Heaven on Earth – Austin Psych Fest 2014 Recap Part 2

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If you missed part one, you can give it a read right over HERE.

Now, where was I? Oh yes….

Day 2

“I walked with Jesus and he would say,

‘Oh my, you poor child, you ain’t comin with me no way

You’ve found Heaven on Earth, you’re gonna burn for your sins.’

Well, I think I’ll be in good company down there with all my friends.

– “Walking with Jesus”, Spacemen 3

Out of all the days of the festival, Day 2 was critical. You could probably put this one together but just in case there is a slow one amongst the group, the answer is simple: the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Over the past 4 years, I’ve inhaled their discography and like many, I guess I saw Anton as a bit of a pioneer, even if he was stealing a lot from the 60s; but hey man, Oasis is my favorite band so I’m more than alright with some heisting as long as it’s done properly. Isn’t that a motto of some sort? “Good artists borrow, great artists steal?” I have no idea where it comes from but apparently that expression exists. But we all know how the story goes: pioneers get shot with arrows. Just look at the examples: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Roky Erickson, Iggy Pop, Nick Drake, the band Death, etc. etc. – all of whom were brilliant artists who just didn’t make it during their time because they were too busy outpacing the crowd. And we all know that there’s nothing the crowd hates more than being outpaced.  But if the pioneers are lucky, they survive the slaughter as myths. And it’s rare when you see one of these myths in the flesh but when you get the opportunity to do so, isn’t it necessary to pay tribute to a trail blazer? I’d like to think so at least.

With this parable in mind, I was so invested in Day 2 that I, a fairly functional alcoholic with more years under my belt than I’m proud of, decided to keep myself in check. At least until around the time the BJM hit the stage. Then I could go fucking mental.

Unlike the day before, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when we walked in around 2 PM. We were still fairly beat from the other day, but given the circumstances, we descended on the festival like rabid dogs going after scraps. This time, Leah’s friend, Mary, tagged along for the day. Mary was a fucking trip. She was easy to talk to and pretty nice. Except when behind the wheel of a car…..We found this out later when she offered us a ride back to the hotel; while trying to leave the congested and ill-managed parking lot, her road rage made the hour wait to leave all the more entertaining. I shit you not, I thought she was one honked horn away from getting out of the car and starting a fight. It was awesome!

The first band that I cared to see was Pure X, but they didn’t go on the main stage till around 4:30. So we headed to the Levitation Tent first to check out the Destruction Unit. I don’t want to drag out a review on them, because the band themselves did anything but drag. Let’s just say they lived up to their name and maybe even stole a couple of lessons from the Stooges (which, to me, is never, ever a bad thing).

photo 1-1

Pure X started next. I wasn’t as familiar with them as I should be, but I had heard nothing but good things from all the right people and decided to see what they were made of. As it turns out, they were a lot chiller than I thought they would be. Maybe it was the fact we were all feeling a sit-down and that we decided to blanket up this bitch to conserve energy, but I wanna say that the band was one mellow chord away from putting me to sleep.

photo 2-1

Jacco Gardner took the Elevation Amphitheater next. We left Pure X early to rendezvous with Logan and his buddy who’s name I can’t remember (sorry dude) right by the creek bed. The area itself was pretty crowded as a lot of people had swarmed there to either hide from the sun under the shade of the trees, or any sheriff’s line of view so that they could smoke weed and do other drugs. After some small talk, we decided to head over to Jacco so we could get some decent seats. As they started, Nick noted that they were quieter compared to their record, but we both agreed that they had more than their share of great tunes. Hailing from the Netherlands, they’re one of those bands that knows exactly how to not overkill it with an organ: just play it sparsely so it mimics that floaty feeling you get from being high. They tapped into that shit real well and for that, I commend them.

Moon Duo were next up on the agenda over at the Levitation Tent. I had only heard one song by them (the one where the music video involves King Khan as an aerobics instructor leading a cult in exercise), but it was good enough to make me say we needed to check them out. Apparently, everyone else in attendance had gotten the same idea. By the time we reached the tent after Jacco, it was so packed that all we could do was stand along the edges outside with the rest of the people who also didn’t get the memo to arrive early. Cest la vie. They did sound great from out there and I did catch this cute girl getting into it – waving her purple kimono around and gyrating herself around to the beat with so much natural ease, you would have thought she walked that way. Maybe she did.

Bombino were next on Reverberation. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t my thing. They had some cool leads and licks, but like Shannon and the Clams the other day, I feel like I “got it” after just two songs. I took this time to go pick up a dollar pack of cigarettes from the Camel tent. I don’t even smoke Camels, but at a dollar a pack, a chain-smoker like me can’t resist.

photo by Nick Demetros

photo by Nick Demetros

Speaking of coughing, by this time, I had realized something else critical: the festival is pretty fucking dusty. So much so that many people who got that memo were prepared with scarfs and surgical face masks (yeah, like the ones people in China wore when there was a SARs outbreak). Hell, I even saw one person walking around in full Clint Eastwood attire: poncho, cowboy boots, hat, and all. But if I wasn’t willing to spend money on a scarf or face mask, there’s no way I was going to go all out like that dork. Instead, I chose to suffer with dignity, which resulted in a lot of coughing for the rest of the trip. I found this situation to be wholly ironic. I have about 8 years of smoking under my belt, but the thing that might give me the black lung is two days at Austin Psych Fest? Wouldn’t that be something else.

