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Louisville Psych-Rock Band Doom Gong to Perform at Paducah's Lowertown Arts & Music Festival

The Lowertown Arts & Music Festival will be held in Paducah's historic Lowertown Arts District on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11. This year's lineup includes Doom Gong, an eclectic psychedelic rock band that merges elements of jazz and classical music with rock. Morning Edition host Daniel Hurt speaks with guitarist and vocalist John Anderson about the band's origins and evolution, their willingness to experiment with different styles and influences, and how their songs often revolve around doom or gongs, representing different things in their musical language. Anderson describes the band as "denim psych" due to their eccentric background.

"Everybody always raises an eyebrow when they hear that, but we come from a lot of different musical backgrounds," Anderson begins. "A lot of us are classical musicians, a lot of us are jazz musicians and rock musicians. So, try to lean into all those elements and find a place for all those genres to meet. There's all sorts of stuff all over the field." The band's varied background stems from how the musicians met: as University of Louisville students, each playing music in different capacities. Anderson studied classical music, while other band members were in jazz courses and music education.

"We basically all met each other through the school, besides our auxiliary player, Dino. But the rest of us met through playing at school together," Anderson explains. "We settled on this particular sound because several of us have played in different types of bands. One of our members played in a country band for a long time. I played in an indie rock band. We settled on psych rock because it felt like we can really branch out and try a lot of different stuff, like mixing different styles and mixing different sounds."

Anderson said this unique sound also gives them a lot of freedom with their lyrics. "With the lyrics not having to be based in reality, it really frees us up to explore a lot of different things." He adds that bands like Blood, Sweat, & Tears, Chicago, the Grateful Dead, and Tame Impala helped shape their writing approach as well.

The name Doom Gong gets a lot of questions, Anderson says. Initially, the band joked about different names but ultimately realized they needed a name that would be marketable. He said that the name is relevant to the types of songs they write and the themes of their music. "As we have continued to write music for the band, it's turned into the subject matter for a lot of the music that we write. It's been the center point of the universe where a lot of songs that we write take place and might sound very abstract and strange. A lot of our songs have to do with doom or gongs, what those things symbolize — at least in our musical language that we're trying to piece together."

The band's second release, Dream Behemoth (2023), was more experimental and exploratory than their debut record, which Anderson described as more structured. "That second album was an exploration for us to incorporate more jazz, fusion elements. It gave us more of an opportunity to use all of those musical ideas and motifs that we started in the first album and carry those through." Their sophomore release also incorporated more extensive instrumentation, including a string orchestra.

"Basically, both of the albums are subject matter related to each other. I don't want to give too much away, so I would impact how people might perceive the music. But both of the albums are definitely related, and they take place in the same universe. The second album is unpacking how much of that universe is actually reality versus how much may be a part of the dream."

Doom Gong will perform on the main stage of the Lowertown Arts & Music Festival on Saturday, May 11, at 3 p.m. For more information on the band, visit their website.

For more information on the Lowertown Arts & Music Festival, including a full schedule, food and drink information, and more, visit the LTAMF website.

Hurt is a Livingston County native and has been a political consultant for a little over a decade. He currently hosts a local talk show “Daniel Hurt Presents”, produced by Paducah2, which features live musical performances, academic discussion, and community spotlights.
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