And we’re off! After some fairly mild traffic, I arrived at 1710 for the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest. This venue sits underneath California Highway 10, and suffice to say, this is not a nice area. A wasteland of machine shops and storage units coated in graffiti, piles of rubbish on every corner, and the wafting scent of human liquid waste. I could practically hear John Carpenter’s ominous theme to Assault On Precinct 13 playing in my head.
If you grew up watching dystopian near-future action movies set in Los Angeles, this hellscape would probably be familiar. But hey, maybe that’s rock ‘n’ roll? Whatever the case, I didn’t want to contract meningitis from walking on the sidewalk, so I headed inside. Luckily, 1710 is a fine establishment, with a spacious stage, two bar areas and an outdoor smoking area.
I joined the assembling crowd to watch the day’s first act, local trio Mountain Tamer. These gents play a somewhat punky-yet-cryptic brand of stoner rock, with heavy use of shrill effects, layered vocals and a lot of reverb. Nothing specifically to write home about, but still energetic and great for setting up the mood.
Next was Spokane, WA group Kadabra, enjoying their first foray in Los Angeles. A young band born from the frustration of the 2020 lockdown, theirs is a very Palm Desert-informed sound. Guitarist/vocalist Garreth Zanol’s guitar did seem to struggle in the bass-heavy mix, but the band’s stage presence was flat-out fun and exciting. The highlight was drummer Chase Howard, whose powerful work behind the kit caught just about everyone else’s attention. I pity that poor snare!
the band’s stage presence was flat-out fun and exciting…
LA veterans -(16)- could not be more different than the two previous acts. No psychedelia here. This is nasty hardcore tinged sludge in the same vein as Buzzoven (though with much less onstage vomiting). They are likely the oldest act on the bill, having been formed in 1992. I’ve enjoyed these guys since hearing 1997’s searing album Blaze Of Incompetence so it was a real treat to catch them. Their no-nonsense and primal grooves translate very well in the live setting. To the casual observer, frontman Bobby Ferry didn’t seem to be in the best of moods. At one point an audience member said something along the lines of ‘I first saw you guys in ‘96!’ to which Ferry impassively replied ‘Yeah, that year sucked’ while adjusting one of his pedals. Perhaps it’s just a very dry type of humor, but nevertheless, he gave a fine performance and even dedicated the fearsome song Asian Heat to two former members of the band in the audience.
No psychedelia here. This is nasty hardcore tinged sludge…
After a toke session outside, I head back in to catch Hippie Death Cult… wow! The Portlanders’ ambitious marriage of occult rock, psych and classic heavy metal was so very well realized. The last time I saw them they had four members but becoming a three-piece hasn’t blunted their impact. Vocalist/bassist Laura Phillips can croon, wail, and unleash banshee screams to haunt your sleep, and drummer Ryan Moore’s large gong-equipped drum set looks right out of a concert from 1978. HDC really give the impression of a very tight and well-rehearsed band, giving numbers like Treehugger and Red Meat Tricks an extra dose of oomph. This was easily one of the best sets of the night.
Next, it was time for the almighty Nebula. I was a bit surprised at first, as frontman Eddie Glass now sports a Brian Eno-ish glam rock look and I didn’t recognize him. But his guitar playing? That I recognized! A runner-up for the most energetic sets of the festival, Glass, bassist Tom Davies, and fiery drummer Michael Amster pulled the audience right off of their feet and into the kaleidoscope-colored wormholes of the galaxy. Glass did have some guitar troubles at first, but this was quickly remedied by a backup Epiphone SG. As both the festival and record label’s name is derived from Nebula’s 2009 Heavy Psych record, I wonder if perhaps they should have been the closers to end the show. In any case, they delivered as they always do. My favorite performance was Man’s Best Friend off of 2019’s aptly named Holy Shit record.
Glass, bassist Tom Davies, and fiery drummer Michael Amster pulled the audience right off of their feet and into the kaleidoscope-colored wormholes of the galaxy…
Looking like nothing less than Monster Magnet’s David Wyndorf cosplaying as Spinal Tap’s Derek Smalls, Danava’s colorful frontman Gregory Meleney and his bandmates treated the audience to their high octane progressive NWOBHM-influenced style of heavy rock. Their intricate guitar theatrics couldn’t be more different from most of the rhythm-based playing of other acts on the bill, it’s as though members of Wishbone Ash ended up partying with Angel Witch and subsequently tried to blend their harmonized lead guitar styles. Meleney is a fiercely entertaining character… but for the life of couldn’t understand 90% of what he was saying during banter in between songs. Most notably, Danava played a passionate cover of a song by Czech progressive band. What was the band? What was the song? I couldn’t tell you. Like I said, Meleney was hard to understand, but a non-Czech speaker attempting to sing Czech lyrics certainly deserves a listen. Hopefully I’ll discover who that artist was in the future.
It’s the end of the night, and we come to Dead Meadow. Originating from the punk scene of my hometown of Washington DC, I’ve always enjoyed the pastoral bluesy psych out sessions of these guys. Perhaps it is best to end on a gentler note after the feral performances of Hippie Death Cult and Danava. They opened with their classic instrumental Greensky Greenlake off of their excellent debut album from 2000 and delivered a typically moody set, cloaked in appropriate green lights. Some rather inebriated and shirtless audience members in the front gave extra praise to Jason Simon’s guitar work. In a day and age where journalists and YouTubers constantly opine whether or not rock is dead, or that the guitar solo is dead, it was quite touching and inspiring to see that people still utter YEAHs and WOOOs in response to a spiraling wawa’d guitar solo. After a shoutout to bassist Steve Kille for his birthday, the band concluded with Sleepy Silver Door.
the atmosphere was festive and joyous, and I simply didn’t see a lackluster performance from any of the acts…
Unsettling location aside, Heavy Psych Sounds delivered exactly what it promised. There were only minor technical issues confronting some of the bands. Other than that, the atmosphere was festive and joyous, and I simply didn’t see a lackluster performance from any of the acts. I’ll be looking forward to covering Day 2 and attending HPS events in the future!
Scribed by: Rob Walsh