Austin Psych Fest and Old Settler's Music Fest headliners Psychograss have more in common than you might think
Austin Psych Fest
I'm not the only one confused about psych music. It sounds like drugs, right? A lot of hallucinatory solos, tranquilizing rhythms, and trippy melodies played by hippies in wolves' clothing. When I look at this weekend's Austin Psych Fest lineup, though, I don't see that at all. I see the fuzzed-out hard rock of Dead Meadow, the high-pitched garage punk of Thee Oh Sees, and Saharan strum by Bombino, and I wonder how it all fits together. Time to consult a professional.
Asked for a definition of the term, Austin Psych Fest organizer Rob Fitzpatrick says psych takes the classic sounds of the late Sixties and early Seventies and advances it through experimentation to something progressive. He doesn't mention drugs once. Instead, he and his friends in the local Reverberation Appreciation Society started APF five years ago to unite weird acts with retro sensibilities. In that time, ticket sales have risen 30% to 50% each year. He credits last year's installment at the Seaholm Power Plant for stepping up the gathering's national profile (see "Live Shots," May 6, 2011). That was the last concert for the site, since closed for redevelopment.
Emo's East and the Beauty Ballroom host this weekend's festivities, which include the Black Angels, Black Lips, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and many more. See Music Listings (and Music blog Earache!) for talk with headliners Olivia Tremor Control and a South by Southwest-style blitz through some of the dozens of acts playing.
For the occasion, Christian Bland of the Black Angels compiled "A Primer in Psych Music":
1) 13th Floor Elevators, "Rollercoaster"
2) Pink Floyd, "Arnold Layne"
3) Spacemen 3, "Losing Touch With My Mind"
4) Psychic Ills, "Another Day Another Night"
5) The Red Crayola, "Pink Stainless Tail"
6) Moon Duo, "Stumbling 22nd St."
7) The Plastic Cloud, "Shadows of Your Mind"
8) The Gris Gris, "Raygun"
9) The Chocolate Watch Band, "In the Past"
10) The Monkees, "Porpoise Song"
11) Apache Dropout, "Teenager"
12) Bruce Haack, "Incantation"
Not in the Van
Austin's premier power duo Not in the Face is recording a new EP. I found this out when they kidnapped me after a chance encounter last week. A Rod Stewart poster in their windowless white van seemed inviting enough, but as they sped off, destination unknown, I knew I was in for a long and wild ride. During a sober follow-up, I learned the power duo is recording at the ND at 501 Studios and Clockright Studios with Jason Richard and Michael Anthony Gibson, drummer for the Blind Pets. "We want it to sound tough as shit and make people forget the fact that we don't have a bass player," says singer Jonathan Terrell. "We never will." He and drummer Wes Cargal have played a couple hundred shows since the slapdash recording of their debut album, Bikini, and are eager to show off what they've gained from it. Cargal promises, "We've gotten better as musicians. We always had good chemistry, but even that's refined."
Old Settler's Music Festival has come and gone for the 25th time (see "Live Shots," April 27). Attendance was up from recent years with some 18,000 tickets sold and the campground at capacity all weekend. My Friday favorite was Psychograss. Even the most famous bluegrass musician is only a 10th-rate celebrity otherwise, so for many, Tony Trischka, David Grier, Todd Phillips, and Darol Anger onstage together is no big deal. For aficionados, though, it's a bluegrass orgy. Their show is as follows: five virtuosos taking turns blowing your mind. With young Joe Walsh filling in for Mike Marshall on mandolin, the group journeyed through playful instrumentals like "Big Monk," which theorizes a collaboration between Bill Monroe and Thelonious Monk, and Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun," with Trischka bowing his banjo with time-warping results. Local fiddler Katie Holmes found her way to the stage for the Trischka-penned "Escher's Waltz," and the crowd approved. Hitchhiking home, I caught a ride with some Australians who'd been in the states less than a week and couldn't drive worth a damn. "Where does that kind of music come from?" the driver asked me about Psychograss. "Lots and lots of practice," I said. "Watch the road."
• It was so windy you could hardly smell the smoke. Hundreds surrounded the Moody Theater entrance at Second and Lavaca for the unveiling of the Willie Nelson statue on 4/20. Even the logo on the neighboring W Hotel came adorned with a trademark red bandana and braids. The beige tarp covering the statue flapped during a painfully long stream of introductions that included Mayor Lee Leffingwell, sculptor Clete Shields, and Kris Kristofferson. Note to the event planners: Next time, get Willie onstage at 4:20pm so people aren't smoking joints to the mayor. Finally, the guest of honor emerged all in black (he was playing the Johnny Cash tribute that night), eyed up the statue, and proclaimed, "He did a pretty darn good job. What time is it?" Time to play "Roll Me Up," released that afternoon and featuring Snoop Dogg, Kristofferson, and Jamey Johnson.
• A memorial benefit for Orestes Perez, Jr. is scheduled for this Sunday, April 29, at Empire Automotive. Perez, singer/guitarist for the hard-rocking bar band Los Hispanos UK, died March 19 from complications related to liver disease. An L.A. transplant who rocked a low-slung SG, Perez was a fireball of humor and energy onstage. Six locals, including Sniper 66, Bobby Jealousy (featuring Hispanos guitarist Mio Alvarado), and Black Irish Texas, help raise funds for funeral expenses.
• It would have been in poor taste to win the Mind Over Music trivia contest three years in a row, so the Chronicle's Triple Threat team slackened to a respectable fourth place out of 31 teams, including groups fielded from the likes of the Texas Music Office, who tied for second, C3 Presents, Do512, South by Southwest, Waterloo Records, and BookPeople. Austin City Limits/KLRU-TV took home top prize after a heated championship round at the Palm Door on Monday. Almost $2,500 was raised for Grounded in Music, a nonprofit for at-risk youth.
• Last Thursday, the Backyard at Bee Caves held a season-opening party where I spoke to somewhat reclusive owner Tim O'Connor, who was in great spirits about the nearly finished road that will connect Hamilton Pool Road with Bee Cave Parkway, and improve access to his venue. O'Connor's heard the complaints about parking and traffic during shows. "I wasn't at liberty at the time to let them know: There's going to be a four-lane road out here, just give me a little bit of time. I'm not in control of the government. But know it will be done. It will be paved and it will be beautiful." O'Connor expects construction completed in early July, though officially the contract date is through September.