Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia may be a few months past but its influence appears pertinent in Harvest Sun’s line-up for Crystal Stilts. The Rise of General Mezmar are first on and kick out the jams. The local(ish) band stakes a claim to be my favourite of the night. Their sound is quite distinctively one of the past but the 60s’ (think psychedelic and blues) influences are interpreted in an intelligent and energetic way so that The Rise of General Mezmar come across as their own band and not just a pastiche. A demo from the band can be heard here.
Liverpool band The Probes are probably the least psychedelic of the night and are exciting and shambolic in equal measure. Technical difficulties leave the set stuttering somewhat and a frontman looking for a fully stringed guitar. But the band plays what is most effectively described as post-punk, with interesting shoegazish guitar. They came across as discordant at times, but for many fans of post-punk that is very much a good thing.
Third on are The Proper Ornaments, and singer/guitarist James Hoare’s indiepop (not indie pop) propensity –more evident in his other band, Veronica Falls- shines through the band’s psychedelic framework. Songs are extremely well written and pop melodies come through clearly, even if they do verge on tweeness at points. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and the band really do have an ear for a pop song and the indiepop aesthetics had me wishing I’d brought my cardigan. You can download set opener and stand out track Recalling here for free and it’s legal and everything.
To describe headline act Crystal Stilts in one word I would use this one: unassuming. Singer Brad Hargett hardly moves throughout the set; a swaying keyboardist is about as active as the band are going to get. Crystal Stilts are a subtle band and the shut up and play the hits vibe worked for more upbeat and poppy numbers such as Shake the Shackles, but at times throughout the set songs merged into one and the line between understated and apathetic was blurred. I was caught in two minds, was Hargett a moody frontman or did he just not want to be here? The band’s playing was tight, I can’t fault that, but I like my music played with heart and, for me, Crystal Stilts’ performance failed to connect.
/ Rob Cooper