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Things Learnt At: Wrong Festival, Liverpool
Patrick Clarke , April 26th, 2017 16:55

Patrick Clarke took a trip to the heart of Liverpool's freak scene to experience the city's finest new addition to a packed festival calender, taking in mind-bending sets from Bo Ningen, Part Chimp, The Cosmic Dead and more. All photos by Vicky Pea.

Bo Ningen

Part Chimp are worth the price of admission alone…

The kind of genres to which Wrong Festival appeals are not those replete with 'big names'. The worlds of ultra-heavy psych, noise, doom and stoner rock from which the day's impeccable line-up are plucked are inhabited by an array of those oft-labelled 'cult', none more so than the formidable Part Chimp, who tour their first record in eight years, Iv.

Even among a bill of near-nausea-inducing volume levels, Part Chimp hit a quite literally dizzying height. Their set is a sonic leviathan, an apocalyptic lurch of glacial riffs, a titanic bludgeoning of an experience that has at least one person openly weeping with a mix of ecstasy and earache. Their music is transcendent in its lack of 'sophistication', though many of the festivals acts most certainly bear the influence of Part Chimp's relentless approach to noisemaking, the London foursome offer little else but raw, unrefined power. For those unfortunate enough to have forgotten their earplugs (this writer included), there's a very real sense that permanent damage may have been done, but when enraptured by such a blissful cacophony (and for just £10 an early-bird ticket), you'd be hard-pressed to complain.

Part Chimp

…But Bo Ningen run them close

I'll reiterate. Wrong Festival costs between just £10 and £20 for a ticket. Before the sun's set Part Chimp have rewarded that with an earthquake of a show worthy of a ticket quintuple the price, and the headliners are still yet to play. When Bo Ningen do appear, they dismantle what little remains of the roof in the Invisible Wind Factory, the de-commissioned docklands warehouse that houses the largest of three stages.

The band look utterly supreme, their shaggy, striking frames silhouetted against beams of blue light as the vibe among a now thoroughly whacked-out crowd start to shift from festival frivolity to full-on carnage, and their sound powers through new dimensions of motorik, blistering noise. It's mania in the crowd throughout their long-form psychedelic attacks, a twisting maze of a sound yet entirely unrelenting. They depart to a chaotic clamour of hands, feedback still squalling as frontman Taigen Kawabe kneels in front of them, arms aloft, his guitar suspended by its strap in his teeth. Once again, £10 a ticket.

Bo Ningen

The Liverpool freak scene has well and truly risen

When organiser of the event Michael Edward spoke to tQ when we announced Bo Ningen as headliners back in November, he told us: "We wanted to do something that would change perceptions of what kind of music you can make in Liverpool. For anyone operating on the fringes here there's not usually the same opportunities as in other cities with a reputation for heavy and weirder bands." Billed as a 'festival for the freak scene', the city's freakiest hometown heroes well and truly emerge from the shadows.

Local up-and-comers (soon to be featured here on tQ) SPQR are a spirited delight as one of the first names on the main stage, forceful riffs and dynamic drums the perfect way to slide into the Wrong headspace. Meanwhile, buried in the far smaller, but arguably even more atmospheric North Shore Troubadour, a tiny venue round the corner from the IWF, the likes of psych-rockers Indigo Moon and perennial outliers of pop obscurest realms Rongo Rongo have noticeably beefed up their respective sounds, the former striding forcefully toward the most delightfully heavy end of the spectrum, the latter revelling with style in the joyfully bizarre.

Elevant, meanwhile, feel like something of a representative of the festival as a whole when they take to the main stage, given organiser Edward is their frontman, and are treated to elated appreciation, while the masked Bonnacons Of Doom provide the appropriate madness in the early hours of Sunday morning to a now thoroughly inebriated North Shore Troubadour.

Wrong Festival organiser Michael Edward with Elevant

Between Wrong and Psych Fest, Liverpool has one of the most inventive small-festival scenes in Britain

From Sefton Park extravaganzas like Africa Oye to the broader, mainstream likes of Sound City, and the grassroots-focused Threshold, with all manner of one-dayers in between, Liverpool's festival scene is packed to the point of saturation. However in just one day Wrong Fest has made a name for itself to rival the Merseyside calendar's greatest event of all, Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia.

Until now, Psych Fest was the sole outlier when it came to representing the more innovative, extreme and unusual faces of (un)popular music. Now, however though the two retain their own distinct identities, with Wrong's offerings distinctly more brutal and DIY than their peers, it has a worthy new younger sibling, should Wrong return next year. There's an element of Wrong that feels homespun in all the right ways - Edward tells me on the night that he picked the bill by putting his iPod on shuffle and 'seeing which ones would be in Britain' - in the same way Psych Fest did when it first started in 2012. If it develops similarly, from labour of love to internationally-recognised multi-sensory extravaganza, the Scouse summer will be a season bookended by two true leviathans of the alternative festival circuit.

Evil Blizzard

All that's missing is a map (and a neck brace)

If there is one criticism to be levelled at Wrong Fest, it's that although all three venues – the tiny Drop The Dumbulls being the third - are their own delight, the smaller pair can be a little hard to track down among the post-industrial dockyard blocks. That said, however, like any great festival one of the day's greatest joys is in its sense of discovery, that even across just three rooms, that there's a cornucopia to be explored. The Cosmic Dead are not, for example, apparently well known to many of the remaining punters lucky enough to catch their phenomenal set that lasts until 3am, but blow each and every mind with a set to rival any of the other highlights, while Kapil Seshasayee's genre-defying, polymathic set at Drop The Dumbulls is the most wonderful of chance encounters.

Overall, then, Wrong Fest is a titanic success, especially given it's the first major venture of its kind for the relatively young team at Loner Noise. They're the talk of the city's freak scene the following day, and rightly so, the only complaints being a considerable epidemic of sore necks. "Please supply free neck braces for every attendee for the day after, Part Chimp made me headbang to the point that I'm now moving like some kind of goth cyborg," reads one particularly popular piece of Facebook feedback.

Bo Ningen