Joel Gion of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, joins the Dead Skeletons on tambourine.
Man or Astroman perform just before the big storm.
Psych Fest 2013 was a blast as usual. I’ll go into some detail, but, first, some memories that stick out in my mind…
Sore feet and ears ringing like the bells of Ireland, seeing Black Mountain, The Black Angels, Soft Moon, and Dead Skeletons, getting caught in a downpour, getting to see Joel Gion from the Brian Jonestown Massacre and seeing a young a woman walk through the crowd wearing nothing but a belt and some kind of fringe – no one seemed to notice. All in all, a memorable festival that introduced me to some great new bands, and gave me a fresh look at ones I’d seen before.
The Venue – Carson Creek Ranch
For the first time, the event was held at Carson Creek Ranch, near the airport. I think it will likely be held there every year. It was a pain in the ass to get to, but I think I’ll figure it out a lot easier next year.
I give it a thumbs up overall. There were big grassy expanses with a few shade trees you could sit under in between shows, lots of vendors, three stages, including the amphitheater on the bank of the Colorado River. Lots of hippies relaxing next to the water. Too bad for them I also noticed a fair amount of poison ivy growing on the river bank. Biggest hitch with the venue was the parking area. It was fine at first, but when it got wet it turned into a real mess.
Friday night – Soft Moon and Warpaint win the night
On Friday night the first band to catch my ear–and my eye was an all-girl group called Warpaint. They were hot and they rocked hard. The drummer in particular blew me away. Their music was dark, tribal and not so much catchy as hypnotic. There was one long, Joy Divisionesque jam that really got me in a trance.
The biggest band of the night for me was Soft Moon. They played intense, dark new wave, industrial-sounding music. I saw them at the power plant at Psych Fest 2011 at the small stage and they impressed me then. This time they were even better. The bassist was mechanical and expressionless, while the singer jumped around like crazy, sometimes shouting into the mike and twiddling knobs to produce a squall of distortion. They gave my earplugs a hell of a workout, but I could have listened to them all night.
The Silver Apples…. One of the shows I never thought I would see. I’ve been a fan of this seminal electronic music act for a long time. His show didn’t have the impact on me that I had been hoping for. I think listening to Silver Apples’ recorded comes across as dark and intriguing. In person, it was brighter. I could make out lyrics better and the hippie poetry made it seem a bit more mainstream psych and not as interesting. I loved how obviously joyful Simeon was though. He’s back in the career he loves and has an audience that appreciates him. The kids really seemed to love him.
Saturday – Black Mountain, Kaleidoscope and one hell of a rain storm
The biggest story on Saturday night was probably the hellacious rainstorm that hit around 10:30 p.m., but Chris Kinney and I saw some good shows before that. We started with a few mediocre bands and had a chance to eat, etc. Then we ran into a big dilemma: Black Mountain vs. Kaleidoscope. Both were killer. Both were playing around the same time — Black Mountain at the main stage, Kaleidoscope at the amphitheater. We did our best to catch some of each show.
Kaleidoscope (UK) is another seminal psych band I was surprised to find a the festival. The UK band put on a hell of a show, very traditional ’60s psych, just like they made back in the day. The light show on the river and in the trees on the other bank really made it magical.
Black Mountain on the other hand, had an excellent old school ’70s sound, from that period when psych was mutating into hard rock. I really enjoyed their spaced-out jam version of “No Hits.”
We wandered around and saw a few different shows. Man or Astroman was enjoyable, but the Levitation tent was packed and we couldn’t get very close. They were sort of a hard surf punk version of Devo. They wore costumes and had a lot of silly banter. “You think these are costumes. They are not. They are the apparatus that allows us to exist in your atmosphere.”
Part of the reason they were so popular was the weather. It was already starting to rain off and on. Os Mutantes was just about to start playing when serious rain started to fall. Then the bottom fell out.
Chris K and I headed to his car to get an umbrella, then the bottom fell out of the clouds and it rained so hard I couldn’t even see him. The parking area was paved with caliche, a whitish clay-rich dirt that was smooth and hard as concrete until it got wet, but the hard rain turned it into horrible clinging mud that built up on my shoes and made stains in my car I still haven’t gotten out.
Chris K and I got separated and ended up bailing. Chris went back to catch some shows, but the bands were moving their equipment to get out of the wet and I was cowering in my car. We ended up back at his place, scrubbing mud off our shoes. Whether any bands played after that I couldn’t say.
Sunday night – Black Angels, Goat, Dead Skeletons and their awesome surprise guest…
As always seems to be the case, they saved some of the best stuff for Sunday night, so I had to stay up late and be worn out at work the next day. Worth it.
Roky Erickson played again this year and I’m glad. He got treated with the respect he deserves and I think he should be at every Psych Fest. We owe him a huge debt. His performance was pretty similar to the one I saw two years ago at the power plant. He seems to do better with his solo stuff than with the Elevators’ material. I listened for a while, but mainly spent that time with Chris K, wandering around the grounds, checking out other acts at the river and looking at the merch tables.
Indian Jewelry was the first band to float our boats. Their music was a mix of psych and electro-clash, dark and hypnotic. The drummer was a particularly hot chick. Really cool designs in the projections behind the band also. We were enjoying the show, but then Chris K’s spidey sense kicked in and he suggested we go down to the amphitheater stage and see if there was anyone worth hearing. There was indeed.
Dead Skeletons of Iceland turned out to be the big discovery of Psych Fest 2013 for both of us. Just as they were about to perform, a 747 roared overhead. Perfect timing. They had a lot of members. Seven, I think. They were extremely together and made me think of a heavier version of Spiritualized.
We were soon faced with another dilemma. The Black Angels were performing and I wanted to catch some of their show even though we were enjoying Dead Skeletons. We made our way to the main stage and heard some of the Black Angels and indeed they were good. For some reason though, Chris K’s spidey sense kicked in once again and we decided to go check out Dead Skeletons one more time.
They were in the middle of an awesome extended jam and Chris suddenly noticed the guest musician: tambourinist Joel Gion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. He was with BJM at Psych Fest last year, but this is the first time I had a close look at him. He’s older than the fun-loving stoner you see in the documentary Dig, but there’s no mistaking the nonchalant manner and smirk. Seeing him made the festival for me. You gotta love how he got to be a star by playing the tambourine.
We saw another very intriguing group at the amphitheater stage called Goat. They were a Swedish band with a sound that incorporated many influences: prog, funk, psych, and Afropop. Vocals reminded me of Japanese pop. The members wore masks and tribal-looking costumes.
We finished with the Growlers, an old school garage/psych group that we had seen two years ago at the power plant. They had an entertaining show, with stage props that included rainbow penises, space aliens and cactuses. As the show went on, the music delved more into acid rock territory and some demented circus music. Very entertaining.