Mayatrix and the Psychics
Badlands 28 October 2023
I came out of retirement for this one. I’d quit reviewing live shows and given myself the gift of enjoying the music without having to think about what I might say. Saying something is always dangerous, someone always objects, even when you say nice things. But for Mayatrix and the Psychics, I was willing to risk it. So here I was at Badlands, affectionately known as the Batcave, witnessing the end of some things and the beginning of a whole bunch of others.
Rock stars don’t exist among us, they are gossamer sprites conjured out of air and light, and Mayatrix is most definitely a rock star.
Had Badlands not been going out of business I might have mentioned my less than welcoming experience at the door and the lack of availability of bar service in the room, which meant the Batcave drained of people between sets. This is a thing in most every venue, but tonight it meant that most of the audience missed witnessing the burlesque between the bands — beautiful representations of the female form that challenged stereotypes of sex and femininity. Most punters also missed the opening of Mayatrix and the Psychics’ set, which is a shame because as openings go, you don’t get much better than a PA blaring with going-on noise that reminds you of being high on acid at Glastonbury just before New Order hit the pyramid stage.
I guess getting that one last drink is important, but I doubt the 80 percent that weren’t in the room will remember what was in their glasses in years to come, while the 20 percent will likely tell someone’s offspring what happened tonight as the event passes into legend.
Things got underway with Eyes and Teeth.
What can I say that won’t get me into trouble? Not much.
All musicians use gizmos to augment and enhance what they do on stage. It’s a thing, and a good one, too. But, the problem with having to constantly interrupt your performance to look down at your device while you switch vocal effects with no audible impact front of house is it breaks the illusion of the angry polemic, rendering it utterly confected.
I’ll let Pete Shelley say the rest — Your time’s up and me too / I’m out on account of you.
Mr Blue Sky
Sun is shinin’ in the sky / There ain’t a cloud in sight / It’s stopped rainin’, everybody’s in the play / And don’t you know / It’s a beautiful new day? Hey
Myths play pop music so slick it must be difficult to clean up after they’ve packed their pantechnicon and gone home.
Myths occupied the stage next, like a plague of locusts scurrying back and forth with what looked like a semi-trailer load of gear. There’s only five of them, but the gear alone makes you worry that they should be on a bigger stage. And then the music starts up.
Myths play pop music so slick it must be difficult to clean up after they’ve packed their pantechnicon and gone home. I hope whatever they use to grease their musical wheels is water based and environmentally friendly.
What Myths do has a tinge of nostalgia, reverberates in the past, but sounds like the future. No matter what they’ve called their latest album, they’re definitely not pretenders. Even the occasional Mr Blue Sky vocal effects don’t weigh them down, these are just a handy nod to their predecessors as they speed along in their beautifully varnished wooden speed boat slicing effortlessly through the waters of Lake Como under a cloudless sky. And as for pop music, it’s an epithet thrown around by hacks like me all too glibly sometimes, like somehow this type of music is disposable, forgettable. That’s not what Myths trade in. Their songbook is stuffed full of tunes that have more hooks than a long-line trawler and the cultural gravitas of the likes of McCartney, Lynne and even Bowie.
I spoke to Myths vocalist, Jamie Turner, soon after the release of their latest album, The Art Of Pretending, and he told me they’d written most of tracks in the studio, saying, “Now we have to learn to play them live.” He didn’t look at all doubtful about his band’s ability to translate their studio wizardry to the stage and tonight’s set was proof positive that Myths are an outfit to be reckoned with when they do what they do live. They’re an unstoppable force of nature, love and all the good things that music brings the world. Myths should definitely be on a bigger stage.
Children of the Grave
Next in line were The Wedges.
Revolution in their minds, the children start to march / Against the world in which they have to live / And all the hate that’s in their hearts.
Tonight, with the heaviest set I’ve seen them play, The Wedges established themselves as contenders.
