The saber-toothed cat thrived from the Eocene Epoch to the Pleistocene Epoch (a 42 million year stretch), and it's our hope that our Sabertooth Festival, with its roots in Portland's own "psycheluvic epoch"* will survive as long.

While psychedelic music covers a range of styles and genres, it is inspired by psychedelic culture and the attempt to replicate the mind-altering experiences that started in mid-'60s folk, rock and blues. As such, Sabertooth celebrates the historical role the Crystal Ballroom played through the previous half-century of psychedelic music.

In the late 1960s, the Crystal Ballroom celebrated an era referred to as "18 months of Psychedelia," and hosted mind-expanding artists of the day from Frank Zappa to the Grateful Dead. While the modern Sabertooth Festival celebrates this history and shares the same common thread of experimentation and the ability to transport the listener to an altered reality, it is not a rehash of artists from a bygone era; the psychedelic music of the 21st century is in fact very different than what it was in the 1960s.

The Crystal's psychedelic cred includes notable nuggets from rock and roll history:

  • The famous Peace Rites event at the Crystal in the '60s, where Allen Ginsberg disputably first read 'Howl' (we celebrate his fellow beats in the Joe Cotter mural in the room itself).
  • The Dead recorded much of their exploratory Anthem of the Sun at the Crystal.
  • The forefather of the distorted and processed guitar, Jimi Hendrix, played there as well.

The Crystal has always been the nexus of this scene and McMenamins has continued to program and promote music of this nature since its opening.

Those looking at psychedelia's earliest roots will also see the Crystal playing a role. The first use of the word "psychedelic" in reference to music was in reference to our friends and extended family, the Holy Modal Rounders of the East Village freak folk scene. Other key players of this scene were John Fahey, whose last Portland show was with us at our St Johns Pub; Bert Jansch (Pentangle) whom we have hosted on two occasions in Lola's Room; and the Rounders themselves, who have performed multiple reunion concerts at the Crystal Ballroom.

In the late '70s, the new psychedelic revival featured bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, George Clinton and Fishbone - all acts who have played the Ballroom. And as time moved on, the early '90s brought a "neo-psychedelic" movement with the Elephant 6 collective, which the Crystal continues to host their music (Jeff Mangum, Neutral Milk Hotel, of Montreal, The Minders).

The 21st century lineage continues with such bands as Tame Impala, Animal Collective and The War on Drugs, whose early member/collaborator Kurt Vile headlined our inaugural Sabertooth Fest.

When psychedelic music melded with doom metal and evolved into stoner metal, Sleep was the first band of that kind and headlined the first night of the festival.

Psychedelic music in its varying forms and styles is part of the lifeblood of the Crystal Ballroom - we wouldn't be open today without it and we have continued to program it. Sabertooth is a natural extension of this, a full-blown celebration of the music where the company and the Crystal, as our predecessors, eternally presses further...

*from the Oregonian, March 3, 1967