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Raw Power Festival In London

Eclectic bands unite for the second year.

Ominous electronic pulses and rumbling drums should warn us there’s a storm brewing, but it’s only after a 15-minute intro that Newcastle five-piece Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs explode. Suddenly we find ourselves a bit breathless, watching their now shirtless vocalist Matt Baty atop a speaker stack, going through a state of trippy catharsis not usually witnessed this early on a Saturday afternoon.

Slow and heavy is usually the minimal raison d’être of doom metal, but Brighton band Sloath don’t shy away from such subtleties as guitar solos, chants and vocal effects, bringing elements of psychedelia and classic rock to their monolithic riffing.

Guapo undertake a full play of new album Obscure Knowledge with beardy aplomb. Confrontational and majestic, their 43 minutes are topped and tailed by Coil cohort Michael J York – on trumpet to start, then a succession of ever-larger bagpipes to end. It’s a benchmark set of the day.

Esben And The Witch meld the urgent swing of early PJ Harvey with the expansive musical palette of Radiohead. Although a three-piece and stylistically quieter than many on the main stage today, the band give it all they’ve got, with a little help from Sam Barton from Teeth Of The Sea on mesmeric final track The Jungle.

Instrumental San Diego trio Earthless conclude the day with a set of extremely loud improvisatory rock. Inspired by Flower Travellin’ Band and Guru Guru, there’s also a bedrock of classic 70s sounds, culminating with an encore of Hendrix’s Foxy Lady.

Above: Esben And The Witch. Photo: TINA-KORHONEN

Sunday’s early afternoon slot brings out an energetic display as Hey Colossus tear up the stage with their unholy stew of Birthday Party blues, Butthole Surfers skronk and dirty funk. Portugal’s Black Bombaim have much in common with the current wave of space rockers but they also dip into retro sounds, pushing things along with carnival-like percussion.

Uh-oh, here come The Cosmic Dead – a mess of windmilling hair, exposed chest flesh, cheap wine and ear-splitting astral rock. Two new tracks and some ferocious leering into the crowd by synth-lord/shouter Lewis Cook leave us utterly stunned.

Looking like Oasis accompanying Judas Priest on an outing to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Finland’s Circle begin with bassist Jussi Lehtisalo massaging the shoulders of frontman Mika Rättö in a show of togetherness that culminates in a calisthenics session. The music is no less strange, opening with tribal acid folk that quickly mutates into Rainbow-esque pomp, later resembling a Krautrock Focus before encompassing jazz and Amon Düül II’s more outré moments. Acid Mothers Temple’s Kawabata Makoto joining them for the sensational finale is actually one of the less predictable moments.

Gavin Hobson/Jo Kendall

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Jo Kendall

Embracing weird, wild and wonderful sounds, Prog's Associate Editor Jo's also a Classic Rock columnist, an avid tea-drinker and cupcake fancier.