Last Friday kicked off the 8th Annual Austin Psych Fest now known as Levitation. The private fest was held right next to the Colorado River at a private music venue called Carson Creek Ranch. The fest is put on by The Reverberation Appreciation Society, which if you haven’t already decided is definitely the best possible cause to inspire a society. The RAS started Austin Psych Fest as a small, low key fest put on by music nerds for music nerds in 2008. Since that time the fest has hosted acts like The Zombies, The Dandy Warhols, OS Mutantes, Deerhunter, Panda Bear, Tobacco and of course, The Black Angels to a growing group of neo and not-so-neo psychedelia fans.
The fest grounds on Friday were muddy, wet, and really slippery. Although it was no longer raining the humidity was fierce, thickening the air until it felt as though it could be chewed. The mud was goopy as fest-goers navigated their way thoughtfully to avoid slipping or landing soaked in a mud puddle. Three stages, Reverberation, Elevation, and Levitation were sprawled across the ranch. For campers, a fourth tent hosted special campers-only sets throughout the day.
At Reverberation, Austin band Ringo Deathstarr took the stage. The band, which has been around since 2007, is made up of Elliott Frazier, Alex Gehring, a long-limbed female bassist with perfectly blunt bangs, and drummer Daniel Coborn (who looked very Beetlejuice-esque in black and white hair and a purple and black striped shirt.) The band’s sound blended dreamy and thrashy guitars to achieve a sound that perfectly fit their peers on Austin Psych Fest’s lineup. Halfway through the set Frazier broke his whammy bar and a roadie came on stage with a blue case to help Elliott find a replacement. The crowd was fully supportive of the local band as shouts of love and appreciation for each musician could be heard across the lawn.
Next up at the same stage was Mini Mansions. The all-male band was exceedingly attractive, as they each took the stage with perfectly styled hair and crisp suits while a hip version of “Putting on the Ritz” played. The bassist Zach Dawes was the most colorful of the trio wearing a head to toe floral print suit. The most notable member of the band is Michael Shuman, bassist for Queens of the Stone Age. Shuman started Mini Mansions on a QOTSA break and plays a cocktail drumkit for the Cali trio. Two small lit signs sat on the left hand side of the stage, telling us the band’s name. Mini Mansions started with “Sherlock Holmes” then on to “Death is a Girl” featuring keyboardist and lead singer Tyler Parkford crooning “Death is a girl and she’s one dance away.” “Creeps” was a standout track from their album released March of this year called The Great Pretenders. The highlight of the show was a killer cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” The band finished their tight and energetic set with “Freakout” as people around me shouted how much they loved the band they had never heard before. Hear their Debbie Harry homage below.
After Mini Mansions was DIIV. The normcore-dressed band from New York appeared on stage led by singer and former Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith. Since DIIV has only one studio album, Oshin, released in 2012 both the crowd and I were excited to hear new tracks including “Under the Sun” and “Dust.” The petite and angelic looking Smith checked the pocket of his baggy button-up throughout to set to stay on track with the set list. The crowd teased the lead singer for repeating “We’re DIIV and we’re from New York” after every song but then perked up for their most popular track “How Long Have You Known.”
It's my favorite track on their 2012 album, Oshin. Listen above.
The crowd pressed up closer to the stage in preparation for English space rock band Spiritualized led by Jason Pierce better known as J. Spaceman. An army of roadies bustled around the stage, working quickly to complete the band’s complex setup. Twenty minutes after the scheduled set time, J. Spaceman finally took the stage in a pair of large black sunglasses and wearing all white. Behind him, two angelic back-up singers also wore white, when the eager crowd finally stopped screaming, the band began their moody 45-minute set. On the screen psychedelic, spinning circles moved perpetually forward like an infinite loop of smoke rings. The soulful backup singers accompanied J. Spacemen’s unique vocals and carried the band’s spacey drones into the night air.
The set was mostly made up of elongated instrumental and noise sessions. At one point Spaceman experienced technical issues with his guitar and left the stage for about 15 minutes. The rest of the band did a good job of continuing on with the set while the problem was being dealt with. I would be lying if I didn’t mention I was pretty disappointed they never got around to playing “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Now Floating in Space” from their 1997 album with the same name. However, despite the complication and the lack of my favorite song, the cool night air in an outdoor venue was a perfect setting for the timid frontman to guide us through a trip through the stars.
Closing out the Reverberation Stage for the night was Tame Impala. Tame Impala is one of those bands that seems to span the spectrum of music geeks attending the fest. Both the college radio fans and long-time psychedelic rockers appreciate their sound which is equally approachable and technical. If there was one band I had to name responsible for bringing the psych resurgence to the masses, it would be Tame Impala. When the Aussie rockers took the stage, the crowd went nuts. The crowd pushed even harder forward, everyone desperate to get a better view of the 6-piece, long-hair psych band from Perth. They played favorites like “It is Not Meant to Be”, “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” Each time Kevin Parker chatted with the crowd between songs, the fest-goers went nuts making almost impossible to even hear what he was saying. The fuzzy guitars and addictive reverb floated across the lawn, drawing people out of their seats and away from deluxe tents to get a better view. The highlight of the night was when the band played their newly released track “Eventually” for the first time live. If you haven't heard it yet, you should. Click to listen above.
Over in the tent next door, the last band scheduled for the night took the Levitation Stage. METZ kicked off their set with so much energy it was hard to tell that it was one in the morning. A wall of fuzzed out tvs and a projection of old, black and white commercials backed the Canadian noise rockers. Guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins, who looks more like an IT specialist than a hardcore noise punk rocker moved around on stage with an infectious intensity. My heartbeat was replaced with the sound of thrashing guitars and gut-piercing noise. My feet, although exhausted from an entire day of mud-trekking couldn’t help but kick around in the wet dirt as I banged my head and whipped my hair around. The entire crowd was raging, a circle of moshers pummeling each other in the mud pit. Everyone I could see was dripping in sweat, Edkins himself had soaked through his button up shirt, making it completely transparent. With hair sopping, he tossed around his head as the crunchy and intense distortion filled the tent during the appropriate “Wet Blanket.” A lengthy and earth-shattering noise jam ended the killer set, leaving everyone’s ears buzzing and heads dizzy as they struggled to find the exit.
Want a taste of the talented madness that is METZ? Listen to their song "Wet Blanket" and realize they are anything but.