The inaugural Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia at the multi-roomed converted warehouse Camp and Furnace, taking place from 2 p.m. until 4 a.m. calls to mind the legendary 14 Hour Technicolour Dream, held at the Alexandra Palace in 1967.

While that event was organised by London Underground linchpin Barry Miles and ‘The International Times’, the 2012 Merseyside equivalent is helmed by renowned local promoters Harvest Sun and Liverpool music mag ‘Bido Lito’

Liverpool is a city noted for its long-standing fascination with psychedelia and its cross-pollination with prog Floyd, Beefheart and Zappa, all of whom are longstanding favourites. The huge crowd present as soon as the doors open comes as no surprise.

The main room, The Furnace stays true to its warehouse origins, the high ceilings allowing for swirling visuals on the wall behind the stage courtesy of a vast projection screen.

The white, brightly lit box-shaped environs of the other room, The Blade Factory meanwhile has the feel of wandering into a vintage BBC news report on psych bands as they attempt to understand the latest happenings at The UFO Club.

While a besuited gent with a rabbit’s head (references to Lewis Carroll and Jefferson Airplane abound) wanders throughout the crowd, rubbing shoulders with lads in Red Coat military tunics and girls in velvet frocks, the attendees lend the event a huge sense of occasion of being much more than ‘just another gig.’

Wolf People play to a sizeable crowd at The Furnace, their strain of psychedelia focusing on the bluesier end of the spectrum, recalling ‘Disraeli Gears’- era Cream. Despite tech glitches the band’s perseverance and exemplary playing pays off, converting a new crowd of ‘heads to their cause.

One of the last bands to be announced for the Festival, Palma Violets are presently the subject of frenzied hype for their Hammond organ-led pysch-pop.

Their recent performance in Liverpool supporting Savages bordered on being slightly too messy to be truly convincing, but the band weigh in with an impressive set that sees them adapt superbly to the surroundings.

More knockabout than many of the other acts on the bill, what the five-piece lack in intensity they compensate for with their own form of ragged conviction as they amiably career around the stage.

Elongating the coda to their closing track as a glowing solar orb appears on the back wall, the band conclude on a high note with expectations for their debut release raised.

Building on the burgeoning sense of sensory overload, Liverpool prog stalwarts Mugstar thunder through a taut set, backed by a stunning, Bridget Riley-style monochrome lightshow.

Demonstrating how tight the simpatico between the players is, the descending riff of ‘Sera’ is honed to the point where it appears the quartet can switch moods in their densely layered tracks by means of mental telepathy.

A quick sortie down to the corridor to The Blade Factory sees the fuzzy indie pop of Milk Maid in full flight. Solid as the band’s C86-esque tunes are, through no fault of their own the bulk of the crowd disperses, heading to The Furnace for headliners Dead Skeletons.

A rare UK outing for the Icelandic/German outfit, live the trio’s expanded line-up sees their drone/mesmeric prog-psych expanded to full sonic behemoth proportions with the room packed to capacity for the group.

Led by Jón ‘Nonni Dead’ Sæmundu, the term shamanic, first pressed into service to pinpoint Jim Morrison’s magnetic charisma is now hackneyed when used to describe the frontmen of psych bands, yet no other word seems appropriate when faced with the present subject.

The highlight of the set and the evening as a whole, an XL version of keynote track ‘Dead Mantra’, sees the entire crowd nodding hypnotically in unison to the driving ten minute opus.

While the crowd thins slightly following the Skeletons’ departure, Hookworms turn in a strong set of Zeppelin influenced mini-epics.

With hints of Wooden Shjips’ uncoiling basslines and Moon Duo’s expansive soundscapes, the Leeds band are ideally suited to the event, coupling the cutting edge of psychedelia with older forms of the genre.

A solo concern on record, The Time & Machine, led by Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve/The Grid linchpin Richard Norris, appear in a six-piece incarnation live.

The initial booking of The Time & Machine some months previously planted the seed for the Psych Fest’s development, with Norris aptly enough a former resident of the parish. Dealing in a similar strand of psychedelia to that minted by early to mid-period Pink Floyd, with elements of US garage thrown in, the band bring proceedings in The Furnace to a close in consummate style.

Turning in a razor sharp performance despite the lateness of the hour, the pyrotechnic skills of their guitarist and Norris’ showmanship sate the crowd assembled in front of the stage.

Although many have understandably headed home after a marathon selection of bands, gone 2 a.m. several hundred still wander between rooms as DJs including Echo & the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant spin tunes into the small hours.

After more than half a day’s worth of sonic wonderment, Camp and Furnace falls silent, a mesmerising first time out for what will surely be the first of an annual gathering of psych heads on the outskirts of the city centre.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Marie Hazelwood















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