The Psychedelic Trance or “Psytrance” story begins in Goa, India where counter-culture enthusiasts in the 60’s and 70’s would gather from all across the globe. As the years passed, a group of music lovers would return to Goa every summer, to dance and oscillate to an assortment of twisted synthesized beats – influenced by psychedelic rock, and the ethnic music of India and Asia. Sometime in the early 90’s that signature was finally labeled as Goa trance, and continued its evolution to what is collectively referred to as Psytrance today. Today Psytrance gatherings take place all over the world, some as outdoor festivals lasting multiple days on end, while others take the more traditional club approach. With an ubiquitous presence around the globe, and a music culture that has undoubtedly stood the test of time, one thing is clear – The music and culture connected to the Psytrance scene is here to stay. The only question that remains is whether this scene and music will explode in the United States as it already has in many other countries around the globe.
Psytrance festivals can be quite massive in other countries, with events that rival the size of Insomniac’s EDC or Miami’s UMF. Some of these festivals include Universo Paralello in Brazil, Ozora Festival in Hungary, Boom Festival in Portugal, Indian Spirit in Germany, Tree of Life festival in Turkey, and many more scattered here and there around the globe. Today, Psytrance reigns as one of the most popular and prolific forms of dance music in the global dance music scene. However, until recently, Psytrance has remained one of the more elusive sounds amongst the ever-growing US dance music scene. For American fans, this music has thrived mostly in the underground scenes devoted to purists of the style. Yet with many larger scenes devoted to Psytrance internationally, why hasn’t this style taken over festivals in North America? What if I told you that it has?
Unbeknownst to many fans of EDM, there are actually quite a few headliners playing at mainstream U.S. festivals that regularly include psytrance in their sets. Christopher Lawrence and John OO Fleming are two of the original players at the forefront of the psytrance movement in America – and they’ve been pushing the sound for years. However, the recent influx of fans has been due a new generation of Trance scene mainstays making the transition to Psytrance in their DJ sets, as well as in their productions. Chiefly among them, Trance DJ/producer Simon Patterson has been a driving force leading more trance fans toward the modern sounds of Psytrance with his Open Up radio show and numerous appearances at festivals and events around the world. Prior to the rise of these artists, Paul Oakenfold has been an advocate for Goa and Psytrance since the early days of his career; most notably his famous “Goa Mix.” Infected Mushroom has also been a driving force bringing new fans into Psytrance with their cross genre approach to Psytrance production. And while their new music may be taking other directions, they will always be remembered as one of the early pioneers of Psytrance, and one of the original Psy acts to break into the mainstream scene.
For many long time fans of Trance music, the mainstream pack of Trance producers have strayed far from the original intention of the music, and it seems their fans are looking for something more; that ‘something more’ is the ability to draw from the music and become inspired, uplifted, and filled with an unexplainable energy that keeps them dancing for hours. For some trance fans this feeling has been lost to the point where they have become bored with the over-commercialized version of what they once loved, and has led them to explore new directions, leading them to the exciting new world of Psytrance.
Psytrance has the innate ability to appeal to the masses because it takes into account a vast variety of sub-genres that many people already love such as (but not limited to) Chillout, Breakbeat, Drum N Bass, Dubstep, Techno, Trance, and Progressive. The success of Psytrance, will surely stem from this inclusion of sounds from a large variety of dance music genres. With this whole new generation of Trance lovers, and Trance producers, especially in the area of Progressive Psytrance, the fans’ curiosities have been sparked. People are discovering the music for the first time now in record numbers. This sequence of events over the years has set up the perfect storm for Psytrance to rise to the top, where it will gain its rightful place amongst other forms of dance music at large festivals in the states.
Of course the United States has had its share of Psytrance over the years, but as previously mentioned, events have remained underground and separate from their more mainstream counterparts. There are passionate community-based organizations putting together regular Psytrance gatherings all over the country including: California, New York, Iowa, Texas, The Midwest, The Great Lakes Region, and more. California is perhaps the most active at the moment, with bustling scenes in both southern and northern California. Most of the Psytrance scene prefers outdoor gatherings, under the sun and the stars; the birthplace of this music, and its rightful home. Another surprising difference for the newcomers to the scene is that party time doesn’t end at the sunrise. Quite the contrary, some of the largest Psytrance headliners specifically create their music for daytime sets. Because this music is commonly played at large outdoor festivals which last multiple days, bringing Psytrance to the USA presents organizers with the unique challenge of creating experiences which Psy purists as well as newcomers can enjoy; while still adhering to the principles set forth by the “godfathers” of the scene. These events also differ in decor and are somewhat similar to Burning Man in that sense. It is not uncommon to find psychedelic artwork, yoga and spiritual workshops, healthy food vendors with vegan delights, or our personal favorite – freshly brewed Chai tea… which is a MUST at any Psytrance gathering. Of course, not all Psytrance events will have the whole package, and some place more emphasis on specific aspects than others. But in its purist form, all of these ideas come together into a unique festival environment which encourages healthy active living, mental wellness, clarity, openness with people and surroundings, and truly next generation dance music to be enjoyed at all times of the day and night coming out only the very best sound systems – all while surrounded by passionately created and unique psychedelic artwork.
The year 2014 has already been an eventful one for Psytrance in California. During the first quarter alone, artists including: Ace Ventura, Ticon, Deedrah, Perfect Stranger, Cyrus The Virus, Haldolium, Emok, Attik, Intelligence, Orpheus, and Magnus will have performed in California, with lots more on the horizon. Some of the biggest acts in the scene including Astrix and Neelix are on their way as well. In California, community organizations including: Psytribe, Green Sector, Pulsar, Noizemakerz, Pulse SF, Spirit of Goa, Sculpted Sound, and others focus on creating authentic Psytrance experiences, while still working to branch out to the larger dance community as a whole. New onto the Psytrance scene, Motive Events has partnered with long standing members of the Psytrance community in order to bring authentic Psytrance experiences to the world famous Circus Disco in Hollywood. Circus Disco presents a wonderful launch point to bring Psytrance to a wider audience in southern California due to its long standing history as the home of Trance music in Hollywood, and a favorite venue among many dancers both young and old. This new generation of Psytrance enthusiasts is already started to blossom and evolve, and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Who knows where this will lead the scene by the end of 2014.