Mud, bud and music.
By Morgan Gentry + Ellie Alonzo
Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel
As I stepped into the tent, I knew that I was about to go into an epic void of sound and magical visions. Once Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel began to play, the trip began. The catchy beats and key solos were amazing, and thanks to my handy kaleidoscope lens, I was able to capture exactly how I felt!
The White Fence performance was the first act I was able to catch once the sun was completely gone and the light show was in full affect. Not only was the music phenomenal, but the beautiful patterns, lines, and colors that flooded off of the stage and onto the trees really helped set the mood for the entire performance. I was up close at first, but man, once I moved back, I felt that that was the proper way to capture that experience – taking it in like everyone else.
Camera in hand, I moved straight towards the front to catch epic shots of one of my favorite bands, Lighting Bolt! Not even 10 seconds in the crowd goes wild and I am forced to move away to save my camera children (though I really wish I couldve joined the huge mosh pit!). The experience was just how I expected it – trippy, sweaty, loud, bone crushing, pact, and beautifully soothing to the soul all at once.
As with any other Friday, mine was crazy, long and wildly rewarding near the end. I didn’t make it to Carson Creek Ranch till around midnight, missing sweet acts like Holy Wave, The Sword,Metz, White Manna, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel, DIIV, Lighting Bolt, White Fence and The Soft Moon. *sad face emoji*
However, I was determined to make it for Tame Impala’s exceptional set. I arrived to the treacherous muddy field, slipping and sliding towards the main stage, Reverberation Stage, just as the band finished tuning up. The lights hit and the music seeped through the night air like a flash of lighting. I was ready to jam and go down Kevin Parker’s musical rabbit hole.
With a turnout of 10,000 for Psych Fest’s first day, it was a sea of people I had to swim through to get to the perfect spot. As a seasoned festival-goer, it only took me one and a half songs to get to the front of the stage, with only four rows of people in front of me. Yeah, baby!
During my voyage, Tame Impala opened up with the new funky track “Let It Happen” off of the upcoming album Currents. It was their first time playing and though I was moving around I kept my ears perked. This song was so electrifying and showed Kevin Parker in his prime — and this was just the beginning of their 75-minute set.
Once I got to the front, the Perth band played a few(okay a lot) of my favorites: Mind Mischief, Elephant, Why Won’t They Talk To Me, Alter Ego, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Be Above It, Eventually and closed out with Apocalypse Dreams.
Seriously ya’ll, the live breakdowns. Especially the ones in Mind Mischief and Elephant, were so killer! After revving me up with “Elephant” the guys slipped into Mind Melt then hit us with a “Jazz Odyssey Prog 3070” outro. My brain was glue by this time.
When they played “Eventually” (another newbie from Currents), the whole crowd felt the same vibes they were feeling. We fell into a trance when they elongated the breakdown and brought in more bass – it felt like a psychedelic hip hop show for a few minutes, I wasn’t complaining.
As many shows as I go to, I still find myself in awe when a band puts on such an immensely engaging set. I could be bias here, but I think the music will speak for itself.
Friday night was short-lived with a two hour traffic jam on the way out. Luckily Saturday delivered with killer sets, sunshine, and not as much mud. I teamed up my bud and photographer Ellie for the weekend. This is what we got into.
As soon as I got to Carson Creek Ranch I hit the ground running with LA Witch. These witchy babes put on a rad show. I was swaying along to their hypnotic sound and vocalist/guitarist Sade Sanchez’s haunting voice. Dark psychedelic feels, a dab of stoner metal and just the right amount of melancholy is how these ladies like to shred. They reminded me of the Hex Girls from that one Scooby-Doo movie, but even more cooler. Though they only have a few songs, along with their recent “Kill My Baby Tonight”, this band has been playing for years and continues to gain a good following- myself included.
The Blank Tapes
We trotted over to the Reverberation stage to catch the another California band, the Blank Tapes, for some psych-surf-folk-pop-rock songs about the sweet mother Mary (marijuana that is). Ellie went to the front to shoot and I was submerged in the crowd and clouds of smoke, taking it all in. Their set was full of metaphors and frolocking sounds.
It definitely mellowed me out from the beaming sun and crowds of people.
After that, we took a breather by the lake, where the Elevation amphitheater is usually set up.
Fever The Ghost
Around 6 we drifted over to the Levitation tent to catch Fever The Ghost.
It was a super hot and smelly, but worth it to catch a few songs. This whimsical, funky girl glitch band gave the audience, myself included, some dance fever. I felt like I was in a trippy mecha anime show the whole time. I got stuck in dance trance and realized Ellie had ran over to catch Las Robertas.
Once we met back up it was time for one of our favorites, Chui Wan!!
Call me a newfound fan girl all you want, but this band gave me so much life! I got a spot right in the front and jammed with them through the whole set. Hailing from Beijing and super chill, I fell in love with their sound, style and stage presence. A few favorite tracks of mine were, like all of them. Just go check out their tunes on bandcamp and thank me later.