photo 3-1

We caught the Golden Dawn next at the amphitheater. Nick had been telling me that they were a band from the late 60’s/early 70’s who didn’t get their dues so we should check them out. In my opinion, they were okay. Nothing extraordinary, but I didn’t mind sitting though a few songs until Temples came on on the main stage. Once again, Nick had been a fan of their records, but I found them kind of boring on tape. They sounded super polished and didn’t have any of that gritty shit I like when it comes to psych. Maybe that’s because I’ve always thought that when stuff has a gritty aspect, it sounds realer to me – like some soul might actually slide out of the speakers too. However, live, the band did put on one hell of a show that may or may not have been enhanced by the trippy visuals going on in the background. Yet, we didn’t stay for their whole performance. Dead Meadow was playing the amphitheater soon after and sludgy rock takes priority over the squeaky clean shit any day.

At night, the amphitheater was a sight to see. Not only does the stage look that much better on the water, but the festival plays it smart and utilizes the tree backdrop with a projector. There’s not a lot of videos that do it justice, so I’ll try to describe it: the trees act as a screen while mesmerizing visuals are blasted on to them and then layered over with either a grainy live feed of the band onstage or even more visuals that coalesce together. While the night time usually brought to the stage DJs who lacked any real imagination, the visuals were always entertaining. If you stared at them long enough, they might massacre some pesky brain cells, but it’s not like you’d miss them anyways. So, when you combine that aspect with a great band like Dead Meadow, the performance becomes all the more resplendent. Especially since Dead Meadow are fucking HEAVY.

From there, we moved on to the best set I saw all day and maybe the biggest surprise of the festival. I was a casual fan of Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s first album. It was fun to throw on to smoke to or just chill in general. When their second album felt like more or less the same, I kind of skipped out on it and pretty much wrote them off. Yet, Logan was insistent that we see them so I pretty much went with the flow and followed the posse we had somehow inherited. Let me tell you something, kids: Logan wasn’t just blowing smoke – those dorky-looking chumps that were present in the very first press photo I got sent of these guys in 2011 (located HERE) were nowhere near that fucking main stage that day. This was something else – a new fucking animal! They went at it for an hour, shredding riffs that could cause mental illness, pounding drumbeats that could have started earthquakes, and pretty much making it impossible for you not to nod your head along. I mean fuck, they even covered a Jay Reatard song! Now, I know it’s an outdoor venue so there’s no roof on the place, but if there was, their set would have blown that bitch off and sent it into the fucking stratosphere! Where was this carnage on the record?! My only explanation for why that energy hasn’t translated over to the record is probably that they’re getting Joy Divisioned: their live sound is more aggressive but their record producer seems content on keeping it mellow. Hopefully they’ll change that.

photo 1-2

The series of events from this point on becomes distorted as weed and alcohol entered the picture. For probably the first time since I was 15, I had been a good boy all day, so I felt it was only right to reward my due diligence. I know I saw a couple of songs from the Horrors. Long story short: those limey goth Brits pull their shit off live and look real cool doing it. Well done, dudes. Then for some reason, we headed to Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, even though I can’t stand Animal Collective. I guess I went with the crowd but me, Nick, Leah, and Danielle (who made it to the festival some time after UMO) all went over to get decent spots for the main event: the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

photo 3-2At some point, I got separated from the group and ended up all the way towards the front of the stage. Crowd-wise, it was filled to the brim as the followers of the cult of Anton moved in to bask in their fearless leader’s exalted brilliance. Soon, the odor of weed was everywhere and it was impossible not to get a contact high just standing in the crowd. So I waited with leather patience for the band to come on at 12:10. That passed so I waited some more and tried to find my friends in the crowd. No luck trying to get out, so I stood put, getting high by the kindness of strangers around me. After a lengthy soundcheck, the band stepped out to play at around 12:45. The cheers followed and got louder when the band strummed the opening chords of “Whoever You Are.” They followed this appropriately by “Who, which got the crowd singing the hook right back to the band. After these two songs, Anton spoke to the crowd, complaining about how the band’s time will get cut short, but complimented Alex Maas, the lead singer of the Black Angels, for putting together one of the best parties he’s ever been to. Look, I could super fan it for the rest of this and tell you every single detail that I can recall, but I know you just want the highlights so you can move along. So the highlights were: the new songs being debuted “What You Isn’t,” and “Days, Weeks, Moths” along with the debut of “The Devil May Care (But Mom and Dad Don’t)” (as an added bonus, while Anton was introducing the song, he slagged off Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear by saying that they don’t have the imagination that he does….couldn’t have agreed more), and seeing Joel Gion break a tambourine from banging it too hard and then tossing the remaining pieces into the crowd, where they disappear amongst the zealous fans. Like I said, it was a short set, but even if I didn’t hear “Wisdom” (my favorite) or “Satellite,” I got “No Come Down” and “Anenome.” Oh, and I can cross seeing the band live in the flesh off my bucket list. Seeing as how they don’t come to Nashville anymore, that’s something in itself.

The Final Part Is Coming Soon. Stay Tuned…

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  1. […] 1 is here. Part 2 is here. And with this, I give you the concluding chapter of my Austin Psych Fest 2014 […]



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