EXPANSION 2018 took place over the span of September 14-15 at Al’s Bar and The Burl & Burl Arcade. From local psych rockers armed with little more than their instruments and a passion for playing live music, to internationally-touring acts with explosive, visual stage shows, the festival’s first year showcased some of the best psychedelic music that has ever stopped in Lexington.
EXPANSION Night Two // The Burl & Burl Arcade
The second night of EXPANSION took place at The Burl & The Burl Arcade, Lexington’s fast-growing music campus located in the Distillery District. The Burl is known for it’s nearly-a-show-every-night-of-the-week booking, laid back, cabin-like aesthetic and the biggest selection of old-school arcade games and pinball machines in town. Both venues were decked out with colorful, fun decorations such as trippy table/bar centerpieces, a 70ft-long rainbow-streamer art installation and dozens of sparkly, “jellyfish” mobiles dangled from the rafters. There was even a psychedelic-themed scavenger hunt that earned a curious attendee a pair of tickets to EXPANSION 2019!
We wanted to highlight bands that are pushing the genre to new heights. Therefore, each band performing on Saturday was chosen not only for their awesome psychedelic rock sound, but also for their visual explosion of a light show.
Opening up The Burl Stage was Lexington’s Sweet Country Meat Boys. Their head-banging, brooding post-rock was taken to another level with the incorporation of projection-mapping visuals by Lexington artist Psensibil.
Paired with the analog liquid light show provided by Silver Cord Cinema that covered the side-stage walls of the venue, the entire inside of The Burl instantly turned into a colorful, bubbling psychedelic canvas and stayed that way for the rest of the evening.
Making their way back to Lexington, but for the first time at The Burl, was Nashville’s Ttotals sang us the blues, playing heavily off their new record Skyview Drive. However wasnt’t your daddy’s, New Orleans blues, no, this was The Outer Blues – a blending of the traditional and experimental, the exploration of the the spaces between notes that you may not have noticed at first. I really took notice of the drummer never sitting throughout the performance, his energy brought to life the tribal, beat-heavy sound from the new record.
Ttotals set was heightened by the ultra-vivid visuals by Silver Cord Cinema, who created analog liquid light shows throughout the night at both venues.
Manning 5 projectors at once – 2 overhead projectors and 3 Optikinetics projectors, duo Trent and Abby Houhgton mixed oils and paints by hand, pairing their goopy creations with lights and effects to create swirling, bubbling, visuals that bounced around the room. The team also heads up Nashville Psych Alliance, a champion of all that is weird and psychedelic in the Music City.
Turning to The Burl Arcade, tucked between the X-MEN 4-player arcade cabinet and a wall of old, static-y projection TVs filled with attendees playing Guitar Hero and Mario Kart 64, WHAMMMOTH made his live debut. WHAMMMOTH is the experimental/dj project of Clay Gibson. Landing somewhere between DARKSIDE x Tobacco x a sample-heavy dj set, WHAMMMOTH incorporated everything to video game bleep bloops to warped Carl Sagan quotes, all while finding a head-bopping, bouncy beat.
The set was complimented with Jeoffrey Teague (Guitarist, Blind Corn Liquor Pickers) getting a little less bluegrassy and a lot more rythem & blues, displaying his masterful guitar work and making that thing SING. Psensibil, who once again turned on a dime to run all-original visuals for another performer (that’s 3 sets in 2 nights, if you’re keeping track!), provided the visual, glitchy journey from the distance of the skeeball station.
Blissed-out Memphis psych rockers Spaceface headlined The Burl Stage. Frontman Jake Ingalls, who moonlights as the guitarist for psych rock royalty, The Flaming Lips, even took a few pages out of the Lips book of tricks to hype up the crowd. From confetti cannons to walls of audio-reactive LED light strips, Spaceface turned The Burl into a rainbow explosion of sun-drenched psych rock bliss.
A highlight of the evening came when the band broke out a rainbow parachute (you know, the one’s you played with in P.E. class in elementary school), instructing the crowd to (safely) run, skip, twirl or simply dance under the chute. It was at this moment I felt an overwhelming, positive, but more of all, FUN vibration throughout the festival.
From the local rockers who came out for SCMB, to the fans of the more experimental acts, and even a dancing banana passing out campaign flyers (you saw that right?!), everyone threw their inhibitions to the wind and remembered what it was like to be a kid again as colorful balloons bounced into the rafters.
Closing it down for the evening was Brothers Griiin, the drumming duo of The Flaming Lips. For years now, the Bros have been throwing the Lips official after parties – and boy did THEY.THROW.DOWN. Mixing everything from UGK to Mariah Carey, the green-haired duo hyped the crowd up into a dancing frenzy, passed around bottles of tequila and champagne, all while dj’ing from their booth that was dominated by a set of inflatable headphones that ran from stage end-to-end. The duo played until they turned the lights on and pulled the plug – and that damn banana was still around, eating bananas on the dancefloor.