Another Successful year for the Aarhus chapter of Psych Fest. Day one had many highlights and loads of energy from both the bands and audience, however it seemed tougher for everyone (this writer included) to find that groove and ride it into the sort of transcendental vibe that such potentially mind expanding music offers. To be honest, it seemed like the crowd was hung over and while the wheels and cogs spinning of the venue and festival crew allowed for an absolutely flawless and unrelenting flow between the seven bands on the two stages (Radar’s main stage, and the ad-hoc floor shows of the lofty Rå hall) me and the crowd were still recovering from the day before, nonetheless I made it to all of the line-up on offer and here’s the minutes
Tales of Murder and Dust – they of course are the OGs of Aarhus neo-psych. The band filtered on stage at exactly 19.00 and began their extremely layered and heavy take on dark, film inspired psych rock. We’ve all watched and seen them grow over the years, and this set featured mostly unrecorded songs. Their new direction is more stripped back and hits you right where you need it. Seems like they lost their token tambourine player and really bulked up on crazy pedals to send their new pieces into often ambient territory with wonderful builds and releases. The interplay between Kristoffer and Christian’s dual feedback and distortion assaults is seamless and they can rest assured, that if they capture their new songs the way they were performed on stage last night, that they are going to have a truly magnificent and evil record in the can. Using abstract and dark visuals as a backdrop adds to the fact that they could easily score a vintage horror film, or a Lynch joint. Fantastic show on their part, I just wish their audience could have got out of bed and seen it, the crowd was thin.
Dør No. 13 – I didn’t expect to see a solo guitar slinger in the programme, but that’s what the act is. I was seriously waiting for my caffeine and alcohol to wash away my cloudy headache, so a bit of laid back singer/songwriter vibes would have suited me just fine, and this guy did a great job of soothing peoples pain in the comfortable and cold atmosphere of the cavernous Rå hal’s Lunar Suite, but I felt it was maybe a bit misplaced among the other full rock bands of the weekend. His songs were often bluesy and focused on the darker elements of 60’s pop, but with a very naïve type Danish text wrapped in simple guitar lines. While his lyrics seemed a bit basic in their observations and allusions, the delivery was convincing and genuine, so all in all, solid, short and sweet.
Morgan Square took the main Radar stage next. The crowd was finally beginning to wander in and the Morgan Square boys were a welcome injection of energy into the atmosphere. They are unmistakable as overtly psychedelic I have to say. The lead singer was clad in a kind of bird feather vest and the guitar/organ maestro was wearing some sort of Indian pajama jacket, so they had that goin’ for ‘em. The most interesting bit of their performance featured an electric saw player, adding that extra weird vibe to their sonic landscape, however that’s where my interest peaked. I thought they were definitely influenced by Syd Barret era Pink Floyd and the 13th Floor Elevators with whimsical song structure, tempo changes and surreal imagery in their lyrics, however I just thought the whole performance came over as a bit hokey and kind of a parody of psych and early prog music. Some moments were reminiscent of a sort of ‘rock opera’ and some moments were a bit over the top for me though. Musically, you really can’t fault their talent and ambition, but I think there are better bands out there doing this.
The Road Back To Yahowa was a duo consisting of floor toms and guitar/vocals. This for me was the only band over the whole festival that I thought might have been absolutely out of place, and definitely out of their league. It was just a basic take on Neanderthal noise punk and it really didn’t strike me as original or anything but dangerous to my mood and ears. I was happy to spend most of their set seated and eating toast (yes readers – there was toast…the real shit too…not frozen!) Luckily for the crowd, their set was short and everyone still had plenty of cigarettes to smoke.
Elevatorfører were an act that I think brought heaps of ticket buyers in. this was the moment that Radar became packed with souls finally and for the first time of the day, tough to find a view of the stage from behind. I had never heard these guys before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I could best describe it as a very Danish version of folk-rock, meaning; it just flew right over my head as absolutely not having any substance or bringing any joy to my heart that just wanted to hear some loud evil music. With eight dudes onstage (one of them wearing a turban) the focus was still very much on the lead singer, who seemed like the mastermind of the operation and delivered some pretty basic art-school poetics ruminating on trips to the forest (by the way – where is this fucking magical forest that all the Danish bands seem to be singing about?) and sailors. It seemed like the songs were there, and the band decided to layer it with some “psychedelic” flavors, but again, it seemed like a parody of 60’s pop with lots of little tricks like a mic’d up giant…umm…bong(?) for auxiliary sound effects etc. They had visuals behind them of ponies prancing and whales swimming and the whole thing just seemed like something that your dad might like, but I was just spiraling into a deep mood of frustration and crankiness. Often to the front of the mix as well was some of the worst guitar playing I think I’ve ever heard for a paying audience, I’m sorry, but it was distracting. A man beside me was expelling some pretty lethal concert farts as well. I was gasping. To the bar ‘me hardies!!
