Psych in, psych out

Deep Heaven Now resurrects the ’90s festival
By MICHAEL MAROTTA  |  August 5, 2010

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UP FROM UNDERGROUND: 28 Degrees Taurus are one of two headliners for the new two-club Deep Heaven Now.

Philadelphia space-rock quartet Bardo Pond were barely into their headlining set at 1996's first-ever Deep Heaven festival when a group of older guys posing as cops stormed the Kingston Street recording-studio performance-space stairway armed with Maglites. Demanding to see the cash drawer, they told organizer Eric Arn that if his party — a visual and aural experience with Bardo Pond, Lockgroove, Abunai, Juneau, Arn's Primordial Undermind, and others — weren't shut down at once, they'd return with reinforcements. They weren't cops, they just wanted to rob the place. (Arn had, fortunately, emptied the drawers moments before they arrived.)

The second Deep Heaven would go down several months later, and Bardo Pond would finish their set. Over the next few years, seven more Deep Heaven fests would take place across Boston's various DIY spaces and non-commercial venues, showcasing the likes of Lightning Bolt, Major Stars, and Acid Mothers Temple.

The final few parties had an impact on Jinsen Liu, now singer/guitarist of 28 Degrees Taurus, who's resurrecting the fest after a decade of dormancy. Saturday's Deep Heaven Now is an all-day 19-band shoegaze, ambient, and psych-rock throwdown across two Somerville stages, P.A.'s Lounge and Precinct.

"Those [original Deep Heavens] were the first multimedia shows I went to in Boston," Liu explains. "There were a lot of visuals, a lot of drugs. The whole thing about Deep Heaven was giving people a different vibe than they'd ever seen before. It was always at a different venue, always had a different feel. The chaos was a part of the chemistry."

Los Angeles–Boston transplant Arn, who organized the first three Deep Heaven fests (others curated the next six), e-mails from his current home in Austria to add that the original was designed as "a long-format rager" that wasn't happening in the clubs. "Naturally the whole thing was done pretty underground, no permits or anything. We did some primitive Internet promotion via mailing lists, put up posters and flyers in Twisted Village, and got it mentioned on some local college radio. Then we just sort of prayed enough people would hear about it and find their way to an obscure corner of Chinatown."

The end result, he says, was "one massive, long, communal trip in that dark studio, with the video/light-show guys that Abunai had recruited, and all the bands just going all out and cutting loose for the occasion."

This weekend's tenth installment will be a bit different. For one thing, Narragansett Beer is a sponsor. This might also be the first time the event is held at two venues. What's more, it's unlikely to be shut down by Combat Zone thugs.

A $10 ticket gets you into both Precinct and P.A.'s from the 2 pm doors-open to closing time, with the Precinct performances starting on the hour and P.A.'s on the half hour. The ambitious and fleet of foot can zigzag Union Square to see every act, with the option of a brief stop along the way at the Somerville Rock & Roll Yard Sale.

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