Austin Psych Fest April 25 – 28, 2013 in Austin, TX. The sixth annual Austin Psych Fest (www.austinpsychfest.com) was my first, and its first at an outdoor venue. The festival’s coordinators, better known as the Reverb Appreciation Society, had longed to have the festival at an outdoor venue for years. They finally got their wish and hosted this year’s event at the 55-acre Carson Creek Ranch. It was complete with three stages, food trucks, camping, booze, drugs, hippies, freaks, weirdos, hipsters, and lots and lots of good music.
The festival actually started with two downtown Austin pre-parties: one at the Mohawk – a nice club in that features two stages (one inside and one outside) – and one at Red7. Several bands played at each venue starting in the afternoon and going until the late evening.
My wife and I went to the Mohawk because I was keen on seeing A Place to Bury Strangers. We didn’t get to see all the bands play, but we got there in time to hear the end of Odonis Odonis’ (www.odonisodonis.com) set. They were a wild noise rock band. Next up was another noise rock trio – Metz (www.metzztem.com). I can best describe Metz as if three ten-year-olds were in a clubhouse and had a conversation that went like this:
“We should start a band.”
“Yeah, and we could be all crazy and jump around and play real loud and shit.”
“That’d be so cool.”
Well, those three kids did it. This is not an insult. I hadn’t seen three guys with instruments having so much fun in a long time. They looked like they were living out their clubhouse dream.
I’d heard a lot about A Place to Bury Strangers’ (aptbs.tumblr.com) live shows. A woman near me at the merchandise booth put it best: “You know you’re in trouble when a band’s selling earplugs at their shows.” I met the band’s guitarist / singer, Oliver Ackermann, at the booth and he was an amiable chap who signed my copy of their last album, Worship, and seemed delighted that I was going to review their show and the album for Outlaw Magazine.
“It’s all outlaw music,” I told him.
“I hope we qualify,” Ackermann said.
They passed the audition. I don’t know what happened to Ackermann between our chat and him stepping onstage, but he and the band turned into Mr. Hyde-like freaks that put on one of the most chaotic shows I’ve seen in a long time. I’ll put it this way: During one song, bassist Dion Lunadon held his bass high over his head and slammed it full-force onto the stage. That was the second song of their set. By the end, I’d lost count of how many times he and Ackermann had beaten up their instruments. My wife had to look away when Ackermann rubbed a strobe light on his prone guitar like he was playing a washboard.
In other words, they were great. APTBS won my APF 2013 award for Band That Left Me Speechless.
We got to the festival just in time to see Ride into the Sun (rideintothesun.bandcamp.com) – a nice Australian five-piece who were a perfect opener for the festival with their mix of psychedelic, 60’s rock, and muddy blues. I’d heard a lot of good things about the Austin band that followed them, Bass Drum of Death (www.bassdrumofdeath.com), and it turns out everything I’d heard was true. I can best describe them as “JEFF The Brotherhood meets early Who,” and they were a hometown favorite among the attendees as they rocked the main stage (known as the “Reverberation Stage”). BDOD won my APF 2013 award for Band That Seemed to Be Having the Most Fun.
Over in the “Levitation Tent,” we checked out Lumerians (lumerians.com) from Oakland, who rocked out good space-psych with funky bass, precision drums, and good synths. We then went to the beautiful “Elevation Amphitheatre” (a lovely stage set next to a river across from which was a bird sanctuary) to see Tamaryn (tamarynmusic.com). Tamaryn is a sultry singer of shoegaze. I had never seen her in person before, but when I saw a leggy woman in a black dress and with pink hair strolling down the hill toward the stage, I thought, “That’s her. Without question.” She won my APF 2013 award for Singer Who Most Looked Like a Rock Star. She and her band put on a groovy shoegaze set that a lot of people mellowed out to while lounging and smoking on the hill. Her band sounded like they could be the house band at the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. I saw them all later at a Denny’s at 3am and they looked as fresh as they’d just stepped off stage.
The Soft Moon (www.thesoftmoon.com) were next at the Levitation Tent, and I had high hopes for them. I’d heard one of their tracks, “Alive,” and was an instant fan of their “Kraftwerk meets Joy Division” sound. They were, in a nutshell, excellent. Three guys and a spectacular visual show that wowed the crowd. They won my APF 2013 award for My New Favorite Band. Check them out at all costs.
