Cosmosis: Alternative Festival of Psychedelic Music and Arts/ Antwerp Mansion, Manchester/ 15.3.14
Something strange happened to me on Saturday night. I tumbled down the rabbit hole, into the psychedelic world of Cosmosis.
The derelict house-cum- rave venue, Antwerp Mansion is an odd corner of Manchester. Once you turn off Rusholme’s famous ‘Curry Mile’ into the little street where lie the gates which hide the mansion, and passed to the other side, you have entered a different reality. A world where multitudes of tie dye shirts and foreheads adorned with bindis swirl around you. This at least is as expected from a festival of psychedelic music and arts, however. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon it was like any other day festival- the atmosphere laid back, the people friendly. Outside the mansion, there was a small covered stage and a few stalls, mostly selling jewellery and an assortment of intriguing psychotropic herbs.
Admittedly, I hadn’t previously listened to any of the bands on the line up, except for headliners, cult USA psych-rockers The Warlocks. I was there to discover some new bands in one of my favourite genres, enjoy the ‘cosmic visuals’, deep space observatory and to absorb the quirky and mystical ambience. Inside the mansion was surreal- throughout the night I felt increasingly like a trespasser in a world that was an amalgamation of derelict, domestic decay and opium- fuelled visions. Some particularly impressive visuals were created on the roof of the warehouse-esque room housing the Observatory Stage by a simple box of liquid being sloshed around atop a projector. As I was admiring this, I listened to one of my favourite acts of the night, Kult Country, or maybe John J Presley. Honestly, I don’t know. Whoever it was had some seriously great riffs. Another highlight was Moon on the Abattoir Blues Outdoor Stage. After a string of mediocre acoustic acts, Moon made their mark with their intense sound; a brilliant blend of strong rhythms and reverberating vocals. It caught the ears of the smokers’ gathering like no other band yet, magnetising them and turning some into hard-core fans in a matter of minutes; one guy at the front starting up a chant of their name. Meanwhile, the light in the sky above was slowly fading, romanticising the set.
As the night deepened, and I was tumbling down into the depths of the rabbit hole, it seemed the mansion exerted a strange force upon me. It became increasingly disorientating and unnerving: every room I walked into might as well had the same band playing for all the sonic variety there seemed to be. It appeared a few different faces were really just musical clones of the acts which came before. The dream of decay and trippy, mystical visuals were becoming claustrophobic, Antwerp Mansion instead some nightmarish land rather than cosmic space. I’m not really sure anymore what happened at Cosmosis. The surrealism drew some mystical, esoteric haze over my eyes. The strangeness peaked during The Warlocks’ set on the Lovell Stage, where a five second clip of a crazed girl running at the screen repeated itself over and over behind them. I escaped the bizarre jaws of the mansion and returning to Curry Mile, found the further I walked down the spicy stretch of road into reality, the more remote the spell-binding experience of the mansion became. Its hypnotic grip on my imagination loosened, and dissipated into a dark and fanciful chimera.