Psychic TV performed for the first time in 25 years in the city where the North American branch of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth was spawned and centered; this fact made Friday's show at Summit Music Hall historically important. But nothing about the show proper seemed to rest on such laurels.
Some bands with the cachet of Psychic TV might have brought on tour a band that management or a label championed, but which doesn't quite fit with what PTV is about. But that's not what happened: It was all underground bands opening—the kind of underground bands you'd have to be somewhat connected to the local scene to know. Someone, somewhere put some thought into what bands would not be antagonistic to the spirit of PTV: artistic integrity and a community of like-minded people, and a resistance to competition and backbiting that can ruin so much in the music and art worlds and prop up subpar jackanapes.
From Denver the supporting role was filled by experimental industrial band Echo Beds and its colossal percussion, sounding both more refined and confrontationally focused than ever. Acidbat also performed, releasing a stream of Intelligent Dance Music (IDM)/acid house that some artists would drag out ad infinitum. However, Seth Ogden, the becowled figure at the helm of banks of analog and digital synthesis, reined in the sound at precisely the right moments, giving the set its maximum impact.
Lincoln, Nebraska's Plack Blague filled out the slate of openers with a performance that few expected. Somehow blending together Muzlimgauze-esque rhythms outside conventional logic, combined with sissy bounce, harsh noise, industrial disco and leather daddy stripper moves, Plack Blague was musically and visually unforgettable. The set was refreshing and borderline scary, reminiscent of a Big Freedia performance. The band possessed a mystery and unpredictability that leaves an audience somewhat confused—truly the mark of pushing the boundaries.
Psychic TV could easily have drawn from any era of its career. From the beginning, however, the tone was set as the group launched into a rousing and somewhat faithful to the original cover of Harry Nilsson's “Jump Into the Fire” from the 1971 classic album Nilsson Schmilsson. This wasn't an acid house set. Rather it was situated in the more organic, psychedelic-rock end of the band's oeuvre. Not only that, the songs seemed like pop music, even when drawn out into the length of tribal ceremonies, and especially compared to the bands that played earlier in the night. Yet if PTV makes pop music, it is inviting pop that is nonetheless unafraid and unhesitant to get weird and challenging.
Genesis' voice was vital and commanding in a way one is not accustomed to hearing from a 65-year-old. Coupled with her on-stage ease and playfulness, there remained clear chemistry with the band. Overall the band was in high spirits, elevating the mood of a room who seemed to either have missed this sort of artistic spirit or never experienced it firsthand before that night. Even fairly straightforward romantic sentiments, such as on “Papal Breakdance," came off as not hackneyed or superficial but believable and possible. The outpouring of positivity did feel like an attempt to instill the spirit of unity and connection that is still at the heart of PTV's artistic efforts.
1. Jump Into the Fire [Harry Nilsson cover]
2. Just Like Arcadia (Allegory and Self, 1988)
3. Trussed (Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers, 2006)
4. Afte You're Dead, She Said (Snakes, 2014)
5. Burning The Old Home (Snakes, 2014)
6. Greyhounds of the Future (single, 2013)
7. Southern Comfort (Allegory and Self, 1988)
8. Papal Breakdance/Have Mercy (Mr. Alien Brain vs. the Skinwalkers, 2006)
9. Suspicious (Trip Reset, 1996)