If you're heading to Austin this weekend for Levitation -- AKA Austin Psych Fest -- then I imagine you have a pretty good idea of what psychedelic music is. But if you're looking to tag along with the festivities or simply want to dip your toes into the psychedelia pool, here's a little music history 101 to whet your palette.
While psychedelic music covers a wide range of genres and styles, its basis is influenced by the 1960s drug culture popularized by Beat generation icons. Manifesting in the mid-sixties among folk and blues rock bands dotting the US and UK, psychedelic music really took off thanks to the Beatles making the characteristically trippy sounds mainstream.
If you've ever listened to the Beatles -- let me rephrase, if you're a human over the age of 10 -- then you likely picked up on the plethora of drug references sprinkled throughout their songs. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is an ode to LSD. "Got To Get You Into My Life" is about sweet, sweet Mary Jane. And "Day Tripper" is about, well, tripping.
"Eight Miles High" signaled the Byrds' transition from folk music to straight psychedelic, while psychedelic rock is mainly attributed to the Austin band, The 13th Floor Elevators. Austin Psych Fest actually changed their name to Levitation in 2015 in honor of The 13th Floor Elevators.
I should also note that their lead guitarist and vocalist, Roky Erikson, spent a few years in a Texas mental hospital after being arrested for carrying a single joint. Several electro shock therapy treatments later, he came up with some of the most interesting vocal melodies of all time. One of my favorites has got to be "Cold Night For Alligators," which is about exactly what the title suggests.
Listen to the song below to give yourself a taste of psychedelia. And if you're going to Austin this weekend, be sure to turn on, tune in and drop out.
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