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Sounds of Psychedelphia, Part Three: The torchbearers of today

Ill Fated Natives
Ill Fated Natives | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

Sounds of Psychedelphia is a three-part series exploring the history of psychedelic rock in Philadelphia. this month, we begin by studying the scene’s origins in the late 60s and early 70s.

At the dawn of the new millennium, the post-grunge alt-rock hype had died down, making room for guitar-oriented bands to stretch beyond conventions that had grown stale by the later part of the 90s. This, along with the emergence of mp3s and file-sharing technology, drastically changed the landscape of rock and the music industry in general.

In Philadelphia, an intriguing brew of cross-pollinating musical styles and DIY ethos began to bubble up as underground bands were able to use the internet to engage their audiences. While many of the “Psychedelphia”-era bands of the 90s like Photon Band, Asteroid #4 and Bardo Pond carried on into the 2000s as integral parts of the Philly scene, a new, younger crop of acts began to make noise as well. Much like their forebears of the 60s and the 90s, many of Philadelphia’s millennial bands retained the melodic, guitar-pop influences of the U.K. (The Beatles, Kinks etc.), fusing those sweet sensibilities with a decidedly heavier, muscular sound. Continue reading →

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Sounds of Psychedelphia, Part Two: The revival of the 90s

Lilys | photo via Bandsintown

Sounds of Psychedelphia is a three-part series exploring the history of psychedelic rock in Philadelphia. this month, we begin by studying the scene’s origins in the late 60s and early 70s.

As the 60s psych rock revolution faded in the U.S. and England, giving way to the complex, technically dense sounds of progressive rock and the spectacular grandiosity of glam rock, the barrier of entry for rock and roll was at an all-time high.

By the late 70s, punk had come in like a tidal wave, sweeping the table clean and emboldening a new generation of musicians to pick up instruments and play, regardless of experience or technical proficiency. Punk had leveled the playing field, birthing a vibrant DIY (Do It Yourself) culture that thrived in basements, practice spaces and squat houses around the world. The artistic freedom that punk opened up led many bands of the post-punk generation to begin to experiment with new and old sounds. While some post-punks took the music into previously uncharted waters, cross-pollinating punk aesthetics with dance beats, free-jazz, noise and icily dramatic electronica, many musicians began to look back to the psychedelic sounds of the 60s for inspiration.

Following this trend, bands in cities hit hard by punk — San Francisco, Chicago and most notably Los Angeles’ notorious “Paisley Underground” scene — began to experiment with garage rock and acid-fried neo-psychedelia. The city of Philadelphia was no different, seeing a number of its artists by the 1990s begin to explore the psychedelic sounds of the past with an eye toward the future. Continue reading →

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Sounds of Psychedelphia, Part One: The spark of the 60s and 70s

The Nazz, photographed for the cover of their 1968 single “Open My Eyes”

Sounds of Psychedelphia is a three-part series exploring the history of psychedelic rock in Philadelphia. this month, we begin by studying the scene’s origins in the late 60s and early 70s.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychedelic rock explosion of the late ’60 was not confined to the major west coast cities San Francisco and Los Angeles. Virtually no American city went untouched by the musical and social revolution that blossomed out of California. During this time, a number of rich and diverse psychedelic rock scenes cropped up in cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit — and in even smaller markets such as Orlando and Seattle. The teenaged garage bands of the early to mid 60s were growing up, some were going off to college, many were experimenting with new drugs and new sounds.

Fast forward to 1972, Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman collaborated with Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye to create Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968. The first compilation of its kind, Nuggets paved the way for an entire subculture of dedicated music fans, would-be scholars and rare record collectors who would spend the next four decades uncovering countless relics of the psychedelic era from cities throughout the country and around the world. It is through the work of these collectors and archivists that we have come to a clear understanding that the psychedelic rock explosion not only impacted the U.S. but was a truly global cultural explosion scenes popping up in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia, each taking their cue from the bands in the states.

Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia’s psychedelic rock scene was particularly strong during this time. With a long history as an established music industry town, and a healthy amount of local bands as well as venues that paired local artists with touring national acts of the time, Philadelphia’s scene flourished. In the decades following the 1960s, the psychedelic aesthetic has survived on in rock’s lexicon. In many ways, the spirit of the musical experiments of the 60s continues today and the city still hosts a diverse cadre of bands playing sounds that influenced by the 60s psych rock explosion. In this series we will focus on on three periods in which Philadelphia’s psych-rock scene was particularly strong: The initial 60s spark, the “Psychedelphia” scene of 1990s and rounding it out by taking a look at how the city’s scene has developed from the 2000s until today. Continue reading →