Tag Archives: Psych Fest

Psych Fest 2013 – another memorable festival

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.

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Black Angels have topped themselves with Indigo Meadow

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I have seldom looked forward to a music festival as much as I am Psych Fest 2013, set for April 26-28 in Austin. As is usually the case, I will probably come back raving about some obscure bands I never heard of before. It’s a great place to discover new faves. This year, however, I’m very excited to see The Black Angels, the guys who put on the festival, even though they play Sunday and I will be so tired the next day. The reason is their latest album, Indigo Meadow. I like it much better than Phosphene Dream, the 2010 album everyone raved about.

Usually when I review an album, I try to pick out the influences. Byrds, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, 13th Floor Elevators? All those influences are there and more, I’m certain. These guys are so passionate about psychedelic music that they started a festival and a music label (Reverbation Appreciation Society) to celebrate it. I don’t much care though. This album is so good, I just don’t feel like picking it apart. I would much rather just sit back and enjoy the music. 

The tunes and propulsive rhythms make the songs irresistible. I am especially nuts about the title track and “Don’t Play With Guns,” but I enjoy the entire album immensely. It’s in constant rotation on my car stereo and on the laptop. I get the feeling that with this release, the band has become so at home in this genre that it is now just effortlessly making songs. It doesn’t sound like someone making neo-psych music, it sounds like a collection of great songs. I feel like the Black Angels capture that period where ’60s psych music quit being about peace & love and began to turn dark.

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April 19, 2013 · 10:41 pm

Dandys and Brian Jonestown Massacre – both huge successes in my book

How do you define musical success? Lots of money? Lots of fans? Most dedicated cult following? Major label deal? It just keeps getting trickier and trickier.

A few weeks ago a friend loaned me his copy of Dig!, a documentary about the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Two very talented and trippy groups that had very different career paths – the Dandys got a major label deal and got really popular, especially in Europe; the BJM got more and more dysfunctional over time, with rampant drug use and constant fighting.

It also follows the changing relationship between BJM’s volatile singer Anton Newcombe and the Dandys’ Courtney Taylor, who started out as great friends and ended up as bitter rivals.

I recently saw both bands at Emo’s in Austin. The Brian Jonestown Massacre played at Psych Fest and The Dandy Warhols played later at their own show. I loved both bands, but I think I would’ve appreciated them a lot more if I had seen Dig! beforehand. I didn’t realize how awesome it is that Anton is keeping it together as well as he is right now, or that tambourinist Joel Gion still tours with the band after quitting/getting fired/getting in fights, etc. so many times. (BTW, Joel was my favorite “character” in Dig!, just laughing and clowning and partying through it all, the quintessential stoner.)

So which band succeeded? I would have to say both. The Dandys had more commercial success (Although Capitol has since downsized, dropping them from the label and turning them back into a “true indie” band). Their songs are catchier.

Brian Jonestown Massacre make consistently great music that will stand the test of time. They’re like some of the great psychedelic bands from the ’60s before they got big and lost their edge.

I think the Anton and Courtney love/hate relationship is fascinating. Anton envies Courtney’s success with the Dandys and Courtney loves and envies Anton’s songwriting ability. Here’s hoping they get back to the point where they can hang out and perform together again.

If you’re a fan of either of these bands and haven’t seen Dig!, you owe it to yourself to watch it. Even if you never heard of either band, watch it. Best documentary and in fact best movie I’ve seen in a long time.

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Psych Fest 2012 Day 3 – final wrap-up

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

Wall of Death is joined by Christian Bland of the Black Angels. (photo by Chris Kinney)

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.

Check them out on MySpace.

Also, here’s a video somebody made. I’m in that crowd somewhere…

Blue Angel Lounge

Blue Angel Lounge performs atmospheric pop with a postpunk/goth edge. (photo by Chris Kinney)

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:

And check them out on Facebook.

Bombino

Bombino introduces Austin to Tuareg rebel music. (photo by Chris Kinney)

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

Federale makes soundtracks for imaginary Spaghetti Westerns. (photo by Chris Kinney)

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:

New Fumes

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.

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Austin Psych Fest day 2: the ladies won this one

Just as expected, my favorites from yesterday were unexpected. The two shows that really got my attention were from girl bands. Both were at the “small stage” at the Beauty Ballroom.

Prince Rama

Prince Rama down in the crowd. The were very shiny. (Chris Kinney photo)

Prince Rama gets into the audience - which clearly got into them also. (Chris Kinney photo)

The first was a duo called Prince Rama of Brooklyn, NY, two ladies performing a sort of electroclash with a lot of percussion, some programmed, some acoustic. One song started with Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” and turned into a really cool tribal jam. For their last song, they got down into the crowd and danced. The crowd loved them. Enough to beg for an encore. We didn’t get one, alas (I guess if every band did that, the festival would drag on forever).

