As Psych Fest drew to a close, Day 3 packed in the big names, though the better performances came from the lesser-knowns.
Drawing inspiration direct from Ennio Morricone, Federale turned Beauty Ballroom into a red desertscape, stripped straight from a spaghetti western, with a little help from some big friends. The Black Angels’ Alex Maas joined the group for a number, and Spindrift’s Kirpatrick Thomas also stopped by for a new song, “Django.” Aside from their vocal guest spots, Federale tumbled into the legend with haunting high notes and lonesome, piercing whistles (a separate mic laid out just for those magic lips). Creating a full, orchestral sound with only seven members, Federale caught the mystique of the West, transporting us all into the ether, so much so that the bearded man to my right kept shouting, “Yes! Yes!” after every end.
Traveling from Niger, Omara “Bombino” Moctar first took the stage alone, coated in resplendent robes that reflected his heritage, as he played his guitar like a reincarnated Jimi Hendrix, layering notes on top of each other with ease. His bandmates soon joined him onstage, kicking in the fuzz and fury, pulsing fluidly inside the miles of fabric along with their guitars. Between each song, the band took a long and meditative pause, often beaming. “We are very, very happy tonight,” Bombino said, encouraged by the crowd’s response. With songs more complex and worldly than the rest of the weekend, Bombino made a huge impression, fitting into the psychedelic feel while also connecting to that Hendrix-era mastery of yore and the more modern-day struggles Bombino’s overcome.
Thee Oh Sees and Meat Puppets played solid sets, but suffered a bit from their well- established reputations, going through the motions onstage. While names like these probably drew most of us to the fest, once there, the more exciting shows were the ones we wandered into with no expectations, no clue. Not to say that Thee Oh Sees’ high- energy (if not high-antics) set wasn’t exhilarating – clashing tambourines and vocal trade-offs between Dwyer and Dawson, mixed with heavy-handed strumming, kept the room bopping. Later, Meats Puppets tossed off a pitch-perfect performance of their classic hit, “Lake of Fire,” to the screamed pleasure of fans who were probably babes when it was first released. The grunge-dad look of Meat Puppets was a weird combo with the tripped-out projections, and they did seem a bit out of place in the line-up, less weird (and more weary) than the majority of their fest-mates.
Brian Jonestown Massacre closed the night out with more of a whimper than a bang. Mellowed to the max, it was a far different ending to the night than the previous Black Lips’ blood, sweat, and tears. As the band multiplied in greens and blues on the screen behind them, the sound stayed soothing, a welcome laziness for anything but the last set of a monstrous musical weekend.
But by that time, the real show was going on outside, where members of nearly every band that had performed over the past three days were milling about, rubbing elbows with fans, sipping drinks, and smiling. As band members relinquished their instruments to geek out as fans of other bands, Psych Fest really melted the boundaries between onstage, backstage, and out in the crowd. Friendly, approachable, and absolutely amped on and off stage, the bands of Psych Fest made the otherworldly three-day fest a truly mind-blowing experience.