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Austin Psych Fest Live: Bass Drum of Death/Besnard Lakes

Day one at Carson Creek Ranch: tentative, muggy
Luke Winkie, 9:45am, Sat. Apr. 27, 2013
photo by John Anderson
Bass Drum of Death, 4.26.13

Moisture stayed locked in the low-hanging air, rain threatening all afternoon. A little bit sticky, a little bit muggy – atmospheric discomfort pairs nastily with the first few hours of a festival. Walking into day one of Austin Psych Fest on Friday was almost surreal. Was this everybody?

Mississippi’s Bass Drum of Death seem like good folks. They’ve personally blistered my ears off in countless sets, but 4:30pm remains a difficult beast. In the expanse of Carson Creek Ranch, they shredded sound right off the bone, jumping around merrily with motley garage-rock pomp. Unfortunately, salty grooves hit particularly arid under abusive cloud cover.

It’s not anyone’s fault, of course. 2011’s GB City thunders through anyone, but it’s definitely designed for a grimy club, not the great outdoors. The crowd, those souls brave enough to make it out early, already looked pretty tired for the opening moments of a three-day adventure. Bass Drum of Death still ended proud.

For its part, Besnard Lakes proved far more capable of tackling the rent-a-stage conquest.

The Montreal quartet owns a sharpened, expansive sound, and they’ve certainly got the requisite psych in their blood. In charming, hippy-chic garb, they stood in front of us, commanding a tunneling guitar-stained universe. Then, as the minutes drifted by, suddenly I wasn’t feeling it anymore.

It’s not to say the emperor has no clothes, but Besnard Lakes must feel a little vulnerable outside of the studio. Too many rudimentary post-rock dramatics, too much wandering. In my experience, a band that wanders has a few secrets to hide.

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