You knew this thing would eventually outgrow Cactus Club. As sick as music writers have got to be of typing the word ‘psych’, still it persists as a catch-all tag for reverb, drone, and general weirdness in music, and its popularity shows no signs of fading despite the hiatus of Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest, the mother of all psych fests). The plus side of its omnipresence is that a psych festival can encompass virtually all genres nowadays, and this year’s Milwaukee edition boasted by far the most eclectic lineup to date. I caught most of the Friday and Saturday performances, and I wrote little bits about ‘em.
FRIDAY | CACTUS CLUB
Moss Folk: Tonight’s highlight by far. The room was stuffed and grooving to the massive sonic waves. The addition of flute to the band brought to mind the heyday of Lake Trout, which is one of the highest compliments I can think of. The best part of the set had to be when the three Waukesha-looking meatheads muscled their way into the thick of the already-at-capacity throng, dragging their dates behind them. I doubt they were on acid, but clearly psychedelic music is no longer just for freaks and burnouts. I hope they all enjoyed themselves. Anyway, I think I said this last year, too, but: Moss Folk get better every time I see them.
Al Lover: I wasn’t completely taken in by this set, but it was good; unusually thick electronic stuff that never settled on a beat or theme for long. If the goal was to cloud our minds and confuse our ears, mission accomplished.
Mr. Elevator: Killer set of throwback, organ-driven ‘60s-style garage-psych. Not very L.A. at all considering the band members moved a lot and made various facial expressions. Not the most original style, but energetic and tight, particularly in the drumming department. The main riff of their last song was almost a note-for-note ripoff of The Cramps’ “Nest Of The Cuckoo Bird”, but I wasn’t complaining.
L.A. Witch: No discernible change from the band’s 2015 appearance here, except they have a new drummer, Ellie English. She’s got the perfect sense of dynamic for this band, although her occasional lack of rhythmic precision made her finesse seem almost accidental, even though it could've just been that she was reacting to the natural sway of the loping, jangly tunes. If you liked the sweet sounds of classic west-coast psych guitar and bass, you were in the right place.
Holy Wave: Another returning act from 2015, and one I’ve never been able to get into on record or live, and I was very tired, so I skipped ‘em.
Little Havana food truck: The yucca fries. Sweet jeebus.
SATURDAY | COMPANY BREWING
Mark Waldoch: The best set I have seen him play in a long, long time. He is in truly peak voice this spring thus far, and the sunny afternoon outdoor stage suited his bombastic electric attack much better than the confines of Lux during Arte Para Todos a couple weeks ago, I must say. He brought out Ben Hinz of Dwarfcraft Devices, the first of several key special guests of the day, for a noisy, sprawling cover of Low's "Nothing But Heart" to end the set in beastly fashion.
Bill Mackay: The soft-spoken fingerstyle/slide maestro is someone you want to focus intently on as he plays, rather than, say, have herky-jerky projections of colored oil jiggling in the background as an obnoxious distraction. (Yes, I admit, I hate this crap no matter what, but in this instance in particular, it was so inappropriate.) So I did my best to keep my eyes closed. And it was a magnificent set.
All-Seeing Eyes: This set didn’t do much for me.
Foreign Goods: Their soundcheck jam was quite honestly more interesting than what was going on outside. It was a stripped-down set featuring about half the usual lineup, which put keyboardist Quinten Farr on de facto bass duties as well as giving him more of an opportunity to take the lead. Jay Anderson eschewed any psychedelic sax effects, and Kyndal J took a few opportunities to showcase her ever-improving scatting skills. The result was a more strictly jazzy overall set than a typical Foreign Goods show, all business, but if you didn’t know what was missing, you didn’t suspect anything was.