Final Thoughts on Austin Psych Fest 2014

Photo courtesy Paola Guzman Ramirez
Psych Fest comes to a close.

Austin Psych Fest is an experience that's hard to take measure of. I camped there for three days and saw well over a dozen acts. In other words, I ate and breathed this festival for 72 consecutive hours. I came back to my tent each night with a sweat-drenched notebook, most of the words muddled and bled-out like watercolors. A stack of crumpled sheets with helplessly vivid notes like "the lights swirled pink, like cotton candy pinwheels," scratched across them lay in heaps, pushed to the corners of my cot. APF is a sensual blast that's all but impossible to unwind -- knots within knots of irrevocably jumbled sensory information.

Fittingly, APF emulates the very psychedelic experience the music it offers hopes to enhance, or duplicate. Within the course of each day you have experiential plateaus and then, inevitably, a freefall mental/physical crash. Mornings begin with that sweet-and-sour smell of marijuana; nights end with a half-remembered collapse into the tent, coupled with the rumble of herded patrons exiting APF's Carson Creek Ranch.

The organizers do an excellent, and at times eerie, job of selling an experience. Trees are lit narcotic colors at night, hammocks hang from limbs, blissed-out concertgoers sway from swings fitted to branches. The audience, in their carefree decadence, does their part as well. Each patron is more eager than the last to jump headfirst into the dreamy, peaceable environment APF perpetuates. The crowd is a maze of record shop geeks in band T-shirts and women dressed ornately.

For days two and three, there were simply too many highlights to recount in full. Acid Mothers Temple roared through a sci-fi-goes-metal set of spacey knob-twiddling and mad-scientist guitar play. Of Montreal, one of the most consistently pleasing live acts on the planet, beamed with all the glam-pop theatrics they've become famous for. Loop delivered on the impossible promise of hype that's followed them since they announced their reunion. And Panda Bear, whose stage productions created the illusion that he performed in actual, licking fire, put together a collection of languid, slow-burners that seemed to stretch out into forever.

Photo courtesy Paola Guzman Ramirez

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