Earlier this month a few of your Impose faithfuls traveled out to Austin, TX for tacos and tunes. Now we’ve covered Austin Psych Fest before, so the festival itself ain’t no news to you or yours truly. But we’re autonomous bastards who don’t really give two shits about what’s popular to cover or how you’re really supposed to conduct yourself as a professional at these sort of things—it’s fucking rock ‘n’ roll, darlings. So here’s how we spent our weekend in the perma-dust afflicted landscape of Carson Creek Ranch.
Hide your drugs! They kind of look for them at the gates, and if you’re not high at this thing I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion, my friends. It’s kind of a camper festival these days—well, for the last two years. So you’ve go the option of getting up in a Motel 6—or whatever sort of semen-crusted traveling hole is available downtown—or sticking it out in the heat with people that will eventually call you a cop for hastily asking for drops or caps—whatever, you got a short window before sundown and nobody’s trying to stay up all night listening to fucking djembes and ukeleles whilst melting alone in a tent with a dead phone.
A big pull, like any other year or any other festival for any particular person is going to be the lineup. Act like ya been here before and don’t ask me “who are you most excited to see?” It’s a valid question, don’t get me wrong, but who cares? We’re all here for the right reason, and that is to get away and see some live music from performers who we may or not be familiar with…maybe even get a handy in a tent if that’s your thing. It’s safe to assume the person standing next to you likes to party, unless they’re some sort of backwards freak, or just a real cop.
So, like, the music, right? You gotta hand it to a band that gets asked to play an event like Psych Fest only to open the fucking thing up when only a modicum of ticket holders are actually present—especially when the staff, as one Austonian put it, “dropped the ball” on getting any tangible information out to the people about where, what, or when anything was for a good three hours into the festival. So Hollis Brown gets the bitter sweet award this weekend. Yeah, you can use your phone to look shit up, but that’s lame—or am I just being a dick? #fuckgooglingit
[Photo by Matt Draper]
There are number of different stories any number of outlets could grant you by just looking at the lineup with the most obvious leads being the whole Dig! thing with The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown both playing the fest (no, but it would’ve been hilarious had the curators pitted the two against each other with simultaneous slots) and, of course, the almost implausible appearance by psych pioneers The Zombies. But, honestly, their sets were all pretty lackluster. I’ll run you through ‘em right quick.
While you expect it to not be that great, you at least expect some semblance of original sound in that The Zombies haven’t completely strayed from their beginnings after almost a half century. But fuck, it was absolutely terrible; not in the sense that they couldn’t play their songs or anything, but just with delivery. Even after what I so brashly described as a “historic spliff” it was just cringingly bad, dad rock. Rod Sargent (on the keys, who wrote must of The Zombs classics) and Colin Blunstone (they guy whose wistful vocal delivery is most likely what you remember most about The Zombs) just totally yachted it up with mass-appeal re-imaginings of some of their most coveted tracks during their Friday night headlining set—bummer they didn’t play “They Way I Feel Inside,” but Shannon & the Clams took care of it for us earlier that evening. We’re all going to get old one day, but that doesn’t mean we have to guilt ourselves into being all hype about a crew of withered sexagenarians singing about girls. Argent’s keys didn’t drive the rhythm like you would anticipate but overpowered it with cheesy electric piano lines, and Blunstone’s vocals were no better in that during the performance he took on more of a theatrical vibrato with some of the more poignant ends to his verses. Plus, dude talked a lot. And, it was as embarrassing and confusing as the festival requiring patrons to dump their water out upon exit and entry—Austin’s experiencing “extreme drought” conditions, FYI—when Blunstone exclaimed to the crowd prior to “I Want You Back Again” that, “If this song is good enough for Tom Petty [to cover], then it’s good enough for us.” What the fuck is that about? “But, it’s like a notch on your belt, man,” said some dude in the crowd following the conclusion of the set…Whatever.
[Photo by Matt Draper]
[Photo by Allison Taich]
As far as The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre’s sets go, I dunno, not really my thing. The sound engineer kept throwing his hands up during the opening of BJM’s Saturday night set as a stage hand toyed with some of the amp mics to correct the unintentional, acute hum of feedback dominating those first few songs. The Dandy Warhols put on a set of their motoring, urban-hippy-pop-rock Friday night, but La Femme was playing, and, uh, as you’ll learn by reading further, the latter had more of a grip on my senses—so I didn’t really leap at the chance to hear “Bohemian Like You” or any of their other stuff Gen X indie-poppers would berate me for missing.
