The Victoria, Dalston, London
Saturday 8th June 2013
While the Stone Roses entertained a 40,000 strong London mob the weekend before last our man Keith Goldhanger was “dragging his heals” round some minor London hostelry which was host to a gig showcasing some rather splendid psych bands.
As a spotty teenager I once went into a record shop to buy an album by the BIRTHDAY PARTY simply because it was on 4AD records. I had no idea what they were going to sound like but i’d sussed that somewhere in this world lived a person who was responsible for this being in a shop and because previous slabs of vinyl by other artists on this label had been ace it was worth the punt of putting my hand in my pocket to purchase this to find out if my intuition was a good one (it was).
Fast forward a few decades and there’s a similar feeling towards a bloke here in East London who puts on gigs under the banner of “Bad Vibrations” and who has already put some gigs on in recent months that have been so ace that we find ourselves sitting rather early in an empty pub with daylight still flowing through the windows anticipating the forthcoming few hours and discussing a genre of music that basically covers everything as long as it’s got a bit of echo / chorus / phased vocals (usually provided by “one of those Boss things”).
And it’s not “Goth” by the way.
We know a few people will dislike the idea of a newly christened music genre in 2013 and I can hear the cries of “no! no! no! it was better in 2010” already. People may be tempted to criticise it as a “fad”, as “nonsense” as “something to categorise just to make it sound special” but this stuff really does exist now and has got an actual name attached to it so those record shops that still exist can scrawl it’s name on little bits of card so we know where to find these bands CD’s (once they eventually come out) when we go shopping on a Saturday Afternoon.
It’s called “psych” apparently, as in psychedelic but without the “delic” bit. In fact i’m drawn to the attention of my own article reviewing Heavenly records “Temples” on this Louder Than War blog recently which actually referred to it as “neu-psyche” (someone else put that bit in -i’d never heard it called that before). So don’t blame me for all of this…other people gave it names. I’m just the fool in the corner dragging my heels along to these places to grin, tap my feet and drink ale.
These bands on these stages actually practice their art separately from one another. There’s no big meeting by these people writing notes and discussing business plans so it’s not their fault either.
It’s ok for the likes of us to just simply turn up and go swanning into a dark room any night of the week to watch all of this stuff going on (or “going off”) but sometimes it’s actually worth seeking out those responsible for all of this to discover that these people are as enthusiastic as you or I about these bands who we simply wouldn’t know existed if these events didn’t take place.
A couple of miles in one direction this evening are another forty thousand people going bananas about the resurrection of “The Stone Roses”. In the other direction a couple of miles away are a few hundred checked shirted middle aged people being excited about the return of “Mudhoney” and here in the Victoria pub in East London (two bar staff, one security staff), the rest of the world stand waiting for a glimpse of the future.
Well not really.
We’ve just popped out for a pint and happen to think that these bands here might be alright.
It turns out they are.
We have four bands doing what they’ve been doing for a few years now, in different parts of the world, different buildings and different rooms. Today they’ve just happened to end up here, in a small room on a warm summers evening giving some of us an alternative to spending money we don’t have to watch artists we’ve not been able to see for years. And it’s all thanks to …….er…someone…..(this is why i’m here early, as well as avoiding the bar queue later)
We’re all together today because some bloke who fortunately had parents that agreed that Keith is a good name to call a child has been getting his finger out and arranging all of this. Like a lot of us, this man has a music collection on his hard drive that he’d like us all to hear, see and listen to.
” If this stuff was going on in say, Aberdeen – there’d be a huge amount of people outside venues queuing from about eight o’clock but the competition in London at the moment …well ..it’s hard to compete with those that want to see the Stone Roses and actually have fifty quid spare” says our promoter before the last band have actually finished sound-checking.
He’s got a point you know and “how come people have that sort of money when there’s a recession on – the worse one for years ?” asks a member of opening act THELIGHTSHINES whilst chatting on the pavement outside in between puffs of his rollies.
“Was it this bad in the early 80’s?” I’m asked, again by someone who was a few years from being born when we were all going to rusty old cinemas in West London to see bands like the Birthday Party for the cost of a pint and a bit (the same formula I’m still using today – try that with football admission tickets when you next have your calculators out).
Anyway…i’m sure there’s more bands today than there ever was and the standard of these bands is higher than it ever was. Some of these new “psych” bands remind us of the early days when “The Horrors” used to turn up and just make a racket before honing their skills and sloping away into a world of their own which many people warmed to. A lot of these bands we’re seeing here at these events at the moment seem to already have their own individual idea’s of what they want to sound like and they just happen to be new bands playing good noisy music that a few people are calling “psych”.
Or “neu-psych” “Neo-psych” Or even “NEW psych”…… whatever eh ?
