Manchester Psych Fest 2023 Review

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The first weekend of September can only mean one thing in Manchester, as the curtains of summer festival season begin to come to a close Manchester Psych Fest steps out onto the stage as a last hurrah. Uniting some of the city’s most iconic venues, hosting big names in the likes of the stained-glass beauty of The Albert Hall and the bouncing floors of the iconic Ritz, whilst smaller acts find themselves tightly packed in turn-offs on Oxford Road – with Deaf Institute and YES holding some of the most anticipated acts of the day. 

Now in its tenth year, Manchester Psych Fest caters to more than just music lovers, with the city’s multi-million-pound investment, Circle Square being transformed into the festival village for the day, hosting artist meet-and-greets with some of the line-ups biggest names, including the likes of The Mysterines and The Murder Capital, with local food vendors and art exhibitions thrown into the mix – there was certainly something for everyone.

manchester psych fest the brian johnstown massacre
The Brian Jonestown Massacre

This year’s headliners arrived in the form of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who found themselves right at home at Albert Hall, addressing a sea of fans donning the band’s iconic merchandise, treating a captive audience to an impressive 90-minute set that spanned the band’s nostalgic hits alongside some deeper cuts for good measure. 

One thing about Manchester Psych Fest – is there are always going to be clashes, and it’s always going to be the acts that you want to see the most that just so happen to be playing at the same time as each other, in different parts of the city centre. The Murder Capital were a band that didn’t suffer from their clash with other big names such as Just Mustard, and the aforementioned Brian Jonestown Massacre, as the Irish 5-piece drew in huge numbers at the iconic Ritz. Playing a 13-track set that held highlights from their well-received second album, Gigi’s Recovery, and their iconic break-out debut, When I Have Fears, whilst also allowing for rarities such as ‘Love, Love, Love’ to come to the forefront, as front-man James McGovern beckoned the crowd to help him with the words, for it had been ‘a long time since they had played it’. 

Welsh punks Panic Shack have come quite a long way since the release of their 2020 single, Who’s Got My Lighter?, and the number of people that were packed into Academy 2 to see them proved that point. Having played at what feels like every festival this Summer, including sets at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Panic Shack are a band that show no signs of stopping. Opening their set with the infectious, tongue-in-cheek ‘Baby’ – that got treated to an official release on their EP, Baby Shack, this April, the band played one of the most high-energy sets of the day, with chatter from the crowd explaining that they ‘don’t know how anybody could go on stage’ after them on the way out. 

manchester psych fest maruja

Manchester’s own Maruja went on to play one of the most intense sets of the evening, with a 23:30 stage time and train strikes not stopping fans, new and old, from going to see the four-piece play one of the festival’s newest additions, Canvas. Only releasing their debut EP, Knocknarea, this March, the band have caused quite a stir in the North West for their tracks that push genre boundaries, both wild and loud but with moments of calm. Bursting onto the stage doused in heavy black eye makeup, the band had their crowd eating from their hands, as they joined in with the mayhem of the moshpits, commanding a crowd in a way that some with years in the industry under their belt could fail to master. 

Manchester Psych Fest is a festival like no other, showcasing distinguished musicians, DJs, art displays, and films. With such an impressive lineup, it’s nearly impossible to witness every act that you wish to see. However, after a near decade of expansion, this festival has become a prominent occasion in the North West that cannot be missed.

Katie Macbeth

katie macbeth

Katie Macbeth is a freelance music journalist for Indie Is Not A Genre based out of Manchester, presenter of @drunktankthink, and post punk enthusiast.

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