Beginning Thursday, April 24, Bay View’s venerable Cactus Club will play host 20 bands from Milwaukee, the United States, and beyond that fall somewhere in the hazy “psych” genre. Effects-laden guitars, whirling walls of noise, and drugged-out vibes are just a few things awaiting attendees of Milwaukee Psych Fest 2014, which features five shows spread out over four days. Organized by Moss Folk’s Andrew Shelp, the second annual fest promises a lineup of local luminaries (Space Raft, Moon Curse) and seminal, long-defunct international acts (Loop).
“I definitely believe that Milwaukee Psych Fest holds up against most other independent music festivals around the world, let alone the country,” Shelp says. “My focus has been on creating a more diverse lineup, and I believe that this year’s festival is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Before things get underway, Milwaukee Record digs deep into the four-day lineup to find the highlights among the highlights, as well as a way to somehow write a Psych Fest preview that doesn’t include the terms “space-rock” or “dreamy.” (Ticket information, including a $45 four-day pass, can be found here.)
Day 1 (Thursday, April 24) (9 p.m., $15)
If you missed pioneering U.K. shoegazer group Loop the first time around, chances are you were either immersed in the U.S. alt explosion of the late ’80s/early ’90s, or not yet born. The band formed in 1986 and disbanded five years later, having released just three albums. But those albums—especially 1987’s Heaven’s End and 1990’s A Gilded Eternity—still resonate today, especially in the tide of the current psych revival. Singer-guitarist Robert Hampson reformed the Gilded Eternity-era lineup late last year, and has since been playing a handful of reunion show at big festivals (All Tomorrow’s Parties) and small club (Cactus Club). Expect washes of feedback and plenty of drone, My Bloody Valentine-style.
Also playing: Moss Folk, Dead Gurus.
Day 2 (Friday, April 25) (9 p.m., $10)
While just as varied as any musical genre, psych tends to lean toward noisy-but-pretty, favoring ethereal vocals layered on top of a shit-ton of reverb-drenched guitars. Detroit’s Sisters Of Your Sunshine Vapor inject some sepia-toned moodiness into the proceedings, making for psych music that would sooner crawl under your skin that lull you into sonic bliss. 2011’s excellent Spectra Spirit channels the sinister strut of The Doors one minute (“Black Mind”), and the gothic creepiness of The Handsome Family the next (“Howlers On The Roam”).
Also playing: Beast In The Field, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate, Tapebenders.
Day 3 (Saturday, April 26) (4 p.m., $7)
One of the dangers of rounding up the best local records of a still-young decade is that there are bound to be albums released soon after that would have easily made the list. (Another danger: Kicking yourself square in the ass after forgetting The Goodnight Loving Supper Club.) Space Raft’s upcoming debut is just such a record, a ridiculously hook-laden collection of hard-luck garage-rock that has more in common with the British Invasion than any current trends. Plus, there’s a vague sci-fi theme running through the whole thing. If you want to get a jump on what will surely be one of the best Milwaukee albums of 2014 (it sees its official release May 10), teleport yourself to this show.
Also playing: Brujas Del Sol, Golden Donna, Dirty Dancing.
Day 3 (Saturday, April 26) (9 p.m., $10)
In the grand tradition of bands that play things loud, heavy, and over-the-top comes Milwaukee’s Moon Curse. Looking for riffs? Moon Curse has ’em. Vocals that seem to be shouted from a mountaintop soaked in dragons’ blood? Look no further. The group’s 2012 self-titled EP is Sabbath-esque stoner-rock of the highest order, all highlighted by the loincloth-clad vocals of Matt Leece. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but there doesn’t need to be; one listen to songs like “Black Elk” or “Seminary Woods” and your appetite for ’70s metal will instantly be satiated.
Also playing: Verma, Killer Moon, Heaven’s Gateway Drugs.
Day 4 (Sunday, April 27) (5 p.m., $10)
If there’s a better band to close out a four-day psych fest on a high note than The Blind Shake, we’d love to know about it. Fronted by brothers Mike and Jim Blaha, the Minneapolis group has been around for nearly a decade, churning out thick-as-shit noise rock on albums like 2011’s “Seriousness” and the new Key To A False Door. But the real “key” to The Blind Shake is its live show: loud, high-energy, and exactingly air-tight. There’s nothing drone-y or drugged-out about the band, but its inclusion in this year’s lineup couldn’t be more welcome.
Also playing: Running, Virginia Trance, Haunted Leather, Vocokesh.