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Reverb Nation: Austin Psych Fest, Day 1 @ Seaholm Power Plant, 4/29/11

May 3, 2011

As I walked up to the festival and joined the line, I could sense that the next few days were going to be weird. Three days of psychedelic music in a former power plant…how could it not be weird?

The line took too long; nearly an hour later I finally had my press laminate but had missed the first band I wanted to see. Instead, I toured the premises to see what my setting would be like for the weekend. As you walked in, a small market of 4 shops or so were set up selling clothes and pipes. There was a small room that probably fit about 300 people where the second stage existed. The main room was huge, and included a disjointed floorspace due to plywood fences constructed to cover up the gaping holes in the floor that must have once housed….power planty things.A large stage was in the middle of the space, and a bar and rows of tables selling merch lined the back. Outside were five or six local food vendors and the only bathrooms…the oh so loathed outhouses.

I went to the bar and got what turned out to be a gigantic plastic cup of wine for $6. While waiting in line, when the ID checker came through to wristband the drinkers I was astounded by how many under 21s there were around me. I have officially entered concert age purgatory; everyone is either way younger than me or way older.

I went to the second stage and caught part of Zechs Marquise. After going from Viking Metal to Garage Rock this week, this band became my adjustment set as my ears prepared themselves for the reverb they would be hearing. I liked how everyone else in the band seemed to be set up around the drummer, who was at the front of the stage.

Back at the main stage for the rest of the night, I started with Night Beats. The bassist began by saying, “My name is Tarek and my parents don’t understand me!” which I thought was hilarious. He then fell into the crowd within one song. There was a lot of feedback cut with high pitched shrieking over hypnotic drumming. But what I most remember was the dude dressed as a cowboy who played tambourine the whole time…it seemed so random and out of place that I thought someone had put acid in my wine, which was highly likely.

Next up was Atlas Sound. I was now joined by my buddy for the weekend and fellow blogger Sania. I thought the guy setting up on stage looked kinda familiar, so I asked her, “Isn’t that the dude from Deerhunter?” which I only know because they opened for Nine Inch Nails. She didn’t think so, but then it was confirmed when I saw it written on one of his cases. Like Deerhunter, this was just too mellow and spaced out for me, but it was the first of several acts to follow that reminded me just how diverse music under the psychedelic umbrella can be. Since the set was pretty quiet, I could hear interesting sounds emanating from the second stage, but every time I thought about leaving the front I remembered that it was personal policy for me to stay there for A Place to Bury Strangers.

I’ve heard a lot about Crystal Stilts over the years, though I hadn’t listened to them yet because they were just one of those bands I was waiting to see. As I watched the lead singer do this little run in place as he sang, I realized the music was just to happy for what I needed right now. Once again, whatever was going on in the other room kept making its way into my ears, beckoning me to come check it out…but I stayed put. So I looked at the guitarist and thought about how he could play Alex DeLarge in a remake of A Clockwork Orange.

It had only been a little over a month since I saw APTBS a bunch in one week. As the threesome entered the stage, I noticed they had a fourth member with them; a bottle of Jameson. A new crowd rolled up around us, including several girls who had seen the band a lot during SXSW. It had become the official fan section now. Starting with Ego Death, proceeding with 5 new songs, and ending with Ocean; it was the weirdest set I’ve ever seen them do and I’m not just talking about the setlist. There was the instrument abuse: Dion threw down his bass after the first song, and Oliver went through the motions of smashing his guitar at the end of the set (he doesn’t usually take it to the extent he did that night). There was the guest appearance by someone at the end. And then there was the constant swilling of the Jameson bottle, which probably fueled the rest.It probably wasn’t my favorite set of theirs, but because I felt some separation in watching them play this time rather than going into the usual vortex they take me into, it made me anxious for the next album. And right in time for Ocean, some dude’s drugs kicked in and he started slamming into a bunch of us up front. Everyone else just kind of moved away from him, but since I had the pleasure of being right in front of him, by the third time he nearly knocked me down I turned around and half choked half punched him in the neck; either way, it resulted in his skin getting under my fingernails, which really grossed me out. But he did go away. 🙂

New song:

Closing out the main stage was Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group. I’ve only seen The Mars Volta once, at a festival far away, so it was cool to catch those dance moves up close, even if it was from the side stage press pit. This was the one all of the kids were waiting for, which made me happy that some kids still have good taste in music! We started doing some wandering around, checking out a bit of Tobacco on the second stage. It was nearly 2am and things were still in full swing, but I ducked out to get some beauty sleep before Day 2.

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