I survived Austin Psych Fest. Alone and with the hot, soon-to-be summer sun burning my back, I traveled from the Hilton Austin Airport to Carson Creek Ranch, two days in a row. (For the festival’s first day I carpooled with some friends.)
Exploring Carson Creek Ranch and its 58 acres was an exhausting process. Not only did I observe multiple performances from over 30 bands, but I lost two pairs of shoes to mud, gained a second hand high from the overwhelming amount of marijuana that was smoked and ate two of the most disgustingly delicious entrees ever created. (I will get into that later.)
So, without further ado, here is my recap for this year’s Austin Psych Fest.
Warpaint: Sensual and commanding, Warpaint served as one of APF’s headlining performers. The moon was high and the sky was a menacing black when the all-girl rock group took the stage on Friday. Crimson red lights projected from onstage surrounded the band, a fitting color for their moody and mysterious songs. Upon first observation I realized that Warpaint is a very groove-driven band. Their songs would not be as resonant or declarative without the pulsating bass of Jenny Lindberg, and the punching drums of Stella Mozgawa. “Elephant” and “Beetles” were just as much “Riders on the Storm”-esque jams, than they were psych journeys. And the harmonies? Spine-tingling. My friends who solely attended APF for Warpaint relived the band’s performance through four minute long videos and pictures. Their money was well spent.
Boris: Enjoyably jarring accurately describes Boris’ Saturday performance. There were moments that tested our abilities as listeners, and often times the Japanese trio rewarded our patience with beautiful melodies and haunting vocals. Of course a part of my being present at Boris’ show is because the group rarely performs in the United States. But their unconventionality is what kept me in place, their lengthy moments of cacophony seguing into finger-picked guitar and elongated bass. Unlike Acid Mothers Temple, Boris evoke a feeling of discomfort through discordance, and not eccentricity. They demand your attention, but are fully aware of when to pull back and when to leave your ears ringing. (Side note: Shouts out to Atsuo for his hot pink drum set. I see you my dude.)
Deerhunter: Prior to Deerhunter’s headlining performance on Saturday night, the Austin clouds gave way to brief but heavy storms, rain dropping on everything and everyone not underneath a tent, jacket or umbrella. We waited impatiently for Deerhunter, hoping that the rain would not come again and Bradford Cox would serve as the calm after the storm. Cox played the part in a way that made us forget the rain, the hour long postponement and the mud soaking between our toes and the bottoms of our shoes. In a matter of 30 minutes Cox presented us with a side that is rarely seen: gentle, comedic and probably inebriated (or “tripping”). Wearing a dress Cox led his band through different elegant and APF-friendly songs, before going into a jam based solely around the band’s car alarm going off. And at that moment I would like to think we all realized something great. That the best of moments are usually unexpected and unplanned, and in the case of this music festival, a moment that will go down in APF history.
The Black Angels: Prior to APF I watched The Black Angels perform at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. Unfortunately, I was bored by the group, their mid-tempo psych jams more redundant than engaging. But at APF I felt like I was viewing a completely revamped Angels. (Which actually makes sense literally since the band has a new guitarist, as well as a new record out.) Not only were the songs more mature from a songwriting perspective, but they balanced the band’s experimentation with Beatles-esque pop vigor. Sure, there were some throwbacks a part of the band’s set. But the new material and the way the band presented it live, made me reconsider my opinions on them.
Gourdough’s Ron Burgundy: The Ron Burgundy is a mid-sized hamburger patty, topped with cheddar cheese, a fried egg, bacon and vegetables, placed between two fried donuts. I ate this and upon finishing it, noted it as the food equivalent to LSD. Nothing made sense once I finished this Ron Burgundy. Time ceased to exist, I found myself standing up and not remembering getting up, I drank three-plus containers of water and even fell asleep while Quintron & Miss Pussycat sound checked. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Eli, would you do it again? Yes. Yes I would.
Indian Jewelry: Ten minutes was all I could stand. There was nothing redeemable about Indian Jewelry’s set. It felt forced; the ruffled sound, each song beginning with lengthy distortion that served as a distraction more than a momentum builder. Frontman Brandon Davis was adamant about a video that the band created, that he wanted playing during their set. Unfortunately, the video never came on. Maybe it would have improved the group’s performance (they are a very visual dependent band after all). Maybe not. All I knew was that Roky Erikson and his guttural howl was taking over the Reverberation Stage at the same time as Indian Jewelry’s set. And I needed/wanted to be there.
The Moving Sidewalks: The only part of The Moving Sidewalks’ set I enjoyed, was when they covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” and “Red House.” Other than that I found myself agitated with the group’s set. The group was rusty: Drum fills were choppy, bass lines landed on incorrect notes and each song seemed to diverge from its original tempo. It was great to witness an iconic psychedelic rock group reliving their heydays, and reminiscing on “tripping” with Roky Erikson. But it seems the path that made up The Moving Sidewalks is full of cracks and holes, and might be too late to fix. Oh well, at least Billy Gibbons still has ZZ Top.
Raveonettes: Raveonettes took the Reverberation Stage shortly after Warpaint, which made no sense to me. The duo did not maintain the momentum the indie rock quartet built for them, opting for slow and plain set starters, before going into more upbeat and favorable songs. The duo’s vocal harmonies were phenomenal, but were undermined by the music that accompanied them.
$5 Beers: Drafted Dos Equis is delicious but not for five dollars. That is all.
Deap Vally: Deap Vally is complicated because it’s obvious they are talented. But personally I feel not much separates them from The Black Keys or The White Stripes, besides the fact that they’re a girl duo. They did everything right; the riffs were memorable and the energy was unrestrained. But the group has not created anything that truly defines them. Yes, I enjoyed their set but I think part of that is because, whether intentional or not, they’re reminiscent of one of the best rock groups to come about in the last decade. Once Deap Vally discovered their defining factor nothing will be able to stop them. Until then, they’re basically a diet White Stripes.
Man or Astro-Man: The Alabama surf rock band was probably APF’s most underrated performance. What the group lacks in musical differentiation (each song they performed could have been mistaken for one long song if you weren’t paying attention) they make up for with their unpredictable and somewhat chaotic live shows. Brian Teasley throwing sticks and shoving his cymbals offstage; Samantha Paulsen jumping offstage, her bass swinging uncontrollably around her; and Brian Causey lighting his theremin on fire. The group claims to be from some other planet, and judging from their Saturday night performance, I would not doubt it.
Goat: Goat is basically what The Mars Volta would have been if they strictly created latin-funk jams, ignored their sporadic psychedelic rock impulses and had two female vocalists. (No shots fired at The Mars Volta. I’m still crying about the breakup but that is neither here nor there.) The mask-wearing ensemble treated their set like a tribal ritual, utilizing primitive screams and dances that encouraged crowd participation. At times it became redundant but the group knew when to build up and deliver a barrage of pleasing, worldly funk.
Lucky J’s Ms. M: Ms. M is a waffle taco that consists of one chicken tender, swiss cheese, bacon and syrup. The waffle was tasteless but overall the taco was worth the six dollars, and did not have the same mind-altering effects as Gourdough’s Ron Burgundy.
The couple from Denver that gave me a ride to the APF entrance.
Someone a part of the APF team wearing a “Thank You Based God” shirt.
Roky Erikson’s beard.
My friends who hooked me up with a ride back to my apartment.