Sunday 5 September 2021

Billy Nomates / LIINES / The Red Stains / bdrmm / The Watchmakers / Happy Couple / Mynk / The Lounge Society / Loose Articles / The Goa Express - Manchester Psych Fest - 4th September 2021

The very long delayed Manchester Psychfest took place on Saturday along the Oxford Road corridor with an expanded line-up of artists, many of whom have outgrown their original bookings giving the audience an opportunity to catch them in rooms they're unlikely to play in again. We caught bands from Goa Express's opening set in the Ritz to Billy Nomates' Deaf Institute (reviews by Jason Wynne up to and including bdrmm)

The Goa Express opened Manchester Psych Fest with a typically robust set of old and new songs winning over the masses at a packed out Ritz. Their first of three sets on the day indicating they are one of those hard working bands who thrive on performing live.

They own the expansive stage with Overpass and The Day being the stand out tracks amongst a plethora of songs full of hooks, melodies and soaring choruses. There’s no let up in the delivery throughout the set and it’s clear that the band are continuing on an upward curve. Three sets on the day will surely have introduced them to new followers as well as please their most ardent of fans.

Dashing over to Gorilla it’s time for one of the most talked about bands of the moment in Loose Articles. Recently announced as a support slot for Foo Fighters they play to a heaving and sweltering crowd and they don’t disappoint. They’re sure to gain more followers with their aforementioned support slot yet it’s all about today and they don’t fail to impress.

Their full throttle punk assault is relentless, spiky and intoxicating. Buses, Kick Like A Girl and Up The Disco dominate the set and before the latter song there’s a touching tribute to Manchester music legend John Hall. A beautiful touch from Natalie who also tells us “we’re working…and we’re class”

Like Calder Valley contemporaries Goa Express there’s a lot to be said for the emerging The Lounge Society. They’ve been gaining a lot of plaudits and it’s easy to see why. They don’t hold back and the angsty vocals of Cameron are prevalent throughout the set.

Valley Bottom Fever is a joyous riot that gets the front rows bouncing while Television with its stop start approach keeps us on our toes but it’s the superb psychedelic swirling Generation Game with Cameron’s “what would the US do?” that threatens to take the roof off the place.

It’s over to the basement at Yes for a band I haven’t seen since lockdown by the name of Happy Couple but as I arrive I’m fortunate enough to firstly catch the last few songs of London based Mynk. A new band on me but one I’ll be checking out again for sure. The trio play sensual, alluring songs to the point of melancholia. The plots and themes of the songs influenced by their time spent in isolation and the atmospheric and smoky room is perfect in encapsulating the mood of the band.

We’ve seen Happy Couple numerous times when supporting The Murder Capital and with every show they just got better and better. The extended break meant the Brighton based band were admittedly nervous but they had no reason to be as their wall of sound and catchy riffs won over an expectant crowd.

There was much excitement among the crowd pre-gig about the fully loaded pedalboard on view and Ben’s virtuoso guitar playing backed up the excitement. Drenched in reverb the huge sound is complimented by the seismic rumble of Lena’s bass and George’s exhilarating taut drumming. Amid the distortion and feedback we’re drawn in by Lena’s vocal. As cool as ice and showing little visible emotion she swings from enchanting hollers to a menacing recitation in quick succession yet still retains the ability to keep the audience hanging on her every word.

Visceral offerings like the cacophonous Feel Better and Split in Two which, as the title suggests, has a conflict of interests - noise meets silence accompanied by darkness and light. The stop-start approach blends in with some new offerings which on first listen suggest the band, excitedly, have a lot more to offer. Set closer Eyes Shut, a firm favourite from previous gigs, retains its epic nature and gauging by the reaction at the end the possibilities for this band remain endless. For me the stand out performance of the day.

From a festival that calls itself psych it was The Watchmakers who were about as psych as it got for me. Back playing together again after a five year hiatus it looked like they’d never been away fulfilling their duties as a band notorious for that loud and proud sound. It was a finely honed performance of intricate guitar playing, uplifting melodies, swirling kaleidoscopic grooves and enchanting vocals that ensured followers old and new turned out in numbers to see the return of one of Manchester’s finest underground bands. They clearly enjoyed playing as much as the audience enjoyed the show.

Hull band bdrmm played a set of old and new songs to an ever increasingly lively crowd which culminated in a large mosh pit forming midway through the set. Just like the performance itself it was a relentless toing and froing as band and audience alike pulled in all directions as it threatened to spill out of control both sonically and physically. Primarily good natured it’s easy to see why bdrmm are causing a stir.

Songs like A Reason to Celebrate, Push / Pull, Gush and Happy reminding us how much we’ve missed interaction between band and crowd alike. The ability to transport emotion through music very much evident from a band who play with guile and intelligence.

The Red Stains provide the chaos in the basement of Yes. With new recruit Cesca on keys their sound feels more coherent and focused than it had done previously - and what they lose in unpredictability, and with Natalie at the helm they'll always have that in any case, they gain in the songs feeling more powerful and targeted. The rhythm section of Ben on drums and Sterling on bass have tightened up considerably since their early shows and that's immediately evident on opening euro Trolley Dashers and debut single Mannequin. Broken drumsticks and an initially muddy sound that has Natalie fighting to be heard are no inhibitors.

Freezer Jesus and Mother's Ruin are rumbling streams of consciousness set to pointed angular bass lines and tight claustrophobic drums that provide Natalie and Cesca with a canvas to paint upon. Forthcoming single Smile - with its dismissive conclusive put down "don't tell me to smile" and a wild ending that sees Natalie and Cesca dancing together as the song drops down to a danceable drumbeat - is a real highlight and seems sure to broaden their appeal and audience as does their own inimitable take on Madonna's Material Girl and their Jump The Met finale. The Red Stains are doing their growing up as a band in front of us, but there's a real sense that they mean business up on stage these days even with the adrenaline of alcohol running through their bones.

