During the 1980s, the literal cult following -- Thee Temple of ov Psychick Youth -- of Psychic TV spread from the UK to Australia and North America, carrying the concept of a psychic network of magic, creativity, and “guiltless sexuality” throughout all members. In 1991, Genesis P-Orridge left Thee Temple and unsuccessfully attempted to shut down the network, believing that it had lost its intended artistic and philosophical purposes. Their focus remained, however, on the band itself. Psychic TV gained and lost members, constantly in a state of artistic fluidity. During the 1990s, the band members exiled themselves to Kathmandu after being accused of Satanic ritualism in Britain, and later moved to California’s Bay Area, where they joined forces with Larry Thrasher-- of the experimental noise band “The Thessalonians.” This period focused on sound collages of ambient noise, spoken-word, and sampling. Several side projects such as Thee Majesty and Splinter Test were formed by P-Orridge and Thrasher during this time, resulting in the gradual disintegration of Psychic TV. The band performed their “final show” at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1999, marking, also, the end of Genesis P-Orridge’s exile from the UK. In 2003, the band reformed as PTV3, again focusing heavily on visual effects during their shows. After P-Orridge announced they would stop touring with the band in 2009 (thankfully never fully following through with this pledge), they rarely perform except for a few scattered shows around Europe.
My first exposure and addiction to the Psychic TV and the work of Genesis P-Orridge was back in 2011, after hearing Andrew Vanwyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT say during an interview that they were heavily influenced by the band’s experimentalism and focus on cooperating visual images into their music. Both of these elements were ubiquitously present throughout Psychic TV’s show at the Echoplex last week.
The show opened with Genesis P-Orridge and a guitarist alone on stage. They performed a single song together, a slow and somewhat solemn opening to the show. That being said, it felt as though it was a deliberate choice to imbibe the show with a heavy sense of sacredness. We were in the Thee Temple, we were the Psychick Youth, and Genesis was our chaplain, leading us in a hymnal.
After the first song, the rest of the band’s members came onto the stage, and commenced with much of the classic psych rock for which the collective is known. Their visuals flashed on a screen at the back of the stage, evoking native Central and South American imagery mixed with pentagrams and various cosmic photographs. After 2 songs, P-Orridge asked the house to take the stage lights off the band. “We want them to see the screen, that’s why we’re called Psychic TV!” P-Orridge had been reading the lyrics off sheet music they had brought onstage with them, and at this point clicked on a small headlamp so they could continue to read. Even rock gods need a lil help sometimes.
With the lights off, the visuals were obviously much more intense. They were came across as astral projections in a sense -- very much in connection with the early artistic focus of Thee Temple. Furthermore, Genesis’ self-designed “Thee Psychick Cross” -- a symbol of the Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth -- was ever present within the projected collages. Between each song, there was a spoken word sample played. They had seemingly no connection to each other, yet harkened back to Genesis’ side work in the 1990s.
The most fascinating element of Psychic TV’s performance was that it seemed as though it was a magical mystery tour through all of P-Orridge’s artistic phases. There was no uniformity in the performance, no rules, and no sense of linear direction. It was a retrospective appreciation, and a cathartic purge of self-expression. There was a visceral feeling that we, as an audience, were in the presence of a force that was larger than life. LA may never see a performance from Psychic TV again, but their cross is immovably burned into our earth.
BY GEMMA SCHLADOW, DJ
AMATEUR HOUR- THURSDAYS, 8:00 PM - 9:00 PM