Carson Creek Ranch. Located 10 minutes from East Austin, TX, back a dusty rural road and close enough to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport that details can be clearly seen and nearly touched on the many overpassing planes. It’s early May so still cold and damp at home for those of us with Northeastern blood, but the temperature here has already pressed into the mid-90s and it is as dry as tinder.
The ranch itself is comprised of more than 40 acres but Austin Psych Fest is held on one 20-acre tract that is snuggled up against the lazy banks of the Colorado River.
There are three stages: a main stage facing the river but at a distance, a pavilion stage near the main stage that is under a large tent, and an amphitheater stage set right along the Colorado River. The slowly moving green water is thick with rebellious clusters of algae that have broken free from the masses along the bank and float merrily along. It appears inviting for a swim but there are signs advising against it because of poisonous snakes and probably liability.
Large trees interrupt dusty land that is dotted with stubborn tufts of scrubby grass that refuse to succumb entirely to brown death. On the first day I noticed many people wearing bandanas around their nose and mouth and it didn’t take long to understand why. Whenever the wind picked up, clouds of dust rose into the air, stinging my eyes, invading my nose, and settling like a powdery sludge in my lungs.
I was happy to be wearing my boots and wide-brimmed hat to help protect my skin from the elements. On day two I began wearing a bandana and it made a noticeable difference in my ability to breathe.
I recently read a link-bait article (you know, “10 reasons why…”) about the types of assholes one meets at music festivals. I’m telling you right now that I did not see any of those article-blasted assholes at Austin Psych Fest and I didn’t see them at Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, in 2011 either. Maybe they’re rampant at bubblegum-pop meathead music festivals like [redacted] but the type of crowd that attends a festival like this is there for one thing: the music.
I saw a woman and her daughter hula hooping. I saw the same man all three days of the festival and he could have just left Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival. There were a lot of mom jean shorts, floppy hats, band t-shirts, fringes, ankle boots, and other distinctly Bohemian styles. I saw a woman wearing a Steve Buscemi shirt which was completely amazing and there was plenty of leather.
One woman was walking around with cut-off jean shorts and nothing but Texas Longhorn-shaped pasties – or stickers – adorning large breasts. Everything is bigger in Texas.
It’s a family-friendly event. There is camping. I saw quite a few young kids running about with their parents or guardians or squirming while having earplugs stuffed into their ears. Other than the pasty-lady, everyone was fully clothed. This is a perfect springtime festival to cut a child’s teeth.
The food and drink.
Beer is expensive at Austin Psych Fest. So is the liquor. Maybe that’s one reason why I didn’t notice any visibly intoxicated individuals at the festival.
The only drunk dude I saw was outside the festival on the way back to HausBar Farm and Guesthouse (ideal lodging for anyone attending this event) when we stopped at a gas station and a black Cherokee pulled up crookedly beside us. He walked right over to our driver’s door with his tight black jeans and tighter grey-striped shirt of The mOObs and asked if we just came from the festival.
“Yeah, you guys have that, uh, have the look,” said a man with long straggly hair who looked like the genetic child of David Lee Roth and Iggy Pop. “Man, I totally wanted to go to see Quilt but I had a friend in need. You know how it is.” After some more conversation that was less intelligible, he walked off to get his late-night gas station goods.
That’s the only intoxicated story I have but it’s a good one.
Tips for attending Austin Psych Fest: take a bandana, tissues for toilet paper, and a water bottle.
Dos Equis sponsored Austin Psych Fest so they were one of the only beers available. I opted for the $6 tallboy lager cans most of the time.
Water was free at the on-ranch filling station, located at a fairly central point of the property. There were food trucks aplenty set up along the perimeter of the open field, featuring a range of foods from vegetarian to pizza to a truck selling food like fried goat brains and rat stew.
More random ranch observations.
There were plenty of lavatories available in the form of porta-johns. Some were specifically designated as female-only but of course it didn’t take long for them to be defiled by the standing urinators at the festival. I never had to wait in line which was nice. There wasn’t any toilet paper by the end of the third festival day, which wasn’t as nice.
Circular mirrors were hanging by string in one of the trees. During the day it reflected the sun and once darkness settled onto the ranch they glittered like twinkling stars. Another tree had several swings attached to solid limbs, a quiet spot to relax and escape the Texas sun. Down the steep hill toward the banks of the river and in full view of the amphitheater stage were hammocks, their occupants gently swaying with eyes closed, arms crossed over their chests, taking in the experience by a sort of musical osmosis.
Speaking of darkness, the golden hour in Texas is incredibly gorgeous.
