Copenhagen Psych Fest 2015

author BV date 15/09/15

”Psych is the new black” - or so I heard more than one person claim at this year’s edition of Copenhagen Psych Fest. It’s not really all that surprising, given the popularity of acts like Spids Nøgenhat and the recent rise to prominence of bands like Fribytterdrømme and De Underjordiske – as well as the plethora of equally mesmerizing acts on the rise in the Scandinavian psychedelic community. Whereas last year’s Copenhagen Psych Fest was the beginning, a starting point of sorts, with all the organizational hiccups one such thing will inevitably embody. This year, the event seemed far more well-organized than its previous incarnation – an impressive feat considering the venue change from Stengade to Huset-KBH which, with its four stages, had a quite a bit larger capacity and more room for psychedelic explorations in all sorts of art, music, installations – and thus more room for various mishaps.

All photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen, Peter Troest & Copenhagen Psych Fest

The Venue

As mentioned before, Copenhagen Psych Fest utilized four stages across Huset-KBH to maximize the amount of bands being able to play, as well as to divide the audience so that all ticketholders would be able to see something. You see, for the three largest stages, 1st Floor, Musikcafeen and Haut there was a maximum capacity of 150 people while the smallest stage, Analog Bar had a max capacity of 80 people.

With roughly 700 people in attendance per day, you could then imagine that the venue would then be packed full most of the time – to great effect for many of the bands playing, as you’ll be able to read more about in the reviews section of this article. In addition to the four stages, Huset’s cinema also screened psychedelic films at certain times of the day, whilst the outdoor area had live performances of various kinds ranging from improvised psychedelic lounge music by Sigurd Djurhuus (Tidsgæst, Quiet Spring, Dirty Grass etc.) and mellow, acoustic performances by others.

The venue itself was covered in various psychedelic features like visuals projected onto all kinds of surfaces, all kinds of decorations like dreamcatchers and artsy installations hanging across the rooms and more; all to improve the vibe of the festival as an audio-visual experience, rather than just a series of concerts. Without further ado, let’s then move on the reviews:

DAY 1 - THURSDAY

Off to a somewhat sluggish start, I arrived at Huset around an hour before the first scheduled performance and so I found myself having plenty of time to sit around the outside area, listening to strange, improvised music whilst talking to various friends and acquaintances. - So far, so good as the vibe seemed rather chill and immediately welcoming.

Solens Folk

Solens Folk @ 18:00 in Analog Bar

The very first performance of the festival was by a band I have not previously encountered – I did, however, notice that 75% of the band were musicians I have otherwise seen perform live as both Gaia and Måneskjold. What first hit me when the band started playing was the way the band seemingly tried to build their instrumental passages up towards some kind of climax with an insisting mono-synth drone, fueled by vicious oscillations on top of a heavy instrumental backdrop consisting of classic elements like guitar, bass and drums. The band’s vocalist possessed quite a lot of charisma as he delivered a barrage of something reminiscent of spoken word – much akin to what you’d find Hawkwind doing on their Space Ritual tour and beyond (think “Sonic Attack” for reference). At times it worked to a pretty cool effect, whilst other sections made it come off forced and somewhat awkward. At their peak of the performance, Solens Folk seemed genuinely exciting and left me wanting to hear more at some point, but there was still so much inconsistency in their sound as a whole that I am not entirely swayed by it as of yet. Copenhagen Psych Fest was then off to a rocky, yet promising start. [6]

Battle @ 19:30 on 1st Floor

As I ventured upwards to the 1st Floor stage I had no idea what I would eventually encounter. Battle had previously been described by a friend as sort of garage-ish with a modern sound that doesn’t really emulate the 60’s like so much other garage rock does. Intrigued by the description I was somewhat confused when I was met by some kind of funk-rock infusion with high levels of energy and an experimental approach to both songwriting and instrumentation. Energetic as the band was, it was hard to overlook the monotony of many of their songs; while they certainly did deliver every single note with a vitality seldom seen in bands these days, it could only maintain my fascination for so long before I eventually found myself checking my watch to make sure I wouldn’t the start of Papir’s show at the Haut stage. I’m not sure why, but I ended up staying at Battle’s show until the end of their last song – meaning that something along the way must have convinced me to do so. What that was, I’m having a hard time recalling, but it is still somewhat commendable in its own way. [6½]

Because of my failure to leave Battle’s show in time, I found myself in the awkward position of being greeted with a friendly, yet stern-looking face as I tried to enter Haut to see Papir. “we’re at capacity” I was told, meaning that I had missed my chance to watch Papir.

