and perfect sense which sums up psych pretty well.’

Snapped Ankles are probably the perfect booking for PPF; they make no sense and perfect sense which sums up psych pretty well. Watching Snapped Ankles from the side of the stage with Oli Burslem of headliners Yak we were both transfixed on the stage taking a brief glance at each other to non-verbally communicate how confused and in awe at what we were watching. Snapped Ankles feature the ‘standard’ guitar, bass and drums instrumentation but also heavily features modified/amplified sticks and keyboards and electronics; we’re not going to attempt to describe the sound of a band that where mop type wigs on their heads whilst hitting sticks but we will tell your ears and eyes won’t be disappointed. Only extremely competent musicians can make this madness sound tuneful, something Snapped Ankles do with ease.

YAK

‘Elliot [from YAK’s] cymbals were a metaphor for the bands live show in the way they took positive musical excess as far as possible; the drums were as big as they could be, the bass as visceral as possible and Oli’s guitar playing as wild and free as Jimi Hendrix.’

Although it feels a life time ago YAK released their second album ‘Pursuit of Momentary Happiness’ but it was actually only earlier this year leading to a set leaning heavily from that album to much excitement from the crowd. YAK is Oli Burslem’s band in as much as he is the song-writer but to be a member of YAK your musicianship has to be almost otherworldly; rhythm section Vincent and Elliot are not satisfied to be passive bystanders as displayed with their equipment choices; it seems probable the last time cymbals of the same size as Elliot from Yak’s were used in a band were on John Bonham’s drum kit. Elliot’s cymbals were a metaphor for the bands live show in the way they took positive musical excess as far as possible; the drums were as big as they could be, the bass as visceral as possible and Oli’s guitar playing as wild and free as Jimi Hendrix. It’s worth noting that YAK’s performance blew us away and in many ways were the greatest performers of the day but we’ve chosen Mystic Peach and GURU as our key acts due to their ability to become future headlines.

Words: James Wadsworth



Underscore Part 3

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