There was an AT&T charging station with several types of adapters to dock one’s phone. I chatted with a woman who was visiting from France, her first time in the States. She was loving the festival. The chargers worked slowly but a little extra battery is better than nothing and I was thankful for the amenity.
At the beginning of the second day a police officer was spraying down the ground with a hose to help keep the dust under control. That was appreciated.
The Deluxe VIP area didn’t seem to be worth the extra money spent. There were never too long of lines to get alcohol in the general admission area and the viewing area wasn’t a whole lot better in VIP than in general admission either.
Of course the music was amazing. It’s why we went. To see bands like Graveyard, Kadavar, Tinariwen, Earthless, and about a dozen more notables was a dream. To see them perform in a venue like Carson Creek Ranch was Paradise. Everything about the environment all around the ranch made the fuzzy psychedelic jams and grooves slip inside my soul. I can close my eyes and still feel the relaxing vibe I experienced at Austin Psych Fest.
If you enjoy listening to even a handful of the bands in the lineup, make the pilgrimage to this festival. You will not regret it.
Here is a recap video put together by Austin Psych Fest for the 2013 festival.
All photos were taken on my iPhone 5c using the Hipstamatic app.
Please click on any small photograph to see it full-sized. If you have specific questions about Austin Psych Fest that I didn’t cover, leave a comment and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.
It is official! Our lodging has been secured for the 7th annual Austin Psych Fest 2014 in Austin, TX. I can’t wait to share a bunch of photos from the charming place we will be staying. We found it on Airbnb and it is nearly the same price per night as if we were staying in a budget hotel except it’s a full house to ourselves. I prefer unique lodging when we travel, whether it’s a house rental or a hotel offering something special. This is our first time choosing a rental through Airbnb and the site makes it convenient to choose a suitable place, the transaction is secure and easy, and communication with the host(s) is efficient – all done right through their site.
What is Austin Psych Fest?
Well, it is a music festival. This will be the third multi-day festival my husband and I have attended together, the others being Roadburn Fest (Tilburg, Holland) and Maryland Death Fest (Baltimore, MD). We travel for beer and we travel for music. Austin is a city that offers some of the best of both those worlds and we are stoked to gather with other musically like-minded individuals to listen to, view, and experience this psychedelic festival.
Where is it located?
Austin Psych Fest will be held at Carson Creek Ranch again this year. It’s an outdoor venue featuring beautiful natural elements like meadows, pastures, and it’s right on the Colorado River. There are camping areas right on the Ranch (we aren’t camping), three stages with light shows
… light shows! …
and the expected array of band merch, local food, handcrafted clothing and goodies, and art exhibits.
Why am I looking forward to attending Austin Psych Fest?
For starters, like I mentioned above, I love traveling, especially for music and craft beer. Food is high on that list, too, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some of what Austin has to offer. I’m obviously too young to have had a chance to attend one of the most famous music festivals, Woodstock, but I can’t help but feel that Austin Psych Fest embodies much of the liberated, free, acid-tinged, groovy experience that Woodstock must have been.
I’ll be covering the event for a digital magazine through mobile photography, so I’m thrilled to be doing that to share with everyone who views that publication. I hope to be writing about the event, too – a recap of this year’s festival and tips on how to plan your own trip next year.
Because that’s one reason why I enjoy writing, to share ideas on how to best experience a new place or event.
What bands will I be hearing at Austin Psych Fest 2014?
Okay, you guys. This is where I start getting tingly with excitement. Some of my favorite bands will be performing at this year’s event and I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to see so many of them in the same place. Here are just a few, with sound clips for you to have yourself a little listen.
The Black Angels – I’ve seen them a few times before. Excellent every time, everywhere.
The Black Lips – You may recognize this particular song from a T-Mobile commercial that’s currently airing.
Graveyard - I love Swedish rock. Enough said. I’ve been following these guys for years and they continue putting out gold.
Dead Meadow – I’ve seen them several times and they are always on my frequent listening rotation.
Terakaft – Tuareg guitarists. Amazing stuff.
These are only a very small sampling of the incredible artists that will be bringing their psychedelic magic to Austin Psych Fest 2014. The current full line-up can be viewed here.
So when is Austin Psych Fest?
May 2-4, 2014.
Are tickets still available?
Yes! Who knows how long they’ll last, though. Regular admission for the entire festival is right around $157.59 and a deluxe pass is $260.59.
Weekend camp passes cost around $80 and do not get you into the festival. Likewise, if you want to camp, you’ll need to pay the additional cost for a spot.
Is Austin Psych Fest on social media?
What should we check out in Austin while we’re in town? We’ll have a few extra days to explore!