With the crowd settled into the psychedelic mindset, the festival experience felt all the more comfortable on day three, especially given the absence of severe predicted weather. Despite some mud from rains early on Friday, the festival had excellent luck with the elements given that much of Texas was experiencing its heaviest rain in five or six years.
Levitation likes to flirt with metal; Samsara Blues Experiment, a heavy, riffy three piece continued the festival’s riffage that Graveyard, Kadavar and Earthless provided at last year’s event. Hailing from Berlin, Samsara Blues Experiment were well appreciated by Levitation head bangers in the afternoon sun with their substantial guitar tone.
On the Reverberation Stage, The Ghost Of A Sabre Tooth Tiger (the GOASTT) blasted through groovy cuts such as “Too Deep” on the Reverberation Stage. Frontman Sean Lennon waved around his turquoise electric guitar with casual recklessness and a calm, cool attitude befitting of his legendary father.
Next up was Mac Demarco, who represents the festival’s more mainstream focus, playing to a massive and enthusiastic audience. Clearly a man with a sense of humour, Demarco’s set included a facetious cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow.” After his set Demarco signed a few individual cigarettes for some adoring fans backstage.
Festival creators the Black Angels performed earlier than usual for good reason: the band’s profound respect for the 13th Floor Elevators would not allow them to play after their in good conscience. Knocking out a fiery set beginning with their newest composition “Waterloo Waltz” the Angels also rearranged old favourites like “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven,” which was injected with heavier, buzzing tones than its original arrangement. Playing to their biggest fans at their own, respected homegrown festival, the Black Angels played with passion above and beyond their usual formidable enthusiasm.
The most notable set of the festival was undoubtably that of the 13th Floor Elevators. An often overlooked ‘60s psychedelic band from Austin Texas, the 13th Floor Elevators defined the limits of psychedelic rock, taking the genre to psychedelic limits that remain to this day unequalled. Flipping the christian values of their conservative communities, the 13th Floor Elevator developed their sound alongside a quasi-religious doctrine centred around copious L.S.D. use. Beginning their set with the perplexing flow of “She Lives (in a Time of Her Own)” the 13th Floor Elevators had not performed with all living members in over thirty years, Consisting of original vocalist/guitarist Roky Erickson, electric jug player Tommy Hall, bassist Ronnie Leatherman and hard hitting drummer John Ike Walton, the band played their absolutely unique brand of trippy Texan rock, complete with electrified jug.
Once the band hit the relentless “Slip Inside This House,” the electric jug and slick, subtle lead guitar really began to simmer. Penned in 1967, the song is arguably the most psychedelic song ever cut. Although the Elevators had not performed in decades, Roky Erickson’s solo career has enjoyed a resurgence including several successful tours and album reissues on Light In The Attic Records. While Erickson has performed many 13th Floor Elevator cuts, his solo arrangements do not convey the same weaving, fluid guitar . Using a talent local musician in place departed lead guitarist Stacy Sutherland, the Elevator’s set was passionately executed and included timeless songs like “Fire Engine,” “Reverberation” and “Splash 1” reaching moments of tantric beauty. Roky Erickson’s vocals suggested deep personal connection with his craft, as on “Kingdom of Heaven,”signing “and it bathes you in its glory / and you begin your life anew;” Mr. Erickson’s y turbulent life, documented in the film You’re Gonna Miss Me Their performance was a fitting tribute to their astounding legacy; the 13th Floor Elevators are one of the most stimulating, original and dedicated musical groups ever formed Their reunion performance was a priceless gift to psychedelic fans from many generations. These guys are literally responsible for the term “psychedelic.” The authenticity of their performance eclipsed all aspects of the festival and was nothing short of legendary. After a moment’s break, Roky Erickson and the Elevators returned to play “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” an infectious garage standard that he wrote at the age of 16. The music of the 13th Floor Elevators has stood the test of time with grace and continued musical relevance.
The final performance at the Reverberation Stage was the Flaming Lips, a radically talented and outlandishly inspired band that continue to take their performances to the next level. Few bands could fittingly follow the uncompromising originality of the 13th Floor Elevators but the Flaming Lips appeared unfazed Supported by a particularly creative tech crew, the Flaming Lips are renowned for excessive amounts of confetti, strange costumes and intricate custom lighting.
Longtime veterans of psychedelia, the Flaming Lips performed many of their best known cuts including a heavy dose of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots and At War With The Mystics. Their show is an optimistic onslaught of colour, overflowing energy and playful attitude. the Lips continue to expand and tweak their craft; “Vein of Stars” included a heavy Tame Impala inspired synth presence that replacement the acoustic studio arrangement. The Faming Lips deliver one of the most vivid and exciting concert experiences around. At the end of their set, frontman Wayne Coyne gave the festival a particularly kind complement, stating that Levitation is the top music festival around.
Any fans who weren’t completely at peace after “Do You Realize?” could still run over to the Levitation Tent and blister their hearing with the extreme volume and attitude of Fuzz, a project of contemporary punk/garage guru Ty Segal.
Levitation has come a long way since its initial inception as Austin Psych Fest. Given its intriguing yet flexible mandate to include and promote the most artistically driven music from around the world, Levitation has distinguished itself as a premiere alternative music festival. The thousands of visitors, many from places of extreme distance, is a testament to the unusual grade of this relatively modest sized festival and the beautiful setting of Carson Creek Ranch. High praise and word of mouth has been essential to Levitation’s growth and success. Levitation’s lineup is exciting, diverse, accessible yet artistically challenging. The experience is unmatched; this is how a music festivals ought to be.