Psycho De Mayo
Downtown Santa Ana
May 5, 2013
What do you get when you combine over 40 psychedelic bands from around the world, a massive sound system, three surrounding stages, a packed street fair and enough reverb to rattle your brain right out of your skull? Around here, we call it Psycho De Mayo. As you may have read last week, OC's first annual psychedelic rock fest converged on Downtown Santa Ana yesterday just in time to collide with one of city's busiest days of the year. How did it go? Here are some of the highlights.
PHOTOS: Psycho De Mayo Shots From the Main Stage
Best Quote: Stephen McBean, Black Mountain
We all expect bands at psychedelic rock shows to be, uh, a little out of it…for the sake of the music of course. Doling out caterwauls of mind-expanding distortion is an exercise that should be supplemented with at least few hits of Afghan Kush. We'd actually love to get a hit of whatever Black Mountain guitarist Stephen McBean was smoking when he asked the crowd "How's your Friday night going, Santa Ana?" Um, pretty swell two nights ago, I guess. Capping off the festival with a bubbling cauldron of bewitched drone pop, the stoic headlining act pulled off a stunning sonic performance, although visually, it wasn't the most entertaining set we've ever witnessed. They pretty much just stood there. So even though McBean didn't seem to know what day it was, the attempt at crowd banter was nonetheless appreciated.
Best Breakthrough Moment: Dahga Bloom
The first sign that this psych fest was heating up didn't come until Dahga Bloom's bass-heavy set. Standing a few rows back from the front of the main stage at the Yost Theater, it appeared that the band's rumbling, hypnotic sound drowned in delay effects was the potent prescription that the crowd in the front row was looking for. As cups of beer sloshed around and violent head banging commenced, it was evident that blatant disregard for our eardrums was the biggest turn on for fans at Psycho De Mayo. Stumbling around the stage, recently-crowned front man Lucas Drake (we're normally used to seeing him crouched over a keyboard in the band) barked and howled into the mic as the band–a trio of bassists and a drummer–reminded us that even though it wasn't the drop of a dub step track that you might normally hear at this Santa Ana club, a little extra low end in the speakers always goes over well at any party.
Best Time Getting From the Yost to the other Stages: About 12 minutes.
Yeah, the walk through the clogged fair streets was mad hectic. Mind you, the walk was not even a full block from the Yost to corner next to Proof Bar and the Copper Door.Yet the clog of people, carnival rides and strollers added about 10 minutes to the commute.
Best Frontman: Bret Constantino of Sleepy Sun
While plenty of acts on stage were apt to letting their music transport you to Shroomland, few musicians on the main stage had what we'd call a magnetizing stage presence. Not the case with Sleepy Sun. Through the intensity of the music ebbed and flowed throughout their 5 p.m. set, bandleader Bret Constantino gave off a seething, soulful vibe that compelled us to strain through all the reverb to hear the lyrics of old standbys like "White Dove" and newer, progressively explosive tracks like "Everywhere Waltz." Attacking each song with ferocity and focus, it showed the crowd that the he could put on a brilliant psychedelic performance and not be stoned. Unless he actually was, in which case he hid it well.
Best Stage Vibes: The Copper Door (Alpha Stage)
If you felt like watching a band get totally doused in rainbow oil projections–the way this kind of music should be seen–then you should've taken your ass over to the Copper Door stage. Showcasing a wide assortment of local(ish) bands from San Diego and LA, The Copper Door's warm, glowing ambiance, coupled with a nice craft IPA, was probably the best place to see a show during Psycho De Mayo. Whether it was the saxophone-wielding prog rock of Psychomagia or Tweakbird's pummeling four-chord blitz, the underground venue was definitely our favorite place to hang.
Best Food: Spicy Corn on the Cobb
Because unlike most people who went to this fest, we actually bought something at the street fair going on outside!
Best Display of Guitar Chucking: Oliver Ackermann of A Place to Bury Strangers
Though they spent most of their set shrouded in darkness, New York's A Place to Bury Strangers had one major highlight at the end of their set, thanks to their blond haired bandleader. By the end of the band's set, all sense of sonic etiquette went flying out the window. Deafening white noise, maniacal flurries of knob-twiddling fuckery filled the Yost with discord. The apex came when Oliver Ackerman threw his white six string up in the air and proceeded to slam it repeatedly on stage like he'd just caught it cheating with his girlfriend or something. Though he didn't officially break it, the reckless abandon made everyone in the room sit up and take notice before the band said goodnight.
Best Use of Organ: Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel
Halfway into their set inside Proof Bar (aka the Omega Stage), it was apparent that Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel had gained a considerable amount of new, unsuspecting fans. We're guessing it has something to do with their relentlessly organ-driven Brit Pop sound that has the ability to transform every venue they play into a shagadelic night club in 1960s London. But for whatever the reason, the club's mojo was in full swing as organist Tomas Dolas commanded the crowd with carnival-style keys and fiery-fingered solos that ignited songs like "Right Where You Want to Be" and "Staring at the Sun."
Best Person at This Festival, Period: The raver guy popping and locking during every single band at the Yost.
You might have been showcasing your moves at the wrong festival… but you're still a star to us!