Fun fact from this four-piece psych-experimental band’s page: They get their name from Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi’s “Qi Wu Lun” (齐物论), a mystical work on the relationship between nature and human life. The spirit of Zhuangzi’s thought is reflected in the modern Chinese idiom: “谓风吹万窍，发出各种音响。” – “When the wind blows, every sound may be heard therein.”
By this time I had been full of music and no food. Yikes! After filling our bellies, Ellie and I separated so she could shoot Night Beats. I decided to take the good energy and snagged a spot on the grass for the first half of Spindrift.
After forcing my way through the crowd to get some up close shots, I soon realized this set was about to get moving. From beginning to end, everyone was in a psychedelic, body moving, trance, which caused me to do the same! Just so I wouldnt get too lost in my own personal trance, I decided to quickly move to the back to catch some shots of everyone in the zone. The shot was worth it!
Taking it all in, I saw so many happy faces and cute outfits! The size and atmosphere of festivals makes a world of a difference. Austin Psych Fest is literally the perfect size with three stages to hop around and nothing but nature all around, you can’t go wrong. 10,000 people may sound big but it was just right for a good time.
After my introspective time on the grass, I finally tuned back into Spindrift. I felt like I was in a psychedelic western. They were so good! The crowd continued to grow and I lost my view but I continued to relax to their sounds until it was time to head over to another favorite of mine, Thee Oh Sees.
Back to main stage we go and back to front we climbed.
Thee Oh Sees
To our surprise they started playing early so we got there before the major rush hit. Their set was full energy and sick breakdowns. Crowd surfers were wild and the everyone’s heads were spiraling out of control. John Dwyer was killing it, as usual, with his sweet clear guitar. Not to mention I love that they’re playing with two drummers now! Their shit has been sick from the get go but everything gets better with time, right?
While Thee Oh Sees are a huge favorite of mine, the Mystic Braves are a huge favorite for Ellie and they were about to hop on at the Elevation makeshift stage.
Mystic Braves was one of the many bands I was excited to see, and to no surprise, they were just as amazing as I had anticipated. From all the sound and vibrations that came out of their eclectic instruments, to the light show that fused it all together, this was definitely one of my favorite shows of the night (and I swear I’m not just fan girling over here). I assume Morgan became a fan as well!
After a long Saturday it took me a while to hop back into festing, but I made sure I wouldn’t miss The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT)! On my way to the Reverberation stage I noticed a change in the crowd. Sunday brought in both underaged and overaged faces. After making my schedule for the day I could understand why, a piece of John Lennon was present, the beloved local band Black Angels would be there and Mac DeMarco was playing that day.
The stage was set up as if they were about to play in a living room, bringing their home to the stage it seemed like. From the first to last song, Tele Novellas ambiance was chill and relaxed, yet so well structured that you could tell they knew their instruments pretty well. The haunting vocals linked with poppy bass riffs, alongside psychedelic keys and dreamy drums really hit my soul. Everyone seemed to really enjoy them and I was really glad I stayed for the entire set.
Out of all the bands that performed at Levitation this year, I personally felt that Paperhead was one of the few that seemed to capture the 60’s pop/rock feel throughout every single song. I was able to acquire more kaleidoscopes for my camera at this point, so I was glad to be able to use these devices for this performance. Look at the photos and that is exactly how Paperhead made you feel – colorful, loud, fun, and just dreaming away through the sounds.
Co-orchestrated by the (holy) son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and the sultry goddess Charlotte Kemp Muhl, played the fest with a full band. As I approached the growing audience I took note of the beautiful guitar Lennon was holding – what a babe, am I right?! When they were done tuning, his voice welcomed everyone and gave them an introduction of everyone on stage. I could tell people weren’t initially there for the music and I think he could too.
As the set carried on, Lennon showed off his gnarly shredding skills and has a great sense of humor, while Charlotte’s angelic voice made me feel like I was transcending into another dimension. Sean even said that coachella was good but psych fest is better. *smirk emoji*
I made a pit stop by the Elevation stage to catch a few songs from The Myrrors. I honestly think they were jamming so hard on their intro that I didn’t even get to stay for the whole song before heading over to get a good spot for Mac DeMarco. It was still worth it swinging by though.
Okay I’ll try to keep it brief, but let it be known Mac and his bandmates not only put on a fun show, but an interactively fun show with the skills to back up their goofiness. I swooned over the gapped tooth front man and crooned along to every word. His bass player Pierce McGarry and guitarist and keyboard Andrew White even performed their own solo songs throughout the set. With Steely Dan covers and a mini chanting session, Mac ended things with an epic crowd surf with a giant audience to carry him all the way around.
The Flaming Lips. Holy Shit. I saw a lot of my all time favorite bands this year, but the Flaming Lips performance was, by far, the most extravagantly created, most beautifully strategized performance piece I have ever seen at a festival. Wayne Coyne and his friends really out did themselves. Starting with the first song, confetti and an epic light show drew the viewers in for the next hour and half of cosmic beauty. There were so many people at that point that I was unable to make it to the front, but being in the back was just as lovely. Once capturing some shots, I put on my 3D Glasses and let the Flaming Lips close of what was, to me, one of the most memorable musical festivals of my life.
Till next year!