Between the sonic-scuzz blitzkrieg, astrological installations, surreal audiovisuals, headbanging and those ‘eyelids-clenched-shut’ meditative moment..., fragments of Cosmosis Festival come back to us in fleeting fits and starts.
In our mind’s eye it appears like a DIY day-glo patchwork of worn-in denim and leather, excess sideburn hair and ‘Psychocandy’ and Brian Jonestown Massacre tees. This year making the move from Rusholme's Antwerp Mansion to the labyrinthine vaults of Victoria Warehouse, the Cosmosis team has curated a stellar line-up set to contend with the likes of Levitation, Eindhoven Psych Lab and Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia.
The intensifying unwieldy cries of Enemies Eyes’ Aisling Davis greets us first at the Water Stage before we work our way through the masses piling in to catch a glimpse of post-punk heavyweights Wire. With a nod to Marc Riley at side stage, they hurtle headlong into the sweeping guitars and engulfing bass of recent mini-LP single ‘Nocturnal Koreans’. Laying the haze on thick and heavy, Holy Wave prove the first major highlight of the evening. With melodies swimming in reverb, the Texan five-piece recalls the reeling harmonies and hyped-up driving riffs of Woods and 60s psych patriarchs Iron Butterfly and The Zombies.
With the Earth Stage sat only a matter of metres away from the Water Stage, when it comes to ‘rock vs. post-punk vs. shoegaze’, the inimitable overwhelming black metal of Deafhaven trumps Holy Wave every time. It seems we have a bit of a bleed overspill problem on our hands, which is fine if you ever wanted to know what a collaboration between Esben & The Witch and Sleaford Mods would sound like. Overcrowding, the awkward implementation of drinks tokens and overzealous security – peaking over toilet cubicles every time nature calls? It did get a tad Guantánamo – did put a slight dampener on the day’s vibes. But in quite glorious fashion, the music still came out on top. With the rolling onslaught of the trippiest trifecta around: The Ravonettes, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Jesus And Mary Chain we’ll consent to a strip search this time.
Lit by a pulsating strobe, The Ravonettes take to the Air Stage and innocuously greet the crowd before kicking into the fuzz-heavy rumble of ‘Endless Sleeper’, which sounds like the yawning of a ship hull splitting in two. The otherworldly duet ‘Love Can Destroy Everything’ proves another highlight, as their set soars between short and sweet fuzz-balladry to sinister, balls-to-the-walls thrash.
After 25 years in the game neo-psychedelic legends The Brian Jonestown Massacre, may be a little less controversial but they’re still as impressive and confrontational (in Anton’s case) as ever. There’s a gigantic turn out for the band as they work through a sensational set of recent material from ‘Mini Album Thingy Wingy’ and ‘Revelation’ and older classics like ‘Who?’ and the peak of their performance, ‘Anemone’, which features Tess Park’s on lascivious lead vocals. There are a couple of slack moments and gripes from Newcombe but overall the set is an enamoring triumph, arguably only transcended by The Jesus And Mary Chain.
Likewise to The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the brutal abandon ofthe Mary Chain's days of old may have abated but the songs still sound as vital and infectious as ever. Besides there’s plenty of wired fans down in the pits locking horns for anyone craving a bit of wildness. If there were fears of having a legacy to live up to in doesn’t show as singer Jim Reid vehemently spits “Some said I was a freak. I am a freak” during ‘Cracking Up’. Reid’s lyrics are doused in darkness as they reel off Psychocandy favourites like ‘It’s So Hard’, ‘Taste Of Cindy’ and fan favourite ‘Just Like Honey’, which is met with anticipated exultant cries.
As they take their leave with their genre-defining status intact and we scramble off, grinning wildly to inspect what is left of the art installations and our stash of drinks tokens (in turns out not much on both counts) overall it would seem we’re sold on the immersive pandemonium of Manchester’s Cosmosis Festival. With a bill like this year’s it was almost guaranteed wherever you ended up and at whatever time, whether through waves of distortion or the aural caress of krautophonic drone, you were going to experience some first-class experimental psychedelia. With a bit of fine-tuning it could be flying high up there with the best of them.
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Words: David Weir
Photography: Paul Humphrey