It is a sweltering hot day in June and today I’m heading out for Eindhoven Psych Lab, a new festival with a lot of promise with exceptional and interesting bands. Last year we visited the first edition in name of the Shaman with a craving for hypnotic psych, dirty garage and endless spacy riffs. This year the festival returns for its second edition in the Effenaar.
What should be mentioned is that this festival in its first edition was still clearly grasping for identity (and a crowd that identified with it). There’s a major difference noticeable immediately on that front. It might also be the good weather, but there’s a sense of scene and unity in the air. Sure, it’s not the tight knit bunch of big bro Roadburn yet, but potential is a big thing when you’re creating something new. Psych Lab is definitely a new thing, only equalled by the Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia.
So the Germans of Warm Graves kick off in the Observatory, the smaller stage in the Effenaar and Tubelight from Belgium takes care of the Main Lab (the big stage). Both are not the bands that are going to shatter the experience of what you know about music, but specially the Belgians do a good job at setting the mood with their heavy, noisy shoegaze/psych. There’s that big feeling to their sound, which fills the venue, even though the crowd is still gradually coming in. Tubelight gets the first little dance moves going, while the heat is rising. The static performance is illuminated by strange and fascinating visuals, giving an extra entertainment factor to the performance.
Alpha Whale is glad to be here and manages to lace their set with silly little jokes. The Belgians play a gentle mixture of surf and psych, that flutters gently into the Observatory. Like their sound, the music is frivolous, never really pushing any limits, which is totally fine of course. They offer a breeze for the visitors, of which only a few manage to stick around for the whole set instead of leaving for the garden of the Effenaar to get some fresh air and sunlight.
If you happen to be hungry during Psych Lab, have no fear. The Effenaar provides a pick’n’mix meal for a good price that will stop you from visiting fast food places. This has little to do with the music of course, but is definitely part of the complete experience the festival offers. There’s some extra events happening around that one might miss out on as well. In a sea container behind the lobby, Kamiel Rongen is doing an audio-visual performance of electronic sounds and strange images that feel like an acid trip in controlled circumstances. Most of the personnel is clad in lab coats or from head to toe in a clean-room suit. It all adds to the experience.
Klaus Johann Grobe is well aware of the line-up and are vocal about their disappointment on not seeing Doug Tuttle on the main stage (which happens to overlap their set). The trio from Switzerland embodies the ongoing tradition of kraut rock in this day and age, displaying that typical motoric beat and endless feeling to the synth infused sounds. With only a synthesizer, bass and drums, the musicians manages to push out a rhythm that feels strict but with an infectious funky vibe to it. This is one of the bands that is part of the Trouble In Mind label showcase today, though not playing the Main Lab. The set of Klaus Johann Grobe is promising. The energetic feel to it even makes The Soft Walls in the Main Lab sound a bit sleepy, with their hazy garage psych. That does seem to resonate with the crowd, which seems to have a hard time getting really into it with bands playing the main stage. Maybe there’s too much light, too many projectors for safely dancing like no one’s watching. The Brighton band definitely has that sunny sound you’d waver about to.
Thank your random deity for the storm that breaks outside, the sweltering heat finally seems to gradually dissipate. It’s not the only storm breaking this evening, because in the Observatory an unusual performance is taking place. As an introduction a happy hardcore track from the nineties is playing, giving the vibe of stranger things to come for this collaborative performance of Eindhoven’s own Radar Men From The Moon and The Cosmic Dead. Both were highlights of the first edition of Psych Lab, so together on the stage would appear an interesting mix. The first band known for spinning out their sonic constructions endlessly, creating static, spacy sounds in contrast with the chaotic build-up to a final explosion of the Scottish band. The explosion is exactly how the group starts their set of mind blowing sound. The volume is already intense, but so is the way the groups bring down a cosmic trip for almost 45 minutes. The combined sound is exactly what you would think it’d be: a rhythmic train that shakes, bumps, screeches and rambles on, like it can barely contain itself. Sure, the music is hardly tight, but what can you expect after one rehearsal session. The result is a sweaty, dirty, danceable set of unstable chemicals, creating an unlikely highlight to the festival.
Morgan Delt offers some relieve after that in the Main Lab with their squeaky, dreamy psych, combining shaky dream pop with crunchy electronics. The reverb on the guitars adds an oriental flavour to the sound of this group from Los Angeles. Even more pleasant is the music from The Limiñanas, who create a sunny, poppy bit of psych rock from the deep south of France. The music is light and accessible, which is nice once in a while as well. Lingering on the edge of cheesy are the vocals. The band is the brainchild of Lionel (guitar) and Marie (drums and a bit of singing) Limiñana and very clearly relies on the French tradition with the sexy of Gainsbourg and the fun of Stereo Total. This might not be the most edgy band of today, but after a lot of that, the French group is a welcome moment of simply enjoying the melodies and the lulling vocals. Enough room for the other things later.
Similarly pleasant is Jacco Gardner. The Dutch multi-instrumentalist has gathered a band around him for live shows, but is obviously the centre of all music being made. Odd moment is when he suddenly rushes off the stage early in the set due to some technical problems. Luckily these are soon resolved and the music can continue. This is somewhere between Syd Barrett’s 60’s experiments and some folky Jethro Tull elements, which works out fine in a light-hearted, dreamy set of songs. Though people have a tendency to describe Psych Lab as difficult music, there’s a simplicity to the concoction of these songs. Deeply atmospheric, but not looking for complexity for complexity’s sake, Jacco Gardner is creating a magical forest in the Main Lab. The audience calmly enjoys these, while many enjoy a glass of local brewer Van Moll’s beer. Especially for the festival they brewed two flavours that find as much appreciation with the crowd as the music of Jacco Gardner. It’s enjoyed with a sense of calm contemplation.
There’s nothing calm happening in the Observatory, where Hey Colossus is rampaging through their set of thick slabs of psychedelic infused sludge or stoner or noise, whatever you want to call it. Especially early in their show, these Londoners are a force to be reckoned with and a wakeup call for the dreamy-faced lab rats of today’s sonic investigations. As ferocious as the band sounds, the group looks in firm control of their set and clearly is up to show this fest what the meaning of heavy is. Relying heavily on reverb, the sound is much bigger than this small room, making the whole set feel more intense and overwhelming. Unfortunately, the control on the music the band has, seems to tame it a bit too towards the end.
The Main Lab has filled up by then for the absolute headliner today, which is Moon Duo. The duo consists of Sanae Yamada and Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips), but today is here as a trio. Headliners have the tendency to disappoint a little on festivals where you’ve been excited by discoveries throughout the day. This is one of those cases, which has very little to do with the quality of the band. The long, winding sessions are hypnotic, not least thanks to the amazing visuals in the Main Lab. It’s been a long day and Moon Duo is right now not rocking anyone’s musical perception anymore, which is something you feel looking over the crowd. The tantalizing element of the music never fully reaching its climax is keeping some tension in the set. For many this is the end of the trip today after a tiring, but rewarding, experience.
Teeth Of The Sea is going to give the final blast in the Observatory. The London based, post-psychedelic dance experience of doom is a phenomenon to observe live. There was even the first Teeth Of The Sea and Psych Lab crowd surfer during their set of intense music. It’s fairly hard to describe the energy that this band creates during a live set. Atmospheric and overwhelming, the band gives day one the end it deserves.
Scribed by: Guido Segers
Photos by: Paul Verhagen (www.achromemoments.nl)