Independent Austin Psych Fest offers psychedelic rock experience

Jourden Sander

Austin Psych Fest, an independent festival devoted to psychedelic rock, will host its sixth annual festival Saturday, encouraging the exploration of life at its fullest. Dan Brinner, member of The Reverberation Appreciation Society, the record label for Austin Psych Fest, said that what separates Austin Psych Fest from other festivals is that it doesn’t showcase popular bands from multiple genres. It is dedicated to psychedelic rock and the subgenres that fall under the psychedelic music umbrella. 

Genres included are garage psych, surf psych, drone psych, blues psych, tribal psych and many others. 

Rob Fitzpatrick, member of The Reverberation Appreciation Society, said these subgenres of psychedelic rock came from many generations of rock. In the 1960s, artists like Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd pioneered the classic psychedelic rock sound and were at the forefront of music creation. 

“They pushed the boundaries of what was possible technically, musically and creatively,” Fitzpatrick said. “That zenith of creativity still stands as the template for psychedelic rock, and so in a sense, some of the new bands creating psychedelic rock are creating music in a tradition that is tied to the style, gear and aesthetic of the 1960s and early 1970s.”

Over time, psychedelic rock has expanded beyond the borders of the United States. Brinner said roughly one-fifth of Austin Psych Fest attendees come from outside the U.S. 

In addition to international psychedelic rock artists such as Os Mutantes from Brazil and Tinariwen from Mali, Texas psychedelic legends like Roky Erickson and The Moving Sidewalks will perform at this year’s festival. 

“Rock ‘n’ roll, almost by definition, is rebellious and revolutionary,” Brinner said. “Historically, rock musicians have encouraged every kind of personal liberation — freedom from inhibitions, from conformity, dogma and political oppression. Psych rock is about liberating the mind and spirit.” 

One way psychedelic rock does this is by presenting its genre with the application of visual art that is infused in the concerts. 

A common element of a psychedelic rock concert is light projection, often termed “liquid light projection,” which is a plate of colored oils in a solution through which an overhead projector shines light, casting an intense visual spectacle onto whatever surface it’s facing. 

Brinner said this complements the music perfectly, providing just the right kind of trippy ambience and artistic feeling that has become a staple of psychedelic rock concerts. 

Fitzpatrick said many modern bands in today’s pop culture create a product first and the art second. Psychedelic rock embraces its history while moving forward and continuing to liberate the mind and the spirit. 

“One definition of psychedelic is ‘soul manifesting’ and that’s a loose enough definition that we can kind of throw whatever we’re into under that tent,” Fitzpatrick said. “The artists on this lineup are not doing this for the money or the fame. This is art first and foremost. These are musicians in the true sense.” 

Alex Maas, of the Black Angels and The Reverberation Appreciation Society, said psychedelic music is all about an unbiased, respectful community of people sharing one interest. 

“I’ve never seen a more caring musical community than the psych rock community and I’ve had the amazing opportunity in touring with The Black Angels to see literally thousands of bands,” Maas said. “These people care about the music and soul sharing and searching. Music is therapy and those who leave Austin Psych Fest will understand that by the end of the festival.”