Scratch under the surface of modern mainstream music and you will uncover an abundance of bands that can be classed as psychedelic. The scene is erupting at such a rate that it threatens to engulf the whole industry with a kaleidoscopic ash cloud that will grind all other sonic explorations to a halt.

Manchester has joined an ever-burgeoning number of cities to host a festival named in honour of this genre of music, and in only its second year managed to book one of Liverpool’s finest exports of tripped-out tunes. In the end, Clinic were forced to cancel, but they returned to Night & Day to blast through their set, leaving a collection of far-out fans amazed by this close encounter of the third eye.

Kitted out in full surgical gear, the band wasted no time in delving through their back catalogue, which spans well over a decade. Particular highlights included renditions of their most famous number, ‘Walking With Thee’, and ‘Porno’, which was originally released on a collection of EPs back in 1999.

There is an intense and sinister edge that forms the backbone of Clinic's sound, which is created by the rhythm section, including an ever-present chugging organ. Lead singer Ade Blackburn flits between instruments while delivering lyrics with his unique and ineffable whines. Audience members, crammed into the venue, search for pockets of space to get their groove on. After this performance it is safe to say you can give a band a mask and they will show you their true face.

The main support act was Manchester’s Naked (On Drugs), who seem destined to add to the city's fine cultural heritage. Don’t let the name put you off. This is an act you should definitely check out. At the heart of the band is their enigmatic French leader Sebastien Perrin, whose natural persona puts the real into surreal. He is a peacock amongst the pigeons and on the night looked like Lloyd Christmas auditioning for a part in Scooby Doo. His occasional bouts of freaky dancing tickled sections of the crowd, while others just stood and stared.

Earlier, Black Lung had opened proceedings with their dark and brooding soundscapes. There are many shades of black, but theirs was a little pale and lacking depth. You can wear dark colours and sing about preferring to be dead than alive, but they gave the impression they would go home and sleep with a night light on.

Stephen Greenwood

Ariel Pink

28 February

FutureEverything's 20th anniversary celebrations came to a climax in the less than conventional pairing of futuristic dark electronica of Elizabeth Bernholz – aka Gazelle Twin – and the West Coast genre-shifting delinquency of Ariel Pink.

Bernholz' electronic wizardry is underpinned by thematic dichotomies of mind and body, light and darkness, and human and machine, bringing forth a disjointed sonic essence of fear and pain. “I'm stuck in the belly of the beast,” she warns urgently and menacingly. Enveloped in nightmarish pitch black darkness, she is dressed in blue, wearing a crude balaclava and accompanied by a faceless red figure hunched over a keyboard. Brutal contorted beats juxtapose against intoxicating howls of terror and whispers of muted pain. Her intense, malevolent and utterly compelling stage performance is simultaneously disturbing and awesome. It’s a terrifying vision of a genuine trailblazer rightly deserving a place in the pantheon of FutureEverything.

Ariel Pink's notorious reputation precedes him in almost tangible anticipation of his band's arrival. He doesn't disappoint, shattering the hum of the auditorium with his seven-strong musical assembly. Occasionally puerile, sometimes perverse, often disturbing, but always curious and provocative, Ariel Pink is a jester in the style of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. He wears many masks and is a self-absorbed, narcissistic phenomenon. Amidst some pop gems, like ‘Put Your Number In My Phone’ and ‘Dayzed Inn Daydreams’, there is plenty of kitsch bric-a-brac and faded ironic motifs. Like his latest album Pom Pom, Ariel Pink's performance at RNCM is chaotic and at times profoundly deranged. It's all part of the deal. Sadly, a formal seated set-up is an entirely inappropriate venue for an artist who is clearly used to a more frenzied, interactive environment.

Likewise, eardrum-bursting volume and blinding strobe emanating from the stage clearly annoy the less faithful, making it difficult to focus on his stage shenanigans.

At the end of the night, it’s clear that both artists have more in common than it seems. Unlike future-gazing Gazelle Twin, Ariel Pink is obsessed by his lo-fi visions of the past, but similar to her he is a genuine maverick, a true character of the kind that doesn't come along that often.

Anastasia Connor

The Madding Crowd

28 February
Castle Hotel

There may be over 100 miles and the Pennines between Manchester and Middlesbrough, but musical influences and creativity can occasionally conjure flashes of similarity in spirit, style and football colours. Both The Madding Crowd (Mancunians) and Serinette (Teessiders) are highly visually engaging in their onstage performance and produce enjoyably fiery sounds.

Louise Radford of Serinette lines up alongside four members of the five-piece, an arrangement which just about fits on the stage. They’re all standing in front of the fifth member and drummer, Paul Bernard Morton. The limited space doesn’t stop her from animating songs with dramatic flourishes of her arm, accompanied by the occasional intense stare before she lets a knowing smile escape.

The four players in the Madding Crowd get around the lack of space by encouraging guitarist Dominic Corry and frontman Ben Corry to spend most of the time amongst the crowd. The spectacle is heightened by Ben being dressed in a bright red jacket and black, leather gloves, whilst Dominic is wearing a body-length trench coat and cap. It may be cold outside, but they’re warming the atmosphere up nicely. Their wandering allows Claud Corry (bass) to sit down for the entire set and the Dickie bow-wearing drummer, Danny Corr – I mean Danny Kristof – to smash away on the skins. All four are wearing an armband with ‘Warsaw’ written on to support the illusion they are creating.

Serinette, named after a type of small barrel organ, have a warm sound, fitting in neat, rousing choruses that have brought them to the attention of Radio 1 DJs, but don’t let that fact put you off.

