EXPANSION 2018 took place over the span of September 14-15 at Al’s Bar and The Burl & Burl Arcade. From local psych rockers armed with little more than their instruments and a passion for playing live music to internationally-touring acts with explosive, visual stage shows, the festival’s first year showcased some of the best psychedelic music that has ever stopped in Lexington. Here’s some of the best things we experienced on the first night of EXPANSION 2018 at Al’s Bar.

EXPANSION Night One // Al’s Bar

The first night of Expansion took place at Al’s Bar, one of Lexington’s staple watering holes known for it’s grungy, yet cozy aesthetic and cheap drinks, and now Fida’s Caribbean Cafe! As a multi-stage venue, Al’s Bar was a perfect spot to host multiple music experiences.

Artist and musician Robert Beatty kicked things off inside on Al’s Main Stage with a dancey DJ set of some of his favorite tunes as he spun a mixture of vinyl records and tracks from his computer. Beatty is also known for his artistic contributions to album covers for The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala and so many more – he’s also the artist behind the Expansion poster art!

Robert Beatty performs a DJ set to kick things off at EXPANSION 2018 (photo by Christina Conroy)

Next up on Al’s Main Stage was instrumental rockers Jovontaes. The three-piece consisting of guitars, piano/synths and percussion grooved in-and-out of heavy, drawn-out dreamy jams, expertly building their songs from psychedelic lullabys to lushly hypnotic, heavy psych rock.

Lexington psych rok band Jovontaes jam thru space and time (photo by Christina Conroy)

To close down the Inside Stage, James Friley aka Idiot Glee performed an intimate solo set – just a man with his keys. With his newest material being the 2016 self-titled LP, Friley played a mix of old and newer songs alike with a set highlight being the trancy “Personal Computer Television” which finds Friley at his most experimental. And how could you not love his one-two punch of covers of The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” > Sixpence Noe The Richer’s “Kiss Me” to close out the night? Even with a minimalistic stage setup, Idiot Glee got the whole crowd swaying and dancing to his unique sound of vocal-heavy synthed-out doo-wop/pop.

Idiot Glee performs his lyric-heavy, synthed-out pop to close out the first night of EXPANSION

Elsewhere at Al’s you could find Louisville rockers White Knight and Lexington rollers SPACE CAMP on the outside Beer Garden Stage. Both up-and-coming bands drew large crowds early on in the evening, showcasing their technical instrumentation and high-energy performance. We can’t wait to see both of these bands on bigger stages next year!

SPACE CAMP crushed the Beer Garden Stage to open up night one of EXPANSION

The most experimental set of the evening went to willows. which consists of Jonathan Modaff (Guitar) of Sweet Country Meat Boys and LouRae Stacey (Vocals) with visuals by SCMB’s projection mapping artist Psensibil. In the blacked-out Sidecar room adjacent to Al’s, willows. performed a stunning audio-visual set that captivated the viewer instantly. Modaff’s skillful guitar technique was enhanced with loops and effects as Stacey’s woozy vocals fleshed out their sound to create something truly unique and magical, all while Psensibil’s visuals led the viewer into another dimension of visual bliss.

willows. performed a stunning experimental set in the old Sidecar Bar, showcasing the wildest visuals we’ve ever seen at Al’s Bar.

You know how you go to shows and see a kick ass band but it’s a Tuesday night and the crowd just didn’t show up? With EXPANSION, we hoped to change that by giving these incredibly talented local acts a stage with a captivated audience of more than a handful of people – and we succeeded. Lexington is full of unique bands of all genres, especially experimental and psych rock. So if you’re thinking about catching any of the bands that performed on night one of EXPANSION at Al’s Bar, take the advice of a sticker I received from a friend that night: GO TO THE FUCKING SHOW.