Psychedelic rock is a genre that thrived in the mind-altering 1960s and — although it has survived until today — is often swept off the street by the overpowering mainstream. This is especially true in South Africa, where the music industry has had to fight its way through various historic hurdles. Psych rock is nonetheless a genre that lends itself to a lot of musical skill and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. It is therefore that a group of music enthusiasts have made it their goal to introduce the spirit of mind-expanding rock to the clubs of Cape Town. Psych Night happens every few weeks — the next one being Psych Night: ‘GOLDEN DAWN’ on Saturday, 8 February at The Assembly. This week’s #bottomrightcorner is thus dedicated to the enlightening streams, curls and colours of psychedelic sounds.
 
 
 
The Grateful Dead – ‘Scarlet Begonias’

Image by longshotsblues.files.wordpress.com

Image by longshotsblues.files.wordpress.com

The Woodstock-era rockers’ tour experience must have been as exhilarating as the most insightful peyote trip. Their fans, known as the ‘Deadheads’, followed the band across the country like it was a religious rite granting them entry to heaven — which lead to the forming of a moving touring community. Many of its members were so mesmerized by the transformative quality of the concerts that they made worshipping the Dead their main purpose in life. In order to survive they scraped by through selling tour essential goods to fans, such as veg burritos or drugs. Drummer Mickey Hart described his band fittingly (on so many levels), ‘the Grateful Dead weren’t in the music business, they were in the transportation business’. Here’s 1974’s ‘Scarlet Begonias’, travel safe!
 
 
 
Freedom’s Children – ‘The Homecoming’

Image by www.garagehangover.com

Image by www.garagehangover.com

Formed in 1966 in South Africa, the music of these bold musicians carries an air of old regime despair with it. They fought the fight against censorship causing them to change their band name to ‘Fleadom’s Children’ for their first single because the term ‘Freedom’ was too political for the apartheid state broadcaster. Sick of bans and unfair treatment, they decided to give the shores of so-called ‘free’ countries a shot – hoping to be more successful. In the UK they were however met with further exclusion. Due to sanctions on South African groups by the British Musicians’ Union and a cultural boycott they weren’t able to obtain work permits for a long-enough time. Please give ‘The Homecoming’ of the album Astra by probably-the-most-talented-unsuccessful psychedelic rock band what it deserved!
 
 
 
The Very Wicked – ‘Beat Your Drum’

Image by we-are-awesome.com

Image by we-are-awesome.com

‘Beat your drum, blow your horn and make a beauty of yourself, show them that your proud of it, just please leave me out of it, I don’t wanna know what you do, as long as you keep doing it.’ A beautiful lyrically in-sync ‘leave me the fuck alone?’ Meanness or not, this song’s got the play-over-and-over-I’m-silly-but-this-is-so-good syndrome. Its authors are a supergroup of CT musicians — one of them Andre Leo of The Pretty Blue Guns. The bass-hinted softness in his voice is spine-chilling and rides the multi-layered free-falling sound like an enthusiastic surfer would a wave that never breaks. They’re playing Psych Night: ‘GOLDEN DAWN’ at 0:30 am on Saturday, get in the mood for it with ‘Beat Your Drum’.
 
 
 
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘Swim & Sleep (Like a Shark)’

Image by www.guardian.co.uk

Image by www.guardian.co.uk

Starting off as underground as you can possibly be, the US/New Zealand neo-psych band released their first single ‘Ffunny Ffriends’ on bandcamp without attaching artist credits to the song. Thanks to modern-day virality the track swept through the blogosphere like a slutty feather, which lead to a creative property hunt. It was only then that singer and guitarist Ruban Nielson claimed it as Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s. After growing popularity and increasing acclaim following their self-titled first album they have recently released a second one entitled II. The second track of it, ‘Swim & Sleep (Like a Shark)’ is a soothing low-fi melody that might just earn the trio a modern day (if-impersonal-internet)-Deadhead-equivalent following.
 
 
 
The Wild Eastern Arches – ‘Fever Dream’

Image by we-are-awesome.com

Image by we-are-awesome.com

A one-year-odd old addition to the young CT psych scene made up of five talented musicians with a good taste in music (they list influences such as the Doors, the Black Angels, BRMC, Grateful Dead and the Dead Weather on their FB page). Their sound is as psychedelic as it was in the ’60s: extended melodies morph into a fully developed sound cave and beset your mind to explore every corner of it. They are playing Psych Night: ‘GOLDEN DAWN’ at 11:35 pm on Saturday, until then don’t be afraid to succumb to the waking ‘Fever Dream’.
 
 
 
The Black Angels – ‘Telephone’

Image by oldrockhouse.com

Image by oldrockhouse.com

With songs featured on TV series such as Californication and Fringe, the Austin-originating band — whose name is derived from The Velvet Underground’s ‘Black Angel Death Song’ — may be one of the most well-known acts associated with neo-psychedelia. They have also played a part in forming a modern scene through, for example, presenting the third annual Austin Psych Fest with The Reverberation Appreciation Society, which has developed into an important showcase for psychedelic rock. Here’s something a bit more upbeat, ‘Telephone’ of their third album Phosphene Dream.
 
 
 
Changeling – ‘The Sparrow and The Crow’

Image by 24.media.tumblr.com

Image by 24.media.tumblr.com

This is another group of young CT-psych-rockers who are making the defenders of African soil proud with dark melodies that reminisce of mythical dungeon adventures. Paying its genre justice, the music is full of catharsis and climaxes. Songs alternate between chant-like anticipation vocals and full-blown instrumental action stunts. Here’s ‘The Sparrow and The Crow’. It’s a melancholy funfair, enjoy!
 
 
 
Jefferson Airplane – ‘White Rabbit’

Image by www.jeffersonairplane.com

Image by www.jeffersonairplane.com

This 1967-song is the ultimate queen of all psychedelia. Through referencing Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland it is one of the first to bypass drug-content censors on the radio by making use of double entendre. It has been covered and referenced a gazillion times in popular culture — Dr.Gonzo, for example, wants to hear the climax of it while the tape recorder is in his water-filled bath in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — which means it belongs in this selection. Let it tear your sense of realism apart while you delve into the colourful world of hallucination.

Words: Christine Hogg
Images by longshotsblues.files.wordpress.com, www.garagehangover.com, we-are-awesome.com, www.guardian.co.uk, oldrockhouse.com, 24.media.tumblr.com and www.jeffersonairplane.com.