Once a year, after the dust has settled from SXSW, psychedelic music lovers gather for one of the most mind-melting music and art festivals in the world, Austin Psych Fest. In only it’s fifth year, the festival has grown to welcome attendees and artists from around the country and world, including Sweden, Nigeria, Australia, and more. It’s no wonder the annual collective is growing in this city, considering Austin birthed the 13th Floor Elevators, as well as The Golden Dawn, whom closed the Beauty Ballroom on Sunday. The Black Angels and the Reverberation Appreciation Society, on the forefront of the current psychedelic rock music revival, have gracefully accepted the mission of pulling all of these cognate bands and people together. Joining forces for the weekend was The Committee to Keep Music Evil, originating from the super forces of Brian Jonestown Massacre, who closed Emo’s East for the weekend, but more on that later.
For SSG’s Stephanie Spirovski and Samantha Hinzman, the opening day of Austin Psych Fest set the tone for a visual and aural weekend. The fest was held at Emo’s East, a renovated warehouse in east Austin, and the neighboring Beauty Ballroom, an extension of the Beauty Bar. Between the two venues was a strip mall, including a dance studio, convenience mart, and Zumba space. The walkways were lined with psychedelic tapestries and various vendors, from clothing and art, to tarot readers and a massage booth for expanding minds and tired bodies. Outside of the Beauty Ballroom was a fantastic food trailer park (in Portland we call them cart-pods), for vegans and carnivores alike. The security and staff of these venues held it down, regulating with smiles and warm hearts, keeping all attendees safe and welcomed.
When we arrived, The Allah-Las had just begun their set at Emo’s. The surfy desert-rockers from southern California radiated under a hazy blue light as they strummed out “Tell Me (What’s on Your Mind)” and “Camaran.” During their last song, “Long Journey”, singer-guitarist Miles Michaud switched spots with drummer, Matt Correia, who sang and rocked the shaker. These guys have been touring around for a few months with the Growlers and recently headed their own night at Joshua Tree’s Desert Daze, a sister festival to Psych Fest. – Samantha
Next on my list were The Night Beats. The groovy Seattle-based band took the stage transporting you into the days of Marc Bolan but with their own original twist. The three members came together creating a sound rooted in garage with hints of blues popping through each crevice. The Night Beats aren’t virgins to the Psych Fest stage and even have an LP with fellow Psych Fest musicians, The UFO Club, which is definitely worth checking out. – Stephanie
After checking out the outer space portrait booth, I caught the Psychic Ills, a 5-piece group from New York that work side by side to create a deep and dreamy groove. They had a very flowy start that slowly progressed into a dazey reverb drone. The bassist Elizabeth Hart held the center of the stage in a vibrant red dress that whispered a southwestern desert-vibe although they come from a big city. The visuals behind the Psychic Ills were of the warm rainbow variety. – Samantha
Of all the bands I saw this weekend, I was most psyched to see Dead Meadow. I love watching and listening to the way these guys work together. Years of friendship and collaboration are so apparent in their live show. Mark Laughlin provides a dependably smashing platform for the moans of Jason Simon’s voice and wowing guitar, and bassist Steve Kille holds it all down like a badass. I watched him rock out with one-hand while he casually sipped a beer for a few minutes, making it look oh so easy.
It’s almost like they mold the sound and process the energy of the crowd through their music with the help of their Orange amplifiers. They have such pretty colorful visual work in the background. Also worth noting is they had just played at Desert Daze in Joshua Tree along with several other bands at Psych Fest. Check out how they conspire to bring us all together in this clip from the beginning of their show. – Samantha
Ending the night off at the Beauty Ballroom was the Brooklyn-based band Peaking Lights. They consist of married couple Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis. The duo have this sort of heady, tripped out style of synthy electronic beats with Indra’s voice reverberating repeated phrases over and over in your mind. Everyone on the dance floor was moving and grooving to the glittery rhythms. The duo donned a new track that had a soft Rasta-vibe, with a dub beat that echoed straight from a Jamaican beach. I look forward to hearing what’s next from them on their upcoming album, Lucifer, due out this summer. – Samantha
The Black Angels with whom we have to thank for the whole weekend closed off the first night at Emo’s East. The band came through full-throttle playing songs that spanned throughout their whole collection, and Alex Maas managed to hypnotize the crowd with his illustrious maraca shaking during “Science Killer.”
Although they played last that night, the energy was just as high as the reverb during the entire set. Bodies swirled, bobbed, and swayed when “Manipulation” flowed over the room. Rishi Dhir added another layer to the performance when he played the sitar, and Stephanie Bailey’s drumming pulsated the venue throughout the show. The Black Angels left everyone vibrating and craving for the next day in just the right way. Stephanie