Words by Jonathan Holt, Photography by Simon Anger
Psychedelic comes from the Latin words “Pusche” meaning mind and “Delose” meaning manifest. Mind-manifesting. A psychedelic experience is characterized by the striking perception of aspects of one’s mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly ordinary fetters. Crazy man, crazy.
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday night our perceptions of what a gig can be in Edinburgh were very heavily altered. For one this gig, put on by Ewen G Cameron of Pisschrist Productions, did not take place in the usual haunts, Bannerman’s or The Banshee Labyrinth. No. The regular bearded and tattooed motley crew of gig goers had to relocate to the west end and enter the unfamiliar surroundings of The Citrus Club. When we arrived at the venue it was early and bands were still turning up so we decided to kick off the trippy experience and head over to Shakespeare’s, a run of the mill pub full of hens and stags, to have a beer. Walking in you could almost hear the music scratch to silence and feel the eyes of everyone on us. It felt like drinking at the airport. It was a purgatorial state. We were neither at home nor somewhere new. It needed to change. We needed to find a happy place. One bottle of overpriced beer later and its back to the Citrus Club where, even though the surroundings are new and different, there is a definite sense of home as the place is packed with familiar faces and not so familiar faces, all there to see some good quality live music.
First up is Lords of Bastard who waste no time in getting the show on the metaphorical road. Their sound is a menagerie of influences all forced into the wood chipper and spattered out to be reformed as something new, yet excitingly familiar. They tear through their set with no apologies. Their mix of trippy rhythmic time changes and moments of aggressive attack make for very compelling listening. They play their songs with confidence and come across as a tight musical unit, even with stand-in keyboards being played by Dune/Atragon guitarist Victor, they never miss a beat. Having never seen them live before I loved what I heard and they set the bar very high for the bands to come.
Luckily the next band on is Bacchus Baracus who are crushing gigs left right and centre at the moment, with an armoury of riffage from their back catalogue and their new album Tales of Worries, Woe and Whatever. Tonight is no different and they command the room like the seasoned professionals they are. Songs like “I am The Mammoth” and “Memo From The Queer Desk” are greeted by the audience like old school classics. The band whose mission statement is to bring the beers, the riffs and the party have done just that and the Citrus Club has embraced them like the new drunk friends they are. Ending with the epic “Sweet Smell” Bacchus take us on a 14 minute long sonic journey, with wild solos, crushing drum beats and Dr Who noises a plenty, before dropping the biggest riff of the night or any night for that matter, then boom, it’s over.
So far so good for what is turning out to be a great gig with very diverse bands playing to a crowd that is full of people we do not regularly see at gigs down the Cowgate. This is great, and I wonder if it’s the change of venue or the draw of the head-liners that have coaxed out this busy crowd. Either way it’s a joy to see this many folk out supporting local Scottish bands. The next of which take the trippiness levels and crank them up to eleven.
The Cosmic Dead launch into what seems like a 20 minute jam session. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch and listen to this band as they play their music without a care in the world. They are all totally lost in their playing and it’s as if we have been allowed into their rehearsal room to watch them just let loose their musical magic. The Cosmic Dead are very much the most psychedelic band of the night. Several band members take on vocal duties and there is a hell of a lot of knob twiddling from Lewis Cook. James T Mackay wins the best hat of the night award as he thrashes along on his guitar looking like the monster from “Jeepers Creepers”. It’s a short set, one song to be exact but due to their improvised feel it’s a pure mind bender. It’s an aural assault, a sensory reconfiguration very much in the vein of Hawkwind and it leaves a lot of people begging for more.
At this point I have to step outside and let what has just happened sink in. It appears there are a few others feeling the effects of the night too. Some more than others. Some people seem to be being helped along by more than just trance educing synth solos. I wish them a safe and happy trip before returning inside for more of the amber nectar.
The bar is empty as everyone and their space cadet granny is in front of the stage to see headliners Naam work their dark Americana magic. Hailing from Brooklyn New York these guys are the rightful icing on the cosmic cake. It’s strange that they come from the east coast as the sound like a west coast dessert band. Every song, however fast, slow, simple or busy, is drenched in the hot mind altering heat and light you would find at the Joshua Tree. They are also the most musical band of the night.
Not just out to play heavy for the sake of playing heavy these guys will offer you quiet introspective moments before whipping the magic carpet from under your feet and sending you spiralling into a vortex of solos, thunderous bass lines and golden splashy cymbals. Don’t get me wrong Naam have a healthy respect for the riff but they pepper their songs with musical chilli’s that keep the ears guessing as to where we’re going next.
Naam have that wonderful ability to be musically tight and on point but still sounding as loose as a hippy’s paisley shirt. The rhythm section works as one, although drummer Eli Pizzuto is allowed to send his sticks anywhere and everywhere when the moment takes him. Johnny “Fingers” Weingarten underscores the set with a laid back organ and synth sound but will then launch into a phalanges frenzy and rip out a solo The Doors would be proud of. Guitarist and singer Ryan Lee Lugar has a great old school tone to his voice which, again when you hear it, makes you want to go outside and sit in the sun, spark up a joint and forget about life’s bullshit. His guitar work is loose and sprawling but never out of place. They even manage to squeeze in a very impressive four part harmony at the end of one of their tracks. It is just another little trick that sets this band apart from the usual rock band that might care more about the weight of their riffs or their thrashing speed than their musicianship. It was a breath of fresh air to hear a band do something new and different even if their sound is heavily rooted in the past.
All good things come to an end and the night finishes on a high. Musically or otherwise the audience were transported to other worlds, to times longs ago, to lands far off and strange. There was a buzz in the air this night and you could feel that everyone was in on it. Let’s endeavour to keep pushing the boundaries of our expectations. Let us not limit ourselves to what feels safe and normal. Sometimes we just need to go into the desert and see what we can find or what may find us.
Happy travels. Thanks for the Trip!