Tuesday 16 June 2015

Manchester Psych Fest Part 2 - The Black Tambourines, The Sundowners, The Watchmakers, The Lucid Dream - Manchester Night And Day - 13th June 2015

On Saturday we saw nine bands in our second home the Night And Day in Manchester as part of the third annual Psych Fest. We reviewed five bands yesterday and conclude today with four excellent, but very different sets from The Black Tambourines, The Sundowners, The Watchmakers and The Lucid Dream.

The next band to take the stage are The Black Tambourines, a band we'd been looking forward to particularly after their support slot with PINS last year. We're less impressed by the boiler suit thing that their lead singer is wearing as it leaves little to the imagination as he jumps around than we are by their frantic shotgun three minute bullets of agitated guitar and frenzied drums. They swap around vocal duties as the set progresses which adds more to their sound and helps to prevent their approach becoming repetitive.

As when we saw them with PINS they seem to have a boundless energy to them, despite the sweltering heat in the venue and the smoke machine making an unwelcome return, and this endears them to the crowd as they blast through the first four songs at full-pelt. They do then slow things down mid-set and demonstrate a softer side as well without losing that infectious joy in their performance before bringing things to a conclusion with a five-minute number that belies their initial hit and run approach of two minute explosions by creating something a little more expansive and which works well together over the course of their set.

The Sundowners bring the most joyous style of psych to the day’s proceedings, mixing many strands of the musical heritage of their native Merseyside and beyond and fusing it into something quite special. Last time they were in town, Fiona had lost her voice and it was down to Niamh to do most of the singing, but tonight they’re both on fine form, the contrast between the two voices merely adding to the uplifting impact they have on proceedings. It’s not solely about them though as Alfie Skelly’s guitars create the vibrant canvas against which they paint those intertwined perfectly in harmony vocals and melodies. By the time they’re done they’ve made people dance and brought a smile to the proceedings.

Their set is based around their magnificent self-titled debut that came out earlier this year and visits the more effervescent sun-drenched moments of it – from highlights Back To You, If Wishes Were Horses, Into The Night, Soul Responding and the delicious three-minute psychedelic pop gem that is Hummingbird through to the set-closing Medicine. Thankfully, they also finally put a stop to the excesses of the smoke machine that seems to have gone into overdrive early in their set.

On a day that’s filled with great bands, they are our highlight.

The Watchmakers are up next and the Night And Day has filled up properly now for the local heroes. What they manage to do so brilliantly is create a very Manchester brand of psychedelic without ever sounding parochial or simply apeing some of the city's finest sons. Whilst there's hints of the melodies that made the Roses' first album the classic that it was and early Oasis when they let down their guard and bared their souls, it's just hints and what they create is something that feels instantly familiar, but when you listen closer has their personalities and the close-knit band ethos they have running right through it.

Although every song they play clocks in over five minutes, they never outstay their welcome - their intuitive feel for a song and a melody that hooks the listener in ensures that they all feel like three minute hit singles. Recent single Kiss The Sun is the prime example of this, but there's plenty more in the set that have the same impact. The songs feel so perfectly crafted and constructed but at the time loose and full of vibrancy and each one with a hook that it's impossible to fall for. They're a band in need of a break because they have everything else.

The Lucid Dream shows are spoken about in reverent hushed tones in Manchester psych circles. There’s a lot of mutual love from audience to band and back again as they strike into their opening instrumental onslaught. Crashing drums, thrilling guitar sections that veer on the distorted, the use of volume as a weapon in the way My Bloody Valentine and the Mary Chain have in the past are all parts of their armoury as they pound the submissive audience into surrender within the first few minutes.

That first instrumental is called Mona Lisa, but song titles don’t seem to matter, neither do the moments between them. The Lucid Dream aren’t just noise merchants though, through the chaos comes some real moments of beauty where the listener can breathe in and appreciate the vocals and melodies that lurk below the surface before the pummeling recommences. They don’t pay attention to each other up on stage, but that’s testament to the shared purpose and intuition they’ve developed over the past few years.

They’re not resting on their laurels either. Even though their self-titled second album has only been with us a few short months, they’re already showing off a track from their third album, which we think was called Glorious Tension. Whilst certainly not easy on aural senses that have been battered around, it hints at them expanding their sonic horizons yet further, a more wistful contemplative approach but one that still doesn’t allow the listener much respite.

They get the best response we witness all night, there’s all sorts of strange cat calls from the crowd to them between songs from an audience that’s unerringly loyal and increasingly feverish. To some their sonic assault might seem unlistenable, but to those that get them they’re truly unmissable.

By this time, we're dead on our feet so we pass on Crocodiles and make our way home. Psych Fest was a massive success, an intelligently compiled bill that touched on many strands of what gets classed as psych in one of Manchester's best venues. We're already looking forward to next year's event.

Part one of our Psych Fest review featuring Freak Out Honey, Black Lung, White Noise Sound, Deja Vega and Hey Bulldog can be found here.

The Black Tambourines are on Facebook and Twitter.

The Sundowners' website can be found here.  They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

The Watchmakers' official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

The Lucid Dream's website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

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