Paris Psych Fest is imbibed with the spirit of this city: although the undertones will always be in the lines of every sub-sub-sub-genre fitting under that big fat umbrella called psychedelic music, there's an undeniable cosmopolitan quality that comes from merging a specific style with an unspeakable Frenchness, thus making it like no other city festival of the sort — even Levitation France is a whole different matter not only due to it being a sister festival of the main Austin event, which doesn't leave infinite room for impro in itself but also because it takes place in a much smaller city.

After a brief move to La Ferme du Buisson slightly outside city limits, Paris Psych Fest moved back to its original headquarters for its fifth edition. The legendary Pigalle neighbourhood with its decadent bright neons, rock'n'roll bars galore, and an inherent sleaziness carved in each and every stone since its heyday as a red light district, proved to be a natural habitat to the event, even though the second day (which I was unfortunately unable to attend) took place at La Station - Gare des Mines, a bit further north. And it was between sex shops, dive bars, and Pete Doherty's house that Paris Psych Fest rediscovered its spirit animal and full identity for an exciting 2018 edition.

Day 1 - La Machine du Moulin Rouge

TH Da Freak

The French group were a beautiful and energetic way of opening the festivities and setting the tone for what followed. Their album Da Hood is one of my favourite French releases of the year, and I was beyond excited to finally see them live. They didn't disappoint; as Tom from their label Howlin Banana had predicted when I found him outside before the doors opened, their live show is very different from the album, but not any less fun or enthralling.

Cut Worms

I'm ashamed to admit I knew nothing about Cut Worms. Nothing. They opened the second stage (la Chaufferie) but I had gone to the bar first so I missed the first songs. When I finally came down I heard this incredible country rock filling the hearts of a mellowed crowd, who swung slowly to the magical keyboard in what sounded like a spirit invocation of Gram Parsons' Byrds and Flying Burrito Bros. It was an amazing show and totally hit the spot after the more effusive music of TH Da Freak.

Vox Low

I didn't see much of Vox Low because I was talking to Cut Worms' Max Clarke at the merch table, trying to find out where they were headed next (EOTR), how life on the road was treating them on this side of the pond (pretty good, much better than his first EU tour), and other things of the sort. When I finally headed back to see Vox Low I only caught the last half of the show: they're a French band signed to Born Bad Records with a hypnotising sound that always grows more organic than one would expect from the electronica départ. I stayed there until the end.

Volage

Another band I was eager to catch live after getting properly hyped by their new album Sittin' Sideways, and another one that didn't disappoint. Somehow, their set felt way too short, but that's a good thing, right? When I finally looked at the clock, Ariel Pink was about to start on the main stage and I moved there in the hope of finding a good spot — I knew it would be packed and I had to pee first. There was no toilet paper. I didn't have any tissues. Yes, I used rolling papers.

Ariel Pink

This was one of the most incredible shows I've seen recently. Although I'm not a die-hard fan and no expert in his discography to the detail, both Pom Pom and Dedicated to Bobby Jameson had gotten proper attention from me when they were released, and I knew enough to anticipate Part-ay with a capital P. Don't get fooled by the jingle-jangly melodies though — despite being absolutely floored by the energy of everything that was happening onstage, I also found Ariel Pink to be an unexpectedly heavy act. I don't even know how to explain this — if you follow me on Twitter you're already acquainted to my new age dabblings on the likes of astrology or Tarot and are therefore aware of my ability to perceive collective vibrations — but there was some dense, serious shit happening on that stage. The unavoidable downstream catharsis came with the much-expected 'Baby', which the audience sang along to, just before the end of the show — though he did come back for a two-song encore.

Day 3 - La Cigale (Castle Face Records Day)

Prettiest Eyes

The three-piece California band opened the last day of the festival, which was a sort of carte blanche to Castle Face Records — a label run by Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer among others. The audience was still quite dispersed but the trio managed to bring the necessary good vibes to La Cigale's stage and by the end of their set they had gathered an impressively attentive bunch that tuned into their punk-psych sound and discovered another band to check out at home.

Male Gaze

Another fellow band from Castle Face, Male Gaze were in a certain way poppier than Prettiest Eyes, or at least less heavy and more playful. Drawing more influences from '90s grunge than their label colleagues, their absolute dedication to what they do was more than visible through the energy with which they delivered their 40-minute set — which was appropriately closed with a cover of Status Quo's classic 'Pictures of Matchstick Men'. A delightful warm-up for the hurricane that followed and brought the 19th-century venue to its knees.

Thee Oh Sees

Whenever I think about what a proper rock concert should be, I think about Thee Oh Sees. From the second John Dwyer and co. arrived onstage to the very last chord of the very last song, their show is an unbelievable mix of talent, rawness, expertise, and well, sex — because that's what rock'n'roll is ultimately about. Sure, part of that magic has to do with the unbelievably good two drummers and the fact of them being near the audience instead of the customary wallpaperish place in the background. It allows us to feel everything more deeply (as I write this in the morning after, I am still half-deaf) and also democratises their place within the OCS, Oh Sees, and any other variation their name might allow. This was the second time I've seen them live (the first one having been on Levitation France 2016) and I could see them again tomorrow.

***

Having been to the likes of Liverpool Psych Fest, Levitation France, Reverence Portugal (for its first, legendary edition), and many other events assembling bands of the genre, I can assure you that Paris Psych Fest owes nothing to them, both in terms of line-up and organisation. Although it inevitably shares some characteristics with the upper-mentioned festivals, it has been able to build a unique reputation on its own and stand firm as a mandatory stop in the European festival circuit. May it enjoy many more wonderful editions.