Astonished audience

Lorenzo Woodrose @ 21:40 in Haut

Learning from my mistakes, I made sure to be in line for Lorenzo Woodrose’s anticipated solo show at Haut. Not long after I lined up, the area outside the stage soon began brimming with life as people of all kinds started queuing for the show. Few minutes before the start we were let in, and the sauna-like conditions people had described when referring to their stories from the Papir show were still very much in effect. – So much so, in fact, that Woodrose felt the need to reassure the now full room of the fact that his performance would soon be over, so we could all leave these sweaty confines. With tracks like “Waiting for the War” (Baby Woodrose), “Slide Machine” (13th Floor Elevators), “Alrune Rod” (Alrune Rod) and “Jorden Kalder” (Spids Nøgenhat) Lorenzo Woodrose worked his way through a set of immortal classics and own songs from various constellations in a nifty, welcoming manner. The crowded room was pretty mellow and eager to listen to these acoustic exploits driven only by a 12-string guitar and a powerful voice with layer upon layer of echoes surrounding it. It was a beautiful thing, really, that people were able to stand there in a darkened room surrounded by trippy visuals without resorting to check their phones every two minutes or so - at least where I was standing. Although I have seen Woodrose fare better on stage, this was still a really great experience which it seemed like people were really enjoying. [7½]

Den Stora Vilan

Den Stora Vilan @ 22:40 in Musikcafeen

Idyllic and relaxing as Lorenzo Woodrose’s set was, I had little time to spare as I rushed down the stairs to Musikcafeen in order to secure my spot for Den Stora Vilan, a band I had not really made myself familiar with, yet one I had been told I would be a fool to miss. As it turns out, that would probably have been right. From the moment these four swedes took the stage I was practically in awe. So much boogie, so many great grooves. This was rock as I like it. People have a tendency to think along the lines of Graveyard, Witchcraft and others when it comes to no-frills rock from Sweden, but I daresay that Den Stora Vilan is where it’s at. Sure, the lyrics are in Swedish but it never really seemed to matter as riff upon riff, bass-groove upon bass-groove was being hurled at the crowd – a crowd which had a never-ending appetite for such riffs, it would seem. ”We’re mostly playing new material tonight” remarked the band’s bassist, much to the joy of the crowd in the room. Having subsequently checked out their music while writing this, I can honestly say that their new material was beyond promising in comparison – leaving me very excited for the album that is to come. Den Stora Vilan was most definitely the highlight (for me) of the first day of Copenhagen Psych Fest. [8]

I rounded off my night by checking out a few minutes of The Sonic Dawn at Analog Bar before realizing I had to scurry off to catch my train. Luckily I would get to see them play later on this weekend.

DAY 2 - FRIDAY

Måneskjold

Måneskjold @ 18:40 in musikcafeen

Arriving a bit later than on the previous day, I opted to check out Måneskjold as Friday’s first act. Now, Måneskjold is a band I’ve seen a fair amount of times but I can’t quite seem to get tired of them – and Friday’s gig with them did very little to change that as they had also mixed in a new element by adding Scott “Dr. Space” Heller to the mix as an engineer of all things trippy and oscillating. From the beginning of their set which opened with “Jordslået” there were high levels of energy oozing off the stage. It’s a fantastic thing to see that what little elements of introversion had been present at previous gigs had completely dissipated as all five members were acting like madmen fueled by the sheer ecstasy of delivering powerful riffs to a rapidly growing crowd. With “Kometen Kommer” the band played their version of a hit - in the sense that it was by far the easiest track to relate to for newcomers who had yet to experience Måneskjold – and it worked quite well at just that. I heard several people after the show noting that “Kometen Kommer” and “Hun Bor I Jernpyramiden” were their favorite tracks of the show. What I enjoyed most, however, was the utterly insane instrumental “Bilspil” which filled me with an undeniable urge to act like an idiot. Or at least dance, which is kind of the same when it comes to my moves. Minor technical hiccups apart, this might just be the best Måneskjold show I’ve seen yet – a marvelous start of day two. [8]

