There’s an unmistakable and, dare I even say, delicious sense of irony that surrounds this year’s Cosmosis Festival. Where last year’s event relished in the counter-cultural confines of Antwerp Mansion, this year the festival has moved the four miles across the city to the corporate and somewhat vacuous surroundings of Victoria Warehouse, an event space and hotel in Salford Quays. Such an upscaling of venue comes with a downside however. While this year has surely attracted bigger artists, and as a result a bigger crowd, the festival seems to have not just lost any of its DIY charm and any counter-culture credentials, but obliterated them entirely.

And this is where the irony comes in to play; the vast majority of the crowd are not only oblivious to it, but help exacerbate it. There’s something unignorably trite about 5000 people all striving to be more individual than everyone else. And whilst that might sound somewhat harsh, and shouldn’t reflect on the festival itself, its still worth baring in mind that if you’re unaware of the irony of trying to embody the free spirit of the ’60s, whilst wearing a get up from Urban Outfitters, you’re entirely missing the point.

Of course, what does reflect on the festival, is the way it seems to exploit a captive audience. Want a beer, a soft drink? Buy some tokens first. Providing of course you’re happy to pay a black plastic equivalent of £4 for a can of Fosters, or a little more for a Heineken half the the size. This is a psych festival though! Altar your conciousness, expand your mind, man. A tempting but otherwise fruitless endeavour given the site’s overzealous security putting the kibosh on what could have been an impressively varied chemical display. Besides, I’m not sure anyone could realistically afford 40 tokens a pop for their substance of choice, anyway.

I realise that three hundred words deep in to a festival review probably seems a little late to begin to mention the music, but events such as this rely as much on aesthetic and atmosphere as they do the music itself. And while the former felt forced, the bands themselves is where Cosmosis soars. Bringing together heavyweights from across the international scenes of  psych, prog, dream-pop, shozegaze and just about any other pigeon-hole you can think of (as well as several you couldn’t), the festival’s a cornucopia of sounds that range from the plain weird to the unequivocally weird.

Arriving slightly later than we’d hoped, we head immediately to the Earth Stage, where San Francisco’s Deafhaven are pummelling the crowd with their idiosyncratic combination of shoegaze and black metal. Heavy, heartfelt and utterly uncompromising, their set is a tour-de-force of anguish and optimism; pained vocals aren’t so much layered on top, as they are buried beneath monolithic slabs of noise, and the lyrics, when distinguishable, are wrought with personal reflection. A surprising but not unimpressive way to kick off the evening.

Over on the Air Stage, or Main Stage, The Raveonettes bring their eclectic energy to a heaving crowd. Fusing together pop harmonies with reverb heavy riffs, culminating in an almost effervescent brand of noise pop. Unfortunately from our position on the mezzanine, sound issues are abound and we return to the Earth Stage for the cerebral ’60s psych pop of Of Montreal. Drawing from a wealth of established crowd-pleasers, including an early outing of ‘Suffer for Fashion’, their set’s bright, bubbly and draws an impressive crowd, though one can’t help but wonder if frontman Kevin Barnes’ voice isn’t as strong as it could be. Nevertheless, their set provides a light and breezy break from the festival’s weightier elements; PINS for instance, whose set we catch the tail end of as we head for a cigarette afterwards and whom we make a mental note to see on their own, or the aforementioned Deafheaven.

Bringing us back down to earth somewhat, the abrasive and ever-inventive foul mouth of Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson. Arguably one of the UK’s most important acts of the moment, their set takes no prisoners, Williamson’s piss and vinegar wordplay seemingly limitless. They might not be to everyone’s tastes, but there’s little denying how astute their observations are.

In what proves to be our first and only visit to the upstairs Aether Stage, Finland’s K-X-P are shrouded in an inky blackness, their motorik grooves audible long before the band are visible, which isn’t often. Propulsive and ever-progressive, it’s an intense experience; a perpetual hiss of a hi-hat becomes the hypnotic backbone for a diverse palette of influence. Blending together krautrock, psych, prog and electronics, it’s impossible to gauge where any one track is going, making for a fittingly trippy end to festivities.

Whilst the music was obviously the main reason people were there, the atmosphere still managed to feel hugely against the spirit of the festival, and indeed the scene(s) it represents. Not all the blame can be placed entirely at the feet of the organisers however. What felt like half the crowd seemed more concerned with pea-cocking for Instagram than truly enjoying the music. Maybe now I’ve turned 25 I’ve become cynical. Maybe now that I feel old when I go out, I’ve become bitter. Or maybe I just don’t see the appeal in paying someone to coat my beard in glitter and then spending the night worrying about it sweating off, but maybe that’s just me.

Words by Dave Beech