The quintessential Lone Star State gathering of the tribes, natch, at multiple venues over the course of November 7 thru 10. (Note: If you don’t recognize any given artist, hover mouse over a photo in order to read which band you are seeing.)
PHOTOS AND TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON
We know that Austin, Texas, is the music mecca, especially when it comes to festivals. Levitation takes it up a notch by bringing in the best in Underground music and artists from around the known universe. For four nights every year it goes into a hyper-space-warp frenzy bringing some of the best and brightest happening Psych, Metal, and Dream Pop music under one tent, or several clubs anyway. It’s like a slice of SXSW but no filler, not that much walking, and you can actually get into venues.
Levitation happens in several venues with Stubb’s (which doubles as a fab BBQ joint) as the focal point featuring the closest things you get to headliners at this 4-day party. Blurt Contributor John Boydston tried to cover as much ground as possible getting to all the acts, but realized early on it was a 4-person job, so this is what he got, some of the best, but of course, by no means all of it.
Thursday at Stubb’s the lineup was Vagabon, Devendra Banhart, and ready for her David Lynch Twin-Peaks soundtrack closeup, Angel Olsen. All performers and crowd were braving a chilly temperature drop but soldiered on and got lost in the electric dreamscapes created by all of the above. I caught a few bands down the street at Mohawk which was reveling in the glory of Texas metal warriors Creeping Death (Denton) and Power Trip (Dallas) among others.
Friday night Stubb’s was alive with the magical psych-rock of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. Not sure if Rev is short for revelry or revelation but both work for me after hearing this power house psych band lay it down. Then the Flaming Lips killed the crowd with kindness, love, and confetti. Just wow – and master Lip Wayne Coyne said it all with this blow-up ballon spelling it out for us.
But wait, Friday was just starting after that show – I hauled my wagon of photo gear into other venues and heard one dynamite band after another any one of which you can see in Austin at these venues, but not likely on the same night, same bill. I caught part of Stonefield’s power set, featuring the 4 psych rock sisters from an area of rural Australia known as Macedon Ranges. Then over to The Barracuda and for the rest of the night heard in rapid succession Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Elephant Stone (from Toronto and truly an East meets West rock experience), Death Valley Girls (always fantastic), Crocodiles (new to me but rocked like no band I’ve seen in years – must hear more), and Broncho ended this amazing night doing what they do but better, tighter, and more up than I’ve ever heard ‘em).
Saturday started mid-afternoon with Habibi – (NYC) bringing their internationally-inspired surfy 60’s girl pop to The Empire. Then White Fence from SF. Led by Tim Presley, a brilliant and underrated writer-singer-guitar picker who I can’t pin down exactly but think Ray Davies meets Piper at The Gates of Dawn. Or The Kinks if Syd Barret was Dave Davies older bro. And caught The Allah-Las who are currently touring, and have managed to seriously beef-up their stage sound without changing anything you may already love about this band, which is remarkable.
Not content with this fun, headed to Stubb’s Saturday night see openers and Waco psych kids Holy Wave, Levitation Festival curators and Austin’s own The Black Angels, who for my money have never sounded more up and alive in their not funhouse mirror takes on life. A really dynamic and electrifying show for this band – and they would have carried the night had John Cale and his band not come out and taken it back. Not sure what else you can say about Cale and his rock pedigree. Being a founding member of The Velvet Underground would suffice but his 50-year career since is equally impressive. Wasn’t expecting this 77-year old rock icon to come out and slay but he and his crack band did just that. Thanks for having him, and me Levitation. If you’ve outgrown SXSW and ACL is too crowded, save some dates on the calendar for this one – Fall 2020.