Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thoughts on Austin Psych Fest 2013

Alright, I'll admit I was highly skeptical about Austin Psych Fest this year. The line-up was great but I was concerned about the venue and the logistics of getting to and from the venue. Well, I can assure you that my concerns were largely unfounded. The drive out to Carson Creek Ranch was pretty insignificant. Also, traffic was non-existent at the times that I was arriving and departing the festival. There was plenty of parking, although I must say that whatever the material is that composed the parking lot was a WHORE when it got wet. Also, the parking lot attendants could have used a few more Type A personalities to keep things orderly and clear.

Saturday night it rained extremely hard and the parking lot became very slippery. It smelled like the ocean and the "mud" was more like wet cement. I have no idea what sort of earthen material that was but it was no ordinary dirt.

The site of the festival was gorgeous, the Amphitheater that was along the river bank was the perfect backdrop. It was a bit treacherous getting to and from the amphitheater at night so, if you attend APF next year I suggest you bring a small flashlight to guide you. The festival grounds were big but it was very easy to move from stage to stage. I think this is largely due to the fact that the grounds to attendee ratio was pretty imbalanced this year. I feel like after word of this year's festival spreads next year's will be better attended and so on like that until it's a much more serious event.

I do think that as the festival becomes more popular some of my concerns will become more serious. However, for this year it was a very relaxed and comfortable experience. The drink prices were reasonable, the food offerings were diverse and also quite economical for a festival. If I were to give advice to the festival organizers for next year, I would suggest they borrow the crowd-sourced recycling idea from ACL Fest. Give people a free T-Shirt in exchange for a bag filled with recycling. The festival grounds remained fairly clean as long as there was daylight but as soon as the sun set, people got lazy and just dropped shit on the ground. Obviously, this is not unique to Austin Psych Fest which is why it's an idea that any of Austin's festivals can and should adopt.

As far as the music goes, the peanut gallery seems to be in total disagreement. I heard some people saying that every band sounds the same and you can't make a festival with only one genre. I also heard people complaining that most of the bands weren't "Psych Bands" and that only the person bitching knows what "Psych Music" even means. Personally, I feel like this year's festival represented a wide-array of psych bands. I don't feel like that genre description has a very narrow focus but I will say The Black Angels' sound could be heard from several bands.

My favorite sets of the festival came from Warpaint, Suuns, Holydrug Couple and Goat. I was pre-disposed to like all of these sets...and I did. Warpaint was definitely my favorite set of the weekend though. I have seen them perform in the past and they are always good but Friday night they were motherfucking spectacular. The sound mix was beyond superb, the songs were outstanding and the performance was magical. They have this bizarre ability to perform serious songs without taking themselves too seriously. The set was fun but still heavy.

I was prepared to like Suuns but their set in the tent made me love them. I feel like their performance was so good they deserved an evening set on the main stage but I understand why that didn't happen. Remember the name Suuns because I think their psychedelic star will definitely be on the rise.

Holydrug Couple was the perfect chill-vibes psych for an afternoon set at the Amphitheater. Their vocals are shaky at best but their musicianship, songwriting and stellar choice of songs to cover made up for any other weaknesses.

Goat was one of the most buzzed about bands amongst us music-writers and musicians at the festival. Everyone was looking forward to seeing this mysterious Swedish band to see if they could pull of they majesty of their album in person. I can assure you they did. Channeling Woodstock-era Santana, Goat is pure energy. They wore weird costumes with masks, they danced, they tranced, they jammed, it was wonderful. My only complaints were that they were hardly visible. The stage lighting was blacklights and they tried to do old-school overhead projector visuals but they weren't properly lit. Also, since Goat performed on the amphitheater the volume wasn't as loud as I wanted it to be. It was certainly loud enough to hear but it was overwhelming loud. I don't think I'll get another chance in the near future but I would love to see Goat perform at a proper Austin venue.

All in all, I had a great weekend out at Carson Creek Ranch and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Austin Psych Fest to any avid music fan. The crowd was peaceful and respectful music fans. The bands were humble, timely and they put on great performances. The festival organizers weren't as organized as they could have been at times but it certainly wasn't a chaotic or disorganized experience by any means. Word around the peace pipe is APF will take place at the same site for the next few years. I look forward to seeing how the festival evolves and grows into the fantastic location they've acquired.