Submerged in the Bardo Bath

I spent my Friday night lying on the floor of Brooklyn’s Weylin building, while liquid light projections, the freeform acid rock of Garcia Peoples and an atmosphere of openness and inclusivity floated all around me.

Who do I have to thank for this truly one-of-a-kind experience? Psychedelic Sangha.

Psychedelic Sangha is a Brooklyn-based organization that responsibly explores the intersection of psychedelics and spirituality through conscious-altering media, multifaceted events and programming. Their dose-friendly happenings, such as this one, feature onsite trip support and offsite guidance for integrating your psychedelic experiences into your everyday life.

The organization, founded by Doc Kelley and Ethan Covey, had previously hosted events in various locations, with live improv performances by some of the cream of the modern psych crop, such as Garcia Peoples, Sarah Louise and Wet Tuna. RCU readers would certainly know of Psychedelic Sangha through our reviews of their unique Sounds From The Bardo series on Bandcamp, which featured guided meditations set to extensive jams by Jeffrey Alexander, Prana Crafter and Tony Leone with Scott Metzger and Jeff Hill.

The Bardo Bath was broken into two unique hour and-a-half sets of uninterrupted improvisations by Garcia Peoples, who played a potent mix of ambient soundscapes and kosmische freak-outs. Kelley and Covey bookended each set with a spoken guided meditation, which set the tone for the New Jersey band’s deeply heady, hypnotic sound for the evening.

The audience came properly prepared. Many people showed up with rolled up mats in hand, which they laid out or practice yoga on, while spread out across the mosaic-like stone floor. Some even got into their preferred meditative positions before the band started, venturing off deep into their minds while Jesse Jarnow, a WFMU DJ, writer and host of the Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast, conjured cosmic vibrations from his sonic control station at the back of the room.

Jarnow, along with some help from Juggable Offense, blended in a mosaic of samples, music and other sounds into the sets themselves, while also manipulating Gubler’s keyboards. He also filled the room with his kaleidoscopic live collage from the moment the doors opened, through the set breaks and straight on until closing around midnight. That’s a staggering five or so hours of nonstop audio wizardry. Is there really anyone in New York better equipped, musically or spiritually, to handle such a feat? Of course not.

Lying in the dead center of the circular temple-like space of the Weylin proved to be the ideal way to appreciate the unique visual and aural qualities of the evening. Garcia Peoples’ music reverberated around you in a 360° cyclical pattern, submerging you into the flood of their sound. The band took advantage of this distinctive configuration even further by having Pat Gubler play flute (and later maracas) while walking slowly around the audience, as well. It truly felt as though the band was spinning circles around your head at all times.

Meanwhile, the mighty Macrodose and Juggable Offense filled your vision with an utterly mind-melting light show. Giant squiggling amoebas of a thousand colors and strange prismatic shapes swirled and bubbled around every marble column and chiseled curve of the building’s ornate architecture. It looked as though the hues of the beautiful mural that decorated the great rotunda above us were dripping downwards and dancing with life.

From the central location I found myself in by the second set, you could look up and see colors of painted sunsets and twilight directly above you, while pulsating neon blobs burst and stream from your left to your right—all while a rushing river of interstellar sounds surge through your mind. Scanning your eyes across the room, you’d also find dozens of smiling, friendly faces similarly caught up in the cosmic spectacle of the event. Most were sprawled out on the floor, lying on their backs or sitting relaxed, while others danced freely, or stood on the sidelines seemingly lost in awe.

No matter what someone was doing or if they came with friends or on their own, everybody seemed relaxed and cordial, as if everyone knew everybody else. There definitely seemed to be many who legitimately knew each other, but I also overheard what sounded like dozens of new friendships being forged in real time. There was a sense of community in the air that night, albeit a young one that’s still growing. After speaking with the organizers, Kelley and Covey, I found this was indeed the intention of the event. To foster a family of seekers. After all, sangha is Sanskrit for “spiritual family,” and I do believe there is one reforming in Brooklyn, now that the worst part of the pandemic appears to be over. Here’s hoping it will continue to grow and open minds and hearts for many years to come.

To find out more about Psychedelic Sangha, click here.

To hear more from Garcia Peoples, tap here.

To check out Juggale Offense’s music, click here.

To learn more about Macrodose, just click here.

Published by Record Crates United

Keith Hadad, the creator and manager of RCU, has been a contributing writer to Elmore Magazine and Thewaster.com and maintains a regular column, “Keith Hadad’s Choice,” in Blicker magazine. His writing has also appeared in the Smithsonian Folkways' Guest Blog and the Optical Sounds Fanzine. Also, please check out the blog's super-active Instagram account, @recordcratesunited for daily blurb-styled music reviews.

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