Black Lizard

Black Lizard @ 19:35 in Haut

Rushing upstairs to catch the start of Black Lizard’s set, I remembered why I was actually checking them out. As I recall, I’d had a conversation with a volunteer the day before who told me that they were one of the most exciting bands on lineup in his opinion. Opting to check out a band I hadn’t seen before made a lot of sense, so I decided to follow the recommendation. What I was met with was a Finnish band who aesthetically (and musically) reminded me quite a bit of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Not in that rip-off kind of way where they mimic everything the other band does, but more like a sort of kindred musical spirit. Or so it would seem, at least. What Black Lizard didn’t have that bands like Blue Angel Lounge, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and others do, is catchy songs. – Plain and simple. Throughout their set there were plenty of moments where I found myself losing track of time and just enjoying the flow of their performance, but I still have a hard time recalling the actual songs. I remember catchy little snippets of organ-like melodies here and there, reverberating guitars with just a little crunch to them, and steady grooves like you’d expect from a band like this. But actual songs have vanished from my memory. The crowd (now of a rather large size) seemed to dig the performance though, as I rarely saw anyone leave the dimly lit, yet visual-plastered room. - Kudos to Black Lizard for managing to keep their audience around at a festival with four stages, but I still remain somewhat unconvinced. [7]

The Wands

The Wands @ 20:40 in Musikcafeen

As I ventured downstairs to Musikcafeen once more, I immediately noticed a room that was already getting quite packed – even though The Wands were still only soundchecking – indicating that the queuing of day one would be something I should be aware of for the remainder of the festival, if I wanted to get a somewhat decent spot for some of the rather high-profile shows I had intended on watching. As The Wands opened their set, Musikcafeen was brimming with life – and sweat – as the tightly packed room was on the receiving end of tracks like “Sound of the Machine”, “She’s Electric” and “Spell My Name”, all of which were massive hits with the audience. Throughout the set, The Wands aired what sounded like some new material to me, as I didn’t immediately recognize the tracks. With “The Door”, The Wands kicked things into overdrive with use of bluesy harp solos on top of the easily recognizable guitar riff that makes the song such a standout. Much of the same can be said about “Hello I Know the Blow You Grow Is Magic” which bombarded the audience with echo-heavy riffs and hypnotizing, chanting vocals. As The Wands concluded their set with the mighty “Name of the Mountain” you could tell that most people genuinely didn’t want them to stop playing. Musikcafeen was brimming with life, as The Wands had yet again managed to spellbind their audience. [8]

Vibravoid

Vibravoid @ 21:45 in Haut

Friday was, at this point, already beginning to look like the peak-day of Copenhagen Psych Fest. Yet I still had plenty of bands to see on my list – hoping that they could possibly even top the experiences so far. Next up was Vibravoid, a band from Germany that I have practically wanted to see since forever, or, at least 8 years or so. The trio took the stage at Haut in a rather anonymous fashion, shrouded in psychedelic visuals and the otherwise dim lights that had, at this point, become a trademark of the Haut stage. Even though the venue was filling up to the brim, the heat was barely noticeable for some strange reason as Vibravoid ventured into a solid 50 minutes or so of kaleidoscopic, fuzzed-out freakiness. Utilizing their own tracks as a series of fuzzy barrages aimed at the audience, you could instantly tell that the crowd in front of the stage was digging every single second of the performance delivered by these three men who looked and sounded like something from the late sixties. As they then opted to spend a rather large portion of their allotted time to play a cover of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” the crowd went absolutely mad. Organ solos, drum solos, lengthy guitar solos and a delivery of the song so eerily true to its original form was what dominated the room and even though Vibravoid looked and sounded like a relic of the past, for quite a while it seemed like we were right there with them. It was retrospective, it was futuristic and it was indeed one of the most amazing things I saw at Copenhagen Psych Fest this year. [9]

