Austin Psych Fest expands for seventh annual festival

David Sackllah

The team behind Austin Psych Fest, an annual music festival that celebrates all forms of psychedelic rock, doesn’t know the meaning of taking things easy. The sixth installment of Austin Psych Fest takes place this weekend. They recently hosted a day long South By Southwest showcase at Hotel Vegas, and, this past month, they opened up a permanent storefront on 2404 E. 7th St. 

The store, called RVRB Records, serves as a home base of operations for Austin Psych Fest and the record label they run, the Reverberation Appreciation Society, a local label that puts out psych rock records from bands in Austin and around the country. The store sells records, Austin Psych Fest-branded clothing, artwork, accessories and musical equipment such as PureSalem guitars. They opened the space in April, and, for Erica Shamaly, director of business development and marketing, it was a great opportunity to finally have an office space rather than work out of her home. 

“We finally have our first home base,” Shamaly said. “It all kind of came together and was perfect timing.” 

The store had its grand opening on Record Store Day, when it featured some live performances from such musicians as Christian Bland of The Black Angels, one of the four founders of Psych Fest. It came at a busy time as well, as Austin Psych Fest will celebrate its second year at Carson Creek Ranch this weekend. 

“The founders knew they wanted to find a spot in Austin that had a beautiful, serene countryside next to a river,” Shamalay said. “They found exactly what they were looking for.” 

The owner of Carson Creek Ranch, Joan Havard, was looking for a way to make the move from a family ranch to a special events space for a couple years when she got in touch with the owners of Psych Fest. Together, they reached an arrangement, and, after moving around from venue to venue for five years, the festival now has a permanent home. 

The first year there went well, as attendance was up on 2012 by over 75 percent, but there were a few issues along the way, including a rainstorm that caused a long delay. They did their best to be prepared and have fixed a few logistical issues along the way for this year’s festival. 

“A happy accident from the storm that none of us realized was that the next day,” Shmalay said. “Because the ground is clay-based, it was dry within two hours unlike a place like Zilker Park.” 

This year’s festival will feature a variety of different bands and genres. The lineup contains psych rock veterans such as Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Dandy Warhols and Loop. There will also be indie rock bands such as Panda Bear, The War On Drugs and Of Montreal. This year, it’s branching out with electronic acts like Oneohtrix Point Never and metal acts such as Kadavar. The festival features international acts and also draws in crowds from around the world, including a large following from France. Psych Fest even started partnering up with other countries to put on mini-festivals, called Levitation events, in countries such as France, Australia and the U.K. 

One setback this year for the festival was the cancelation of Primal Scream, the original headliner. The band canceled their whole U.S. tour, and the festival appearance was the last date they called off.

“We tried to get them to make this their one U.S. date, and they almost did it,” Shamalay said. “It’s a disappointment, but that is such a typical thing that happens in this business.” 

For this year, the organization plans to keep the basic structure of the festival the same as last year’s. Shamalay says that the only things they’re really changing is adding a few more things to do on the festival grounds, such as expanded camping opportunities and a late-night film screening on the campgrounds. The festival shares an experienced stage manager and crew with the team who puts on Fun Fun Fun Fest. 

They’re looking forward to putting on the festival on a larger scale this year. 

“We learned a lot last year and it was very successful in terms of what we wanted to get out of it,” Shamalay said.