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Three Songs No Flash

Oh So Right: WRONG Festival 2018
Patrick Clarke , May 3rd, 2018 14:38

At the second edition of Liverpool's new DIY festival for the freakscene, Patrick Clarke finds a crucial young event building something special indeed with the help of GNOD, Damo Suzuki, Future Of The Left and a generous helping of local up-and-comers

Lonesaw, all photos by Michael Kirkham

When WRONG Festival launched last year it came armed with a distinct manifesto that set it apart from Liverpool’s glut of other one-dayers. It was a celebration of the outliers in the city’s often-uncelebrated heavy hinterlands, Merseyside’s proper oddballs who occupy spaces that are light-years beyond the done-to-death scouseadelica troupes. It was billed as ‘A Festival For The Freakscene’. A DIY venture by local label Loner Noise, the first edition was a colossal success, and has done much to highlight a burgeoning new wave of fascinating Scouse artists, as well as names big and small from around the world. Off the back of that day alone tQ has featured SPQR, Wild Fruit Art Collective, and the scene’s Scottish comrade Kapil Seshasayee.

This, then, is the difficult second edition. The Merseyside division of New Weird Britain, thanks in no small part to WRONG Festival’s efforts, has begun to emerge. But given they’ll be playing alongside titanic outsiders like GNOD, Hey Colossus, Future Of The Left and Damo Suzuki, one wonders whether there’s a chance that the locals might become mere footnotes and bill-fillers.

There can be no better example of just how much this new wave can hold their own than Lonesaw. They’re the first band we catch, in the tiniest of the festival’s three venues, the narrow and imposing Drop The Dumbulls. Their frontman, the skeletal Chest Saw Bones, is among the crowd stooped ominously over a buzzing table top of pedals and dials, while drummer Lisa Fawcett, tenor saxophonist Chris Connor and bassist Brad Malbon are onstage backed by grotesque footage of what appears, through layers of squelching mulch, to be tonsillitis.

After a 20-minute soundcheck underpinned by a constant, unsettling buzz from Bones’ rig, without fanfare the band flick without warning into a severe and concentrated wail from the depths of hell. As the buzz mutates into piercing feedback, Saw Bones lumbers and crawls among his audience, hurling guttural screams as he lurches into their faces one by one. Behind him the band heave their way through attack after attack of unadulterated noise, permeating the wails from the floor with stampedes of drum, squalls of tenor sax and cataclysmic bass. They are as good as anything else on the line-up.

Tokyo Taboo

Later on, around the corner in the larger and two-storied North Shore Troubadour, SPQR once again prove themselves to be Liverpool’s greatest current rock band. Last year their bristling and eager early-afternoon main stage set turned heads, and in the 12 months since it’s been heartening to see the trio settle into a confident groove. They seize the opportunity to convert each and every member of the audience not already enamoured with a hectic and brilliant show, underpinned by supremely energetic-yet-precise Rickenbacker bass and lolloping wonky drums, propelled by Peter Harrison’s magnetic work with agitated licks and spikes of guitar and a cutting, pinpoint vocal.

Later in the North Shore Troubadour, Kapil Seshasayee overcomes early technical problems to unveil a slow-burning and hypnotic show. It’s the type of performance that succeeds only as a whole; conceptual and painstakingly structured, its truest qualities are only revealed once it’s drawn to a close. It’s raining outside, the fortunate result being that a large crowd are here waiting for the downpour to ease. Seshasayee begins with coiling loops of guitar and a sombre angsty vocal, but morphs over the length of his half-hour set to a crunching and grinding infusion of electronic beats, via eerie scrapes and clangs on his cage-like waterphone instrument. Its delights are subtle, but keenly felt for a long time.

SPQR and Seshasayee have now cemented themselves as WRONG Festival fixtures of sorts and embody what’s so lovely about the event; although there’s all manner of musical heaviosity on the line-up, some of it from the very deepest depths, WRONG is characterised more by a sense of community, abandon and fun. Take the bonkers clash between two DIY punk outfits Bleach Sweets and Salt The Snail, who alternate songs one after another in the North Shore Troubadour; with no clear winner they play ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ at the same time, the only song they both know, as a fire alarm blares in the background. It’s shambolic but hilarious, and still better than the original. Elevant, meanwhile, the band of festival head honcho Michael Edward alongside bassist Hannah Lodge and Bleach Sweets’ Tom Shand on drums, are treated to the largest crowd of their career at the Invisible Wind Factory’s main stage, their set met with appreciation from all corners.

That said, there are some imposing forces from outside this bubble that have descended on the city with more nefarious intent. GNOD on the main stage are followed by Hey Colossus at North Shore followed by Damo Suzuki with Mugstar back around the corner. Each of these three bands offers nought but utter annihilation, most notably the first. GNOD’s show kicks off their current tour in support of Chapel Perilous, and sees this most amorphous of bands mutate into something – even by their own standards – that’s gruesome indeed. They’re in cantankerous mood and colossal form, heaving their way through the likes of their new fifteen-minute megalith ‘Donovan’s Daughters’ and last year’s ‘Bodies For Nothing’ with a tidal wave of power and an air of intense and unrelenting claustrophobia.

Buried Sleeper

Afterwards Hey Colossus are more pinpoint in their intensity, and bring an enormous crowd to the North Shore Troubadour where frontman Paul Sykes looms atop them like an admiral. The band revel in depths of moody, towering darkness before jolting forth from the gloom with magnetic power, Sykes’ foot stamped atop a barrier that careens and buckles under his strength. Back on the main stage straight after they finish, Suzuki and Mugstar have already begun a mystic, heavy weave of their own. At times it’s dense to the point of unfathomable, at others it’s breathtakingly concentrated, but the former Can frontman guides them with supernatural power, his tiny frame casting an unshakable spell over the largest crowd of the night.

Future Of The Left form a marked juxtaposition to all this expansive noodling with a headline set that is taut and aggressive. Frontman Falco is on ferocious form, pulling no punches in his dismantling of Everton FC manager Sam Allardyce and – to an entertaining murmur of guilty denial – Liverpudlian crowds’ tendency to talk through shows. Their set, like many others, is a grand success, but in a different way. Where most of their bill-mates offer vast, colossal waves of music, Future Of The Left bottle and concentrate their intensity, using it as a motorik pummel and inciting a joyous, pogoing mosh pit for the duration, topped by Falco’s brilliant charisma.

Except that’s not quite the end. As we wheel onwards to the early hours, the Invisible Wind Factory closes and the crowds spill out into Dumbulls and The North Shore where ferocious punks the St Pierre Snake Invasion, the headmangling Sex Swing and Scouse doom metal veterans Conan lie in wait. There’s plenty more carnage to be had, but it’s Future Of The Left who offer the most apt summary of what’s been a magnificent second year. They’re still hard, uncompromising and commanding, but more than anything their set unites the audience in DIY delight; pinballing from one corner of the pit to another we bump into half the festival line-up, all bearing a colossal grin. In its follow-up edition, WRONG has bolstered its role as one of the North West’s most essential ventures.