Denver Psych Fest Proved the Diversity of Denver's Modern Psychedelic Music Scene
Spread across two venues two blocks apart, four stages between them, Denver Psych Fest, in its second year, proved a memorable experience. The walk between the Larimer Lounge and the Savoy Events Center -- as well as the Big Wonderful Sustainability Park between them -- was easy to navigate, and the soothing sounds of Rum Tum sure proved a fitting end to the outdoor stage as the sun went from dusk to dark.
Tom Murphy Tjutjuna at Denver Psych Fest 2014 Tom Murphy Pale Sun at Denver Psych Fest 2014
As with the well-known Austin Psych Fest, the term "psych" wasn't limited to overtly psychedelic rock bands. Instead, the lineup was a fairly eclectic line-up of a broad range of what might constitute "psychedelic music." If there were clear disciples of Roky Erickson, Pink Floyd or Red Krayola, it was hard to tell.
Tom Murphy Ancient Elk at Denver Psych Fest 2014
Instead we got the folk and jazz-inflected otherworldliness of Ancient Elk and its weaving together of melody and atmosphere in a way that transports and grounds at the same time.
Pale Sun played a darker, more brooding set in a similar spirit. The subtle details within each moment of music took you out of your usual mode and instilled a vibrant emotional experience. Pale Sun's set was greatly enhanced by the visuals projected by Mario Zoots on the back wall, with angles and rendered into circles pulsing with shifting hues.
Pale Sun performed in the smaller room on the ground floor of the Savoy, and in the large ballroom on the second floor, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake exorcised some demons as Jeromie Dorrance worked his own visual wizardry over the band and against the wall. It looked like Hailey Helmericks was conducting some kind of ceremony, with the stage draped in broadly swirling iridescence. The band's sound now is a dark, moody post-punk with an energetic drive running through.
Tom Murphy Snake Rattle Rattle Snake at Denver Psych Fest 2014
Downstairs the more rock and roll side of psychedelia was represented in the garage rock sense with a blistering performance from Colfax Speed Queen. Ostensibly, virtually a punk band, but the guitars meshed with disorienting wails when not riding the irresistible rhythms created between the bass and drums. A bit like Ex-Cult in transcending just punk and psych garage and delivering a supremely visceral show, Colfax Speed Queen had one of the standout performances of the festival and definitely rattled off the dust of mundane life.