I love The Wedges, they’re a fresh slice of boogie/stoner/psych rock paradise. They just make me want to smile. Tonight, they pulled out every cliche in the rock and roll playbook and made every single one of them sound original. I wonder if The Wedges know just how exciting and important that is? There’s nothing new in the rock pantheon, just pretenders and contenders, so it’s always what you do with the material that’s important. Tonight, with the heaviest set I’ve seen them play, The Wedges established themselves as contenders.
The Wedges’ songs have more movements than a Swiss watch, but they get away with it because the band have the musicianship that lets them pass of their carefully rehearsed arrangements as wildly spinning, unrelenting jams. It’s this aspect of what they do that carries the punters along with them. Now, it’s just a case of how far they can take things.
“Let us know if you want us to keep writing longer ones,” quipped vocalist/guitarist, Molly Corduroy, at the end of their set.
Fever To Tell
Yeah we’re all gonna burn in hell / I said we’re all gonna burn in hell / Because we’re two of a kind, to be real / And we’ve got the fever to tell / I said we’ve got the fever to tell.
This evening, the baton was passed to Mayatrix and The Psychics as they took up the mantle of making music that transcends the humdrum of reality.
And so we come to the end of the night and a new beginning for Mayatrix and The Psychics, fka Moana, who were here to launch their new single, ‘Mortal & Divine’, and their new selves. I think it’s fair to say that even when they threw in some new material at the end of their set, Mayatrix and The Psychics sounded a lot like their former selves, which is a very good thing, because they used to be a force to be reckoned with and now I’m going to struggle to find the right superlatives without sounding mawkish.
Mayatrix and The Psychics’ set started with that going-on noise, like a cross between a spaceship taking off and the end of the world. It was a promising tease and the band didn’t fail to live up to it. And like I said at the top of this piece it took me back to a time and place that, coincidentally, I’d recently written about in an entirely different context. I was in flashback heaven.
Mayatrix and The Psychics’ play a brand of art/metal/pop that many have tried but most fail to pull off. Perhaps their only modern contemporaries are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but only the early stuff. After the 2013 release of Mosquito, the NY art rockers withdrew from performing, only recently returning to basically play covers of their early material because they know they can never top it. Whereas Mayatrix and The Psychics continue to have unlimited potential.
Tonight’s set was hard hitting and highly nuanced, effortlessly moving from room-filling noise and pulsations to empty space and then back again. The music is confronting, heavy, brooding, fecund. At points in their set, Mayatrix’s wildly on-point vocals and Willow Fearns’ guitar became one, a sublime convergence that highlighted the on-stage telepathy between these two.
Mayatrix and The Psychics create a dangerous frisson like a nuclear reactor with all the rods pushed way over the red line. And their frontwoman, Moana Mayatrix, makes you believe that otherworlds exist because she summons them up on stage as she falls to the floor and begins to scream and stab the air with her utterances.
Just when I thought Mayatrix and The Psychics couldn’t take me any higher, Mayatrix introduced special guest, Jamie Canny, the ‘other Jamie’ from Myths, to play some sax. What happened next was the kind of space jam wig out that I thought only Hawkwind could pull off, with Canny sounding like/not like Nik Turner — who coincidentally sent me my first tab of acid through the Royal Mail. This evening, the baton was passed to Mayatrix and The Psychics as they took up the mantle of making music that transcends the humdrum of reality.
I’m still tripping.
On their night there are few more powerful outfits than Mayatrix and the Psychics and every night they step on stage is their night. The only thing they need to propel them to stages like Glastonbury is persistent presence. Nothing else could stop them.
And, if you need any more convincing, consider this. Unlike most local bands playing local shows, there was no evidence of Moana Mayatrix in the room before she and her band stepped on stage. She held it all back for the night’s performance. Rock stars don’t exist among us, they are gossamer sprites conjured out of air and light, and Mayatrix is most definitely a rock star.