Music Festivals

DIY Psychedelic Rock Festival Psych's Peak Comes to Pike National Forest

An altered view from the top of Pike's Peak.
An altered view from the top of Pike's Peak. Wikimedia Commons
Psych’s Peak, an intimate psychedelic rock festival primarily showcasing bands from across the state, will take place on Saturday, July 23, in Pike National Forest near Kenosha Pass. Thankfully, this is no Rainbow Gathering; it’s permitted by the Forest Service, has insurance, and the exact location is only revealed to ticket holders, since festival co-founder David O’Donnell doesn’t want it to “turn into a Woodstock, where people are rolling around in mud and human shit.”

Psych’s Peak was founded by the Denver psych-rock band Ploom, which sees the gathering as a necessity for a music scene that is dominated by touring acts. Ploom drummer Matt McKenzie says, “Basically, no one's gonna put you on from the venues. They might offer you some shows when [bands come through town], but it's up to you to go out and create the scene and find your own fans rather than waiting for some record label that will do your promotion for you. So we want to try to get our music out there and heard by people that might like it.”

Psych’s Peak, originally dubbed Burning Ban, was first conceptualized as a jam among friends out in the woods during the pandemic. “We had just put this EP out, and we wanted to play it for an audience," McKenzie remembers. "And people seemed to really like the outdoor music thing. We're not exactly on the bleeding edge of that concept — but it worked out with a generator and 100-watt amps.”

The success of Burning Ban made Ploom realize that there was potential for a more expansive festival. In 2021, the band expanded the concept into Psych’s Peak. The 2021 festival included performances by Ploom, Los Toms, Honey Blazer, Moonlight Bloom, the Crooked Rugs and King Crawdad. Because it was an unpermitted event, the group wasn't able to charge admission and it was pretty bare-bones, with only one stage. But even though it was just a word-of-mouth day festival, 250 people showed up. And even when the music was cut off not too long after the sun went down, people continued to camp out, have some drinks and chill.

This year, the one-day festival will host thirteen bands over two stages, allowing for seamless transitions between sets.

In addition to inviting back all of the bands from last year, Psych’s Peak also added desert-rock aficionados Pink Fuzz, Kansas City retro-pop outfit the Moose, funk-infused psych band Shadow Work, hard rockers Kangaroo Court, smooth groovers Guava Tree, psychedelic surfers the Sickly Hecks, and the dreamy sounds of Sour Magic.

Psych’s Peak is about as DIY as it gets, relying on the community and clever upcycling in order to retrofit its campground in the National Forest. “For the stages, we have the world's lowest budget, so we're building it all. Our bandmate works at an industrial sign company, so we were able to get some materials from there, as well as from the scrapyard," O'Donnell says. "We have two pretty big drum risers, and they're going to have, like, canopies...and we have stage lights. Since the event is mostly during the day, you can't really see lights that well, but at night, when it gets a little bit darker...we're going to have someone doing trippy visuals on a projector, as well as the lights.”

Since the event takes place in a national forest, park rangers require the music to be over at 10 p.m. so the wildlife isn't disturbed. Once that happens, the campsite will be illuminated with psychedelic lights and artwork from local creators. There will also be a thirty-foot, doughnut-shaped tent.

While Colorado has had a psych-rock scene for some time, the members of Ploom believe that it's hitting a precipice. “[The scene is] starting to become one, where all the bands are starting to talk to each other. There's no competitiveness; people are trying to put people on and go to each others' shows, and you see a lot of the same people out at different shows,” says McKenzie. “Obviously it’s not the biggest scene in the country for psych rock...but I feel like we're trying to get something going here that's valuable and people are into.”

Psych’s Peak, Saturday, July 23, in Pike National Forest near Kenosha Pass. The exact location will be revealed to ticket holders. Tickets are $25, and online sales end Friday, July 22.
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