It’s great to see Edinburgh squeeze another quirky music festival into its busy schedule with the launch of the EDINBURGH PSYCH FEST, wee sister to the fully-established Manchester Psych Fest. 

As a one-day event, there’s no need to hum ’n’ haw over what day offers the best line up for your money, and more importantly, there’s not a sniff of camping…really, what’s not to like? 

Selling out Summerhall arts hub on this sunny September Sunday, fifteen bands showcase their psychedelic meanderings over three stages within the curious quarters of the former veterinary school building, from Brooklyn’s punchy post-punk headliners Bodega to local bands such as No Windows, Dinosaur 94 and Bikini Body.

L’Eclair psych out on the Dissection Room Stage

Opening the door to one of Edinburgh’s best live music venues, the Dissection Room’s seeped in a sweaty fug, offset by the refreshing spacey grooves of Switzerland’s cosmic instrumentalists L’Eclair, who lure us under the hypnotic haze of their funk-driven psych. Guitarist Stefan Lilov eggs the crowd on every now and again before spiralling back into a psychedelic stupor, boosted by a kaleidoscope of trippy visuals. Meanwhile, over in the Main Hall, there’s a brewing disquiet as the city’s self-proclaimed post-gutter-skunk-funk five piece Bikini Body infuse the spirit of punk into funk, vocalist Vicky Kavanagh taking no prisoners as she struts the stage, punching and squealing her biting musings on numbers such as Jazzy Boi and Young Dad under the gaze of some fantastic ceiling art.

Bikini Body in the Main Hall

Unfortunately the set times are barely staggered, leaving changeover periods of 45 minutes. These lulls in proceedings also drive up waiting times for drinks and pizza in the courtyard and Royal Dick Bar & Bistro as everyone floods out at once, but it’s such a nice day, no one seems too fussed and once I get a cider down me (refreshingly sold at normal bar prices), I couldn’t care less!

Back in the Dissection Room, Hull four-piece Bdrmm unleash a brutal assault of brooding shoegaze, indisputably one of the highlights of the day, Bodega’s Ben Hozie later dedicating his band’s glorious Jack In Titanic to them, certainly a seal of approval in my book. Bdrmm’s dazzling dreamscapes invoke a whole range of emotions as they pull us into another headspace, kicking off with new album I Don’t Know’s opening track Alps, its ambient dance beats revealing another side to the band’s innovative sound. While Jordan Smith flits between synth and bass, most of the set finds Ryan Smith and Joe Vickers hunched over as they unleash waves of incendiary textured guitar on numbers from the new album and 2020’s Bedroom. An old favourite on the live circuit, It’s Just A Bit Of Blood, which found a natural home on I Don’t Know, tonight blows us away, vocalist Ryan’s fragile angst slamming into a ferocious wall of guitars, while Pulling Stitches illuminates with glimmering swathes of reverb, a true nod to the band’s love of shoe (or in Ryan’s case sock) gaze. As the set goes on, the intensity builds, each one of them giving everything they’ve got with drummer Conor Murray looking like he might nod off on the job, he’s so lost in his own reverie…and maybe a bit exhausted after the previous day’s trip to Manchester’s psych incarnation. 

Confessing earlier in the week that they’re struggling to fund their upcoming tour after non-payment from a festival promoter outside the UK earlier in the summer, they’ve set up a crowdfunder. And although it’s fair to say your eardrums won’t thank you for it afterwards, Bdrmm are a band that truly have to be experienced live… so fingers crossed for a swift resolution to the issue. And with any luck, Ryan will sneak a new pair of shoes into the bargain! For more info on Bdrmm, check out our interview where they discuss new album I Don’t Know.

With No Windows‘ half-hour set running alongside Bdrmm’s, we pop down to the Old Lab to catch a glimpse of the curious Edinburgh duo and accompanying backing band, surely stars in the making as they showcase some wonderfully wistful pop-laced indie brimming with a melancholic ambience. And with vocalist Verity Slangen and multi-instrumentalist Morgan Morris still a year or two shy of twenty, they’ve hopefully got a lot more where that came from. 

