Moderate temperatures and dry weather set a positive ambiance for the weekend. The superb conditions did not contain the sand, and bands commented on the large amount of dust. Austin Psych Fest at Carson Creek Ranch was on the first weekend of May, but many in the crowd were still celebrating April 20th. A wide array of artisans set up booths around the field, as well as several food vendors. Strongbow flags were flying, but Deep Eddy seemed to the crowd’s main drink of choice. The audience was of a wide age range and international. There was a strong contingent of concertgoers from Ontario, some fun-loving Irishmen, and fans from Sweden. Talking to audience members, I realized these festivalgoers were very musically literate and shared diverse musical tastes, which was a pleasant surprise. The festival volunteers were plentiful and security did not affect the mood of the scene. The site was near the Austin airport, so large planes regularly passed over the festival site, adding a bit of industrial vibes to the scene.
The Dutch singer and musical wunderkind with hair that looked like pure Brian Jones played folky alt-‘80s style music with a nice variety of instruments in his band. While listening to the band’s mellow, nice music, the lyrics stood out and quickly drew people into the lush and wordy storylines of Jacco Gardner.
Joel Gion & The Primary Colors
This is Joel Gion’s side project from Brian Jonestown Massacre, and he has assembled a strong group of musicians and steps out from the percussion and takes a guitar and microphone for this effort. The music had a tinge of folk, some hints of post-punk, a taste of art-rock and an overall delicate sound. Galine Tumasova was wielding an old ’69 Ventura bass and became the focal point on stage while Yvonne Hernandez filled the percussion sounds for Gion.
At first it seemed that the band had a male and female singer, but when Sleepy Sun took the stage, there was only the male singer Bret Constantino. The live show took several steps away from the record, and the show had a real ‘classic rock’ feel. The band brought driving rhythms and Constantino portrayed stage gestures of the rock masters, especially Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey.
Canada’s Pink Mountaintops blended folky vocals into rock music, although it seems quite a sound contrast compared to Stephen McBean’s previous bands (Godspeed You Black Emperor and Black Mountain). There was a familiarity but that took a few minutes to remember: there was Greg Foreman on guitar pacing the stage and playing improvisations between songs. The music was delivered with consummate clarity and professionalism, the lyrics were succinct, and while the stage of musicians took a left turn from their history, the sound is clearly a right turn.
Two women hit the stage, one in red and one in black. The dark dressed woman howled at the audience with a sinister vocal hiss, then guitars seemed to be flying off in random directions. While the two women and one man fought to keep these wild animal guitars on stage, they struck some unearthly reverb and distortion sounds that went impeccably timed to the drummer’s rhythm. The crescendos and decrescendos of sound flowed from peaceful to painful, and the backdrop animation visuals showed a very dark feel to the scene with its mushroom cloud that turned into a skeleton. Bo Ningen seemed to tame their instruments by mid-set and the electro-groove flowed from sounds of melancholy to optimistic. By the last song, the instruments broke from their tamed behavior and the members left the stage leaving an audience gasping for breath. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief at such a performing intensity while delivering such delicate and emotional music.
Robert Hampson’s face could clearly be seen in the light, and he resembled Paul Weller. He greeted the audience with a stinging guitar, and his microphone had delay effects. Loop’s massive sound resonated from the main stage to a receptive audience. This last show of the festival was more of a rock music set with songs that were more stinging and less ethereal than the music from Hampson’s project Main. Mid-set he sent out a tribute to the Damned with the slow gloomy sounds that opened a time capsule of sound from 35 years ago, done precisely. What a treat this was to hear.
-words: Drew Fountain
-photos: Gail Fountain