Austin Psych Fest Live (Saturday): Spectrum

Sonic Boom to Spaceman 3, sweet dreams are made of this

Sonic Boom – Peter Kember to his mother and Spectrum to Psych Fest
Sonic Boom – Peter Kember to his mother and Spectrum to Psych Fest
photo by Gary Miller

Sonic Boom – Peter Kember to his mom – hasn’t released a Spectrum LP in several years, but that doesn’t mean the act ain’t a going concern. That said, the UK trio’s Psych Fest set was equally about Spacemen 3, the pioneering Eighties psych-rock troop whose feedback and drone-ridden spirit hangs over this festival like an awning over the back porch.

Wielding a guitar, a Yamaha keyboard, and a tabletop of effects pedals, knobs, and other twisty-turny things, Kember kept the formula simple: his rock band kept a two-chord vamp going and the leader intoned lyrics, strummed rhythm, or manipulated his devices.

The first few songs floated on a mellow vibe, with slow tempos and a dearth of noise. Tunes like “How You Satisfy Me” acted as chill-out music cleansing the palette. Louder guitars and peppier rhythms made themselves felt at the set went on, at times building up a head of steam big enough to remind the crowd from whom the Brian Jonestown Massacre and their ilk found inspiration.

To the delight of audience diehards, the ghost of Spacemen 3 took over by the end, beginning with the sneering “Revolution” and ending with the wordless “Suicide.” The latter’s one-chord melodic drone built in intensity, keeping the momentum racing forward without speeding up or turning up. Even the bass player snapping a string couldn’t stop it.

Once the howling electronics and feedback guitars reached their apex, Kember left the stage, followed a few minutes later by the bassist, then the drummer. The band wasn’t done yet, though, picking up where it left off until all the sound onstage coalesced into one droning tone. With an admonition to have “Sweet dreams,” Kember brought the show to a close without choking off his accomplishment.

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