Festival Review : Distortion Psychfest

The Distortion Psychfest returned to Église S-E-J du Mile-End May 9 to 13 2018 for its third edition. The festival showcases some of the best psych, garage, and noise bands from Montreal and beyond. This years edition kicked things off with a double release party — Tel Aviv→New York guitarist Yonatan Gat’s latest LP Universalist, and Montreal band TEKE::TEKE’s debut EP Jikaku. Sheenah Ko which I unfortunately missed, opened the show filling in for Chris Forsyth, and Sunwatchers took care of the music for the after party.


TEKE::TEKE kicked things off on the main stage with  a jammy blend of surf, psych and J-rock. What started off as a tribute band to Japanese guitarist Tekashi Terauchi has expanded their repertoire with original compositions. Their set mostly pulled songs from their new EP, composed of two original compositions and two covers. The band transitioned smoothly from 60’s eleki songs to modern compositions blending a variety of genres. Their greatest asset is their diversified instrumentation. The trombone and flute brought their sound to places a typical psych band can’t go. As the first band I saw at distortion, they set the bar really high.


Yonatan Gat’s set diverged from his previous shows. His band has grown from a trio to a quartet, necessary to perform the expanded sounds on his latest LP. He also took the stage,  rather than his preferred spot on the floor among the crowd. Nevertheless, he delivered a frenetic performance that feels at home on the stage as much as it does on the floor. His set was a nice mix of old and new material, alternating between his middle-eastern sounding psych rock to a much more varied world influenced sound. Missing from the some of the new songs though were brilliantly integrated samples from the recordings of Alan Lomax present on the album. For their final song, they descended onto the floor to make their way through the middle of the crowd. It took a moment for the crowd to react and close in around the band. For someone who has seen him live before, this was an all too short taste of his typical style, but for those unfamiliar with him it got a glimpse of what makes his perfomances unforgettable. They even had an unexpected guest join in for their finale. The saxophonist from Sunwatchers sneaked into the circle to jam with the band. Yonatan Gat is probably one of the most exciting performers I have ever seen and he did not disappoint tonight.


Sunwatchers were left witht the unfortunate job of entertaining the stragglers that remain after 11:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, which does not include me. I unfortunately only caught the beginning of their set, but I wished I could have stayed a bit longer. Alas, I had work the next morning and the final bus home was leaving soon. The little bit I heard served as a perfect cap off for the night. The eclectic mix of jazz, psych, and krautrock sounds was executed flawlessly. The sax which he had a sneak peak of earlier in the Yonatan Gat set was particularly good. More bands need saxophonists. 


Psych Fest 2018 started off with a bang, let’s hope the rest of it can match the pace this opening night has set.