LIINES are across the road at Factory and leave nothing behind them on stage after their forty-five minute set that mixes songs from their debut Stop / Start as well as a bunch of new songs that both capture the spirit and energy of their debut but also a development of their sound into new areas. New single Keep On Going, with an extended intro live, thrives on the repetition of the chorus line as the song pummels its way into the hearts and minds of the LIINES fans and curious observers alike. 

The set is high on energy, a frenetic pace that rarely lets up - whether it be the timeless Cold, Blackout and Never There or the new Go, Look For You, Wait and On And On - and whilst we're not as knackered as Zoe and Leila at the end, the set certainly has the heart beating faster than it was at the start. New bassist Anna looks and sounds effortlessly cool in comparison, but is the perfect replacement for the departed Tamsin. They finish with Sorry and Never There, still one of the finest songs to come out of Manchester in the last decade and the postscript Not Afraid, with more of that repetition that works so well. The audience love them, rightly so, even if they don't have the cool cache that many of the bands they clashed with trade on.

We then head down to The Deaf Institute for Billy Nomates, who's already won the audience over with a slightly awkward set-up of her laptop that prompts her to start her set five minutes early. Over the course of forty-five minutes her solo show ("I had a band, but I shot them" is a brilliant retort to those who think they know better about how she should perform) the pace is relentless as she targets her ire at mansplaining, Brexit, misogyny, the class divide, the image-driven hipster scene, soul-destroying minimum wage zero hour jobs and everything in between over beats that keep both her and the audience moving. 

Her energy and sense of fun in performing is infectious and contagious - the crowd changes from being curious at the start to becoming involved in the set as it progresses, the response to each song growing as it does. When she jokes the sampled voices that sit between songs are there to give her a breather, we warm to her even more. The likes of Happy Misery, No, Modern Hart and Emergency Telephone capture perfectly the ennui, frustration and inequality of modern life, while there's a euphoric feel to the final Call In Sick and the unwillingness to make yourself ill in the cause of those who see you as a money-generating machine. Unique, unapologetic and with a message that demands to be heard, Billy Nomates is like a breath of fresh air.

There were many complaints about queues that it'd be remiss not to address. We witnessed at 9pm long queues outside the three main venues - Yes, Gorilla and Ritz - which don't seem to make sense given they made up most of the festival capacity. Earlier on, we'd queued twenty minutes to get into Yes to go to a basement that was only half full.  The venue staff (who were great) told us this was because of a total venue capacity limit which wasn't in their control - but it felt wrong that at a music festival there was a ground floor bar full of people queuing for pizza and drinking when people were unable to get in to watch bands yet also wrong to begrudge any venue being open after eighteen months of restrictions and making money. We just moved on and found another band in another venue. Some of the bands have clearly grown in stature and appeal since the festival was booked as well which didn't help in some cases. Hopefully lessons will be learned for 2022 - with early bird tickets going on sale this week for the September 3 event next year.

The Goa Express are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Yes (September 18, 24) and Blackpool Bootleg Social (October 30).

Loose Articles are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Manchester Yes Basement (September 11), Manchester Yes (18), Manchester Castle (October 28), Liverpool Shipping Forecast (November 9) and Manchester Old Trafford Cricket Ground (with Foo Fighters June 25, 2022).

The Lounge Society are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Wakefield Long Division Festival (September 25), Liverpool Kazimier (October 1), Newcastle Head Of Steam (2), Middlesbrough Westgarth Social Club (3), Leeds Hyde Park Book Club (5), Sheffield Sidney & Matilda (6), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (7), Brighton Hope And Ruin (10), Bristol Crofter's Rights (12), Manchester Castle Hotel (13/14), Southampton Heartbreakers (19), London Brixton Windmill (20), Galway Roisin Dubh (November 16), Dublin Academy Green Room (17), Belfast McHugh's (18) and Limerick Kasbah Social Club (19).

Mynk are on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy Couple are on Facebook and Twitter.

The Watchmakers are on Facebook and Twitter.

bdrmm are on Facebook and Twitter. They play Blackpool Bootleg Social (October 21), Leeds Belgrave Music Hall (22), Nottingham Chameleon (23), Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's (24), Glasgow Hug And Pint (26), Birmingham Hare And Hounds (27), York Fulford Arms (28), Birkenhead Future Yard (30), Manchester Yes Basement (31), Southampton Heartbreakers (November 1), London Moth Club (2), Brighton Green Door Store (3), Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (4), Margate Elsewhere (5) and Bristol The Crofters Rights (6).

The Red Stains are on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. They headline Manchester Night And Day on September 24.

LIINES' official website can be found here.  They are also on TwitterFacebook and Soundcloud.  

They play London Grace (September 9), Manchester Bread Shed (11), Bristol Dot To Dot Festival (25) and Nottingham Dot To Dot Festival (26).

Billy Nomates' official site can be found here and she is on Facebook and Twitter.  She plays Leeds Brudenell (October 5), Glasgow Mono (6), Newcastle Think Tank (7), London Moth Club (8), Reading Face Bar (9), Nottingham Bodega (12), Leicester Cookie Jar (13), Ramsgate Music Hall (15), London Moth Club (16), Manchester Yes (19), Brighton Green Door Store (20), Birmingham Castle And Falcon (22), York All Dayer (23), Oldham Library (24), Dublin Workman's Club (26) and Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (27).


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