Sorry on the Dissection Room Stage

As the light begins to fade, North London’s Sorry thrill the Dissection Room crowd, raising a few goosebumps along the way with their experimental indie, opening with the brooding whirrs of As The Sun Sets, from debut 925, bringing to mind Mogwai’s Hunted By A Freak as its discordant melody unfurls under Asha Lorenz’  beguiling vocals. Also showcasing numbers from latest album Anywhere But Here, they expose a more upbeat, bass-driven, grungy side on numbers like Let The Lights On while retaining a level of disarray…another great band to keep your eye on! Meanwhile, TVAM are playing the Main Hall, and after a slight detour along the corridors of Summerhall, my ears finally lead me to another immersive walls of sound, Joe Oxley and band deluging our senses with waves of effect-laden guitar and synth heavy industrial-psych.

Although I regret missing out on Main Hall headliners Ulrika Spacek and Glasgow’s experimental psych-rockers The Kundalini Genie who close proceedings in the Old Lab, with Bodega taking over the Dissection Room stage, it’s impossible to walk away from their raucous set. Drawing heavily on last year’s Broken Equipment and 2018’s Endless Scroll, their arty post-punk is packed with smart observations as they ponder poetically and poke fun at the ridiculous world we live in, from the searing punk-stained riffs of Warhol and brazen fan favourite Jack In Titanic to infectious rant How Did This Happen? As always, they display a joyful spontaneity, chatting to the crowd, Ben Hozie at one point calling out Bikini Body’s Vicky in the audience. With founding members Ben on vocals/guitar and Nikki Belfiglio on vocals/percussion, smiley new drummer Adam Shumski’s in tow, and I’m surprised to see bassist Adam See aka Prof still going strong after claiming he was going back to his day job as a Professor of Philosophy when he’d finished playing hooky during their 2022 tour. Mind you, he seems to have settled in nicely to this role, possibly taking a couple of dance lessons from guitarist Dan Ryan, who performs with rock star cool, though maybe leaving out a few elaborate thrusts with his parents present tonight…

With an unflappable energy, they never let up for a second as we groove along to numbers like Can’t Knock the Hustle, its a majestic riff and slam-rap dig at capitalism as scathing as it is droll, while the crashing mix of rap and melody on No Blade of Grass is as apocalyptic as the end of the word it’s centred around. They even throw in a cover of Stretch Armstrong’s For The Record, before flinging themselves into the colossal assault of Thown and bittersweet saga Boxes For The Move, unveiling a more mellow side on perhaps the only song ever to mention boxes at least eight times!

Nikki Belfiglio of Bodega

Nikki’s exuberant performance never falters as she batters away at her cymbal, brandishing her drumstick around like a Hogwarts trainee. She sparkles through rigorous punk-pop track Statuette on the Console while pointing her wand accusingly throughout the riotous I Am Not A Cinephile. With the sort of dance moves normally saved for a kitchen radio session (allegedly), she whips off her floaty jacket for gy gy gy Gyrate, one of the songs requested by a member of the audience, though there’s a chance it was actually Charlie they asked for, which follows just in case. Concluding with final request, Truth Is Not A Punishment, in all honesty, Bodega are an exceptional force of nature live, with no one really doing it better…except maybe young Jack in Titanic.

With Manchester’s Psych Fest spread over a couple of days and featuring around 60 artists, who knows what lies ahead for the Edinburgh variant. Bursting with creativity and energy, today’s line up has been superb and with a few tweaks to the set timings, it could be even better next year…but let’s hope it doesn’t outgrow it’s charm. Remember, not a sniff of camping please!

Early bird tickets for 2024’s Edinburgh Psych Fest are on sale now.

Words: Shirley Mack @musingsbymarie
Pictures: Calum Mackintosh@ayecandyphotpgraphy