‘VARIOUS ARTISTS’ – ‘LEWES PSYCHEDELIC FESTIVAL’, ALL SAINTS CENTRE, LEWES 27.1.24
Yet another year has rolled by and despite all of the hardships endured by many during the past 12 months, there’s always the excitement of a well established local festival to bring smiles back on folks faces! With a relatively quiet almost music-free January coming to an end, the ‘Lewes Psychedelic Festival’ is certainly heartedly welcomed as the first one-day music festival of the year!
As always, the event is a joint venture between Melting Vinyl promoters and visual artists Innerstrings and this year has the addition of Acid Box DJ Polly Miles on the decks. The festival was taking place at the All Saints Centre which is located on Friar’s Walk, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2LE, as well as across the road at the compact but charming Union Music Store, found at 1 Lansdown Place, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 2JT. It’s fair to state that All Saints is a terrific building, one which was given to Lewes Town Council in September 1980, having previously been a church throughout the centuries and now operates as a Community, Arts and Youth centre. First mention of the church of All Saints was way back in 1148 AD, but it was rebuilt in the 15th century including the current bell tower, and further additions were added around 200 years ago.
As in past years (from 2009) the ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ endeavours to bring together a wide variety of acts under the psych umbrella from Sussex and beyond. The one day festival always sells out in super quick time and this year’s event was no exception. This year’s lineup featured the following:
You may have noticed that the times of the afternoon sessions sadly clashed and so something had to give, thus a difficult decision was made and having purchased a pint of Harvey’s best, I thought it proper to stay within the confines of All Saints as opposed to strutting across the road and into the Union Record Store with it. So apologies to Daisy Rickman and Linden Pomeroy for missing their sets.
Thus my day began in the compact Small Psych Room to the rear of the main All Saints building. As with previous years, there were dazzling visuals for the eyes and absorbing psych music for the ears, thus giving your senses the full-on psych experience that your price of admission deserves. As ever, international visual artist Innerstrings brought us the visuals by turning both rooms into a bath of swirling liquid light, not unlike being in a giant lava lamp. Let’s get ready to be psyched out…
SHARRON KRAUS – SMALL PSYCH ROOM 3:15pm:
Sharron Kraus kicked off my ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ this year and the performance area was awash with musical instruments including 3 guitars, tambourine, a gong, 2 keyboards, a recorder and other delights. These were to be used as part of the afternoon session which Sharron opened and was followed by Samana and between them the instruments were utilised. Innerstrings lighting effects on the walls added to the vibe. Even before Sharron graced us with her presence the compact high ceiled vaulted room was rammed full with mainly mature clientele with beers in hand, myself included. “This space really excites me!” Sharron announced on her arrival. The Oxford based artist who refers to herself as offering “Dark folk and pilgrim chants” was playing a solo set for us this afternoon. Sharron was seated and began by playing a rather unusual instrument the sound of which reminded me of the ‘Bagpuss’ theme. The set was ethereal and the notes were sampled and repeated and layers were added as the tunes progressed. A guitar then came into play and we were whisked away from the feel of being inside a long lost Icelandic cave to arriving at a long forgotten Irish fishing village – These were the deep feelings imagined within my mind. The vocals and instrumentation were crisp and clear and even the use of a metal pestle and mortar gave a wonderful chime-like quality. The mediaeval sounding recorder and the deep bass synth sounds somehow worked in perfect harmony on a composition about Chanctonbury Ring. This was music to daydream to.
SAMANA – SMALL PSYCH ROOM 4:15pm:
The second and final act of the afternoon for me were Samana, a barefoot trio (Rebecca Rose, Franklin Mockett and touring chum) all sporting blond flowing locks. We last caught up with them a year ago at Love Thy Neighbour’s annual ‘Triptych’ event – Review HERE. This afternoon, two of the Gibson guitars were brought into play along with a keyboard, gong and drum style tambourine which had thus not been utilised this afternoon. Once again the room was packed prior to the commencement of this set and I was under no illusions that this venue was absolutely the perfect venue for them. The joint swirling male/female wailing style vocals filled the room, so much so that if one had previously consumed some “special” mushrooms it would have invoked an outer body experience that would see one floating up in the rafters looking down at everyone present. I guess that with a statement like that, the ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ has certainly kicked off! Although just a stone’s throw away from Brighton, Lewes has a totally different feel to the place and Samana are perfect for Lewes. For me it’s essential that Samana avoid playing the standard box shape music venues, but in fact seek out unusual places, such as a large yurt in an open glade by a running river to be as one with mother nature, or even within the vaulted chambers of Battle Abbey would be preferable. Rebecca’s and Franklin’s harmonies filled the room and the punters stood or sat motionless and simply let the musical notes flow through their bodies. Their ‘Seven Years’ single was the set highlight and was penned about love and loss. This had a Richard Hawley nod to it. We were informed that they will have a new album out at the end of April.