We went back to the Reverberation Stage to see The Raveonettes (www.theraveonettes.com), whom I’d been keen on seeing for a long while. They’re a great Danish duo that loves the Wall of Sound. I knew that Sune Rose Wagner was a good guitarist and Sharin Foo was one of the sexiest bass players in the solar system, but I did not know how much Ms. Foo could shred on guitar until I saw them live. They were lovely and loud. There was technical trouble during the last song of their set (a haunting version of “Ally Walk with Me”) in which the stage right speakers went out for a short time and the band had no idea because everything sounded good in their monitors. Then, someone with the festival decided to bring out two ladders during their set and place them in the middle of the crowd…and directly in front of us.
They put them there so they could record the closing set by L.A. rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (www.blackrebelmotorcycleclub.com). Also in front of me was a tall guy trying to signal to his friends somewhere behind him by waving a red glow stick around above his head (He was at least 6’ 3”. He didn’t need to wave a glow stick.) and, at another point, a girl holding two LED light-filled hula hoops over her head.
BRMC were also on my “must see” list and they didn’t disappoint. Their light show was almost as good as their blistering rock and swampy blues. A particular highlight was “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” which is a great song on the album of the same name, but downright powerful live.
We left tired, happy, a little sunburned, hungry, and looking forward to the next day.
We got to the festival a little late, but managed to catch the last ten minutes of a set by Young Magic (youngmagicsounds.com) – a nice electro / chillwave duo with the lovely voiced Melati Malay (Indonesia) on lead vocals and Isaac Emmanuel (Australia) on synths. I met them after their set and they were quite nice and happy to hear a goofy American wanted to review their record (Melt). They won my APF 2013 award for Band That Might Be the Next Big Thing.
We lounged at the far end of the field in front of the Reverberation Stage while listening to a set by the Argentinian band Capsula (www.capsulacapsula.com), which I can best describe as “loud as fuck.” After them were a French psych rock band called Wall of Death (www.myspace.com/inthewallofdeath), who were best when they played creepy psych. We stayed at the Reverberation Stage for a while, first seeing Golden Animals (golden-animals.com) – a good rock duo with growling, sexy dirty blues-influenced rock. I met guitarist Tommy Eisner and drummer Linda Beercroft after their set. They were kind enough to sign their CD for me and eager to check out Outlaw Magazine. They won my APF 2013 award for Nicest Couple I Met at the Festival. After them were Night Beats (www.facebook.com/thenightbeats.u.s), a great trio that combined Dick Dale guitar work with old horror movie rock and psychobilly. They won my APF 2013 award for Band I Would Most Like to Have Play at Our Halloween Party.
We headed back to the Elevation Amphitheatre to see The Holydrug Couple (theholydrugcouple.bandcamp.com) – my favorite Chilean psychedelic rock band. They got a good response from the crowd. Lead guitarist and singer Ives Sepulveda doesn’t say much, but why should he when his guitar speaks plenty for him? Boris (www.borisheavyrocks.com) played on the main stage during the Holydrug Couple’s set. Boris a sludge rock band from Japan I can best describe as “louder than fuck.”
A friend of ours from the area was keen on seeing Black Mountain (www.facebook.com/BlackMountainOfficial), and I was glad we went with him. They played a great set of heavy rock that sounded like it had come from a black hole. A light rain fell during their set, much to the delight of the crowd. They ended just in time for us to head to the Levitation Tent to see Man…Or Astroman? (www.astroman.com). The surf punk legends put on a crazy show that included a Theremin being set on fire. They won my APF 2013 award for Tightest Band, because they could play freaky fast surf rock and stop on a dime. We stayed in the Tent to see The Warlocks (www.thewarlocks.com), a creepy yet happy bunch of rockers who laid down some serious rock. As one man behind me put it when they came onstage, “Damn, that’s a lot of guitars up there.” They were all put to good use. They won my APF 2013 award for Band That Most Looked Like Their Name (lots of leather jackets, black hair hanging in eyes, and well-worn boots).
We emerged from the tent to discover a thunderstorm had passed through during the last two bands’ sets and turned the field and parking lot into mud pits. The parking lot was especially bad since it was near a cement plant and mostly comprised of limestone. Walking back to our rental car was like walking in wet cement.
