Songhoy Blues

Songhoy Blues

Long-named “The Great Psychedelic Capital of Europe,” Liverpool has appropriately been home to the Liverpool Psychfest for six years running. We caught both days this year, and here is a recap of the first.

It’s sprinkling lightly outside in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle as we queue for the gates to open. Anxious energy ripples through the crowd as the clock ticks past 3pm and bands warming up echo across the warehouse complex where this year’s Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia is being held. There’s a sudden mad rush when security begins inviting people forward, and small groups split up to make it to one of the four respective stages.

In one of the first shows of the afternoon after traveling from Leeds the night before, Yassassin welcome a smattering of people, who have already having gotten their tokens and cups for their first lager of the day, as District stage already begins to heat up. While some appropriately psychedelic projected art swirls and flashes on the wall above them, the band jump straight into their high-energy, upbeat, and unique form of punk. They thank everyone for having the energy to turn up so early, and for believing in them long enough to support them from their very first recorded song: “Social Politics,” a powerful rally against adversaries of all kinds, starts the crowd bobbing along.

Next up is Novella on Blade Factory. Channeling more analogue forms of rock, revealing a rawer and more exposed form of prowess in their art, the four-piece filled the smallest stage of the festival with a soulful atmosphere. At some times splashy and energetic, and at others spacey and quite perfectly matching with the spiraling projections over them, Novella take commentary on the wildly shifting events in the world around them and create impressively-crafted and dynamic songs.

Traveling back to District stage for LA Witch is a struggle; the previously almost vacant room has now filled to capacity, with a queue stretching out the back door in accordance to the one-in-one-out policy. The Los Angeles trio seem to have taken over the world with their well-repeated “reverb-soaked” punk-rock. Whether it be classics like “Kill My Baby Tonight,” featuring lead singer Sade Sanchez’s unique crooning growl, or “Untitled,” off their newest self-titled debut album, LA Witch never fails to entertain. Catch them at this year’s Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree, California!

The Pattern Forms take a complete 180 turn from the previous bands. They filled Blade Factory with a unique form of dreamy melancholy that leaves one lost in the tour of the cosmos. The trio are impossible to classify into a single genre, and they take their inspiration from the British outdoors to another level. Singer Ed McFarlane has a wide range of synths and other electronic instruments in front of him, where the band gets its fuzzy synth and clear pop hooks from. Guitarist Edd Gibson switches from a mandolin to a guitar after the first song. If anything, one could use the word “ethereal” in an attempt to sum up their set.

Songhoy Blues closes out Furnace, the largest stage on site, with a hypnotic form of animation while channeling a perfect blend of Afro-beat and psychedelia. Their latest release, Résistance, takes great influence from the civil unrest in their home country of Mali. They use their songs to fight with “music as our weapon, our songs as our resistance” says lead singer Aliou Touré says so passionately. The crowd can come together through the magical sound of desert blues and wildly powerful message emerging from the stage.

And so day one was finished, but day two was still yet to come. Bright colors still swirling in my eyes, I prepared myself for a second day of inspiration through music and the community flowing around me.

Review and photos by: Francesca Tirpak