TVD Live: Austin Psych Fest’s LEVITATION 2015, 5/8–5/10

PHOTOS: MATTHEW TAPLINGER | I’m a dad now. I don’t have time to go to all kinds of music festivals every year. And actually I never was that big a festival-goer anyway, even before my daughter came along two years ago. But I’ve been to “the Bonnaroo” back when it wasn’t quite so corporate, and I went to All Tomorrow’s Parties the two years that they were held in upstate New York at the magical Kutshers Country Club in Monticello. Man, those two fests are about as good as it gets.

Well, I don’t fuck around much with many other festivals now…besides Austin Psych Fest. Or “LEVITATION,” to which it was simplified this year. I’ve “Levitated” there for the past four years in a row. What I think attracts me so much to this fest is how it strikes quite a perfect vibe balance between circa 2007 Bonnaroo and 2009-2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties at Kutshers.


My first Austin Psych Fest was in 2012, the last year that it was held indoors, this time at Emo’s East and the adjoining Beauty Ballroom. It was certainly memorable enough that I’ve returned every year since, and ever since Austin Psych Fest or LEVITATION has been held at the Carson Creek Ranch, a sprawling, idyllic landscape on the Colorado River.


In fact, one of the three stages, Elevation Amphitheater, is even located right along that riverside and has been my favorite of the stages since the Fest hit Carson Creek Ranch. Well, this year, Mother Nature threw Levitation organizers a curve-ball by soaking festival grounds with record amounts of rainfall for a few days leading up to Levitation.

All three stages had to be moved around to find solid ground and the forecast for the rest of the weekend was grim. Well, it was pretty muddy the first day, but the forecast turned out to be very wrong and it didn’t thunderstorm all weekend, as everyone was expecting.


The threat of rain didn’t even slightly dampen this crowd’s excitement for the weekend and the bands they couldn’t wait to see! I mean, c’mon, the 13th Floor Elevators were reuniting for their 50th reunion! And then you throw in the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Tame Impala, the Flaming Lips, the Black Angels, and Spiritualized…and you’ve got some seriously killer headliners.


That’s the Jesus and Mary Jane in the above pic. Of the big headliners, I’ve gotta say that Tame Impala blew me away the most. I’m a fan and I’ve seen them once before but, hearing some of the new stuff from the upcoming Currents album, I was a little skeptical about how I felt about them. This performance solidified that I will definitely be buying their new album…and solidified the reason why they are such a huge band right now. Mind-blowing, tight rock show.


But what I really love is seeing all the smaller bands throughout the day. These are bands that are totally in their prime and are the ones really putting in some stellar performances. For example, The Myrrors (above) came onstage at 6:30pm on Saturday and built their set slowly with soft instrumentation and chanting and steadily evolved into brain-melting improvised jams.


At Levitation 2015, there was plenty of great upbeat punky, garage rock but also balanced with acts like the jazz and folk-inflected Ryley Walker and the tabla and sitar classical Indian masters, Gourisankar & Indrajit Banarjee, who won the crowd over with the gentle beauty of their music. And for your heavier rock or shoegazey needs, you would go to the Levitation Tent and catch someone like Fuzz, A Place To Bury Strangers, Lightning Bolt, Fat Whites, or the Black Ryder.


Austin Psych Fest has been doing an extraordinary job striking a fantastic balance year after year and 2015 may have been the best yet. My favorite sets came from Chui Wan, Heaters, The Myrrors, Gourisankar & Indrajit Banarjee, Follakzoid, Eternal Tapestry, Fuzz, White Fence and Tame Impala. But pretty much everything I saw was fucking great! That’s how Levitation works!




And goddamn if there isn’t some amazing food in Austin! The moment I got off the plane, photog Matthew Taplinger took me to La Barbeque for thee best brisket sandwich I’ve ever had. And man, the breakfast tacos at Vera Crux All Natural were probably my favorite breakfast tacos ever. And the food inside Levitation was also very well curated with plenty of different options from burgers to pizza to tacos to also many vegan and vegetarian options. And everything was good…as opposed to the usual mediocre festival grub!



And it’s such a treat to run into friends at Levitation. This has yet to turn into a “bro”-centric festival. In fact, the crowd feels like it’s just full of people you’d actually like and want to hang out with. Never once did I need to complain about some jerkoff behind me spilling beer down my back, which some version of seems to happen at every other festival.


Quick fun story—a foxy blonde girl came over and sat by my friend and I towards the end of Tame Impala’s set and was asking about drugs and chatting us up a bit. She was already feeling alright, it was quite obvious. She said “hey, you guys get out there and dance your balls off!” and we were like “yeah, maybe.” I said goodbye and went to grab a drink and then returned…and our lovely friend Emily had split. About 15 minutes later she was onstage with Tame Impala dancing with the band (at least for a minute or two). She was having the time of her life.

Well done, Levitation 2015! See you next Spring. I’m sure it will be the one festival worth making the annual pilgrimage!

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