Tag Archives: psychedelic

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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Sundress – great young dream pop band from Denton, Texas

I was playing through some mp3s from the South by Southwest 2012 and stumbled across yet another great band that I missed out on: Sundress. The Denton, Texas-based group is one to watch. They are right in that psychedelic/dream pop/shoegaze sweet spot that I find so irresistible. “Derelict” is a great song and the video is also quite impressive. Someone in the Youtube comments compared it to a DMX trip. I wouldn’t know, but it certainly is trippy.

Check it out:

Sundress has a new 6-song EP out on Bandcamp.

(You can download “Derelict” for free.)

Also check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

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Psych Fest 2011: tons of great music in a weird, awesome venue – what a trip!

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I didn’t have any “enhancements” at Psych Fest 2011 last weekend, April 29-May 2 — unless you count the mild contact high I got from all the second-hand pot smoke — but I still had a great, trippy experience. I was especially excited about getting to see Roky Erickson for the first time.
The three-day event was held at the recently decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant which was an excellent setting. All those pipes, conduits, valves, stairways leading into God knows where, openings in the floor leading into mysterious chambers two stories below… All that stuff once had a very practical purpose, but ended up creating a weird sort of aesthetic.
Seaholm has great acoustics – especially the big room containing Stage 1 and all the vendors. Stage 2’s smaller room was a bit louder, but it was pretty cool that those two stages could have shows at the same time and not interfere.
I didn’t catch every band and I’m sure I missed a few good ones, but I saw several shows by acts I knew were going to be great, and they definitely were. I also discovered some new favorites.

Below are some of the highlights. I’m going to break my journalist code and forsake the inverted pyramid. Bands are in the order I saw them, not according to how much I liked them.

(And many thanks to blog commenter Christopher Kinney for turning me onto this festival and being a great concert buddy.)

Friday Night, April 29

Beach Fossils

Beach Fossils

This was the first band I heard when I turned up on Friday. They have a nice postpunk sound. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but they put me in mind of bands like Modern English and the Comsat Angels. The bass and rhythm guitar really captured that vibe for me.

Night Beats vs. Blue Angel Lounge

Night Beats

I had a real dilemma as Night Beats was still performing on Stage 1 as Blue Angel Lounge cranked up on Stage 2. I really started getting into Night Beats, which had a cool twangy cowboy psyched-out rockabilly aesthetic, with projections of RV travel trailers zipping by on the screen behind them.
I was then alerted to the fact that Blue Angel Lounge was cool and needed to be checked out. They were right in my postpunk/goth sweet spot. They reminded me of bands like Interpol and Clinic. Dark and hypnotic. Very good. I’m not the only one who thought so. The crowd got a lot bigger after Night Beats finished and Blue Angel Lounge really got a great response.
If I only I could’ve cloned myself and seen both shows at once.

Atlas Sound

Atlas Sound

Atlas Sound is the solo project of Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox. He was the first truly psychedelic act I heard on Friday night. Trippy, hypnotic and downright beautiful. He is a one-man band, singing and playing acoustic guitar, using loops and reverb to create an amazing tapestry of sound.

Crystal Stilts
I liked these guys – they came across as very ‘60s, with a Velvet Underground influence.

Tobacco
This is the band that Christopher was itching to see. It’s a side project of several members of Black Moth Super Rainbow. They had a funky mix of hip hop beats and electronic sounds. I thought they were good, and the crowd they drew went nuts over them, but I wasn’t as crazy about it as Christopher was, mainly because I was in the mood for the kind of psychedelic music Atlas Sound put out, full of reverb, feedback and distortion. Tobacco did start to sound more psychedelic as the show went on, getting into some cool, hypnotic grooves.

Saturday, April 30

Pontiak
First band of the day for me. I liked them a lot more than Chris did. They looked like “indie” guys, but their music was drugged out, sludgy metal. They made me think of Soundgarden. Black Sabbath had to be a big influence as well.

Black Ryder
I enjoyed this one. Kind of a gothic shoegaze sound. They harmonized nicely and had some good tunes. At times I thought of the Chameleons.

White Hills
Like Pontiak these guys were a bit sludgy, but more energetic and uptempo, and with vocals.

