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A CMJ Showcase with a Global Touch at Rough Trade NYC

October 27th, 2014

Austin Psych Fest Presents – Rough Trade NYC – October 25, 2014

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For a showcase evening put on by a psych-rock festival, you might have expected trippy visuals, a slacker vibe and plenty of long guitar jams. As far as the Austin Psych Fest CMJ show at Rough Trade NYC on Saturday night, that’s a check, affirmative and a “hell yeah!” The full marathon showcase stretched from Saturday supper to just about Sunday breakfast, but I can only attest to the three heart-of-the-night sets I caught and assure you there were plenty of all three. Wampire, out of Portland, Ore., didn’t shy away from the night’s extended free-for-all mentality, stretching out things in a sort of psychedelic doo wop while a virtual pot of water boiled on the screen behind them. A guest sax player brought a free-jazz sound that got things even more out there.

Melbourne’s King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard provided the night’s centerpiece. Only at CMJ can you go to a Brooklyn venue to see an Australian band in a show put on by a Texas promoter. The group’s name evokes something Jim Morrison might have ad-libbed in a lysergic-induced rant—or maybe the band that played the raging Butterbeer keggers in the Hogwarts dungeons—and their set didn’t dispel such notions. They opened with a 15-minute blizzard of sound: double drums setting off three overlapping guitars (including a space-out 12-string) and an acid-blues harmonica, everything resting on a Jack Bruce (R.I.P.) bass. Was it one song or several duct taped together? Didn’t matter, because it was a glorious display of body-shaking psych rock that turned the sold-out club on its head. The rest of the set emerged confidently from the crater left by the explosive opener, stoner excursions crossed with a smart prog-rock mentality (a little flute, anyone?) accompanied by jittery Technicolor static on the backdrop. When they announced their last song, the just-getting-going audience learned the downside of CMJ week, the set felt like the trailer of a blockbuster, whetting the appetite for the real thing later on down the road, which most in the room would agree will be here soon.

The upside of CMJ is there is always more. And as the clock ticked toward morning, Moon Duo turned things inward. The trio (!?) began each song, like “Free Action,” and then let the sound become untethered. Long droning guitar jams circled back on themselves while drums and synth did their best to keep things from floating too far away as the display zapped horizontal lines of color back and forth across the screen. For me, it was a perfect ending to the night, for others, it was probably just the beginning. —A. Stein