Levitation in Austin, Texas, is one of the few expertly curated festivals left in the U.S., touching on all things spacey and fuzzed out. Despite being hit by a deeply felt blow when Roky Erickson died earlier this year — the festival was named after the song "Levitation," by his band 13th Floor Elevators — the event soldiered on in 2019 with one of their most populist lineups yet, bringing droves of fans to sold-out rooms across the Texas capital. Though Revolver sadly wasn't able to make it to all the many gigs during the fest, this is the best of what we did witness.
Despite unseasonal temperatures in upper 40s with winds just below that number in MPH, this trio of gnarly riff warriors were elemental forces in their own right, with Power Trip getting a hero's welcome in their home state of Texas. Chris Maggio (Wear Your Wounds, ex-Trap Them) is filling in on drums in High on Fire and did not miss a beat — the Matt Pike–led horde was merciless and masterful as always.
Somewhere between Acid Mothers Temple and Flower Travellin' Band is Kikagaku Moyo, a Japanese psych band that can riff with the best of them, yet focus their craft in the netherworld between trippy folk and trippier rock. Think Dungen on tons of jazz cabbage, add in a sitar and you're in the neighborhood. Drenched in acid-test visuals, the band dropped jaws with their blissed-out set.
Focusing on her new Birth of Violence songs and other acoustic-leaning material, Chelsea Wolfe was backed by longtime collaborator Ben Chisholm, playing in the beautiful church located in downtown Austin. Wolfe's style and approach are ethereal and gothic enough as is; flanked with a otherworldly light show and framed by the venue's dramatic vaulted ceiling, her appearance at Levitation was nothing short of stunning.
Relapse Records had a showcase of their own during Levitation, including all of the three bands noted above, plus Red Fang and Pinkish Black, at the Mohawk on Saturday. The killer outdoor venue at the tail end of Red River Street was an ideal setting for the trifecta of doomy riff-masters to prove their mettle and for fans to lose themselves in headbanging rapture.
Does J Mascis count as a national treasure yet? He should. Whether ripping with the legendary Dinosaur Jr., playing with Kurt Vile, filling in with Negative Approach or playing a Stooges cover set, Mascis might be one of music's greatest living guitarists, and he showed why at Levitation.
For the uninitiated, BEAK> is a project spearheaded by Geoff Barrow, best known as one of the core members of trip-hop pioneers Portishead. BEAK> produced Anika's debut LP and released three memorable LPs of their own, all sitting somewhere in the worlds between CAN, Amon Duul and Goblin with a focus on beats and dark ambiance. Though Tobacco may have been the main attraction for some concertgoers gathered at Empire, for us, BEAK> stole the show with their witty banter, flawless live presentation and fantastic songs.
Flipper with David Yow at Hotel Vegas
TR/ST with SRSQ at Empire
Deafheaven, Russian Circles, Brutus and Jaye Jayle at Empire