All craft beers, street food and achingly cool independent labels – hell, there’s even a pop-up ‘bedouin boudoir’ from locals Bold Street Coffee – LIFP, aka Pzyk, is possibly the North West’s most tastefully constructed festival.
We arrive just in time to catch the tail-end of French garage-kraut act The Feeling Of Love. Their swirling comatose half-melodies are perfectly complemented by the stained glass-like lighting. In the tiny Blade Room, a packed crowd see German psych-surfers Zhod throw enthusiastic shapes to an invigorating clangour, before dispersing to catch some shoegazey spark from Norway’s Megaphonic Thrift. Their guitar god, Njål Clementsen, hits some superb highs, but it’s a slightly self-conscious set from the quartet and Russia’s Pinkshinyultrablast just pip them in the dream-pop anthem stakes today.
The large Furnace warehouse hosts several South American bands from BYM Records. We’re lured in by dark, desert punks Vuelveteloca and (armed with earplugs) shake the dust off our clothes in ribcage-rattling proximity to the speaker stack.
Kicking off in next door’s Camp, young Dutch wunderkind Jacco Gardner is warmly received with a Hypnophobia-themed set, but his vintage paisley haze would have been better directed in an afternoon slot.
Next up it’s Tess Parks, collaborating with LIFP’s first ever artist in residence, Anton Newcombe. Neither party smiles or talks much throughout the heavily Brian Jonestown Massacre-influenced set and to the chemically unaided, the drone fast feels formulaic
Austin’s The Octopus Project offer more variety, switching instruments and pace with alarming frequency in a whirlwind of fun, frantic genre-melting garage rock that reminds Prog of their Texan brethren White Denim, albeit with an electro-pop edge.
We’re propelled home following a disturbing turn by Oxford trio Young Knives, who have kicked their perky post-millennial prog-pop leanings into touch, ditched the previous clean cut look and delved into something much darker, hairier and hallucinatory. As singer Henry Hartnoll bellows into the void about changing into Something Awful with a bizarre pair of black umbrella bat wings strapped to his back, Prog is, at first, absolutely horrified by this disintegration, and then totally won over.
Surfaces cleansed of psychedelic craft beer passings, the next day kicks off with Portuguese act Equations who combine Sabbath-y leanings and Jan Hammer synths and an ear for aural arithmetic. Hey Colossus separate themselves from the endless droners with three guitars, heaviness and, in Paul Sykes, a frontman who’s equal parts Mark E Smith, Nick Cave and Ian Curtis. It’s a triumphant set and, while LIFP is much too tasteful for moshing, some pretty heavy swaying occurs.
Sunderland’s Slug are all dressed up, but with little light to show off their matching waistcoats and bow ties. With just one short album to showcase and a big echoey venue for Ripe’s subtleties to get lost in, it’s the disco punch of Running To Get Past Your Heart that works best, and the wonderful Shake Your Loose Teeth that draws most from their Field Music pedigree.
Back in Camp, Nottingham’s The Cult Of Dom Keller are raising the roof with some Loop-like drone before Lumerians turn up in their sparkly robes, like Sunn O))) trapped in The Fly’s experimental chamber with a disco ball. San Fran spaceheads, it’s all very nicely Hawkwind-amphetamine fuelled, until something goes tits up with the PA shutting off during Shortwave Fields, the drum kit goes over and they scatter.
Following last year’s The Silver Globe, Jane Weaver is officially A Big Deal in these parts and her set draws one of the weekend’s biggest crowds – chanting “Wea-ver! Wea-ver!”. Her plaintive wail wraps around the powerful rhythm section like a howling wind, reaching spine-tingling, near-operatic peaks. It’s all atmospherically aided by the smoke-filled Furnace – living up to its name thanks to 48 hours of emissions from the gourmet pizza oven at the hall’s rear.
Perennial should-have-beens The Heads once again find themselves in a ‘right place, wrong time’ scenario, pitted in Camp against main draw Spiritualized. Still, a sizeable audience have their skulls trepanned as the Bristolian quartet careen through the likes of Widowmaker and Cardinal Fuzz, before flattening all that stands before them with fan favourite Spliff Riff.
Rocking his signature Velvet Underground-cool white T-shirt and shades, Pzyk scene totem Jason Pierce appears at midnight, plants himself centrestage, side-on, and pretty much doesn’t break a sweat for nearly two hours as his Spiritualized band mates - plus some dazzling strobework, a gospel backing duo and heady set-list - supply the firepower. From the seismic Electricity/Shine A Light segue to Spaceman 3 desert-rocker Walking With Jesus, willowy young girls, floppy haired boys and a legion of the old faithful float tipsily, all eventually levitated by the powerful Come Together. White light, white heat, no less, and a literally blinding return.