I had forgotten what a large space The Roundhouse is — it really is quite big. For me it will always be the venue of psychedelic bands, The Pink Fairies, Man, Hawkwind and The Doors all played here and I always have the feeling that the venues walls are soaked with incense and patchouli oil.Those walls were certainly echoing tonight with the sound of The Lay Llamas. This is part of the problem with the venue; if the auditorium is under half-full the sound of the band bounces around the place and sometimes gets lost in the cavernous echo. The Llamas played some great straight ahead psychedelic rock with some wonderful deep bass and a drummer who means business. Taking slightly more cues from the west coast Grateful Dead sound at points, The Llamas were high on melodic riffs. The problem was that the venue seemed to eat up most of their sound and take it on a trip around the cosmos before blurting it back out a few seconds later, which muddied their sound somewhat. Still they were in fine form and I always appreciate a good drummer. Goat as the crowd swallow up their marvellous sound. As the seven masked members of the band hit the stage a massive roar erupts from behind me and the psychedelic lights and backdrop kick in. They come across like a pagan Abba. They are part Fela Kuti, Sylvester Anfang, The Incredible String Band, The Virgin Prunes, Hawkwind (yup, them again folks), Amon Düül 2, Gnod and as many other psychedelic rhythmic mindfuck bands you can think of all rolled into one, and they are glorious. This not just a gig; it’s a ritual. The band are heavy on rhythm, rolling tunes that would get the stoned on mushroom masses dancing around some fire in the woods in a trance. The guitarist pulls some fine licks and some beautiful subtle lead as well as crashing in with heavy-style Hendrix chords. But the focus is really the two singers who hype the audience up with their mystical dance.
As songs pass by you forget where you are, like you are part of the revelry at some occult sabbat. The music throbs to your heartbeat and you have to move and join in or else be left in the cold real world away from fairy land. When the band wind down their set, a sense of reality begins to kick in; when they are finished, a longing for them to remain and play till the pan pipes announce dawn is with you.
People shuffle out of The Roundhouse, many bedecked in their new psychedelic finest. Kaftans are everywhere and I kind of hoped some of that old ’60s patchouli oil had soaked into them from the walls of the venue.
-Gary Parsons –