Ill Fated Natives | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN |

Sounds of Psychedelphia is a three-part series exploring the history of psychedelic rock in Philadelphia. this month, we begin by studying the scene’s origins in the late 60s and early 70s.

At the dawn of the new millennium, the post-grunge alt-rock hype had died down, making room for guitar-oriented bands to stretch beyond conventions that had grown stale by the later part of the 90s. This, along with the emergence of mp3s and file-sharing technology, drastically changed the landscape of rock and the music industry in general.

In Philadelphia, an intriguing brew of cross-pollinating musical styles and DIY ethos began to bubble up as underground bands were able to use the internet to engage their audiences. While many of the “Psychedelphia”-era bands of the 90s like Photon Band, Asteroid #4 and Bardo Pond carried on into the 2000s as integral parts of the Philly scene, a new, younger crop of acts began to make noise as well. Much like their forebears of the 60s and the 90s, many of Philadelphia’s millennial bands retained the melodic, guitar-pop influences of the U.K. (The Beatles, Kinks etc.), fusing those sweet sensibilities with a decidedly heavier, muscular sound.

Throughout the early aughts, Philly’s rock scene was marked by its diversity and openness to experimentation. Relay incorporated synthesizers into their dreamy shoegaze sound while Golden Ball mined 70s prog and neo-psychedelia. Quentin Stolzfus, former drummer for ambient/noise outfit Azusa Plane would go on to form Mazarin. A force on stage and in the studio, Mazarin provided Stolzfus with a vehicle to tuck his slick power-pop songwriting inside of dizzying walls of pristine sound. 2001’s A Tall-Tale Storyline and 2005’s We’re Already There remain high points of the era. Local legends

Make A Rising reached across the spectrum incorporating everything from heavy math-rock changes to delicate piano balladry. Their 2005 debut Rip Through The Hawk Black Night is a harrowing trip through Soft Machine and Henry Cow-esque art-rock, and heartbreakingly tender pop. Even outside of the city’s psych-rock underground scene, nationally recognized Philly bands of the time incorporated 60s aesthetics into their sound. It is difficult to imagine what Man Man would sound like without the influence of Zappa and Captain Beefheart or Dr. Dog without Revolver-era Beatles.

Nurtured in traditional bars and nightclubs as well as DIY and alternative venues like Danger Danger Gallery, The Ox, Germ Books, Highwire Gallery, Pi Lam and more, Philly’s rock scene in the 2000s was among the most impressive and diverse in the country. Many musicians challenged the limitations of traditional genre boundaries, bringing noise into folk and vice versa. Greg Weeks, Brooke Sietinsons and Meg Baird’s psychedelic combo Espers made waves with their self-titled debut and 2005’s gorgeous covers collection The Weed Tree, eventually developing a darker, heavier sound for the album Espers 2.

In general, Philadelphia’s rock scene remains healthy to this day. A host of younger bands have taken up the mantle, creating all kinds of interesting takes on the experimental and psychedelic rock sound. Ill Fated Natives are a hulking blues-inflected trio in the style of Cream, Blue Cheer and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Purling Hiss (a side project of Birds of Maya guitarist Mike Polizze) puts a lo-fi twist on tunes that recall 70s swamp-rock and the psychedelphia bands of the 90s. Though they currently reside in sunny Los Angeles, Cheers Elephant forged their high-powered, psych-tinged pop-rock style here in Philly, while Circadian Rhythms dabble in breezy, delicate interpretations of Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds-era experiments.

With so many bands in the city that continue to revitalize and synthesize the music of the past in new and creative ways, the Sounds from Psychedelphia will continue to grow strong, much to the delight of listeners craving something different.

Below, listen to the final segment of the Sounds of Psychedelphia radio series on WXPN, broadcast on May. 9, 2017.

[xpnplayer action=”audio” category=”” artist=”Sounds of Psychedelphia, Part Three: The torchbearers of today” date=”2017″ button=”yes”][/xpnplayer]