Richard Earls headed to Texas for the Austin Psych Fest and sent back some photos. This, the 6th, Austin Psych Festival was held at Carson Creek Ranch, a few minutes’ drive south of downtown Austin. The 2011 festival had been held at the impressive, though probably impractical, venue of the disused Seaholm Power Plant, not far from the Congress Bridge, while last year two venues split the hosting duties. 

The move to an outdoor venue has allowed the festival’s organisers to add a third stage for the 2013 event, and there were also more attending than in previous years, with a peak attendance of about 4000 this year.

The festival is run by the Reverberation Appreciation Society, which also operates a label under the same name. APF, as the name suggests, is devoted to psych rock, though the society manages to pull a huge variety of acts under that banner. The bill for the 2013 festival included both Brain Pulse Music and Clinic – any definition that manages to encompass both of those simultaneously isn’t overly restrictive! This is a good thing, as even people (like me) who are pretty nonplussed by perennial headliners The Black Angels and Rocky Erikson, can find more than enough great things to see in 2013 festival’s 80 acts.

The Carson Creek site encompassed a main stage, a tent off to one side and a stunning amphitheatre stage at the back of the site, on the slope down to the Colorado River. The stage is at the edge of the water with the forest on the far bank providing a backdrop, it is a magnificent sight and was the stage chosen for many of the most interesting bands.

The 2013 festival was, as ever, well run. It attracts a pleasant crowd, and the atmosphere is relaxed. I suspect from looking at the quantity of portaloos at the site that the organisers may have hoped for a larger crowd, but I found 4000 an ideal number, there were enough people to fill each of the stages, but not enough to unsettle me the way crowds at outdoor festivals normally do. (This may also have been due to Austinites’ generally easy going nature, the absence of the messy drinking that features at Irish festivals {yes, I am a roaring hypocrite!} and the fact that the festival is close enough to a large city so camping wasn’t necessary {though is available}).

I really enjoy Austin. I don’t think Austinites appreciate enough the amount of good music they have available to them. The act of picking up the Austin Chronicle when you arrive is always heart-breaking, with bands you love always playing just before you arrived or just after you leave, and while the city’s constantly proclaiming itself “weird” and the “live musical capital of the world” can grow wearying, it hard to argue with the packed gig listings.

For someone, like me for whom the notion of attending SXSW sounds like hell on earth – queuing to queue, overhyped bands, crowds – then APF is an more relaxed more enjoyable experience, with more opportunity to enjoy the city.

Highlights
Kaleidoscope (UK): Peter Daltry comes out of a hibernation from live performance that has lasted since the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, and blows everyone away.
Clinic: They are still around, and yes, they are still great.
Tinariwen: Taureg music from Mali.
Goat: Masked and costumed weirdness from Sweeden.
Silver Apples: Simeon really, really looked to be enjoying himself.

Lowlights
The Moving Sidewalks: Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top back together with his old band. I don’t get it at all. “Let’s do one for Jimmy!” before launching into Foxy Lady. I thought for a minute I was at Farm Aid.
Brain Pulse Music: Put a space age helmet on a girl to capture “bio-electric” output from the brain and make music from it. Too bad she hadn’t a note in her head!

Tickets for the 2014 APF are already on sale. Weekend passes are $120. It will be held at the Carson Creek Ranch site from 2nd to 4th may 2014.

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