Levitation 2019: A Reflection
Team ATH has been covering Austin Psych Fest/Levitation since its early inception, probably in the second year at Radio Room (sorry we missed the first year!), so we’ve seen the ups and downs twists and turns. Despite the various venues and changes, Levitation 2019 finally felt like it was home again.
Thinking back on it, I guess APF/Levitation really felt like a unique community, particularly in those early Carsten Creek days; I remember just being mesmerized by the lighting on that river stage; it was a huge space, but always felt as if all in attendance were one. The early line-ups blended traditional psychedelic sounds with more modern takes, and as we moved into 2019, it’s great to see that aspect hadn’t really changed.
For me, I think I reveled in the intimacy of the whole event, even while taking in a handful of shows at Stubbs. Perhaps I’ve taken on the role of the old curmudgeon, but large festival spaces lose that; you lose that proximity that bonds performer and audience…it takes a lot to bridge that gap. So the freedom to roam from show to show, venue to venue, felt special. You could catch your favorite artists up close and personal; it was like SXSW (which is my personal favorite) without all the hype and local complaints.
Even as a festival, it felt small, it felt like you were bonding, it felt like you belonged. I think that’s the sense that everyone I talked to felt, even if you were just standing in the back of the crowd taking it all in. Honestly, the multi-venue set up made lines short and the shows more energetic…plus you can’t complain with nice cold weather. It turned out to be just the perfect moment; it was good to see the festival’s continued success.
Of course, with a smaller fest, we have a smaller team, so we could only manage Ray and I to bounce around, but here are some of our highlights…
Flaming Lips: Disclaimer. One of my great friends is in this band, so I’m jaded here. But, the Lips, love them or hate them, always put on a performance. Their shows have grown to be less about the music and more just about the artful expression of joy in the world, which at current state, is super necessary.
Tan Cologne: Having been a huge fan of Mirror Travel, I have to say that Lauren Green completely went and fucked it all up, in the best possible way. Her new project was mesmerizing from start to finish, and possibly the most dynamic in sound that I saw throughout the entire festival; they get bonus points for a cellist too. Going to be an amazing LP dropping in your laps next year.
Chelsea Wolfe: I wasn’t expecting to like an all acoustic show by the dark goth rock goddess, but I was left in awe by the church show. Visuals were absolutely stunning and Chelsea managed to command the room with an intimate set. Wow. –RayRay
Tobacco: Bucket list set for me with a band I’ve never seen in the live setting. I was expecting mostly a DJ set, which it was, but I also appreciated the added elements of guitar and bass into the mix. Crowd was a little smaller than expected so all of you fools missed out. –RayRay
Devendra Banhart: For me, something just feels amiss about his performances. The intimacy that made his early work so charming, and even his recorded material seems to have evaporated. It wasn’t the large space, it was just the general style and way he operated. Give the guy a guitar and a stool and I’ll watch him for hours, but take away instruments (mostly) and have him stalk the stage and I just didn’t get it. Was the first time I’d seen him in quite some time, and I was bummed.
Angel Olsen: I guess Nathan and I just weren’t feeling Stubbs on Thursday night. Maybe it was the cold getting to our beloved musicians? This set just felt phoned in to me. –RayRay
Creek Show: I got lucky and got in and out of the Creek Show before the crowds got too too crazy. It’s honestly becoming one of my favorite Austin traditions, and I only wish it could be just a bit bigger, span the whole creek and what not. Still, good to tie the two together.
Well done: Nathan mentioned earlier but I’ll add in here again how well run this thing was being in it’s first year. It really felt intimate like SXSW while still offering some powerhouse bands for all musical tastes. Here’s to hoping this keeps going down every year. –RayRay