Levitation 2022 Recap
The 13th edition of Levitation festival commenced over Halloween weekend in Austin. There are some who believe the number 13 to be unlucky. In The Egyptian Book of the Dead, it’s the number of the last rung to climb on the ladder to eternity. It’s long been a praised digit for pool sharks and occultists. Those who are “Keeping Austin Weird” know this numerology, which goes all the way back to local psychedelia legends The 13th Floor Elevators and the iconic Armadillo World Headquarters concert hall, demoed in 1981 and replaced with a 13 story office building. With new venues popping up around Red River Street to cement the amoeba-like network of stages comprising the multi-venue event, year 13 finds the festival at its most ingenious. After more than a decade of riding Austin’s waves of change in location and formatting, Levitation has cemented their reputation as a great beaming monolith within a global festival community. Fans of everything from garage grit, world beat, psych freak-out, and goth dance parties find a home here.
Within an hour of landing at Austin-Bergstrom Wednesday, I was seemingly teleported to the pre-party celebrations downtown at recent Red River addition Chess Club and the newly relocated 13th Floor bar (many know this venue previously as Beerland). Made it just in time to catch a snippet of resident Levitation co-founder from The Black Angels, Christian Bland, with his offshoot The Revelators. Rio De Janeiro’s Oruã offered floaty kraut-melodies under the dark moon to early fest-goers.
Stubbs, the largest stage at Levitation, hosted headliners The Jesus and Mary Chain on Thursday along with The Paranoyds, Automatic and Protomartyr. Automatic, who we also covered over at Desert Daze 2022, have garnered the likeness to Stereolab or the steely electronic of Ladytron. “New Beginning”, a refreshing motorik bop for the doomsday generation, was a notable high point of the set. Vocalist/synth player Izzy Glaudini reappeared onstage later with The Jesus and Mary Chain for “Just Like Honey”.
It was a top priority to finally see the post-punk noise of fellow Detroit natives Protomartyr. The energy was even more sharp, raw and bristling than I’d imagined. JAMC were certainly this year’s top legacy act, with a career stretching over nearly 40 years. The Scots made an appearance at the fest back in 2015, but this year fans were treated to an opener off 2017’s Damage and Joy, “Amputation”. After leaving about halfway through to catch another Brazilian act, esteemed Tropicália luminaries Os Mutantes, it struck me how each year this event plants another flag for bringing in landmark acts essential to the construction of this thriving weirdo scene.
If you’ve orbited to the outer fringes of rock and roll over the past few years, you know that the kids loose their brains for Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Some of the grown-ups too. They sold out 2 nights at Stubbs, where I’d also seen them in 2018. One could feel the bubbling of a pit walking alongside the diehards dressed in their finest Lizard costumes, amongst other festive getups. Sure enough, probably the biggest human whirlpool I’ve seen in my 18 years of going to gigs swelled near the stage.
The UFO Club, comprised of members from The Black Angels and Danny Lee Blackwell from Night Beats made a rare appearance at Elysium. The group embraces their 50’s pop and rock predecessors, soaking The Ronettes “Be My Baby” in prismatic reverb and giving another nod in “Bo Diddly Was the 7th Son”. Los Dug Dugs, credited as the first Mexican psychedelic prog outfit during the 1960’s, performed with such genuine enthusiasm members were shaking hands with the audience for coming out to the gig.
Somehow I scored the magic formula for dancing bliss on this day, first with George Clanton‘s Esprit 空想 at Elysium. Then, hopping directly over to Empire for LA’s snarling industrial punks Sextile. Turkish darkwave kings She Past Away played a much anticipated set, with a plethora of attendees pogoing to the front in Skeletor face paint. Hitting the mystery jam at Mohawk proved to be a wise afterparty choice, with members of Friday’s Stubbs support Hooveriii, Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band (Castle Face Records) and an endless revolving door of local pros reigning the discordant chaos of the weekend into a relentless freak jazz ensemble.
Daiistarr has quickly ascended the local ranks as resident fuzz provocateurs, kicking off the final day of mayhem at Stubbs. It’s not often that a band can effortlessly kick out a Primal Scream cover; they closed their set with a blazing rendition of “Burning Wheel”. La Femme who joined Levitation all the way from Biarritz, France are nothing if not grandeur. The cheeky libertine Yé-yé “Sácatela” en Español off their new album Teatro Lúcido was playful enough to woo anyone fading after a 4 day rager.
Of course, the big finale on the main stage could only be The Black Angels, who just returned home to Austin from touring behind their new LP Wilderness of Mirrors. “Without a Trace” served as the thundering battle cry – with an almost guttural dirge of a bassline. The newer tracks fit seamlessly alongside older hits such as “Don’t Play With Guns” and “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven”.
Levitation is an Austin institution, and the addition of new venues and a slew of afterparties made 2022 one of the most memorable to date. Cheers, to another 13 years.
Photos Natali Lytch
Words & Thoughts Linden Krause
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