Live Shot: Austin Psych Fest

Live Shot: Austin Psych Fest

Goat (Photos by Gary Miller)

Austin Psych Fest

Carson Creek Ranch, April 26-28

The night before Carson Creek Ranch opened the cattle gates and let the freaks in for the sixth annual Austin Psych Fest, a horde of music fans lined around the block for Red 7's kickoff party featuring South by Southwest standouts the Allah-Las and reunited Paisley Undergrounders Rain Parade. Hardly a local face was spotted in the lengthy queue of hot chicks in ugly wide-brim hats and dudes in medallion necklaces.

"We're a long way from Canada, eh?" said one pair. Indeed they were.

The next afternoon, campers pitched tents on the Eastside farmland as an unending succession of Bergstrom-bound airplanes zipped through the idle rainclouds overhead. The bovine herd, only an acre away from the temporary echoplex, demonstrated complete indifference.

Acid Mothers Temple
Acid Mothers Temple

Locals the Wolf barked open the weekend with dark hollows garage-psych, their energy unmatched until Bass Drum of Death, working with a reserve lineup, stormed the main stage with hard grunge nuggets. Across the grounds, a steep grass amphitheatre overlooked a river platform called the Elevation stage, so it was only a matter of time until hippies took to swimming. That happened around 6pm, when Brooklyn/Austin talk-rock sextet Vietnam struck a heavy emotional chord as a trio of attendees splashed around in the snake-filled waters behind them. Echoing last year's APF set by Saharan neighbor Bombino, Malian guitar heroes Tinariwen hit the main meadow with mesmerizing desert grooves and Berber lyrics. Nightfall brought out rock mainstays Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who drew big and sounded perfect, but didn't generate near the frenzy of Japan's Acid Mothers Temple in the Levitation tent, capping the Friday schedule with an overdriven hour of hyperventilating guitar and drum mania.

The late-night camping scene, a commingling of fans, performers, and even the festival's founders, raged with booze and unmentionables well past 5am, so Saturday's short set by Japanese experimenter Masaki Batoh stamped just the ticket, the Ghost mainstay strapping a brainwave translator to the head of a concertgoer and turning her neural activity into tonal music. "It was very trancelike," reported Molly Collins, who lent her brain. "The sound was affecting me as much as I affected it." Another Japanese export, Boris, dropped sonic bombs of space doom on the main stage and turned smoke machines up to 11 for effect. The inevitable downpour benefited Man or Astroman? as festivalers rushed under the only covered stage during the Alabamans' galactic surf throwdown.

As the rain swept through, I met Catherine, a reasonable-looking girl from whom I learned that there was a spaceship hovering over the festival – one that everyone there had collectively projected because our minds are all connected. Her presentation came complete with diagrams and five pages of manic scribbles in an unknown language. My own head trip came in watching Deerhunter balance rage and sincerity with a commanding performance that included improvising a jam to a nearby car alarm and ending in an epic flurry of discordant distortion, flashing lights, and guitar abuse.

Sunday's cloudless sky made the rainstorm seem hallucinatory. The prolific Tim Presley and his White Fence hit the sun-bleached crowd with fearless guitar solos over a three-axe attack, a precursor to the skuzzy R&B of reunited two-man wrecking crew King Khan & BBQ Show, who closed with a heartfelt version of "Why Don't You Lie?" The seamless lineup continued with a steely Roky Erickson performance and a lock-tight Black Angels showcasing most of their latest, Indigo Meadow.

Weary of the main stage area, I slipped down Elevation hill and landed at a black-light freak party as Sweden's Goat, dressed in dashikis and balaclavas, laid down legit Afrobeat with jam-band tendencies while two maraca-wielding frontwomen led fevered chants and danced. The geometric projections shined past the band and onto the river and trees, a singular sight emblematic of this synthesis of music and nature.

A thin crowd remained for Billy Gibbons' headliners, the Moving Sidewalks, whose organ-driven blues began shutting down the festival with moody originals like "You Don't Know the Life" and the 13th Floor Elevators standard "Reverberation," featuring the Black Angels' Alex Maas on electric jug.

Woken Monday morning by slamming trunks, I fired up my ramshackle motor home. A nearly empty parking lot revealed that I'd stayed too long. The spaceship had already left.

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