Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels, Woods and More Perform at Austin Psych Fest
Over the weekend, The Black Angels and the Reverberation Appreciation Society hosted the fifth annual Austin Psych Fest, a three-day musical gathering with over 50 performers falling under the increasingly broad “psychedelic” label. Taking place for the first time at two new indoor Austin venues—Emo’s East and Beauty Ballroom—situated adjacent to one another in a downtown Austin strip mall, the festival featured performances by new and old psych acts including Brian Jonestown Massacre, Woods, The Black Angels, The Black Lips, Meat Puppets, Olivia Tremor Control, Golden Dawn, Thee Oh Sees, Wooden Shjips, Dead Meadow and many more.
In addition to the weekend’s musical activities, the festival also hosted numerous visual projection artists, a vinyl shop, vintage clothing stands and a food-truck court toting southern fair like fried chicken and waffles, texmex, and a selection of vegan food items. Separated by a short walk between the two venues, the vendors set up their psychedelic bazaar in an outdoor courtyard where fans and performers mingled together throughout the weekend in harmony.
The musical happenings kicked off on Friday with a performance by San Francisco producer Al Lover at the intimate, two-tiered Beauty Ballroom, while Strangers Family Band set things in motion over on the larger Emo’s East Stage. Standout sets took little time to materialize, as the Night Beats played an impressive set of 13th Floor Elevator-inspired garage rock, followed shortly after by a journey to the outer cosmos with a set from LA’s ultra-experimental sound collager Sun Araw. The evening closed out with two more standout performances by the stoned-out Dead Meadow and hosts The Black Angels.
Saturday featured more of the same, a prevalent theme throughout the weekend. Rather than a typical festival that showcases varying themes and attractions, AFP is like the SXSW for psychedelic music. There’s little else than the music, and sets are kept fairly short to pack in over 20 acts each day. Bands performing on the smaller Beauty Ballroom stage were limited to short, 30 minute sets, while bands performing on the larger Emo’s stage were offered sets that ran closer to an hour. In that sense it’s more of a psychedelic music showcase than a festival, but the communal vibe and intimate nature leans more toward the latter.
Throughout the weekend, both stages featured a number of visual projection artists, from liquid light displays to video projectionists and more. Some bands even brought their own, like the Morricone-influenced Spindrift, who brought along clips from films like Kagemusha and For A Few Dollars More during their cinematic spaghetti-western set. Elsewhere, highlights occurred during sets from the 20 year olds in Nashville’s Paperhead, Woods, MMOSS, Prince Rama, Quilt and Amen Dunes.
Sunday was slightly different than the previous days, as one set stood far above the rest. All weekend long, musicians and fans, but mainly musicians, had been anticipating the set from Tuareg guitarist Bombino. As the festival’s performers took up real estate infront of the stage, Bombino and his band emerged on stage in traditional Tuareg garb. Channeling the guitar riffs of fellow Africans Tinariwen and Ali Farka Touré along with blues icons like Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Page, Bombino delivered a scorching set filled with guitar acrobatics and chants in his native tounge. Other impressive sets came from Swedish garage rockers Orange Revival and Wooden Shjips.
To close out the festival, the weekend’s vintage act The Golden Dawn—the forgotten 60s contemporary of the 13th Floor Elevators—performed their ’68 album Power Plant in its entirety. And after more than 40 years, their sound still rivaled many of the newcomers to the scene.