Psych Special: The festival scene

As the modern psych scene has blown up, so have events worldwide, from Eindhoven to Perth to Oslo.

SXSW offshoot Austin Psych Fest in 2008 was the first, organised by Black Angels band members Christian Bland and Alex Maas along with filmmaker Oswald James and illustrator Rob Fitzpatrick. Set in Texas, the crucible for US psych, what started as a one-dayer is now a 6,000-capacity, three-day happening renamed Levitation, with tentacles spreading to Chicago, Vancouver and Angers in France.

In 2012 the UK switched on with the Liverpool Festival Of International Psychedelia, aka Pzyk, co-founded by Craig G Pennington, editor of local free music paper Bido Lito!. The two-dayer now draws a cosmopolitan 2,500-strong audience in search of what Pennington calls “an exploration of the modern globe of neo-psychedelic subculture”.

Pennington sensed psych’s cultural cauldron bubbling about four years ago as a counterpoint to modern living. “Things have been tough for a while for creative people on the fringe of mainstream society,” he says. “This is a reaction to how commercial the world is today. You throw music, escapism and visual art together with a mind-set that reimagines history and connects through digital culture and you get something completely new.”

Pennington agrees that the city is an ideal canvas for Pzyk. “Liverpool’s always done outsider music well, whether that’s house music, psychedelia or anti-folk. But at the same time we don’t have many local bands on the bill; it’s a global movement, from Mexico City to Carlisle, and we want the event to represent that.”

He’s also keen to reinstate what a festival means, hosting talks, films and a record market. “In its formative years music festivals brought artists and music lovers together and let a community flourish. Somewhere that got lost in the idea of a stage, a burger van and a bar.”

Pzyk runs from Sept 25-26. For more, see

Classic Rock 215: Features

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Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.