Sleepy Sun
This was my discovery on Saturday. They had a bluesy, feedback drenched vibe and used a lot of reverb to create a wall of sound. The singer had a good voice – which is important with bands like this. They also had some good tunes. I liked them enough to buy a CD (Fever) and sign up for the mailing list. I have played Fever several times over the last few days and it gets better with each listen. It makes me think of bands from the early ‘70s that had elements of blues, hard rock, psych and prog all at once. They’re mining the same territory as Black Mountain.

Crocodiles

Crocodiles

Best show on Saturday night. Very energetic feedback-drenched sound. They performed a bunch of songs from their excellent album Sleep Forever (in my top 5 from 2010). The singer had a great stage presence. Lots of dancing and jumping around. Wearing sunglasses and a black T-shirt with a grinning skull. He reminds me a young Lou Reed.
I’ve been itching to see them live since I first heard their cover of Deee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” on Dandelion Radio — and they didn’t disappoint. They got great crowd response too. Maybe they’re on their way to getting the props they deserve.

Indian Jewelry
They came across to me as a kind of gothic industrial (a style that Chris informs me is known as electro-clash) and featured a stand-up drummer who created a pounding tribal beat.

Soft Moon
Awesome industrial. These guys put on a hell of a show on stage 2, with programmed. Mechanical sounding beats and a vocalist who sometimes sang, sometimes made wicked-sounding utterances. The projection was focused in the center of the room so that the shapes, stars and intersecting lines seemed to rush toward us. Very cool effect that went well with the music.

Black Moth Super Rainbow
I saw them on Saturday night and thought they were powerful and innovative. Funky, with electronic noise and vocals run through a vocoder. I liked them, but I have to admit I didn’t get how crazy everyone went for them. They got a big crowd and a big response. Some people told me they came to the festival to see them specifically. Maybe this is a band that will grow on me.

Spectrum
Another discovery. They were playing at 1 a.m., right around the time our little crew began to run out of steam. If they had gone onstage earlier when I had more energy I would’ve been all over their show. As it was I had to take in part of it sitting outside, trying to rest my feet and my aching back. They were doing a sort of shoegaze, working against drones and doing extended pieces that could either come across as monotonous or hypnotic depending on whether you were feeling it. At times they reminded me of Spiritualized. At other times their music made me think of the long spoken word songs by the Doors like “This is the End” and “When the Music’s Over.”

I think Jim Morrison had to be a big influence.

Sunday, May 1

The Black Hollies
I liked these guys. Sort of a twisted ’60s sound with a Farfisa organ (or something that sounded like one). Like Spectrum, this band reminded me of the Doors, but they were a little more pop-oriented, not as psychedelic.

Daughters of the Sun

Daughters of the Sun

Great discovery. To look at this trio of long-haired musicians from Minnesota, you might expect them to be a metal band — one member was wearing a Judas Priest vest. You would be wrong. Not that I don’t love metal, but this was a lot more interesting. Their music was a very psychedelic mixture of electronics, guitar and reverb, dreamy vocals and lots of very tribal-sounding percussion. They had two drummers and a singer-guitarist who also banged on the drums for some songs. I liked them so much I went looking for CDs, found they had sold out, and bought a handmade cassette EP of Net Wt. instead. Would’ve bought the vinyl version of their latest album, Ghost with Chains, but I don’t have a player. Their music can be found as mp3 downloads on Amazon, iTunes and at their labels Modern Radio.com and NotNotFun Records.

Dirty Beaches

Dirty Beaches

In a word: Intriguing. Dirty Beaches, aka Alex Zhang Hungtai is a one-man band, singing, playing guitar and using loops, programmed beats and other electronic sounds. He had a ’50s greaser look, with a white T-shirt, slicked back hair and tatooed arms. Some of his songs had a retro sound also, especially the one he dedicated “to the lovers.” After combing his hair back, Fonzie-style.
One song was a shouted, spoken word piece with a freakout guitar solo. Very cool.

Pete International Airport

Pete International Airport

It took me a while to warm up to this band, but once I got them I was impressed. The singer had a low, almost monotone delivery. I thought of Sisters of Mercy. Chris was reminded of Fields of the Nephilim and Mission UK. He wore sunglasses and had a hint of menace about him that made me think of Blue Oyster Cult’s Don Roesser. Great frontman, really. I also loved the melodic plucked bass and the fact that the band had two drummers.

