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Michigan Psych Night puts the spotlight on psych rock

What is psych rock music? A tribute to the surf rock of the sixties? Or rather, has it become an umbrella term, encompassing everything that might once have been considered garage music? The upcoming Michigan Psych Night may help attendees decide for themselves.

“I really didn’t listen to psych rock until hanging out with (people who play psych rock),” said Matt Finch, a Grand Valley State University student. “What it is for them…the music is about getting raw emotion out. The sounds of electric guitar through distortion, you can’t always hear the words, the rhythms are catchy. It’s more about dancing and feeling and getting lost in the vibe.”

Eastown venue, the House of Pancakes, will host the first-ever Michigan Psych Night on March 1 at 8 p.m. The event is headlined by Bad Indians and Chit Chat, both of Ann Arbor and supported by Grand Rapids-based psych rock bands, Heaters and Haunted Leather. The psychedelic rock showcase will cast even more of a spotlight on a trend that has steadily been gaining traction in Michigan. The event will also donate a portion of the proceeds toward restoring the Division Arts Avenue Collective.

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Courtesy/Nolan Krebs Heaters

Michigan Psych Night is the brainchild of Nolan Krebs, the bassist of Heaters, who wanted to organize a concert to spotlight psych rock bands. Planning has been in the works for about two months.

“I started to become good friends with Haunted Leather… they’ve been around for awhile,” Krebs said. “I talked to them and they were on board right away. I had an idea of what would happen, what bands would play. I took it to Lindsay (Sanderson, concert organizer at the House of Pancakes) and she was into it.”

The House of Pancakes is part of a network of houses in Eastown that have been open to hosting house shows. Lindsay Sanderson, herself a fan of the genre, was quick to agree to play host.

“Just like any trend, it’s really catchy,” Sanderson said. “It’s fun music; the more exposure it gets in the basement scene, the more people will be like, ‘hey, that’s cool’ and listen to it more.”

So what exactly is this psych rock genre that seems to be catching everyone’s eye?

Today’s psych rock display influences from the 1960s, when rock bands such as the Beatles and the Byrds started writing music meant to emulate and enhance the effects of mind-altering drugs. Similar to grunge surfacing in the nineties as a response to the excess of the eighties, today’s psych rock bands reject the production of many popular tunes played on the radio.

“I think there (is) a lot of electronic music (that is) produced and polished in terms of rock,” Krebs said. “I think psych rock is like taking a step backwards. Not in a bad way; it’s peeling back rock to its more raw form…you can see all instruments and tell where sound is coming from. (It’s a) stripped-down, older feel.”

While the trend steadily gained attention for some, others haven’t noticed much of a rise in interest.

“I’m not sure of many bands around right now that I’d consider psych besides Haunted Leather,” said Jules Nehring, vocalist and guitarist for Bad Indians. “It just seems like psych gets thrown around a lot these days. I think people are just looking for a box to throw certain bands in. Since garage has been overused for the last decade, psych is catching on as a label that hardly ever suits the music it describes.”

While what exactly makes rock “psych rock” may be subjective, the bands aim to put on a good show Saturday night regardless of labels.

“GVSU students should make the effort to get downtown and get to shows like this,” Finch said. “These shows are being put on by our age group. This is our generation and what we are doing in the city. If you want to be part of our generation, it’s happening 30 minutes away…The community is huge, it’s exclusive, we want everyone a part of it and to share what everyone has with each other.”



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