The Long, Strange Trip of Austin Psych Festival

Photo by Pooneh Ghana/Courtesy of Austin Psych Fest
Christian Bland and the Revelators
When I woke up last Saturday morning in Houston deciding whether to attend Austin Psych Fest, I had barely wanted to go. When I got to the grounds near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, my worst fears were realized: the heat was unbearable, it was dusty, and I spent that afternoon wandering around like a Giacometti statue trying to figure out "Wat Se Fak?" (German for "WTF") I was doing there.

If you're looking for rest and relaxation, this festival might not be the vacation for you next spring. Although thankful for the lift, paying $5 for a chartered school bus to Carson Creek Ranch felt like something out of the commune scene in Easy Rider. Considerably more avant-garde than most music fests, APF was populated by bands with ambition. It's not a place for people to come lounge and luxuriate, but an environment for people who are really, really into music.

Photo by Joe Alfone
The ranch is directly in the Bergstrom flight path, so approximately once an hour a plane would fly over the grounds. Not ironically, many fans traveled from afar afield for APF, with some statistics stating that only 20 percent of attendees hailed from Austin. For a small festival in the middle of Texas, the number of foreigners present was a little mind-boggling, but every time I talked to someone who was not American, I received the same refrain about "the amazing lineup." Could be that popular culture in foreign countries is more forward-thinking than here in the U.S.

One would expect the obligatory "Drop Acid, Not Bombs" T-shirt. Check. "Keep it Surreal." Hadn't seen that one before; check. Two Gallants. My Bloody Valentine. Factory Records. 13th Floor Elevators. Pink Floyd. Led Zeppelin. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. There was even a guy in a Guns 'N Roses T-shirt insecurely holding his girlfriend's hand as though he was going to soon lose her.

While listening to the Chicago band Secret Colours, which identifies itself as influenced by '60s psychedelic rock and '90s Britpop, a blonde-haired young woman no older than 25 walked onto the stage for the end of their set and began perfectly singing the chorus of their love song "It Can't Be Simple." However, nothing about this whole damned festival was especially simple, least of all why this amazing young woman would get onstage for one solitary song.

Photo courtesy of Secret Colours
Secret Colours
But once I stopped trying to figure out what APF was and started to "go with the flow," as it were, I began to enjoying the festival immensely. Sunday, I stopped looking at the schedule and just started walking from stage to stage checking out music I knew absolutely nothing about with only three stages, it did not take that much energy to visit each one.

Story continues on the next page.

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