Sick hyenas – Now here was a good solid show. The quirky German trio hit the floor running with matching African nomad gowns and pounding reverb drenched guitars. This was a straight up garage punk affair with bits of punked up surf guitar attached. They seemed wild and reckless and shredded the audience who were hungry for something a little more mental than the previous program had to offer. It was simple, concise and effective and I finally got my buzz back after hearing them. The dude from Morgan Square tried to come up and join them on tambourine and it looked like they told him to get lost. The hippie dream was dead and these sick hyenas delivered the lethal bite.
Moon Mountain was a group that everyone was buzzing about. By the time that the Sick Hyenas had wrapped up they had already began though, which meant the program was on seriously tight reigns (which I liked). Moon Mountain is fronted by a female singer who’s strong vocals reminded me a lot of Siouxsie Sioux but with her own fucked up twist. The band was driven my pounding floor toms, synth beats and wonderful guitar drenched in chorus. Each song seemed to have more tension than what came before and by the end, had the audience absolutely riveted. I would say their sound lays more in the post punk and new wave side of Psych (rather than relying heavily on tricks from the 1960s) and it was a welcome jaunt into musical darkness. I found a good spot and just was overwhelmed by the power that seemed to intensely breathe out of the group. I’m certain they could carry a concert all on their own, and I hope they come back to Aarhus lickety split. Damn they were good.
Spindrift – after a pretty quick changeover and time for a trip to the bar and a few smokes, our festival closers hi the stage. They were all wearing cowboy hats and carrying some seriously vintage instruments and just launched straight into what they do best: Weird Spaghetti western music. As far as that whole scene goes: these guys are the fucking Dons of that for sure. It was the last stop on their lengthy European tour and they didn’t seem weary or burnt out, just tight and bushy tailed as they blasted through song after mega song of blistering instrumental twang – fusing cowboy, surf, mariachi and sometimes even some metal into a perfectly formed set. Pros. The guy from morgan square, after possibly another costume change wandered on stage again with a tambourine, this time even seemingly more awkward than before – and I guess sort of politely shown the exit after his ‘performance’. I guess there is always a tambourine whore at a psych festival. A girl next to me told me that he looked like a character from Harry Potter that she didn’t like – so she didn’t like that part of the concert…there you go! Anyway – again, the band was tight as fuck, actually got people dancing and played their asses off. I was a bit confused as to why the place seemed to be a bit emptier than a few hours earlier because this was the best show of the weekend for me. After an encore of Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”, the guitar player dove into the drum set and the band threw their guitars down in a fit of feedback and left the stage. Even though they had played for next to an hour, the set felt way too short. We wanted more, but the lights came on and we were heading…further into the unknown…
It seems like Aarhus Psych Fest is here to stay. They certainly have proved that it’s an umbrella for a lot of different kinds of music for both the purists, and casual listeners alike. Radar and the Rå hall seem like a perfect fit for these types of concerts, and offers up enough space and sound to have a very fulfilling experience. The only fault I’ve seen with the actual venue though is the fact that both the offices, and the backstage areas are located through doors on either side of the stage and for whatever reasons, there seems to be a constant flow of staff and bands in and out of the doors (which lets in some pretty ‘buzz killing’ light next to the stage). It’s only a small little niggle that I’ve picked up on personally – I’m easily distracted!
This year’s music program had its ups and downs for me, but overall its one of the best indoor festivals in the country and extremely good value for money. I was very honoured to be able to attend and chat with so many cool guys and girls in between shows, and the crowd were absolutely brilliant and respectful of everything and everyone around them. I’ll definitely be back next year and hope some of our readers will check it out in 2015.