The Madding Crowd have a more aggressive feel, which is understandable when the guitarist has his instrument microns away from your face. Memories of another Manchester band, Gabrielle’s Wish, flash up as the frantic musical urgings increase intensity then abruptly stop.

Ged Camera

Photo by Ged Camera.

The Coronas

26 March
Deaf Institute

Manchester welcomed back Irish rockers The Coronas, currently on an 11-date tour promoting their new album, The Long Way, by selling out the Deaf Institute.

London-based support act The Beach provided a great opening. There was a very raw feel to the singer-songwriter’s music, with its gentle lyrics and soft melodies. Still fresh faced when performing live, The Beach need to work out a few kinks in their shows, but show a lot of potential.

The Coronas set the tone for the night from the very beginning of their set. They were here to jam and have a great time, bursting onstage and into action with ‘How This Goes’, an anthemic song which was greeted by nodding heads and tapping feet. With just enough time to catch a breath and say hello, they powered on with songs new and old.

With Graham on the bass and Conor on drums creating the beating heart of the music, Dave’s guitar riffs blended sublimely with Danny’s impressive and pitch perfect vocal range, displaying a well-oiled machine. Their huge presence and masses of energy enthuses the crowd. There is intensity and pace in the new songs, indicative of musicians who know their craft and have the skills, confidence and experience in making great music, and thoroughly enjoy performing.

Playing a great mix of tracks from previous albums before continuing on with new tracks, the tempo was stepped up with each song. By the time ‘Get Loose’ was being performed, the crowd was hooked and singing along to every word. The atmosphere was electric. It’s no wonder that Manchester is one of their favourite places to play.

With such an eclectic collection of songs in their repertoire, The Coronas saw the entire room jumping around to ‘Addicted To Progress’ before being awestruck by ‘Heroes Or Ghosts’, complete with a rendition of the chorus in Irish. The night climaxed with the crowd singing the chorus of ‘What A Love’ back to the band, before the finale of ‘Mark My Words’, which left everyone euphoric as the final piano bars faded out.

Mark Prime

Photo by Mark Prime.

Rag ‘N’ Bone Man

20 March
Deaf Institute

For this Deaf Institute show, Rag 'N' Bone Man performed tracks from EPs Wolves and Disfigured. Both are predominantly blues records, although Disfigured has a clearer sense of identity, bringing with it a modern take on blues and gospel. His music comes from an honest place, liquid sounds hanging around your ears loosely. I first heard about him in a Now Then interview with Kate Tempest, discovering that Kate holds him in high regard after their collaboration on Wolves single, ‘Rain’. Naturally I expected a high standard of music and I wasn’t disappointed.

Drinks flowed, hips ground, hands forgot phones, and jaws hung open listening to this tattooed drifter sing stories of life and love, and how it stings. The band piled onto the stage, and the drum sound brought a hip hop influence reminding us that Rag 'N' Bone Man cut his teeth in the UK hip hop scene. The backing singers were soothing and the guitar sound sent warm electric currents running through our bodies. A vocal like the wheels of a Cadillac kicking up gravel descended on the audience. Manuka trees must line the driveway of Rag 'N' Bone Man's throat because his voice is honey and strong black coffee.

New single ‘Hard Came The Rain’ didn't disappoint. Its video is dark and captivating. Highlights of the gig included ‘Lay My Body Down’ – dirty and sexy, a classic blues formula. ‘Life In Her Yet’ is profound. It's the story of someone struggling, breaking and fighting back. An unexpected cover of Mary Mary's ‘Shackles (Praise You)’, which originally hit the charts in 1999, is an inspired choice. The room was full of joy for that track, and a little pub in Manchester was transformed into a church full of sinners as we threw our arms in the air and sang, dancing in the stalls at the back.

After the gig, I asked Rag 'N' Bone Man how he feels about his growing success. He smiled back to me disarmingly, passed me a rum and ginger, and said, “Elated, relieved. I've worked hard. It's been a long time coming.”

Phoenix McAndrew


14 March
Antwerp Mansion

Cosmosis, Manchester's psychedelic art and music festival, returned for its second outing, once again offering an ambitious line-up of bands and artists from across the spectrum of this colourful genre and from all corners of the world. Antwerp Mansion's shabby chic is part of its DIY charm and the organisers’ plan to create a genuine festival feel – with an outdoor stage and stalls selling everything from pizzas to records and vintage clothes – was a mighty undertaking.

As the daylight faded and night descended, psychedelic projections in the main hall added to the mind-bending vibe. Despite the fact that advertised times were wildly off the mark and bands kept moving location with little advance warning, it didn’t by and large dampen the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the audience. Notably, the crowd didn’t entirely consist of students, but clearly included a lot of locals and people of all ages and nationalities. This in itself is a testimony to the efforts of the promoters and the wide appeal of the psych scene.

Punchy rock’n’roll from Saint Agnes and Helicon’s 60s sitar-infused psych were big highlights. The Oscillation’s heavy, hypnotic, kosmische grooves and the dark, perverse menace of Iceland's Singapore Sling were equally impressive. Sadly, The Vacant Lots, whose striking performance was one of the highlights of Liverpool Psych Fest, couldn’t deliver a good set due to persistent tech issues and mixing that made them sound like they were swimming through a muddy field. The biggest disappointment of the night, however, was The Black Ryder, whose performance on the night failed to inspire, particularly frustrating given their set was delayed by nearly two hours.

Despite the surrounding chaos, it was an enthusiastic event with a friendly feel which we hope will return next year with a new vigour.

Anastasia Connor