Chris, my concert buddy for the weekend, compares them to Govinda and Fisherspooner.

The two sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson, have an interesting background. They were raised on a Hare Krishna commune in Florida and went to an art school in Boston. They were picked by Animal Collective to perform at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in May 2011. Pitchfork recently gave them a really good review.

Feathers

Feathers singer dances, bewitches the audience - especially the guys. (Chris Kinney photo)

Blue disco ball, smoke machine, black lingerie outfits, Feathers put on a spectacle and the music was awesome. (Chris Kinney photo)

An all-female group from Australia, Feathers also lit up the Beauty Ballroom last night. Lots of percussion, they had a dark, brooding electronic sound, very danceable, and an impressive light show. They were dressed in black and were sexy as hell. I guess you would refer to their stuff as electro clash, but I also thought of witch house. Definitely a darker vibe than Prince Rama.

Here are a couple of their songs on Bandcamp:

Pink Mountaintops

Pink Mountintops, doing one of their folkier numbers. (Charles Wood photo)

The Pink Mountaintops rocking out at Psych Fest 2012. (Chris Kinney photo)

I have enjoyed the light shows so far for all the bands. Most have been computer generated. I really enjoy the old school effects though. We were standing close to this guy, who swirled dye around on plates, with the images projected on screen. Really cool. (Chris Kinney photo).

It wasn’t all about the ladies. I really enjoyed Pink Mountaintops of Canada, which is a spinoff of another favorite band of mine, Black Mountain. The music was at times hard and heavy and at other times rather folky.

Tonight looks to be a big night. I’m looking forward to seeing Tuareg singer Bombino, Thee Oh Sees, The Meat Puppets, and of course the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

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Austin Psych Fest first day: Disappears killed it

Disappears - awesome performance at Psych Fest 2012. (Cellphone camera couldn't cut the mustard so I nabbed this one off the band's Facebook page.)

Just starting to feel human again after a late night at Psych Fest. As usual, the band I enjoyed most wasn’t the one I expected it to be. Best performance and a definite band to watch, is the Chicago-based band Disappears.

I did enjoy the bands we went to see: Dead Meadow were very good and The Black Angels were great as always, I enjoyed a few other bands as well, both at Emo’s East and the Beauty Ballroom. The thing is, none of that really jumped out at me. It was the kind of fare you expect to hear at a festival devoted to psychedelic music – lots of reverb, lots of Velvet Underground influence.

Disappears stood out from the crowd (kind of an amusing statement now that I think of it). They were very together, every member knowing what the others were doing at all times. Different rhythms, vocals higher in the mix. I got a strong postpunk vibe from them. They made me think of bands like Joy Division, Magazine and The Fall.

Chris, my concert buddy, was so impressed he bought three of their CDs. I would have if I hadn’t been a little strapped after buying a few drinks. We played through a couple of the albums after we got back to Chris’s appartment and their latest – Pre Language – is unquestionably the best. The others were good also, but they had a different sound, reminding me a lot of the Stooges.

Here’s one of their best in my opinion:

BTW, I just found out after a bit of searching that their drummer is Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth.

Disappears will be playing in Dallas tonight and in Memphis, Tenn. tomorrow night. They are also getting ready for a summer tour of Europe. Check out their website for more. Also visit their store. You can get Pre Language for $12. Worth it I would say. And check out their Facebook page.

Bands I look forward to seeing tonight include Pink Mountaintops, Olivia Tremor Control, Telescope and the Black Lips. But who knows? Best show might once again be someone completely off my radar.

Emo’s East

I’ve decided I really like the new Emo’s East location on East Riverside Drive. I will miss the old location on 6th Street. I saw so many great shows there. But this one is big, still homey somehow, and they kept a lot of the art from the old place – like the creepy/weird/trippy painting of the elephant cutting open its third eye and the one of Johnny Cash flipping the bird.

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Getting psyched for Psych Fest 2012

I’ve been so busy lately that I just now had time to check out the lineup for this year’s Psych Fest. There are some killer bands on the bill this year. I really enjoyed last year’s festival, which was held at the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant. This year, the festival will be at Emo’s East and the nearby Beauty Ballroom on Riverside Drive.

I’m going to miss that weird industrial aesthetic, and the fact that you could go from the “big” stage to the “small” one to check out different bands without leaving the building. We’re going to have to walk a little more this time. There are advantages to having two separate venues, however. There was a certain amount of interference between bands last time.

Some of the bands I’m psyched about include: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Pink Mountaintops, Telescopes, Dead Meadow, Olivia Tremor Control, and of course, the Black Angels. And as always, I look forward to checking out some bands that I don’t know anything about that could turn out to be new favorites. I discovered some great ones last year.

Here’s a link to the official site. There might still be time to get tickets. And in any case, here is Al Lover’s Psych Fest Mixtape. Tons of great music.

And check out my posts about last year’s festival here and here,

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