It’s a sad day when a music venue goes away, especially one as unique as the Seaholm Power Plant. The former City of Austin plant-turned-event-center recently hosted its final few concerts. One of those was a three-day event known as Psych Fest, which is exactly what it sounds like: a festival dedicated to psychedelic music.
Naturally, the Rodriguez-Lopez family was in attendance. Omar and his little bros have been purveyors of psychedelic fury for a decade now in their respective bands. The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group headlined the first night of the festival, while Zechs Marquise (which features Rod-Lo brothers Marcel, Marfred and Rikardo) was among the early openers.
With one of the earliest spots on the first day, there was a chance of low attendance for Zechs’ set, but it turned out to be a packed room for easily the fieriest set of the night. If you were only a Mars Volta fan, where Marcel sticks to auxiliary percussion and keyboards, you’d never know he’s as intense and skilled a drummer as he is. Zechs Marquise provides that outlet. From funky, nod-your-head hip-hopish beats to rapidfire fills, Marcel left me wondering why he never sat behind the kit during The Mars Volta’s unfortunate game of drummer musical chairs.
The quintet’s set wasn’t without technical difficulties and odd moments. At one point, the power went out (ironic, given the location of this concert) on the sound system mid-song, leaving only the drums audible to the crowd. Wanting to turn lemons into psychedelic lemonade, fans didn’t miss a beat with chants of “Drum solo!” to which Marcel gave a wry smile, a sort of thanks, but not thanks. Earlier, the rhythm section asked for more keys in their monitors, and the sound guy overcompensated. When Rikardo’s keys came in during the next song, Marcel and Marfred shared a laugh and gaping smiles as the keys overpowered the other instruments. The organ sounds were so loud in the monitors that fans upfront could hear them as if they were blaring from the PA.
The more traditional psychedelic rock fans weren’t sure what to make of Zechs, but the band’s updated take on the genre—mixing prog, Latin and hip-hop elements with proven psychedelic formulas—gives this group of El Paso rockers a potent sound that’s fresh and translates extremely well live.
Later that night, fans from diverse backgrounds came together to go fanboy over their man-crush, the inimitable Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Prior to the set, as we stood around waiting, a group of white kids from West Texas and Latino kids from San Antonio struck up conversations. They speculated over whether Volta co-pilot Cedric would be in attendance. And, if so, what would he be wearing. They talked about what a life-changing experience it was the first time they listened to De-Loused in the Comatorium under the influence of, well, a certain magical plant.
These same kids danced awkwardly yet enthusiastically when Omar and company (Cedric included) took the stage. And take it they did. There isn’t a more charismatic frontman in rock music today than Cedric Bixler-Zavala, even in a side-project like this. He just commands your attention. Every movement seems so calculated yet natural. When he’s on stage, he is performing, in the truest sense. He’s a one-man play, and you’re not quite sure what the plot is, but you know it’s an intense one.
The group, rounded out by Juan Alderete, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, Deantoni Parks and Lars Stalfors, played mostly new songs. It’s hard to tell if these were true Omar group songs, or if they are previews of what the next Mars Volta album will sound like. Or, as is sometimes the case, both.
Either way, they kept fans captivated for their hour-plus set and sent hundreds of sweaty fans home happy on the first night of the Psych Fest.
All photos by AJ Miranda.