Music Festivals

A Guide to Synesthesia 2015: Denver's Premier Psychedelic Showcase

Synesthesia 2015 is upon us. The yearly festival dedicated to psychedelic music in its various manifestations takes place from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. across five venues near 27th and Larimer on Saturday, August 15. The lineup features local and underground national bands of some note, including headliners Moon Duo, the Fresh and Onlys and Holy Wave. Earlybird tickets are sold out, but $25 advance tickets can be purchased here; the ticket prices go to $30 the day of the festival.

A broad spectrum of mind-expanding/altering music is well represented in this year's lineup. Denver's Snake Rattle Rattle Snake is rightfully considered by many to be something of a post-punk band with deeply poetic sensibilities, but at its core the group's music aims to open you up to the dark side of your psyche as an integral component of the catharsis its music provides.

The more garage-rock end of Denver psych is represented by the likes of Colfax Speed Queen, The Blue Rider, Taverns and Dirty Few, and in each case, it isn't the monolithic, rote garage psych that has become entirely too common in the past five years. Emerald Siam waxes into garage territory and will appeal to fans of that sort of music, but the group's songwriting and layered guitar work places its gigantic sound in the realm of more difficult-to-define psychedelic bands like the Black Angels or Crystal Stilts. The same could be said of local acts Wild High, Sunboy, Manzoon and Hair Cult — all bands that sound so different from each other and Emerald Siam but all of which also represent a more raw rock-and-roll aspect of psychedelic rock.

The dream-pop end of the music is represented by the ethereal and hypnotic yet electrifyingly heavy sound of Pale Sun, the ghostly indie pop of Candy Claws, the shimmery and warm effervescence of Oko Tygra, and the spidery and mysterious melodies of Ancient Elk.

On the experimental end of the bill, the bands vary even more, with the ambient sounds of Paw Paw and the avant jazz of Kappa Cell..

So no matter where you find yourself during the festival, there's going to be something worth checking out. Fortunately, organizers scheduled the sets so that none of them completely overlap; that way, an ambitious festival-goer can probably catch a little bit of everything. Find the full schedule and lineup on the Synesthesia website, with the tripped-out visuals that will accompany most of the sets. Prepare to get weird and enjoy some of the more colorful music happening in Denver this weekend.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.