With a 70 minute music hiatus, we ventured not too far away for some sustenance and found ourselves seated in the busy Bill’s restaurant, which as anyone local will know was the very first one in the chain. The menu was dazzling but we both strangely opted for a couple of the same starters each, these being Crispy Calamari White served with roast garlic and basil aioli (£7.25) and Bill’s Sticky Duck Salad – crispy duck tossed in spicy BBQ sauce with watermelon, coriander and little gem wraps (£7.25)…Tasty! Bellies full, batteries recharged we headed back to All Saints for the evening session…
PLANTOID – MAIN PSYCH STAGE 6:10pm:
We literally arrived inside the Main Psych Room just as Plantoid struck up – Perfect timing! These are a Brighton based prog and jazzy psych quintet, who we last caught up with at the ‘Mutations Festival‘ back on 4th November – Review HERE. This evening they are operating on guitar and vocals, guitar, bass, drums and tom toms, maracas a plus tambourine. For the start of their set, the venue is surprisingly only half full, but the band’s sound certainly fills the venue. They are noisier than the two previous acts I’ve witnessed today and they certainly blow the cobwebs away. Those punters that are present are really lapping up what Plantoid have to offer, which as I see it is jazz infused indie rock. Let’s face it, they are a tight unit and clearly feel every note that they play. It’s great to see this former church brought back to life again and the use of Innerstrings visuals on the ceiling, walls and band’s backdrop allows for that total immersive experience. For those present, Plantoid were a great way to kick off the evening session, but in all honesty they weren’t to my taste, but don’t let me stop you from checking them out! Plantoid fans will be pleased to learn that the band will be performing a Bella Union outstore event at the Alphabet venue in order to celebrate the release of their debut record ‘Terrapath’. This will be happening on release day Friday 2nd February – Album or CD entry tickets packages are available HERE.
ELIZA SKELTON – MAIN PSYCH ROOM 7:00pm:
Brighton based Eliza Skelton is back performing at ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ after a year away. Last time, back in 2022, she and some chums were across the road at the Union Record Store, but this evening, she’s up on the main stage with even more friends to assist her. Their format being Eliza on lead vocals, guitar and synth with her band made up of bass, keys, plus second guitar and backing vocals, drums, clarinet plus an electronic one along with a laptop, and guitar, so there are no less than half a dozen musicians up on the raised stage. She needs the extra accompaniment as on her latest album ‘The Lookerer’, which dropped last September, she plays no less than acoustic guitars, ukulele, mandolin, flute, piano, keyboards, glockenspiel and wait for it… cardboard box! Eliza has a great vocal range in a kinda folky way and it’s as though punk never happened! The venue filled out nicely during this set. Eliza offers up a slow vocal delivery and then the vocal layers and guitar playing somehow morphed into a psyched ‘Silver Machine’ vibe and the band Pentangle jumped into my head for some reason! Some numbers were slower than others and those slower ones were almost dreamlike, but there were many layers of sound that the sextet were endeavouring to create. The more intense prog psych compositions with almost screaming vocal deliveries (from time to time) and Paul Simmons guitar playing were of note. Thus, once again, the punters in the main loved the performance, but I could take or leave it to be honest.
HUTCH – MAIN PSYCH ROOM 7:55pm:
Since their formation in the Sackville Road area of town, we have regularly reviewed “yacht-rock soft-psychers” Hutch on a number of occasions, with one of these being the support to band of the moment The Last Dinner Party at the Green Door Store last March – Review HERE. The Brighton based slender long frizzy haired bunch of lads are Jack Pritchard (lead vocals and guitar), Dan Shepherd (guitar and bv’s), Charlie Bogg (bass and bv’s) and Owen Bullock (drums and bv’s). They are nicely building the yacht rock scene on account of the members cropping up in other local bands. I’m sure the chaps were pleased with their relatively high billing on the ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ roster and so it’s clear that they have made an impression with quite a few local promoters, so I hear off the grapevine. I have an inkling that it might be their retro 60s vibes that turn up from time to time in their sets. They are arguably a band out of time, but hey guys music moves in circles, so Hutch might just be ahead of the game you know! Their occasional nods to surf rock are most welcome to yours truly and with each live set I see them, the quartet seem to bring me around to their way of thinking a little bit further. This evening I noted that the intro of ‘Rainbow’ has more than a nod to ‘Pinball Wizard’.… Just saying! If you’ve not seen Hutch before, then expect copious amounts of guitar waving and some ‘Sandworms’ an essential to any Hutch set. Hutch fans will be able to catch them performing live in Brighton on Friday 15th March, where they will be headlining the Green Door Store on the penultimate date of their ‘Smile And Wave’ tour – Grab your tickets HERE. Hutch fans on the east of the county can see them the following night when they play The Piper in St Leonards-on-Sea on Saturday 16th March – Tickets HERE.