Maybe another noteworthy “pop” story from the fest would be the presence of Animal Collective side projects: Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks. You’d be a numbskull not to be excited about witnessing new helpings from Noah Lennox’s forthcoming album tentatively titled Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper before anyone else—this was his first set of his spring/summer tour—and making the Dave Portner-helmed Slasher Flicks set a priority. AT’s Slasher Flicks—featuring ex-Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian—were the first of the AC members slotted, playing Saturday around midnight at—as Elephant Stone guitarist Gabriel Lambert put it—the “edgier” Levitation Tent stage. Mamma Mia! What a performance. The sheer magnitude that goes into developing the base backing loops for those tunes is astounding. From Deradoorian’s live vocal loops to Tare’s frenetic guitar effect play, the creation of live aural architecture is difficult to comprehend. What’s even more perplexing is their daunting builds. Once achieved, their concoctions curl into the background only to make up, like, a third of the sound being produced once a track is in full swing. It’s all complicated, frenetic tropical-juke pop. Mesmerizing in development, fervent in execution, and a totally ridiculous and fun happening to be a part of.
[Photo by Matt Draper]
Sunday was my “trip” day, because I gave up the search Saturday after the sun went down and some dude called me a cop for being a little too brazen in my approach for seeking out camp drugs—APF is cool in that it doesn’t yield enough patronage to attract drug-peddling randos for the soul purpose of profit; those in the know bring their own, kids ;). Anyways, this paragraph’s about Panda Bear’s performance, not drugs—but the weak mushrooms I was on may be an integral part as to why I thought what I thought, you know? I mean, I ate almost an eighth and was only body-buzzed, which is total shit—but I digress. So it was Sunday night, the last night of APF, and I had just somewhat come up to a slight bleepity-bloopity status thanks to a face-melting set over in the Levitation Tent by Earthless—they rule—when the DJ cued up Harry Nillson’s “Jump Into the Fire” over the loud speakers at the Reverberation Stage (the main stage) which got me and my half-wonked self all jazzed for Noah Lennox and the impending chill I anticipated for the next 45 minutes. Why not have high expectations? You’ve seen ‘em before during his Tomboy tour, and it was incredible. Well, wouldn’t you believe it that he sucked the energy right atta me body? Boring bubbles of limping stature devoid of vertebrae. None of that high-register vocal that really tickles me fancy. I lasted about three songs, then went back to—what I referred to in my notes as—the “Awesome,” aka Earthless’ performance at the Levitation Stage.
Now for the noteworthy—maybe less apparent—side of the festival for you outsiders looking in, we come to two stories: La Femme and the budding Trouble In Mind Records. It was Saturday evening, let’s say around 7pm. The perma-dust was in full force, even under the shelter of the Levitation Tent. Octopus Project, midway through their set, paused to allow guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Josh Lambert to do a little interplay with the crowd:
“On the count of three,” Lambert yelled, “Scream the name of your favorite band so far! 1…2…3…”
I’m in the majority on this one. Totally the best set of the weekend. Psych Fest got that goooooood taste. La Femme are a troupe of seven or nine or six or whatever depending on when and where you see them. Throughout the weekend, they were hanging off each other like they were about to bang each other in the porta-potties if the drugs got ‘em the right way—charisma. I’m sure they didn’t have a place to stay because they took on the role of refugees wearing barely anything beyond underwear, robes, and guitarist/thereminist Sacha Got’s “I’m On Drugs” t-shirt he’d been sporting all tour—it shows up in all their videos from their spring North American tour as does a sombrero that’s in tatters at this point.
