Written by Alexa Delgado
When you think of Los Angeles, backyard shows and teenage boys with long hair probably aren’t the first things to come to mind. But the area is quickly changing. These days, more teens are joining bands than gangs, and house parties have transformed into house shows. DIY gigs aren’t a new phenomenon in Los Angeles, however. The 1970s gave rise to a prominent punk scene whose “venues” consisted of abandoned houses, dilapidated empty lots and backyards. Unfortunately to some, the punk scene has dwindled in the past few years, allowing other genres of music to come into their own. Most recently, a psychedelic scene has emerged in eastern Los Angeles, specifically in the West Covina/Baldwin Park area. Much like its punk predecessor, this neo-psychedelic scene owes its roots to teenagers making music for other teenagers by whatever means possible.
Perhaps inspired by the popularity and success of recent neo-psychedelic bands such as Tame Impala, Temples, and MGMT, teenagers have begun to form their own 1960s-inspired groups. Moreover, booking agencies such as Psychedelia Entertainment and Freak Style Booking have arisen as a means to promote these young artists. Small DIY venues – The Crystal Gallery, most notably – have also surfaced.
In January, I was able to attend “Dazed and Confused Festival”, a seven hour-long music extravaganza put on by Psychedelia Entertainment. While the festival certainly had a DIY feel – it took place at one of Baldwin Park’s many quinceanera ballrooms, for one – it also had an air of unexpected professionalism. At the door, I was asked to present my state ID in order to obtain a bracelet that indicated whether I was of drinking age or not. Inside, Brooklyn Bazaar-esque vendors lined the sides of the venue. I later learned this was the fourth festival put on by Psychedelia Entertainment, the brainchild of 23-year-old twin brothers Alex and Esteban Gudino.
What struck me most about the bands that played that night were some of the artists’ ages. Gold Vine - a band undoubtedly heavily influenced by neo-psychedelic, So-Cal rockers, The Growlers – couldn’t have possibly been alive to have seen the ‘90s. The lead singer’s voice seemed to be an amalgamation of Brooks Nielsen’s, Jim Morrison’s, and a drunken man’s vocals.
While almost every band that performed could be classified under the psychedelia umbrella, some sounded distinctly neo-psychedelic, employing more of distorted-synth sound as well as incorporating other genres such as surf-rock, while others sounded like they could have actually performed at Woodstock. Shaman Cult undoubtedly fell into the latter category.
The Viceroy, an LA-based ska band, closed off the festival. I found this to be a little strange, but the crowd easily transitioned from head-bobbin’ to the groovy tunes of Shaman Cult to skanking along to The Viceroy.
While psychedelic music certainly isn't the newest form of rock, it clearly isn’t going away any time soon. So, my fellow sixties lovers, rejoice! Maybe this means I’ll finally be able to stop playing the same 13th Floor Elevators song on infinite loop now. Maybe.