AIRCOOLED – MAIN PSYCH ROOM 8:55pm:
My debut encounter with Aircooled came last summer when they appeared on the bill of the excellent ‘Seaview Festival’ which took place on the lawns of the iconic De La Warr Pavilion on 8th July – Review HERE. The event had a rock solid lineup and I truly hope that a repeat will be on the cards! For all tense and purposes, Aircooled are a supergroup of sorts as they feature Justin Welch (The Jesus and Mary Chain, Elastica, Piroshka) on drums; Katharine Wallinger (The Wedding Present) on bass; artist and former member of Elastica ‘Mew’ on Korg synth; Oliver Cherer (of Bexhill’s ‘Music’s Not Dead’ record shop) on vocals and guitar; and Riz Maslen on vocals, keyboards and flute. They state that they offer up “Guitar tainted machine rock from St Leonard’s” and boy do they deliver! Or as my colleague put it after only their second tune “They smashed it out of the park!”. From the outset their set is wonderfully Krautrock, think early Kraftwerk psyching out and you have it. No wonder the venue is now rammed full. Katharine was oozing cool whilst plucking her bass and looked as though she was starring in Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love’ video, and one bass delivery was very similar to Tubeway Army’s ‘You Are In My Vision’. Riz’ vocals were absolutely superb and one of the outfit’s highlights. There’s even elements of Stereolab in there, it’s like the Talking Heads ‘Psycho Killer’ on steroids! There was only one way for them to end their set and that was with their ‘Supamotodisco’ earworm. They are set to drop their next album ‘Eat The Gold’ on 16th February (pre-order HERE) and in support of this Aircooled will be performing live in Brighton at The Prince Albert on Saturday 17th February with support from Winter Gardens and The Evening Sons – Purchase your tickets HERE. For me, Aircooled were easily the best act of ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ and I really need to see them play live on several more occasions!
FUJIYA & MIYAGI – MAIN PSYCH ROOM 10:00pm:
Astonishingly as it may sound Fujiya & Miyagi are an outfit from Brighton and not Tokyo. Also surprising is that the band have released nine albums thus far across more than two decades and yet this is the very first time that we have reviewed them live in concert! However in amongst their ranks is drummer Ed Chivers who has been a member for a decade and he is also half of the terrific AK/DK duo with Graham Sowerby aka ‘G’, who is present tonight in the audience and who we have reviewed on several previous occasions. Completing the Fujiya & Miyagi quartet this evening is David Best on lead vocals and guitar, Stephen Lewis on synths and vocals (who incidentally is also one half of FRÖST with Ed Chivers wife Johanna Bramli, who we have previously reviewed at Presuming Ed’s Coffee House), and finally bassist Ben Farestvedt. We are served eleven tracks across their hour long psych rock with keys set. It’s all very NEU! and Ed’s drumming is wonderfully motorik from the outset (‘Electro Knickerbocker’), although David’s vocals do appear a tad down in the mix throughout the performance which is a shame. Tune two, ‘Flaws’ could arguably be from the mid to late 80s New Order stable. Tracks three and four ‘Uh’ and ‘Slight Variations’ were as funky as anything released on Factory Records back in the day including ACR. Song five, ‘Non-Essential Worker’, chugged along and a break reminded me of Siouxsie & The Banshees ‘Happy House’. ‘Transparent Things’ and ‘Collarbone’ (selections six and seven) were as funky as Cabaret Voltaire and ‘Personal Space’ had the vibe of a late 1970s disco fuelled floor filler. ‘In One Ear’ was next and my colleague noted a similarity to Bloc Party’s ‘Flux’, but I just heard Giorgio Moroder. Penultimate track, ‘Serotonin Rushes’ started with some wicked meaty keys and chugged along very nicely thank you. They signed off with the killer ‘Impossible Objects Of Desire’ which was totally epic with its “Can you feel my heartbeat quicken?” repeated lyrics…certainly can! Great set! If you wanna throw some shapes and movezz then F & M are for you! Runners up as second best act of ‘Lewes Psych Fest’ for me. Roll on next year!
Fujiya Miyagi setlist:
‘In One Ear’
‘Impossible Objects Of Desire’