The Growlers

The Growlers

Very good band with a great sense of melody. They had a bit of ‘60s garage, a bit of surf, a bit of country & western and just basic great all around pop. Strange as that sounds, it really works. They had a great stage presence and really hit it off with the crowd.

Roky Erickson

Roky Erickson


Roky is the main reason I decided to fork over the money for the weekend pass. I’ve wanted to see him ever since I learned he was performing again. I’ve been following his story for years. His 1960s band the 13th Floor Elevators were arguably the first psychedelic band. Roky has struggled with mental health issues for years and slowly reemerged as a performing, recording musician again, thanks in large part to love from his fans in Austin. We love the man and we’re not ready to let him go.
I saw him on Sunday night. After his show I felt like I could go home. I thought he put on a hell of a show. I felt like his guitar work was a bit sharper on his solo works like “Two Headed Dog” and “Night of the Vampire” than with his Elevators songs, though he kicked ass on “You’re Gonna Miss Me” during the encore. I loved all of it though. He rocked. Hell of a backing band too. He’s a legend and I feel very lucky that I got to see him.

Black Angels (stay tuned on this one)
If there seems to be a glaring omission, that’s because I missed the Black Angels show. I didn’t like it, but they weren’t going on till around 11 p.m. and I knew Monday was going to be a brutal work day (it was). Since I saw them not too long ago, I went ahead and lit out. Fortunately, Chris was able to stick around and I’ll pass along his impression of that show soon.

Edit: I previously said I thought Pontiak would’ve been better with a vocalist. Turns out they have one. I just got dragged over to the first stage before I could hear him sing. Also… Christopher Kinney is still chipping away at his review of the Black Angels show. He hasn’t forgotten.

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Peru and Ana vs. Panda Bear – psychedelia never dies

I never dropped acid and never plan to do so, but I’ve always loved the strand of art and music that came about after the stuff turned up in the ’60s. You always wonder when you see or hear something “trippy” if it was inspired by drugs, but it’s not necessarily the case. Some artists have simply freed their imaginations to such an extent that they aren’t bound by the structures you’ve come to expect. It’s interesting to me that psychedelic art never really goes away. It just keeps coming back like a recurring dream.

And speaking of dreams…

The video below has fascinated me for days. The song, “Bros,” is by someone I recently discovered called Panda Bear (real name Noah Lennox). He’s a founding member of The Animal Collective (also a recent find for me). The song is long (over 12 minutes), drenched in echo effects and to my mind at least, influenced by the Beach Boys. I read an interview where Lennox said he was unhappy with that comparison, but I mean it as a compliment, honestly. (Someone on YouTube compared “Bros” to Pet Sounds and I thought, yeah, only more interesting.)

The video was created by a couple of Brooklyn-based multi-media artists who call themselves Peru and Ana. They have a reputation for leaving cryptic, artistic graffiti around the city and producing strange, avant garde films. Their aesthetic kind of reminds me of Nurse with Wound. The video they created for “Bros” illustrates a strange but beautiful nightmare with lots of faded old bits of film and flickering imagery. I find it irresistible.

It looks better in Vimeo, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to embed that version.

Also, check out this video from Animal Collective:

Trippy stuff!

Here is Panda Bear’s MySpace page.

This is the Official Animal Collective website, but at the moment it just has one video up (a really cool one for a song called “Bluish.”)

Until the band fleshes out its website, you can get a lot of information on this fan site.

You can see more of Peru and Ana’s work on their website and their Vimeo page.

And consider this a cry for help: If anyone can help me figure out how to embed a new Vimeo vid in a WordPress.com blog, I will be forever grateful, or at least grateful till my mind wanders onto some other matter.

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FM Campers – new electro-psych band from Austin

I have to spread the word about this Austin group: FM Campers. I first heard them a few weeks ago on the University of Texas college radio station, KVRX. Beautiful neo-psych sound. An album is in the works and an e.p. called Bear in a Box is up on Bandcamp right now. You can pick your own price and download it, or pony up 10 bucks for the hand-painted sleeve CD-R version.

The entire e.p. is very enjoyable, but I especially like the title song, “Bear in a Box,” which is the song I first heard on KVRX. Stream it here and see if it doesn’t impress:

Also visit the FM Campers website: http://fmcampers.com

And their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fmcampers

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