Fans from all over the world fans came to Levitation; Australia, England, Japan and that far off place named North Dakota. They converged to let go of real life worries for three days of psychedelic freedom. That’s exactly what makes music festivals both unique and popular; the convergence of like-minded people coming together for one common reason, music. I spent most of the day transversing the festival grounds meeting and interviewing fans (look for our mini-festival doc/recap coming soon) to talk about why they were at Levitation, which sets they enjoyed the most and whether or not they were going to keep their muddy shoes at the end of the weekend.
I continued my music discovery on day three checking out Goastt and ZZZs.
If you’re not aware, Goastt (Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) it’s fronted by John Lennon’s son, Sean Lennon and his model girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl. They have a blissful psychedelic sound and were one of the most buzzed about bands at Levitation. You could tell that Lennon and Muhl both were in the zone and ready to perform. It was a beautiful set, and that goes for more than just the music, which was gorgeous and harmony drenched. Muhl was an absolute stunner in an off-white, long lace dress accessorized with a tiger tail. Her long hair blowing in the wind and the sun against her face made for a whimsical look. Under a large-brimmed hat, Lennon squinted his bespectacled eyes and swooped his guitar into the air while playing precariously close to the edge of the stage and said he had enjoyed Coachella but that Levitation was the best festival they’d been to.
Before their set on Sunday, I kept hearing everyone at Levitation talk about was the ZZZs. All I knew was they are a group of three women from Japan that play a post punk sound. Dressed in all black, they calmly walked on stage not giving the audience any indication as to what was about to happen. They did a quick sound check and then Lyn, the drummer, announced, “we are the ZZZs” and then they tore into a set that even had all the photographers in the pit rocking out. Calm and collected they plowed through each song like seasoned musicians well beyond their years. Based on their demure and collected composures you just wouldn’t had expected this trio to lay down such a noisy punk music. Goes to show that the old adage is true; never (ever) judge a book by it’s cover. If you’re into grungy and reverb punk then this is your band.
The main stage was the place to camp out on the final day of Levitation.
It took exactly three chords before Mac Demarco’s hat flew off and we were being treated to a sound that’s both familiar and uniquely his own. The crowd had swelled before Demarco’s set, forcing some eager fans to climb up on tables to get a better vantage point. As the band ripped through “Salad Days” and “Blue Boy”, Mac stopped about six songs in to introduce a song by their “favorite psychedelic band” then began playing “Yellow” by Coldplay. Always relaxed and infinitely cool, Demarco had his beer and his gapped tooth grin on the stage for the entire set (cue my swooning now).
13th Floor Elevators
As the pioneers of the psychedelic rock genre, 13th Floor Elevators was THE MUST SEE act at Levitation. This performance was nearly 50 years in the making and the first time the surviving original three members of the band had played together in years. 13th Floor is so important to the genre that two stages at Levitation and the festival itself had been re-named in their honor. They played a solid set including, “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” The entire place was fanning out and screamed in a gasp of awe and curiosity when Roky Erickson took the stage. Without even being phased Erickson and the band played to the cheers of the crowd. All I can really say is that it was epic to be able to see such a legendary band come together after so long. This show will not be soon forgotten even if Erickson seemed to forget parts of some of the lyrics.
Devoted Flaming Lips fans had camped out at the main stage most of the day to secure the prime real estate for the set. Through the 13th Floor Elevators they were respectful if not a little detached from the knowledge of the legends they were seeing, but once the stage was transformed into bombastic eye candy for the Flaming Lips there was no stopping their crashing wave of frenzied passion. This was my first time seeing Flaming Lips and wow, what a show they put on. It was a musical circus of weird. Dancing mushrooms, rainbows and a sun emoji shared the stage with lead singer Wayne Coyen. Massive confetti filled balloons fell on the crowd as fans clamored to pop them, light up tentacles draped the stage and a blow up turtle was passed through the crowd. My eyes were bugging out of my head at this point because this was all happening during song one. By song two a massive “Fuck Yeah Levitation” balloon was carried on stage as the crowd roared in appreciation and middle fingers shot up in the air. It all kept going like this…confetti canons and costumes, characters and kaleidoscope lights and of course music. Though the music seems secondary when it comes to a Flaming Lips show, this is a trip and we are merely invited along for the ride.
My take away from Levitation Festival is that there is a place for every music lover; that weird is okay and even welcomed in a world that is over wrought with sameness, and that above all else a music festival is a place that brings together a diverse and totally kickass group of humans. I will be levitating above the clouds on the vibes from a totally fantastic weekend of tripped out tunes until the next time a festival comes calling my name.
Words & Photography: Anne-Marie Schiefer
An hour before, The Flaming Lips took the stage at Levitation 2015, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, and six friends got matching heart tattoos on their pinkie fingers at the Sailor Jerry Airstream trailer.
Want more photos of Austin Psych Fest / Levitation 2015? Check out the photo gallery below!