While the rest of the state was under attack by the Thundergods,, LEVITATION managed to avoid most of the bad breeze for a successful, intense year.
Walking into Levitation the first day was like participating in a wipe out episode ‘Creek Ranch edition’ every step you took had you already planning the next five to make sure you didn’t sync into a mud pit. Texas had been experiencing a series of thunderstorms and tornados during this time. As we drove into the city we catch a few dark clouds with heavy of rain and lightening that almost had us flipping the car around before a tornado would get to before us. So one thing we knew for certain it was that this weekend was going to drown at any point during the weekend. Yet, the weather failed to bring the festival any despairs or malfunctions.
Mini Mansions was just taking the Reverbernation stage when we arrived, wearing sophisticated suits with vibrant prints and clean smooth haircuts, Mini mansions had a more vivid flair that all the other bands didn’t. A laid back pop psych sound that provoked the last few feel good vibes of the afternoon before things got trippy with DIIV, Spiritualized and Tame Impala.
Tame Impala’s return to the festival scene technically started at Coachella a couple weeks ago, but given that their set was overshadowed by irrelevant everything else Coachella media focused on. Levitation seemed more like at home for the band, here in Austin. They knew everyone was there to see them that night, as Parker that that the band has always wanted to play Psych Fest but never had the opportunity to, he announced he would be playing “Eventually” for the first time live form their upcoming album “Currents” out July 17. The10 minute song was a head spinner, having just released that song the day before, most committed fans were already yelling the name expecting the classic blend of psych-rock and electronica that Tame Impala is well know for. “Elephant” sure became the highlight of their set, creating a cycle where the band would deviate the sound of the song mid way to experiment with some live session jamming, then coming back to the heavy throwback bass line. It was never ending, yet who would have want that end.
Gosht of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Sean Lennon and girlfriend Charlotte Kemp’s band was another act fresh out of Coachella. Sean had some radical thoughts about it. Mentioning that this festival felt more real then all others and that it didn’t matter how many people were there because it was the right kind of people. The sound of GOASTT was flawless from beginning to end, it traveled with ease making it relatable to everyone in the audience.There was absolutely a royal technique there that we could reference back to John’s legacy.
Mac de Marco did a cover of “Yellow” from Coldplay, announcing it as a cover of one of his favorite underground bands no one ever heard of. Surf crowded his way to the middle of the field and back and goofed around a lot in between his psych-pop infused set. There were laughs, there were dance moves. Not much psychedelia, not the one we expected.
It wasn’t until we arrive at A Place to Burry Strangers’ set at the tent stage that we got all the psychedelia we had been aching for all weekend, it was the type of psychedelia that had no consideration for your current state of mind. It went hard, it was heavy and it was exactly what the band wanted to play that night, if you were on drugs that night and you opted for the A Place to Burry Strangers instead of the light hearted colorful set by the Flaming Lips. S/O to you. “You are the one” came on mid set with the simple aesthetics of a single strove light and faded projection mapping on the roof, to my surprise it was the lightest song on the set, light in the right content I mean. It sounded as clear as the record and we appreciated that much.
The pleasant surprise for most was the Beijing based Psychedelic band Chui Wan, whose set although short it was sufficient. Long breaks with riffs that did not overstep boundaries. A symmetrical sound that covered the basics of laid back psych rock. The band is touring the states for the first time. Make sure you keep on the look out.
Mystic Braves was another pleasant surprise, the quintet was on full 60’s revival styling Their set was nothing below the expectations, these guys have been at it for long individually or as a band, there is just a mutual understanding of garage and psych rock that is played so impeccably in their live performances.
Over all the festival felt like a survival of the fittest with an actual chance for survival. It was the right size, it was the right kind of attendees and the right scene. It was the festival that had the big headliners without the saturated basic-bitch fan base, the kind of fest that going to your vehicle to refill your flask was as simple and non-problematic. The kind of fest where you could feel a communal sense of conformity using recreational hallucinogens on the open because everyone else was either twice as messed up as you or trying to get twice as messed up as you. No judging, no people harassing you asking “How does it feel?” trying to chase that experience. This fest was for the experienced. And if there was any sense of sobriety in your system in the back of your mind you knew that you should be worried, there was a freakishly giant thunderstorm heading that way. The kind that would have turned this hippy love and drug influenced fest into a tragic scene of chaos. Yet the storm never hit, for some mystical reason it just never did. So congrats to the fest and the Transmission Events for not having to deal with that.
The Blank Tapes
The Blank Tapes
The Blank Tapes
The Blank Tapes
Portraits by Eric Sonson