Hills

Hills @ 23:35 in Musikcafeen

No rest for the wicked, the saying goes. This was especially true to my circumstances as I once again had to dart of slightly before the end of a set to catch the next one. Next up on the list was Hills from Sweden whose mostly instrumental, rather complex music would be the perfect counterpart to the retro-worshipping antics of Vibravoid. I had very little time to lose, as Hills were already going on stage as I entered the room. Driven forward by a highly skilled drummer, Hills’ sound soon took off into space and back again with the usage of vocals that were more echoes than actual words, and bass grooves that hit you right in the gut if you were standing in one of the many right places. What I like about Hills is the surprisingly immediate effect they have in the live setting. When you hear their albums, you kind of feel like you have to be in a very specific mindset to enjoy them to fullest – but when you experience them live, especially in an intimate setting like this one, you really seem to just connect with the music immediately. You start swaying side to side, suddenly you start dancing and before you know it, you’re moving instinctively to whatever you hear, disregarding any and all stops in between “songs”, regarding the whole thing as one complete suite of music segueing in and out of various sections. You lose yourself to the music, and that’s when you know a band like Hills is doing what they do best. The use of an electronic tanpura to constantly drone in the background provided a solid base for the eclectic drumming, the fiery guitar sounds and the all-engulfing grooves to work from, meaning that there was never much silence. - There was only Hills, and Hills did great things. [8½]

Fribytterdrømme

Fribytterdrømme @ 00:30 in Haut

For my final musical adventure of Copenhagen Psych Fest’s second day, I opted for what seemed like a safe choice. I’ve seen Fribytterdrømme many times before, and with their album (and a new single) finally out, I’ve only seen their fanbase grow. As I entered Haut for the final time this evening, I once again began to feel the clammy hands of the overwhelming heat in the room. It was intense, and I actually thought it added a pretty cool effect as Fribytterdrømme came on and started off slowly with “Kviksand”, only to then overwhelm the audience with a series of fast-paced tracks like “Kosmonauten”, “Himmellegemer”, “Ørken” and “Jeg Graver Huller I Mørket”. The high levels of energy from the band reflected on the audience who were now actively making the room even hotter, practically invoking sauna-like conditions. It’s really a shame that Fribytterdrømme had far from ideal sound coming from the stage. For the most part of their set all you could really hear was bass, drums and vocals with certain passages of guitar and organ making themselves heard when the dynamics allowed it. There’s a reason there are three guitars and an organ in the mix, and many of the songs don’t work quite as well when you can’t actually hear them. This was redeemed slightly during “Fribytterdrømmen” which was also the climax, or peak, of their set with a select part of the audience opting to get down on the floor as per usual when it comes to “Fribytterdrømmen”. It would have been grand to see the entire audience do so, like at Stengade at last year’s psych fest, but I guess the crowd wasn’t really up for it on this particular night. With the introduction of “Lysbringeren”, a new song, Fribytterdrømme once again kicked the tempo up a notch before casually returning to the slowly building “De Konstruerede”. Less than ideal sound aside, Fribytterdrømme delivered an intense show that most people genuinely seemed to enjoy. Had the sound been better, this would probably have been one of my highlights of the evening, due to their showmanship. I guess I’ll just have to catch them again later in the year. [7½]

DAY 3 - SATURDAY

After a rather shoddy amount of rest, I returned to Huset for the final day of this year’s Copenhagen Psych Fest. As opposed to the preceding two days, my schedule was quite open as I had only marked two bands that I needed to see. As I was in an explorative mood, I opted to check out a fully improvised set at Haut.

The Exploding Sonic Dawn

The Exploding Sonic Dawn @ 18:15 in Haut

I had already experienced some of The Sonic Dawn’s set on the first day of the psych fest, but had opted not to review it, as I only caught close to 15 minutes of their set of “regular” songs and the material mostly associated with them. This performance, however, had been scheduled as an experiment of sorts where the set would be fully improvised with little-to-no preparation involved. As I casually strolled into the very dark room, I opted to take a seat like many of the other attendees had also done. - Thereby ensuring a casual start to what would probably yet another highly intense day of psychedelic concerts. The band’s front-man started out by casually playing the sitar to a backdrop of relaxing drumming and groovy bass-lines, before the jam gradually evolved towards a point where an echo-drenched guitar was deemed necessary. There was no introduction, no banter between songs and no communication per se, amongst the three musicians on stage. Everything was fully improvised and progressed nicely from one mood to another, seamlessly connecting the dots along the way. As time progressed, more people joined the already sizeable, seated crowd. As if this was something that was so alluring on its own, that you couldn’t really help but just take a seat and absorb what was going on. There are obvious downsides to an improvised performance, as the most you can really expect to get out of it is a crowd that is awe-struck at the sonic prowess from stage. There are no hits you can rely on, and you might risk wandering off in three different musical directions. For The Sonic Dawn, none of these downsides were really evident. But they never quite peaked and evolved into an explosive performance per se. I’m still glad I checked it out though, as there were more than a few pretty damn cool musical ideas going on in that room. I’d like to hear more like this next year. [7]

