“Feel high with music! That’s what this is about,” Beckoned Willie Trasher to an audience basking in the sun of the early afternoon. An acoustic Inuit artist who’s song craft often touches on the natural world, Thrasher’s enthusiasm peaked when a bald eagle circled overhead. Trasher’s voice similarly flew over the park amphitheatre: “Levitation!”
Willie Thrasher & Linda Saddleback
With a lineup of substantial psych-heavyweights like space rockers Black Mountain, Atlanta Flower Punks the Black Lips, and festival co-founders the Black Angels, Levitation Vancouver offered a variety of psychedelia. Co-produced by Timbre Productions and Austin Texas’ Reverberation Appreciation Society, this festival offered a spaced out smorgasbord of artists – the euphoric wilderness-inspired folk of Willie Thrasher & Linda Saddleback, the driving, guitar tinged, electro cinematic beats of the Backhomes and the blisteringly loud guitar wails of punk project Witch, featuring J Mascis on drums.
Saturday featured many fine performances, including the first ever from Elephant Stone, a Montreal-based rock pop outfit renowned for their blend of sitar and spacey guitars. LA’s Mystic Braves, a hip band with sunny, catchy melodies and bright jangling 60’s style guitars played a distinguished set just as they did at Austin’s LevitationFestival last month.
Vancouver’s debut stab at psychedelic speciality included notable hometown heroes Black Mountain, psych rock titans of particular renown. Of all female rock vocalists, Amber Webber’s dreamy growls are some of the most effective and signature, especially when buttressed by wavering synthesizer ebbs of Jeremy Schmidt. Black Mountain are well renowned for their mammoth-sized sound in concert and this evening’s showing, which included two promising new compositions, did not disappoint. Closing out on a spacious retelling of “No Hits,” Black Mountain paid heavy attention to the material from their self titled debut. The band and it’s associated side projects have been some of the most influential contemporary musicians of the Pacific North West, their sound provides an important anchor for Vancouver’s unique style of psych rock.
Following Black Mountain, the Black Lips played a jam-packed set of take no-prisoners punk rock. The Black Lip’s set furnished a southern flavoured style of outlandish chaos. The crowd quickly popped into overdrive, under a shower of toilet paper rolls thrown from onstage.
Sunday’s day in the park included Joel Gion, and his special guests, featuring many members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre family. Playing a set filled with sharp style and impassioned humour, Gion demonstrated the variation of his talents beyond his iconic tambourine work on infectious cuts like “Radio Silence.” Also from the Reverberation Appreciation Society record label was Night Beats, a Seattle three piece with a fierce slant of psych tinged alternative rock fronted by the somewhat enigmatic Lee Blackwell. At Levitation, under-the-radar acts often steal the show with exceptionally passionate and energetic sets that sometimes overshadow higher profile artists.
Festival co-founders the Black Angels captivated the gaze of their audience with their reverb-heavy drones as the sunny weather transitioned to night. Playing a healthy dose of Passover, the Angels also broke out a few new tunes including the searing distortion of new cut “Waterloo Waltz;” their swelling audience demonstrated the band’s dedicated local following, which helped set the scene for this very festival. An industrious bunch to say the least, the Black Angels are eager to enter the studio and make their followup to Indigo Meadow.
For many audience members, this festival is a dream come true. The artistic integrity of the organizers, impeccable DJ sets of classic psych vinyl and admirable bill of artists made this beautiful weekend in the park an unforgettable experience. Levitation Vancouver brought exciting and authentic live music to the perfect summer setting of Stanley Park; even the eagles were shaking their feathers.