Editor: Austin Psych Fest brought the weirdos to the state capital this weekend for sets by big legends like The Moving Sidewalks and small ones like Silver Apples. DC9 at Night writer Jesse Hughey and photographer Tracie Louck were there to brave the mud and reverb to bring you these dispatches.
Friday The sun setting over the Saharan desert music of Tinariwen marked for me the first moment that Austin Psych Fest truly felt like we were somewhere else completely. Tie-dyed kids, a guy in a curious mirror-and-disco-ball-bedazzled pink getup and the usual festival dirtbags in black concert tees swayed and spun to the hypnotic Malian African blues unwinding from the band's hand drums and acoustic guitars. Before that, Besnard Lakes and Vietnam had both built up the kind of droning reverberating rhythmic grooves that set the mood for getting a good buzz on in beautiful Texas weather. Now we were transported miles away.
Super-hip Dallas couple Nathan and Erin Johnson shared their festival survival tips. "Because cell reception is terrible at festivals and everyone is trying to check the schedule, go to the schedule on your phone before it starts and get a screen capture of it so you don't have to connect every time you want to look at it," Nathan said. Erin suggested a big handbag that can hold the layers you shed or put back on as it warms or cools and hand sanitizer. "If you're there with someone who's just obsessed with music, don't argue with them about the schedule," she says. "Just go along with them."
Warpaint's swirling intricate guitar melodies building up into long instrumental breaks ushered in the dark. Pretty music, pretty girls playing it. A perfect festival night. After that, it alternated between the Raveonettes' funky, fun, horny rock 'n' roll, the chugging, ponderous rumbling of OM and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's set that was as hot as black leather in a stuffy garage.
Saturday Quintron & Miss Pussycat following Black Bananas in the Levitation Tent was probably the most drastic contrast of the day. Black Bananas' sleazy drug rock was so loose that it was sometimes hard to tell if the band knew they weren't rehearsing as the guitarist, keyboardist/drum machine dude and singer would turn away from the audience to drink or light cigarettes, letting their meandering melodies and mumbly vocals trail off into ambient noise. Quintron, the one-man band on drums, lap-steel and organ overdriven through a Leslie cabinet, seemed to put more effort into any one song than they did in their entire song -- which is no knock on either act. With Miss Pussycat smiling and looking like a cheerleader-turned-Etsy-crafter as the crowd batted balloons around, the thing had a very B-52's vibe that was the most infectiously fun moment of the day.
A few big drops of rain spearing the sky in front of the spokes of purple light swirling around Black Mountain during their classic-rock-meets-doom-rock was the last moment of beauty before the downpour.
Man or Astroman? played their sci-fi surf punk with a furious energy that belied how long in the tooth the band is. Surely they were energized by what had to have been one of their biggest crowds ever, as nearly everyone at the fest tried to squeeze into the tent, the only stage that offered shelter from the rain for the crowd. Said crowd included one completely nude and quite attractive young woman holding a conversation with a few guys who did an admirable job of keeping their eyes up.
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Deerhunter's jagged, uncomfortable noise seemed to match the chilly, uncomfortable feel of a crowd that was by now mostly soaked with mud-bogged shoes. A particularly winning moment came when a car alarm loudly sounded backstage. Bradford Cox immediately took the blame, saying he recognized it as the band's van and admitting he didn't have the key fob. "Let's just jam on that," he said, and after a few halting tries, the band settled into an improvised melody of staccato chiming guitar notes darting in between the van's incessant honking. Eventually the alarm stopped, but they kept playing.
Walking in the parking lot away from the festival was a nightmare of sticky mud that felt like wet grout. People held each other up and stumbled as the swamp sucked away at their shoes and sandals. Vehicles slung great gobs of it onto each other. A few college-age kids talked forlornly into cell phones next to one that had slid into a barrow ditch, its rear wheels in the air and its hazard lights blinking.