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Lone Star Psych Fest: A mashup jumble jam

Peter Blackstock
pblackstock@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 4, 2014

Driving from the LBJ Library Lawn out east to Carson Creek Ranch around sunset on Saturday, a thought came to mind: Is there any act, living or dead, that might have been a sensible booking at both the rockin’ country Lone Star Jam and the spacey jamming Austin Psych Fest?

There was a time, of course, when Austin music was largely about the crossing of these cultures. The shorthand summation of the city’s 1970s outlaw-country era was that the rednecks and the hippies found common ground at Armadillo World Headquarters, creating a progressive sound that was neither Nashville nor San Francisco, but something uniquely Austin.

Given that Willie Nelson was at the era’s forefront, he seems the most likely living potential LSJ/APF crossover act. That said, were Doug Sahm still around, he might ultimately have been the most ideal candidate, considering that Sahm spent time in the late-’60s Bay Area scene before returning to Central Texas in the 1970s.

Asking for input from Facebook friends, I got a few other intriguing suggestions: Roky Erickson. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Johnny Winter. Hank Williams III. Commander Cody. This one I kind of liked: “Buddy Holly (assuming he survived and was influenced by the Beach Boys, Beatles, etc.).”

To some degree, the answers further clarified the gap between the two events. Though I think Willie could pull it off – Jack Ingram sang an ode to Willie during his Lone Star Jam set, and it’s hard to imagine the Psych Fest folks turning Nelson down if he offered – in general the camps may be too closed-off to each other’s notions.

That’s probably a greater issue with the Lone Star Jam, ultimately. Its 20-act lineup is fairly homogenous, which in part is a nod to the event’s clear musical focus: If you come to the LBJ Library Lawn this weekend, you pretty much know what you’re gonna get.

Psych Fest’s take is almost the opposite: You might have no idea what you may stumble upon at the three stages strewn across Carson Creek Ranch. Every band seems determined “to out-weird the other bands,” a friend observed Saturday evening.

As such, most of the names above – Erickson, Winter, Cody, even Vaughan – would seem better suited to the Psych Fest aesthetic than to Lone Star Jam’s. (Though it’d be hard to imagine the LSJ turning down Stevie, save for the venue not being large enough). Hank III seems at least a possibility, simply because he has consciously catered to opposite ends of the spectrum in his career. He might still be a bit too far out for the Randy Rogers/Wade Bowen set, though.

To be fair, the limitations likely cut both ways, to some degree. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison could be a Lone Star Jam act – Bruce’s brother Charlie is on today’s bill at the LBJ Library Lawn – and they also have at least some potential appeal to the psych world: The title track of their new album is a cover of a song by Friday Psych Fest headliners the Zombies. But would Psych Fest really book the duo? It seems questionable at best.

Still, one year it’d be fun to see both festivals give it a shot. The camps may have grown further apart since those hallowed Armadillo days, but the thinking here is that plenty of Austin music fans would be open to such a notion. Perhaps that perfect LSJ/APF crossover act is out there somewhere, woodshedding and waiting for an opportunity to rebuild the bridge.

Read more about the Lone Star Jam on the Austin Music Source blog after Sunday’s finale. Catch more about Austin Psych Fest from Andy O’Connor here.