Not everything is all rosy tho’, there’s a few bands out there that really don’t cut the mustard still but we can eek these out on our laptops nowadays before opening the front door to go out in our jeans hanging around our arses (pockets full of stones -that’s how it’s done y’know).
So we’ve established that these bands have now got this tag around their necks to define this genre of music that is creeping into the consciousness of the UK music fan.
However for every “Temples” or “Tame Imapla”, “Melody’s Echo Chamber”, “Toy”, “Charlie Boyer and the Voyers”, and all those others that might be gracing the stages at the big summer festivals this year, there exists “Thelightshines”, “Temple Songs” (which will be confusing in years to come),”The Wands”, “Charles Howl” as well as others we’ve been seeing throw themselves around recently (“Loom”, “Wytches”, “CuT” …oh I’m not gonna list ’em all) …in fact more than you can shake a stick at… equally as good (or bad -it doesn’t matter) musically and equally as exciting but rather a long way behind in the race (ok it’s not a race) in getting their first release or huge crowds waving their arms in the air at night that all of this may possible soon achieve.
All four bands this evening have something different to offer. They all sound different, all have some cool songs that can be spotted here and there amongst the cacophony of noise and they all have one or two similar traits.
They all seem to smoke too many fags.
Each band has at least one member who wears very pointy shoes.
Each band will have one member with facial hair.
They’ll be rather a lot of echo of the vocals and guitars.
And they seem to cover most musical territories.
But not Goth.
Other than that we have this evening a variety of tunes that keep all of us toe tapping beer drinkers more than happy.
Opening act THELIGHTSHINES are a bit like one of the original shoegazing bands (psych- shoegazing?) Their “Spaceman Three” / “Spiritialised” twanging guitars and soothing echoing vocals are refreshing to the ears. They remind us a little of the aforementioned Stone Roses at times as well as the usual other suspects (Byrds, Caravan, 60’s pschycadelia bands that we still haven’t got around to make comparisons with….) and already there seems to be a flurry of activity in the room as people turn up and approach the front of the stage in anticipation of what they’ve just spent their entrance fee on. It would be unsurprising to witness a room like this packed at the edges but empty at the front and in the middle of the room but people (a decent amount as it turns out) here have arrived early and are here for the duration and seem to have had their laptops on all week preparing themselves for these bands that are still so early on their paths to fame and fortune (or not !) that there’s currently only the odd smattering of tunes available to listen to in the comfort of our own living rooms.
Manchester beat combo TEMPLE SONGS continue the evening with a faster more chugging approach to their art – providing us with songs that may provide us with a soundtrack for the summer (if not this one then surely the next one) – there appears to be some (short) superb tunes crawling out of all this mayhem going on up there and we’ll be keeping an eye out on their activities over the next few months. If such a thing existed (and I’m available for record shop consultations if required) we’ll call this “alternative lo-fi 60’s inspired and a-bit-like-the-Hives but with a tambourine – psych”. They’ve got an ace single out in July called “Passed Caring” and it’s a three minute corker of a tune that is covered with such a racket that when you find the tune it’s one of gloriously beauty. A bit like the beauty we all had to look for and eventually find in those early Jesus and Mary chain records years ago.
But faster and louder.
Charles Howl sports the best moustache in popular music. His (their?) musical approach is more 60’s garage with keyboards that go whoosh whoosh in and around songs with a lot of tempo changes and like a very punk rock noisy version of “The Strokes”. Again, tunes (remember those) that although hidden slightly are well rewarding once they appear.
The Wands are from Copenhagen and those around me are very smitten with this lot.
They’re probably a bit too over the top psychedelic (psych-psych?) at times and once or twice we lose concentration as there seems to be some concern over a piece of equipment on stage. They pull through this really well and we hear someone remark that theres not many beat combos around that have a singer / guitarist who also plays a harmonica without the band sounding like he should be wearing a cowboy hat on top of all that hair on his head.
The night is still young. Some people who call themselves “The Black Manilla DJ’s” provide more tunes until well after our bedtime, members of bands we’ve seen on these bills previously turn up having been watching their mates play gigs at other venues in the area or having played one themselves and are in need of that all important pint of beer at two o’clock in the morning. These people are called things like Ginger psych, Sporty psych and…er OK they’re not…that would be plain silly. It all gets a bit messy, it all gets a bit noisy we’re all shouting at each other, people fall over (and get up again) and the morning after we’re scampering down the local record shop to see what’s available*
* Actually we’re not…we’re laying in bed like the lazy fuckwits we are trying to find stuff on You Tube to see if it really is this good.
And it is – trust me.
Trust anyone called Keith – a better name for a musical genre than Psych – Just ask our parents.
Thelightshines can be found on Facebook.
Charles Howl are on Facebook.
The Wands can be found on Facebook.