Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
Cosmosis is organised in part by the promoters behind Remake Remodel, Manchester’s top psych and garage rock club night.
This year, the organisers swapped one venue on the fringes of the city centre for another, leaving Rusholme’s Antwerp Mansion behind and setting up shop, instead, at the cavernous Victoria Warehouse, which holds 8000 at its busiest.
The venue remains unloved by many of the town’s gig-goers, but sound bleed, the primary concern at a festival as loud as Cosmosis, has mercifully largely been eradicated. You still suspect the smaller rooms, with their stages on the floor, are better suited to DJ sets rather than bands, and with poor phone reception inside the building, I wasn’t able to arrange the second mortgage necessary to remain well-lubricated throughout the thirteen-hour marathon.
The line-up, though, promised big and varied things, and seldom disappointed. It’s to the credit of the organisers that they adhered to a loose definition of what made this a psych festival, and indeed they seemed to stick closer to the Remake Remodel remit than anything else. That explains how they found room for the raw sixties sound of local outfit PINS, probably the pick of a hugely exciting clutch of bands to emerge from Manchester’s own Northern Quarter in the past three or four years. I’ve caught them live countless times over that period, and every time they seem more urgent, more aggressive, more pointed than the last. With a superb second record under their belts, cut out in the Joshua Tree desert with Eagles of Death Metal’s Dave Catching, it’s exhilarating to see that they still play like they’ve got something to prove, like their lives depend on it.
You probably wouldn’t have pegged Sleaford Mods as the likeliest participators at a psych fest. But here they are, rocking up on the Earth Stage for a late-night set that has Jason Williamson on typically incandescent form. It’s just a shame it’s so tricky to see that relayed in his body language, on account of me being shorter than seven feet tall. But we’re left in little doubt about the scale of Williamson’s intensity of delivery; he’s hardly wanting for fuel for his fire where social injustice is concerned these days, and this hour-long set is a tour-de-force during which he barely stops for breath, as if a quick thirty second break might somehow rob him of all his righteous anger.
For the mainstream psych crowd, it’s the Air Stage that holds the biggest-hitting treats. Danish duo The Raveonettes have always romanticised and, most of the time, embodied old-school rock and roll cool. Backed by just a drummer and a slew of electronics, they remain shadowy figures against an icy-white backdrop for much of the first half of the set. Gradually, they’re subsumed by softer tones as the slot progresses, and they start to bring out the big guns from their earlier records. Attack of the Ghost Riders and Dead Sound, especially, come crunching down with real authority.
The festival’s heavyweight highlight comes on that same stage later on. First, The Brian Jonestown Massacre offer compelling evidence that Anton Newcombe’s visceral, fizzing onstage intensity remains undimmed by his procession into middle-age and ongoing sobriety, and that they’ve probably never carried themselves with quite this much swagger, quite this much verve. The best part? It’s the material from recent almost-LP Mini Album Thingy Wingy that burns with the most vigour.
And then it’s left to The Jesus and Mary Chain to deliver the evening’s standout performance. They’ve spent the past eighteen months touring Psychocandy, their seminal debut, to mark its thirtieth anniversary. Tonight’s more of a greatest hits affair, which actually makes it all the more a testament to the Reid brothers that the likes of The Living End and Never Understand sound so vital, so cutting, alongside the more recent likes of All Things Must Pass’ and Reverence. Jim Reid’s not a young man anymore, but actually exudes more mystery and menace than during the chaos of the Mary Chain’s well-documented eighties shows. His brother William, meanwhile, delivers layer upon layer of shatteringly loud guitar.
Despite the venue’s aforementioned problems, the atmosphere at Cosmosis still managed to reach fever pitch. Musically, Cosmosis’ organisers are onto something here, with a stellar lineup, a crossover crowd and a nuanced blend of the old guard and the bright young things.