Finally a chance to talk about Sunday, April 29, the biggest day of Psych Fest. This one featured some of the best acts of the festival, including the Brian Jonestown Massacre. There was a lot of diversity. World music, bands in the psych tradition of Velvet Underground (maybe a few too many of those to be honest), bands that reminded me of my favorite postpunk bands from the ’80s. Just a great day of music.
Looking back over the festival, I would have to say the discovery this year was Disappears, a band that I knew nothing about that blew me away. (Last year’s discovery was Sleepy Sun – still a big fan).
As far as who put on the best performance… I would call that a tie between Bombino and Thee Oh Sees.
Wall of Death
The first act to grab my attention was a French band called Wall of Death, which played in the Beauty Ballroom. They played at the last Psych Fest, but for some reason they didn’t make an impression on me – maybe I was watching another band at the time? This time they did.
Their brand of psychedelia had an edge at times, but was also very melodic. The first song featured a cello player. The second song featured a guest appearance from Christian Bland of The Black Angels. Folks who stayed at Emo’s missed out on that one. Chris, my concert buddy, remembered them well from last year and made a point to see them this time and notes that they were much tighter this time around. They appear to be pretty good friends with Bland — they opened for the Black Angels on their world tour.
Also, here’s a video somebody made. I’m in that crowd somewhere…
Blue Angel Lounge
This was another band at the “small stage” at the Beauty Ballroom. They had an almost goth sound to my ears. They reminded me of bands like Joy Division and the Chameleons. At first they almost came across as monotonous, then the layers and complexity began to build and it became hypnotic and powerful. I was surprised at how young they looked.
Here’s one of their songs to give you an idea what they sound like:
This was the highlight of the night for me. I had heard of this band before, but didn’t really know what to expect. The band is led by singer-songwriter/guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar, a Tuareg. He was accompanied by another guitarist, a bass player and a drummer.
The Tuaregs are a desert-dwelling people who have been violently oppressed by the governments of Mali and Niger. Moctar in fact used to be a rebel fighter. At some point he decided he could do more to help his people by putting down his weapons and picking up a guitar.
It was almost surreal, after watching so many Western rock bands to see Moctar and his band in their traditional robes, their drummer wearing the face covering Tuareg men commonly wear.
For anyone wondering why an act like Bombino played at a festival for psychedelic music, it was very appropriate. Brian Jones – the original leader of the Rolling Stones who took the band in psychedelic directions, and who later recorded a group of Moroccan musicians for a very psychedelic album, Brian Jones Presents the Master Musicians of Joujouka. In fact Bombino at times reminded me of that group.
The band is tight as hell and Moctar is a hell of a guitarist. I was surprised at just how good. I was also surprised at how they rocked out – and how well-received they were. The music made me think of various things: Ethiopian jazz, Ali Farka Toure, Gnawa music, Algerian music. I understand Moctar is a great admirer of Jimi Hendrix and you can see that in his guitar performance, but in a way he also reminded me of Bob Marley – in part because like Marley, he’s creating something like rock, but with a very serious purpose, supporting his people in the face of oppression.
There was an amazing crowd, both during the show and at the merchandise table, where Moctar and his band members greeted people personally. I bought a CD of his album, Agadez. You can purchase downloads and order the CD at their Bandcamp site.
It would’ve been awesome to see this show also…
And here’s an excerpt from a documentary about the band. Pretty good performance and some explanation about what Bombino is all about…
Federale of Portland were a great surprise. Yet another great band playing at the Beauty Ballroom. They made what I guess you would call Spaghetti Western soundtrack music. Turns out some of the founding members were at one time part of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their music is mostly instrumental, with a trumpet player, and a girl doing wordless vocals. I had to pick up their 2009 CD, Devil in a Boot, which includes a short story about a boy named Jack who has his family stolen from him and later on gets revenge on the evil railroad baron. Check out their website.
One of my favorite songs off Devil in a Boot:
Thee Oh Sees
Very impressive show on the big stage at Emo’s, very high energy. Thee Oh Sees were a kind of pop punk, very tight. At times I thought of Cheap Trick, at times I thought of rockabilly, but mostly it was just a great rock ‘n’ roll show. This was one of those shows where I had to quit thinking about what they reminded me of and just put the notepad away and enjoy.
Check out their website. Looks like they’re on tour in Europe right now.
Also check out this cool video:
A one-man band at the Beauty Ballroom. Very experimental. The guy wore a goat mask and played guitar and electronics, accompanied by very strange videos – including little movies featuring a character that lip-synced as he sang. I have no idea how he did that. The bass was at times so loud it vibrated my whole body. Very impressive. Kind of in the same vein as some of the shows I’ve seen at the Salvage Vanguard Theater.
The show was sparsely attended because he was pitted against the Meat Puppets – a band I enjoyed but heard enough of after a few songs. It’s a shame more people didn’t see this guy, because he was everything psych should be.
Check out his MySpace to hear some of his music.
Check out this video.
How psychedelic was that?
Brian Jonestown Massacre
What can I say? They were awesome. They were obviously the big draw of the festival and they really rocked out. Better than I expected. Too bad I had to work the next day and didn’t catch the whole show. I wanted to, but I had basically hit my wall at that point. I decided to leave it to the young folks who can still do all-nighters on a regular basis without being wiped out for the rest of the week.