We saw piles of ruined, abandoned shoes and boots as we walked into the festival on Sunday. The weather had cleared, but it was the hottest day of the festival. The heat wasn’t too bad when we saw the Australian psych quartet The Laurels (thelaurels.bandcamp.com), who had a fun time on the Reverberation Stage. My wife was keen on seeing Elephant Stone (www.elephantstonemusic.com), especially after seeing singer / bassist / sitarist Rishi Dhir play a brief sitar set Saturday evening down at the river. They were a fun mix of traditional Indian music and 60’s British psychedelic rock (even though they’re from Montreal). They won my APF 2013 award for My Wife’s Favorite Band Discovered at the Festival.
I checked out a few minutes of Holy Wave (holywave.bandcamp.com). They looked like four festival attendees had walked onto the stage and started playing. That’s not a bad thing. They won my APF 2013 award for Band That Sounded to Me Most Like a Traditional Psychedelic Rock Band.
We went to the Elevation Amphitheatre on a whim to check out Dreamtime (dreamtime.bandcamp.com), an Australian doom psych band that got better with each song. After lounging for a bit, we headed to the Reverberation Stage to see King Khan and the BBQ Show (www.facebook.com/thekingkhanbbqshow) – a Canadian duo that dress like they stepped out of a Dr. Seuss book and sound like a doo-wop band decided to become a punk rock band (or maybe it’s the other way around). They won my APF 2013 award for First Band to Inspire Crowd Surfing.
After seeing part of the set by No Joy (nojoy.bandcamp.com) – who sounded the most like a straight-up rock band out of any band at the Festival – I began a lot of running around to catch multiple bands. The Sunday night sets were full of bands high on my list, so I dragged my wife and our friend all over the place.
First, we checked out the first third of Roky Erickson’s (www.rokyerickson.net) set at the main stage, because it’s a psychedelic rock fest and you’d better damn well see the Godfather of Psych at a psych festival. He was, of course, classic. We then ran back to the tent so I could see some of the set by Indian Jewelry (swarmofangels.com), an industrial band who won my APF 2013 award for Loudest Bass. Then it was off to the river stage to see Dead Skeletons (www.facebook.com/deadskeletons) for a little while. They played good mystic rock (even burning nang champa incense onstage), and lead singer painted a skull watercolor piece while the band played an instrumental first song.
My wife stayed to watch the rest of their set while our friend and I ran back to the main stage to see The Black Angels (theblackangels.com). They’re one of my favorite bands and I wasn’t going to leave a festival they curated without seeing at least part of their set. It was a bit disorienting, because I’d never seen them in such a large venue before. I’d also never heard them that loud. My favorite standouts were “Black Grease” and one of my favorite tracks of their new album (Indigo Meadow), “Evil Things.”
Yes, I left their set early. I left it because I had to get back to the Elevation Amphitheatre to see Goat (goatsweden.blogspot.com). I’d read that Goat were from a small Swedish town that secretly practiced voodoo and they all wore elaborate masks and costumes. Holy crap. They were amazing. They play a wild blend of psych-rock, Afrobeat, and something brewed up in a cauldron. Their costumes looked like they’d been swiped from the costume department of a 1970’s Sinbad movie. They had the crowd moving and jumping by the end of their set. They won my APF 2013 award for Wildest Band and nearly tied with the Soft Moon for my new favorite band.
I made sure to check out some of The Moving Sidewalks (www.movingsidewalks.com), because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t and it was only their second gig in over 40 years. Billy Gibbons and his crew rocked out some Hendrix covers and tracks from their lone album, Flash, and looked like they were having fun watching all the young hipsters dance to classic blues. They won my APF 2013 award for Loudest Hammond Organ.
I closed out the set with seeing some of the set by British math rockers Clinic (www.clinicvoot.org), who dress in surgical scrubs and masks and play snappy, medically precise post-punk rock. They had a good crowd and a wild light show to back them.
It was a great festival. The Reverb Appreciation Society has a great thing going, and you should make the trip (no psychedelic drug pun intended) next year. I’m already planning on it.
~ Nik Havert
Nik Havert is a writer, DJ, harmonica player, martial arts instructor, comic book publisher, crime fighter,music lover, cult movie enthusiast, and modern day Renaissance man. He hopes to shark cage dive sometime in the next few years and enjoys travel and good natural root beer. Visit his web site at http://www.picklepress.net.
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