[Photo by Nairi Mila]
They’ve been on the road in America for about two months to promote their “Psycho Tropical Berlin” sound which is a throbbing, exotic take on electro-punk—and also the name of their debut album released in April of last year. They hail from the Atlantic beach town Biarritz, France, so the surfier reverb stylings of Got’s guitar work makes sense, although they proclaim to be children of “The World.” They’re all in their early ‘20s and prime for becoming the act they wish to be: A French band which wishes to sing mostly in their native language and captivate all markets in the process; most importantly the one that influences their sound the most, America. They took the Levitation stage on Friday night and wielded a set completely designed for Psych Fest and Psych Fest only. “Usually we don’t do that kind of set. Usually it’s more rock and punk and dancy,” said keyboardist/vocalist Clémence Quélennec, “We can do electronic set, we can do rock set, we can do a lot of things, so we wanted to show a different face.” For “It’s Time To Wake Up 2023” the band elongated the original pulsing bridge of the track with atmospherics and a sitar-sounding drone compliments of Got. During “Sur La Planche” one of their keyboardists positioned his instrument over the crowd in an attempt to surf it, then jumped up onto the keys and successfully caught the crowd’s wave… never seen that done. This performance was the sexiest thing I’d seen at a festival since witnessing the Brazilian Girls back in ‘07 at Bonnaroo. Clémence, with mute emotion, positioned herself into mannequin poses reflecting every change of pitch, every hint of drop. Keyboardist/vocalist Marlon Magnée, almost completely exposed, humped his instrument with every pulse never taking his eyes of the crowd. It was all immaculate, perverse, and sensual. A quality of live seduction only for those who were there, not worthy of words or reinterpretation. “We think about it all. We are just as exotic in France as we are here,” Magnée told me with a glare later. “Maybe we are here because we are psycho,” commented Got.
Now that we’re all wet, let’s talk Trouble In Mind. I met up with Bill and Lisa Roe—the husband and wife operators of the Trouble In Mind Records—sometime Sunday afternoon to talk TIM representatives Jacco Gardner, Doug Tuttle, Greg Ashely, and Morgan Delt. Now, Bill and Lisa have worked with more than just these four artists who are present at Psych Fest such as Mikal Cronin, Night Beats, and Maston (who played keys for Jacco Garnder), but the Roe’s recently put out LP’s by these particular cats and these particular cats are worth the word. Jacco Gardner plays a style of baroque-pop—which should’ve satisfied anyone trying to hear what The Zombies used to sound like in a contemporary setting with his set Saturday afternoon—Doug Tuttle rides that sedated, sun-burnt variety of psych-rock which me and some camp buds had the pleasure of blowing bubbles to under Sunday’s scorching 90 degree sun, Greg Ashley “Freaked out the squares with a jazz set” according to Bill Roe, and Morgan Delt is in a different realm with his kaleidoscopic take on acid-rock. But with Delt, he’s only played a handful of shows to ready himself for Psych Fest. Delt has never played in bands that have toured, nor had he been even interviewed prior to self-releasing his debut cassette Psychic Death Hole. Now, only a few months after the release of his eponymous debut on TIM, Delt’s played not only his first festival but his first official gig and it was on the main stage of APF.
[Photo by Allison Taich]
“Believe me no one is more surprised and excited for Morgan than us,” said the Roe’s of Delt’s quick climb from obscurity. Delt took the stage with band mates that are as young as three weeks old to attempt the complex time signatures and key changes comprising his debut album for what was most likely everyone’s first introduction to Delt as a live entity. His renditions of cuts “Make My Grey Brain Green,” “Mr. Carbon Copy,” “Barbarian Kings,” and finale “Beneath the Black and Purple” take on a more garage-psych texture live—so a lot was stripped away for lack of resource and hands. “It’s been kind of crazy, I kind of wish we had a little more practice before this,” said Delt with a chuckle. Next up for Delt is a tour with the Flaming Lips over the summer which came about via a text message from Delt’s guitarist Spooky who knows and has collaborated with Wayne Coyne. “That’s another crazy thing. Our set was like 20 minutes long so we were like, ‘Oh, we gotta jam for a bit to extend it out, now we’ve got to do 40 minutes [for the Lips tour.]”
From the big to the little, to the impressive to the lackluster, from those who have made it to those who are making waves: what a trip. Shout outs to Of Montreal for all that crazy pageantry and ceremony Saturday night; Charlie Megira, the dream from Tel-Aviv with a face like Vincent Price and a style like Bloodshot Bill and Dirty Beaches taking on The Everly Brothers; Bo Ningen with a wild Sunday night set of Japanese-style rip-rock; and to Tom Fec, aka Tobacco, for being the creepiest creeper and putting on a set equivalent to watching an alien’s finger slowly penetrate an anus for 30+ minutes. Be sure to apply that sunscreen, wear longs sleeves, and don’t forget to hydrate while respecting the preciousness of safe drinking water next year, psych noids. Stay lovely APF, you’re for the true at heart.