PSYCHED! For Shea, it's "any music that is made using, enjoyed by people using, or made to create the effects you might feel while using drugs."
It pains me to have to ask this, but looking at the insane list of bands at Boston promoter Dan Shea's upcoming four-night "Homegrown" pysch fest at Church, I have no choice: what exactly does "psych music" mean at this point?
"I'm all about loosening up the term," says Shea in his unabashed South Shore tongue as we sit at a table in the tiny park at the intersection of Mass Ave and Main Street in Central Square. "It's going to be pretty hard for the norms to get a grasp on psych and take it. So I guess that's why I hold it close to my breast."
On our table is a flyer one of Shea's friends made for the festival, with about 40 band names wrapping around a wasted Johnny Winters-looking guy with long white hair and a depraved dental situation. Reading down the list, I'm having trouble finding a common thread. There are the boiled-synapse guitar heroes Major Stars, Debo Band's throwback Ethio-pop, and Keith Fullerton Whitman, who plays tables of electronics like mounds of screaming fire ants.
"To me, it's any music that is made using, enjoyed by people using, or made to create the effects you might feel while using drugs," says Shea. "I mean, I don't want a negative connotation, but look at the flyer this guy made. It's got purple mushrooms and marijuana plants on it."
The festival has all the signs of a blissed-out labor-of-love-letter to the psych canon, as well as indications that the bands will run with the concept as far into the wilderness as they can. Up to nine bands are getting shoehorned into each night's schedule, four-day passes are available for a ridiculous $28, and about a dozen different flyers were volunteered by as many artists.
In addition to Boston mainstays like Major Stars, Shea's enlisted New York reverb chamber trolls Blues Control, the electronic accordion rave-ups of Alec K. Redfearn and the Seizures, the orchestrated mayhem of Fat Worm of Error, and Philly native Kurt Vile's Guided by Voices/Joe Meek pop quasars.
Colin Langenus, guitarist from the recently departed USAISAMONSTER power-psych volume-mongers, is heading up a brand new project called the Colin Langenus Orchestra. "I just realized that I need to get my shit together for this because I called it an orchestra without realizing the serious connotations of that word," he says on the phone from his kitchen in Brooklyn. Not to be outweirded by things like the found sounds and folk of Peace, Loving or the electro trance hallucination of Many Mansions, Langenus is bringing an original composition of "minimalist country."
"The Monster was all about walls of amps," he says. "Now I'm into taking public transportation and borrowing small equipment. I'm just trying to make something that sounds good and pleasant for a real long time so people can just sit down and chill."
Only someone with Shea's unique karma could pull together a disjointed lineup like this. In addition to booking gigs at the Milky Way and Church, he's presided over a slew of big music happenings in the past few years. He's ushered in DIY spots all over town (Medford's Behind the Lines gallery, Tufts' Oxfam Café, basement shows in Brighton), helped take over almost every club in the city for a week during the two New England Sticks Together fests in 2005 and 2006, and strung together countless MassArt throw-downs.
Maybe most significantly for history buffs, he's coaxed Bobb Trimble out of the Worcester woodwork. Trimble — who had two albums in super limited release in 1980 and '82 that went on to become collectors' wet dreams in the late '90s (until they were finally reissued by Secretly Canadian a few years ago) — anchors the third night of the festival. Having a guy like Trimble play is a nod to the past as well as to the present-day obsession with this stuff.
"Everything about psych comes from unearthing music," Shea says. "Collectors love this kind of music because it's a style that originally blossomed and had a mainstream period, so there are a million copycat bands and bands that did it better than the originators — Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Hendrix, whoever. And there's stuff that never made it onto CD, so there's so much territory to mine.
"And hey, the good part is you don't have to use drugs," he continues. "You can be horrendously opposed to it, like Frank Zappa. It's about getting outside the box. That's all psych really means to me."
Still, with such an unprecedented range of frequencies under attack this weekend, a bottle of Ibuprofen wouldn't be a bad idea.
HOMEGROWN: A LOOSE PSYCH FESTIVAL | Church, 69 Kilmarnock St, Boston | July 16–July 19 | $10 per night, $28 for four-day pass | full line-up at www.churchofboston.com