Underwater with Bathysphere at First Avenue

A new psychedelic festival hits First Avenue without all the tie-dye and LSD.

Minneapolis psychedelic band Flavor Crystals

Courtesy of Jennifer Kalpin

Minneapolis psychedelic band Flavor Crystals

Joseph Kleinschmidt

At First Avenue this weekend, fans will get to take what the venue bills a “psychonautical voyage.” The Bathysphere journey may be proverbial, but the festival boasts a list of trance-inducing music that should guarantee a trip.

“”With headliners including indie pioneers Dean & Britta, who will play Galaxie 500 material, the three-day fest will give you a chance to let your hair down. Longtime psych-rockers Flavor Crystals give Bathysphere a local edge while brooding and brain-altering bands fill the weekend’s freak-out, hopefully on the order of mid-‘60s Haight-Ashbury.


Dean’s list

Three albums in Dean Wareham‘s career still haunt him. Although Galaxie 500 was only active from 1988 to 1990, the proto-grunge group lives on. Now Wareham is revisiting the band’s influential material with his wife and musical collaborator, Britta Phillips.

The band’s influence outlives its more successful alternative contemporaries even though, back then, underground meant obscurity.

“I mean, there were other bands that were much bigger than us — like Butthole Surfers or whatever,” he said. “But our music has aged better than a lot of that stuff.”

His set at Bathysphere with Britta will delve into Galaxie 500 songs, a somewhat dicey prospect considering former band mates Damon Krukowsi and Naomi Yang don’t approve. Wareham said they’d prefer he leave the past alone.

“I’m sure they don’t love the idea, but whatever,” he said. “Ultimately, they’re okay about it.”

Revisiting Galaxie 500’s catalog prompted a memoir called “Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance,” a detailed account of the internal strife within the band. During his time in clubs like Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., the 49-year-old singer confronted his past.

 “When we took it on tour and going back to places I’ve actually been with Galaxie 500 20 years earlier — that was weird sometimes,” he said. “It forced me to examine my whole life.”

 Currently embarking on a solo record with Jim James, his future looks less tied to Galaxie 500’s legacy even if the world tour continues to bring back memories.

“We’d go to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and there’d be like a thousand people singing along, knowing the words to every Galaxie 500 song,” he said.

In between musical projects with his wife, the duo scores soundtracks for Noah Baumbach. Wareham even appeared as a “yuppie” in this year’s comedy-drama “Frances Ha.” Thankfully, the veteran musician doesn’t have to rely on his budding silver screen career.

“I’ve done a bit of acting, but I’m glad that I have another job,” he said. “Acting — what a miserable existence.”


Local flavor

The members of Flavor Crystals are first to admit they skip sound-check and forgo rehearsals. But instead of dwelling on their penchant for procrastination, the four members of the free-form psych group readily embrace chaos.

“Someone’s invariably going to be playing the guitar or looking for a beer, or someone’s going to be in the bathroom,” drummer Jon Menke said.

Flavor Crystals welcome distractions and drive home the concept of disorder on “Three,” their third album. A sparse set of notes waver back and forth in the vein of early Low, the veteran slow-core trio from Duluth, Minn.

“I think when we’re playing our best, we’re playing very little,” guitarist Vince Caro said.

“It’s a really different experience than the common three-chord rock ’n‘ roll,” Menke said.

After meeting in 1995, Nat Stensland and Josh Richardson formed Flavor Crystals out of a desire to make spacey rock stripped of any pretense. They don’t need a time signature because the band embraces imperfection.

“I think Nat [Stensland] and I are kind of anti-musicians,” Richardson said. “Not that we don’t believe in playing well, but we’re pretty sloppy. We’re kind of a train wreck.”

Flavor Crystals had the chance to exercise their freak-out leanings with the like-minded Brian Jonestown Massacre on a national tour in 2009. Both bands wade through an atmospheric wall of fuzz, a spur-of-the-moment feel that’s easier said than done.

“It seems like it either happens really quickly or we labor over it forever,” Richardson said, describing the recording of “Three.”

“An average rock ’n‘d roll band would collapse under that disorder,” Menke said. “If we fixed it, we wouldn’t do this. It wouldn’t work.”


What: Bathysphere

When: 6 p.m., Friday; 5:30 p.m., Saturday

Where: 701 N. First Ave.,  Minneapolis

Cost: $15 ($25 weekend pass)

Age: 18+

Friday lineup:

Mainroom: Dean & Britta play Galaxie 500, Sonic Boom, First Communion Afterparty, Cheval Sombre, Secret Colours, Magic Castles

7th St. Entry: Lightfoils, The Volta Sound, VonVeederVeld, Pony Trash, Flavor Crystals, Panther Ray

Saturday lineup:

Mainroom: A Place to Bury Strangers, The Telescopes, The Vandelles, Highspire, Lorelle Meets the Obsolete, LSD and the Search for God, Chatham Rise, Floorian