PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC'S one of the only art forms where a live audience is forced to sit and watch as the artist attempts to figure out what the fuck he's doing. Sometimes it works beautifully, like in a long Hendrix jam that savagely rips your face off, then gracefully, even gently, reattaches it with some carefully placed notes—leaving you smiling and thanking Jimi for the near disfiguration. But there are hardly any musicians alive (or dead) that have an ounce of Jimi's talent, and nearly all psychedelic music sends me reaching for a rifle.
It's because of assholes like the Grateful Dead that musicians have been allowed to "experiment" with any and all kinds of drugs on record and on stage—falling down slobbering, staring into nothing, slack-jawed, stupid, and boring.
Just the other day a guy my dad's age was telling me about sucking nitrous balloons at a Dead show. He got this far-off look in his eye when he told me about how amazing Jerry Garcia was. He was all, "Garcia came out and played with the New Riders of the Purple Sage in the middle of the day, for like four hours, AND THEN... he came out and jammed for like another four hours with the Dead! DUDE! IT WAS SO CRAZY! HE PLAYED SO LOOOONNG!!" (This guy didn't realize he was so high it just made it seem like time was slowing down, and that the crowd was so fucked up they didn't know the difference.)
Ever read shitty free-verse poetry? Not like Charles Bukowski, but the lazy, stream-of-consciousness slop you know was scribbled out in 13 caffeinated seconds at some trendy coffee shop? It's impossible to follow, a steaming spew of words without form or effort that's supposed to be going somewhere, but really goes NOWHERE and leaves you feeling dumber for the lack of craft and abandoned attention to traditional structure. That's kind of what psychedelic music's like for me.
I argue with my friends about doing drugs and going to art museums. I say you don't need drugs—that doing drugs and looking at something as gorgeous as a Rothko or, hell, ANY of the masters, is, in a way, blasphemous. That's the same way with music. If you have to do drugs to enjoy it, you're fooling yourself. Most of them guffaw, "That's bullshit. Who are you to say?" And they're right. Who am I? Nobody. But I know that most art made with hallucinogenics sucks and stinks of laziness. And I also know I don't need to do drugs to feel art and I sure as shit know I don't need to do drugs to make it.