I usually don’t expect to feel much when I go to a gig. And I’m not complaining, that’s just the way it is, or the way it’s become, I’m not sure, whatever. I go in, stand in a corner, try really hard to look natural and figure out what to do with my hands – they go through classic Arsene Wenger pocket shuffle on a recurring basis – I observe, then I leave. I routinely have a tin of cheap lukewarm lager on the way home, because it was a night out, I guess? But this was a night I was really looking forward to. I’ve kind of fallen out with the international psychedelic rock scene, even though they don’t know or give a monkey’s nut, but I have. I’m more likely to be sitting with one ear stuck to the window these days, listening to cars on the street thinking: ‘Now here’s a sound I can relate to!’, than blasting the new Tame Impala release. I still remember when The Warlocks and Black Market Karma made me feel things, though, things that seemed profound. I was really hoping I would enjoy that gig.
As I stumbled through the upstairs bar and purchased a pint of beer, I was confronted by a striking bar lady who made the statement ‘your t-shirt is too small, mate’. Struck by this I responded, ‘but it’s my Byrds t-shirt’; clearly missing the point she said I should stop wearing my girlfriend’s clothes. Thank you to the elusive term ‘bird’ that exists nowadays. The first band of the night was Enemies Eyes and I didn’t really know much about them, but they blew my mind. Enemies Eyes seem to be incredible songwriters. Specifically, I mean the way they distribute energy across a song – there’s peaks and troughs and excitement in between. Their vocalists have a way of powering through any amount of noise and ruckus building up around them, this allows the band to soar through crescendos that most other bands wouldn’t be able to hold for more than a couple bars. It was going well.
Strange Cages are not an unfamiliar sight in these parts, but this time they had a lot to prove, being part of a line-up like this. I don’t see this in Brighton very often, usually we strum through our reverberated chord sequences, pat each other on the back and carry our stuff back to the van. To me it seemed like Strange Cages really proved that they belong on that stage, though. See, with the other bands, this gig could have happened anywhere, but putting on Strange Cages means we’re definitely very much in Brighton. They gave the night a more tongue-in-cheek, rowdy presence – something that Brighton has been trying to teach psychedelia for a while now but still they don’t quite get the joke.
Black Market Karma was the first out-of-town band that I was looking forward to. With a bit of dread. I love listening to their music, but it’s kind of a meditative thing that takes a while to get into. When they got on stage I knew I would have to meet them half way, bobbing up and down so they can carry me into a trance. Black Market Karma have a very powerful presence onstage, looking at them they don’t seem real, like they couldn’t exist in a real-world, non-band context. They did make me feel like I was witnessing an important part of music history though, perhaps more White Light/White Heat than the present, it still reeled me in and made me succumb to their slowly pulsating, ever harder rhythms. After they finished I just stood there, wondering why I ever worried about having a good time.
The real deal, the main course, The Warlocks, it all made sense now, this was all a way of making me ready to hear The Warlocks in their true form, the un-mixed un-mastered nudity. You wouldn’t know from listening to the albums, but Bobby Hecksher glows like a baroque-pop singer who embraced his profound weirdness to get rid of all anxiety, a little bit of Antony Hegarty. I devoured this set, The Warlocks made me happy about hearing a guitar again and that just made me want to kick and punch that one half-naked guy who kept crawling on the stage in his drunken attention craving. His inability to stay out of the spotlight and his incessant need to harass that one girl who just wanted to dance on her own at the front, threated to rain on this parade, but baby, my boat had to gone. To cancel a renewal of interest in the long-lost lover that is psychedelic rock, why near impossible. I am a believer and I love the drone, more so than my Northern drone. I’m a fan now. I always was, but I am again.
Photos by Ollie Thomas
Categories: Brighton’s Music Features