Trippin’ Out in TX: A journey through Texas’ psychedelic music scene
Published: April 30, 2014
With its ever-expanding music infrastructure and a deep bench of bands, it’s hard to imagine a Texas where Austin isn’t the focal point of Lone Star music. East 6th, Austin City Limits, Rainey Street, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Red River, Psych Fest, SXSW—there’s a reason why Austin claims to be the live music capital of the world. But if you look back to the 1960s, in one of the most fruitful periods in American pop, a different vision emerges; one where San Antonio and Austin share equal billing as the region’s hotspot for rock ‘n’ roll creativity, working in relative harmony to hook national acts and nurture a local scene in South Central Texas.
At the helm of this SA/ATX creativity was the then-young genre of psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll, merging rock forms with new manipulations in sonic style and chemical balances in the brain. The left-field music of the 13th Floor Elevators and Jimi Hendrix coupled with the newly popular LSD wonder drug were opening porous young minds across the nation, not just along the I-35 corridor.
First synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938, LSD only became popular as a recreational trip in the 1960s, as advocates like Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary championed the stuff as a gateway to untapped consciousness. The word itself comes from psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who combined the Greek words “psyche” (mind) and “delos” (manifesting) to translate the experience into language. And like Osmond’s conversion, psychedelic musicians relayed the acid trip in their music, a synethesiac blend of rock ‘n’ roll and serotonin.
Go Southwest, Young Man
Though San Francisco marked the epicenter of the psychedelic shockwaves that swept the nation, South Texas recorded early and independent tremors, churning out a distinctly Texan flavor of psych—cactus kids dancing with California’s flower children.
A poster from the era, tacked to the bathroom wall of the South Texas Popular Culture Center (1017 E Mulberry, “Tex Pop” for short), reps a slightly doofy San Anto and a slightly hipper, mustached Austin basking in the lysergic embrace of Mother Texas. Proud of her fraternal cities, she sighs, “My children of tomorrow are becoming heavy!” Produced by SA poster artist Dan “Boogie” Wynans, the bill promotes an evening at the Sunken Gardens in 1969 featuring bands from both sides of the psychedelic I-35 nexus.
Margaret Moser, SA native, proprietor of Tex Pop and co-founder of the Austin Chronicle, points to surf rock as the instigator of SA psych. Like an older sibling turning the Alamo City on to the good stuff, band members from Bubble Puppy and the Laughing Kind came up from the coast in the early ’60s, bringing with them the carefree licks and early effects pedals native to that surf sound. “San Antonio probably had the biggest non-coastal surf scene of any city I ever saw,” says Moser, “certainly in Texas.”
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