The Orange Grove

The Orange Grove @ 19:10 in Musikcafeen

From the smooth, improvised beginnings of the day, I found myself venturing downstairs again for a dose of smooth Americana. There was already a decent amount of people in the room when I got there, and much to my surprise most people were, once again, seated. - Strange, but fully understandable given the hectic nature of the previous two days. The band opened with a favorite of mine, in the form of “Ladybird pt. 1”. I’d previously written a review of their debut album “Stare into the Sun” where I explained that I would find them a lot more interesting, if their sound had a little more edge to it. Ask and you shall receive, seemed to be the case, as the band had a much fuller sound live than on their album – effectively creating a quite powerful wall of guitars at times. As others also noted, the rather Grateful Dead inspired outfit didn’t really play all that many solos or improvise very much – which is fine, since their songs are quite nice in themselves. But I think it could actually have made them more interesting to the crowd who, by now, had gotten used to all sorts of crazy things happening across the four stages of Huset. “California Night”, the band’s first single from “Stare into the Sun”, seemed somewhat out of place to some people in the crowd as the rather pop-oriented track might just have been a tad too straightforward for most people. I enjoyed it though, as it was quite relaxing. All things considered, The Orange Grove did a good job at Copenhagen Psych Fest, where I initially feared they would be too out-of-place. [7]

Madmans Moustache

Madmans Moustache @ 20:00 in Haut

Without wanting to rush anything, I figured I’d better go upstairs to Haut and check out a band called Madmans Moustache, as they were apparently playing that particular type of Swedish-sounding 70’s prog and folk rock that I have grown quite of in recent years. That presumption appeared to be correct as the five-piece walked on stage brandishing various percussion tools, hollowbody guitars and basses and a drummer who opted to use mallets on his toms quite often – just the way I like it. For me, personally, their performance peaked with a track called “Sad Turn” which consisted primarily of this delicate little guitar melody and sparse organ playing. Madmans Moustache rarely utilized vocals and seemingly preferred to let the instrumentation do the talking – to great effect. Although it would seem that Madmans Moustache is a relatively new band, they left me with quite a promising impression as I am soon to be off on a new quest to review their album which came out recently. [6½]

De Underjordiske

De Underjordiske @ 21:00 in Musikcafeen

At this point of the third night I began to feel a little rushed again, as I had to leave Madmans Moustache early enough to secure a spot for the quite anticipated show with De Underjordiske who have recently released a powerful debut album and performed a critically acclaimed set at this year’s Roskilde Festival. Although I rushed downstairs, the room was already brimming with people as I arrived during the band’s soundcheck – something of a recurring tendency by now. As the band made their presence known with the brooding intro to “Ind I Flammerne”, there was a certain kind of vibe in the air – the one you get, when you know something is going to explode with energy. Sure enough, the more upbeat section of “Ind I Flammerne” got people dancing and they rarely stopped throughout a veritable parade of strong songs like “Tempel”, “Vi Kommer Nu” and “Trold” which were all highlights of the set. The band felt the heat, however, as front-man Peter Kure remarked; “We’re gonna die up here… But we like dying up here” – a notion I’m sure more than a few people in the crowd could relate to. As the pummeling bass line to “Sultne Ulve” began dominating the room, more and more people started dancing whilst the room was getting hotter. I saw several people feeling the need to leave due to these overwhelming conditions but those who stayed couldn’t possibly have regretted it as the reverberating tones of Andreas and Kristian Bengtsen’s guitars rang crisply through Musikcafeen. There’s something forceful about De Underjordiske, so much so that even ‘weaker’ tracks like “Hvis Du Forstod” and “Under Skyggernes Kniv” still resound clearly in my head several days after the initial experience. I found myself giving in to the heat towards the end of their set, but still left there convinced that the band did a splendid job. [8]

