The truth? There were lots. But I’m not talking about drugs.
Levitation Music Fest which took place earlier this month in Vancouver, B.C. is all about music that gets you high off its vibe. The lineup promised hours of amazing, elevating, mind altering performances.
The festival itself was impressive, and even more so considering this was the first year Levitation took place outside its original birth city of Austin– Levitation Vancouver is the new born baby offspring of the 8-year old Austin Psych Fest. Baby festivals having baby festivals.
The entire event ran from the night of Friday June 5th through late night Sunday June 7th, with daytime acts taking stage in an outdoor amphitheater, Vancouver’s “Malkin Bowl,” and night time shows throughout a handful of popular downtown venues. One look at the lineup and you can see this is a huge deal for a place like Vancouver, which, as I learned over the weekend, doesn’t get many big acts coming through for shows. (As some of the guys from Dead Ghost explained, there’s not much incentive to tour in Canada where major cities are often more than several hundred miles apart from one another.)
Burger Records was the most represented label in the lineup for sure, though the fest’s organizers managed diversity with acts like The Black Angels, Dead Moon, The Shivas, The Black Lips, Tobacco, Dead Ghosts, Beach Fossils, A Place to Bury Strangers, JJUUJJUU, Night Beats, L.A. Witch, King Tuff among so many other great ones. Really, check out the link to get a feel for everyone who was there.
If psych music of any kind is your thing you’ll probably want to pay attention to this festival in the future.
When we did manage to get backstage (because we snuck back) Drew and I were super excited to get to talk to a few of our favorite acts in the lineup and ask them about all kinds of fun things ranging from some that are kinda fuckin’ deep, dude, to others that are not at all.
(Sadly, because of the press limitations, the interviews we had lined up with a couple of the already-few female acts fell through. Hopefully next time.)
Here are some of the highlights:
I asked Dead Ghosts their favorite cereal and (separately) the grossest food they actually like.
Mo: Cap’n Crunch – gas station taquitos with that gnarly nacho cheese; Bryan: initially said Apple Jacks but then abandoned them when he thought of Pro Stars (classic Canadian cereal with a stoked Wayne Gretzky on the box) – raw fish that’s weirder than sushi, like urchin; Drew: Lucky Charms – some random hot dog thing with terrible shit all over it; Steve: Frosted Flakes – sloppy joes but specifically the Manwich stuff out of the can that’s probably just dehydrated beef with tomato sauce and corn syrup.
We talked about how they’ve played in Portland a few times prior at East End, Bunk Bar, and what Mo suggested might have been Plan B. “Plan B?” Hmm.. “Ah! B Side.” Jokes about last-ditch efforts at preventing pregnancy followed.
By self-proclamation they’re the Laziest Dudes Ever and say they pretty much fell into being hooked up with Burger. Our assessment is that they’re also probably the Nicest Dudes Ever so it seems they deserve it (also their devotion is definitely in check- all members have been on every recording since their beginning over seven years ago and they’re about to embark on their third tour through Europe).
He commented that bringing people together in this unique type of space opens us up to each other. Since there aren’t many other circumstances where as adults we get to spend a few consecutive days with the same small network of people- whether it’s a camping festival or one like SXSW or our own MFNW, there’s a lot that happens in terms of exploration, discovery, and connection.
During this explanation a member of The Shivas came by asking Phil if he could have a hand with a gear issue, and Phil apologetically paused our interview for a few minutes to go help. Nice timing in unwittingly illustrating camaraderie, gentlemen.
I was also curious to hear his thoughts on being an artist who has to act as an administrator- something I think a lot of us can relate to. No artistic pursuit can be wholly whimsical and intuitive, and often we have to pause creativity in order to act as a small business’ operations manager. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t have a magic formula for balance and success. He credits having people around who get it, and who support your vision. He also credits salad. Wait, what? Salad? Yep. Read on.
Salad came up when we were talking about what eating real food does for performance. He explained that often the nature of being on the road or playing festivals means you eat a lot of pizza, and eventually bread and cheese accumulating in your guts is going to make you sluggish and is going to be portrayed in your show. And in fact, it’s going to impact a lot of other stuff too. In essence: “Huge shoutout to salad.”- Phil.
I asked Ryley Walker why he’s so weird on stage.
Watching Ryley with his guitar is like watching your friend’s shy but charming little brother somehow blow your singular human mind while performing at church camp. The soul in his performance is so attuned, and watching him sort of transports you to a place that feels of spiritual naivety. It’s definitely partially due to his big grin and goober onstage demeanor, but also because his songs and how he delivers them makes you feel like you’re maybe only just beginning to understand what’s happening around you in the world and in your mind. Also, he gives a little story before each song but doesn’t ever say what any song is called or on which recording to find it. He basically acts like you’re just hanging out on a porch but it happens to be a stage with hundreds of people watching.
When I asked him about it he explained the only way he can curb his nerves on a stage is to refuse to treat it like one. Then we started talking about his birthday and how he’s a Cancer, at which point his dear pal who was hanging nearby joined in the convo, and I lost track of Ryley because she and I got caught up chatting for the next half hour (we both think most weddings are dumb and have worked in catering).
That interview was my final experience with Levitation, and in retrospect I think the ending pretty accurately reflects the experience as a whole. It didn’t go the way I planned, I didn’t really get as much information as I’d hoped for, but was great in a totally different way because of the wonderful people in and around it.
And ironically, the limitations set by organizers sort of highlighted how devoted the artists were to the spirit of the festival. At several points over the weekend artists went out of their way to help us be as involved as possible, regardless of how it benefitted them (it usually didn’t).
Keep bringing these folks back and I think Levitation is bound to rise even higher in years to come.
(But also please let us go backstage sometimes?)