Psychedelic music first gained prominence in the late 1960’s when bands such as The Beatles, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, and The Doors decided to experiment with the boundaries of rock music. Instead of sticking to the regular rock formula, these groups concentrated on exploring new sounds, longer and more diverse song structures, and the fluidity of the music. It was nothing short of a revolution in the ways that music could be made, and it also had a great amount of commercial appeal at the time. Since then, many bands have used psychedelic influences in their music, and the genre’s impact is still felt by listeners old and new.

The third annual Austin Psych Fest, which will take place at The Mohawk April 23-25, will feature many bands that continue the tradition of psychedelic music. A part of the festival’s mission statement is to “create fertile ground for artistic expression through music and visual art,” and judging by the selection of bands, it looks as though the festival organizers intend to make good on their promise. 3-Day passes are only $40. Here are five of the groups performing across the three days that are worth checking out.

The Raveonettes (Friday): Arguably the most popular group on the bill at Psych Fest, Denmark’s The Raveonettes have built a reputation on writing noise heavy pop songs. They level in distortion and electronics into their sound in much the same vein as bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain did. Their latest release, last year’s “”In and Out of Control,” could have easily been a proverbial downer, as the band took on several serious subjects such as drug addiction, rape, and suicide. However, the songs never wallow in their loathing, and the they are structured well enough to make the message effective. Their Psych fest performance will be one that is not to be missed.

Warpaint (Friday): Although they only have an EP to their name, LA’s Warpaint have gained a considerable amount of buzz in the music press, and for good reason. The all-female band combines dense guitar work, layered vocal harmonies that have drawn comparisons to Cat Power, and a tight rhythm section to form songs that sound like lush dream spaces. None of the songs on their “Exquisite Corpse” EP are shorter than four minutes, demonstrating that the band is not content with trying to fit all their ideas into the tradition three minute pop song structure. Regardless, they are a young band that has enormous potential and some very strong songs to boot, and one who will undoubtedly impress fans both old and new.

The Black Angels (Saturday): The Black Angels seem an almost perfect choice to be Saturday’s headliner. The Austin band has gained a reputation for their solid live shows and their throwback sound. Stylistically, they have been compared to everyone from Austin psych pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators to the Brian Jonestown Massacre. When I caught the band at SXSW this year, I was thoroughly impressed with the guitar work of Christian Bland and the thundering drumming of Stephanie Bailey. Lead vocalist Alex Maas sings in a rahter nasaly voice, but it is somehow the perfect compliment to the music. Of course, the instrumentation is the primary focus with the Black Angels, and on that they do not disappoint.

Pink Mountaintops (Saturday): Pink Mountaintops is one of several side projects of Vancouver singer-songwriter Stephen McBean, who is most well known for his main band, Black Mountain. However, Pink Mountaintops stand well on their own. One of the most impressive things about the group’s third album, 2009’s “Outside Love” was how musically diverse it was. Whether it was the stripped down acoustic guitar and 8-track sounding vocals of ” While We Were Dreaming,”  the folk like, sunlit haze of “Holiday,” or the wall of distorted guitars  and pronounced drums of “Execution,” it was proof that this side project was one that should be taken seriously.

Pure Ecstasy (Sunday): Much like Warpaint, Austin’s Pure Ecstasy have received a lot of hype without an official album under their belts. The trio, which is fronted by singer-songwriter Nate Grace utilizes reverb in the guitar and vocals to create a sound that is at once familiar and refreshing. It is easy for one to get lost in what they are hearing, as the sound is relaxing and reminds one of a lazy day at the beach. If transcendence is one of the most sought after qualities in psychedelic music, then Pure Ecstasy have it down quite handily. They are a band that makes quality, feel-good music, and is another Austin band that has the potential to make it big given the right opportunity.


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