Causa Sui

Causa Sui @ 22:10 in Haut

After queuing for what seemed like an eternity (which was in reality only 10 minutes or so) I was finally let inside Haut to experience something I had very high hopes for. I’ve missed many a chance in the past to witness Causa Sui live in the past, so I was sure as hell not going to let this one slide. Even though Haut was already punishingly warm before the band started, all my senses compelled me to stick around and endure the heat. From the moment they took the stage I was certain I had made the right choice as they started off with “The Juice”, a blend between a genuinely ethereal track, and one that could bash your head in with heavy riffing at the same time. Guitarist Jonas Munk barely uttered a few words before the band launched into the powerful “Homage” which is, in his own words, a tribute (or homage) to all the great rock music from the 90’s that the band grew up on. The great thing about bands like Causa Sui (and Papir for that matter) is that their music is powerful enough on its own to take you places. You don’t need lyrics to grasp the mood and, if you’re willing to let go, you can be absolutely engulfed by the sheer power of these instrumental excursions. The band was remarkably tight – even more so, considering they had opted to include a stand-in bassist for this show. Although the majority of their set featured high energy tracks, the peak of their show was with “Red Valley” off of “Summer Sessions Vol. 3”. This particular track had the sort of riff that will not only have you banging your head, but rather contorting your entire body. Every single person in the crowd who was able to withstand the crushing heat was feeling the intensity ooze off the stage – proving why Causa Sui are such a desired live band, even though they rarely play. There is very little doubt in my mind, that Causa Sui might just have played the absolute highlight of Copenhagen Psych Fest 2015. [9½]

Yahowa @ 23:10 in Analog Bar

Feeling like the night was still young I opted to visit the smallest stage, Analog Bar, on a whim as I had absolutely no idea who was playing there. When I arrived I was met by a very confusing blend of shimmering pop-like songs and rather aggressive, almost 90’s sounding rock music. The band, a four or five-piece as I recall, was very timid in their approach to the gig, doing very little to interact with the crowd. Although there were plenty of vocals in the songs, these were quite often somewhat indecipherable in a not so amazing way. Often I like vocals that are indecipherable because of layers upon layers of echo and reverb. This was more a case of a PA that couldn’t handle the input, or a vocalist with a severe tendency to mumble. Either way, I actually liked some of the set as they played around nicely with some pretty far out tempo changes along the way – keeping me on my toes for those select sections of their set. As a whole though, the experience was rather flat. It might be an unfair assessment, as I came straight from a massive highlight of the festival, but even if I hadn’t just been at the Causa Sui gig, I doubt it would have changed all that much of my impression. [5½]

Oracles

Oracles @ 00:55 in Haut

At this point of the night I had gotten a little rest for my feet, having chilled in the outside area of Huset. However, my body was beginning to feel the effects of three hectic days full of great shows. As I struggled my way upwards to Haut once more to catch Oracles, I could already feel my will getting weaker and realizing that I might just be unable to make it through the show. Oracles show was quite energetic in a way, but nothing that really swayed me. I saw a description somewhere of their music which had dubbed it; “all the phases of a high without the bad side effects”. I could be prone to agree, as their highly energetic, very bubbly music had the power to make you smile like a moron, while moving your limps in all the right (read: wrong) ways. Sadly, I felt unable to partake in this type of shenanigans as my body, mind and soul was protesting – essentially crying “go home”. As such, I feel unable to grade Oracles’ performance but I will nonetheless go on record saying it looked and sounded like great fun.

Crowd bathed in visuals

As I walked away from Huset for the final time this weekend, I reflected on these three days brimming with life, psychedelic music and a feeling of having witnessed something amazing. Long gone are the days of Copenhagen Psych Fest as an unorganized, chaotic festival with schedule-slips galore. Now is the era of Copenhagen Psych Fest getting closer to reaching its full potential. You can be sure to count me among the attendees for the next one. – Including the supposed Winter Edition to come later this year. Well done to the staff, the volunteers, bands and organizers. It was a pleasure.

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