Lisbon Psych Fest 2016 review

Lisbon Psych Fest 2016 review

30th April 2016 0 By Andreia Figueiredo

Teatro do Bairro, Lisbon, April 15th-16th 2016

Brought to you for the second time by production team Killer Mathilda, Lisbon Psych Fest once again took Teatro do Bairro by storm, returning with its assorted variety of all that psychadelia sounds can offer on April 15th and 16th. In a cozy but airy venue nested in Bairro Alto, with a breathable schedule (while inevitably respecting the Portuguese tardiness) and a quite reasonable and refreshing curating of bands, this experience was an undeniably pleasant and even memorable one for any of y’all cosmonauts.

First bands first, the Portuguese and quite recently formed Ganso were well behaved introduction hosts – a psych variety comfortable enough to make you feel welcome and a band cheeky enough to keep you on your toes. Not even the less than desirably audible vocals could spoil their nonchalant but spring-like performance.

Next came Sun Blossoms, a bluesy lower-fi project of Blue Drone’s clearly friended by the public Alexandre Fernandes. Anyone would love to see Alexandre live – the look on his eyes would suggest he’s not really playing, but rather watching cartoons (I guess that’s the look of an enjoyer). Much like a firefly, even though their dream-like slow tunes light the evening, I didn’t feel the band really left much of a trace. However, the venue was already getting close to full.

The Chinese Chui Wan were the undisputable surprise of the evening, and a clear favorite of the audience. Their pentatonic-ridden, mundane-jingling experimental trips kept everyone mesmerized off their feet. However, bassist Wu Qiong was clearly getting all the stares; the bass lines were a show on their own right, to a degree where that still person’s fingers didn’t look like hers anymore. Although it sounded excessively shrilly at times, their performance was most certainly an unforgettable one.

Chicos de Nazca are more-than-proven Chilean contemplative desert surfers. Even though that invariably gave us a voyage with no major bumps, and however grateful we can be for their echoing guitars that go for hundreds of aeons of sand, one can’t really help but think that their sound could seem a little sunk in relation to the rest of the evening’s bands.

Being an already recognized psyched-up institution in Portugal, 10000 Russos brought along what this day’s journey was missing – a sharp act. Not too aggressive, not too tight – just sharp. The doomsday vocals and endless streams of smudged guitar made for a totally absorbing show. There’s a science to not being tiresome while spewing long and repetitive beats, and these guys have totally mastered it by now.

The small and intimate venue would be expected to go well with British The Underground Youth, even if 10000 Russos were a tough act to follow, since this sequence kind of left the stomping lust a little bit on the downside. There were definitely sound issues – at times you could barely tell the two guitars apart –, a problem some of the members were clearly cranky about. I did feel a huge difference between studio and live audio. However, their depressive Brit-like Joy-Divisiony darker-than-psych was more than welcome. One could never forget to mention the bass player’s behavior, ending up shenaniging in the middle of the audience and strapping his bass guitar on an unsuspecting happy camper nearby (promptly disappointed a few seconds after by having it taken away by production).

On to the second day, April 16th began with a big band on a little stage. Twin Transistor’s performance went down well. I would say that Southern sounds have a nice taste regardless of occasion, and this festival had been missing some old school riffing action, in this case well supported by a thick bass line. Maybe there was some kind of loss on account of it being repetitive, or by sounding too invariable live if there’s such a thing. However, the turnout was similar to the first day’s beginning, and not a disappointing one at that.

Alek Rein’s psych folk productions got along nicely due to the psych part, but not so much the folk. Even though it was a little more sing-alongy than we’d witnessed so far, with a comfortable Americana breeze to it, I guess it could be in fact its inherent complexity that drove this performance a little bit to the side. It was overall a nice show, even with the occasional shrill.

French act You Said Strange is one that you’d never have any doubts about calling psych rock. Though a kind of traditional off-brand one, they showed themselves really no less than perfectly representative of what this festival seemed to breathe: a fluorescent mellow shake. Again, and similarly to 10000 Russos, You Said Strange seem to have mastered the art of unrolling long identical sequences without turning tedious.

I would define the following act, Tau, as etno-chamber-psych. It’s amazing what two photogenic shamans are able to do with such little resources, providing us with an intermission of invocative desert tunes. Although they were undoubtedly and enthusiastically having a lot of fun, they also repeatedly asked to turn up the vocals’ volume (at this stage, you might suppose it to be a recurring problem), which ultimately resulted in excessive loudness towards the end, accompanied by some Hendrix-like antics.

Although it was already kind of late, The Altered Hours easily proved themselves as contagious; besides, I don’t think anyone can really miss with a lullaby like “Sweet Jelly Roll”. Melancholic, but never quite gone, the members’ noticeable energy and their cymbal-spiced stirred up guitars had a notoriously massive effect on the crowd.

And last but not least, Gnod were here. Gnod were a lot of the “mosts” of the festival: the angriest, the krautiest, the stompiest, and definitely the only headbang-provoking act. Six people squeezed onto that stage (including two drummers) to release these two days’ heaviest performance, smashing it all the way from Salford. Even though the lead-like sounds seemed a bit undecipherable at times, whatever came out crooked just blended back in with the sweat. It may not have been a perfectly fitting ending, but definitely a very blazing one.

Along with the concerts, you were also able to enjoy an exhibition of Mesineto’s (Hugo Barros) collages – an intertwining not only of paper, but of dimensions as well. It provided for a welcoming hallway to the concert area, completely in tune with the festival’s aura. A special shout out also has to made to Ana Jorge’s live video projections, with which spectacular experiences were provided on the side, complementing the band’s performances beautifully. Personally I found their diversity particularly delightful, ranging from the traditional (and handmade live) lava-lamp-like effects to decades-old educational videos.

Overall, it was gratifying to get to experience so much diversity of what psych can amount to in such a small venue and only in two days. I’m sincerely hoping for a third edition, and I’m already regretting not having attended the first one. It takes a little special something to drag a bunch of travellers out to space just a few blocks down the street.

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