A short while ago, I was honored with the opportunity to attend the 2014 Austin Psych Fest with full press credentials, which was quite a change of pace from my normal role as a performer at these sorts of events. Needless to say, I had a blast. Here are the highlights of my experience in chronological order of when I saw each act perform. Bonus: there’s an accompanying Spotify playlist at the bottom of this article with a track from each band mentioned.
- For some reason I expected Woods to be more of a studio band than a live experience. Boy was I wrong. This was the first show that proved to be a psychedelic journey through my mind (as was expected given the title of the festival). It might have had something to do with the awesome backdrop of swirling lights on the woods (so appropriate) above the river behind the stage, but regardless, it was an exhilarating experience.
- I’ve seen The Octopus Project once before, but it was nearly a decade ago. In our time apart, the band has managed to get tighter, louder, more energetic, and all in all create a solid, pulsing dance party of a live show. And of course the impeccable spectacle of immaculate theramin playing is a huge bonus.
- Temples are even better live than they are on record, and that means a lot coming from me as they’ve released one of my favorite albums of the year thus far. The rich, growling, deep bass tones that were unleashed at key moments throughout the set were comparable to that of Sigur Ros in a live setting. Basically, it sounded huge. The vocal harmonies also popped splendidly, adding beautiful embellishments to the already innovative sense of melody inherent to Temples.
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra knows how to jam and/or groove effortlessly. I’ve read comparisons drawn between The Jimi Hendrix Experience and this band, and I’ve gotta say, I could actually see the correlation (as crazy as it sounds). I think the drummer might’ve been my favorite part of the whole performance, but that’s not to say the guitar, bass, and vocals weren’t excellent as well. I also admired the band’s ability to make awkward chord progressions somehow still cause involuntary dancing amongst the crowd.
- Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks was the perfect late night disco party warmup to keep the positive energy flowing even though the day had already been long with still more to come. It was a goofy, feel-good time.
- This was far from my first time to experience Of Montreal, but it was definitely one of my favorite times. The band closed out Saturday night and impressively forced the crowd to persevere, dance once again, and shake out every last bit of energy before the sweet sound of silence could fill our ears as rest was finally achieved.
- The first notable Sunday performance, Mikal Cronin wasn’t especially tight, but it also appeared that the roughness might be attributed to the lead guitarist possibly being somewhat intoxicated. (Whether he was intoxicated with happiness or alcohol or some combination of the two is yet to be determined.) Luckily, Cronin’s songs are so bright-spirited and fun, the sloppiness worked just fine as the energy remained high. Plus it was day 3; frankly we were all feeling a bit rough around the edges by this point.
- Tobacco played the final performance of Austin Psych Fest 2014, and was it ever an experience. To accompany the crunchy beats dripping with bloody synth tones, there were re-edited clips of ‘80s lo-fi/sci-fi horror porn synced up to match the seamless transitions between songs as the set continued. In a sense, it was the absolute perfect way to bring the festival to a close: It was strange, it kept the crowd dancing, and overall it was something I’ll never forget.