By Jared Dudley
After taking a year off in 2020, Levitation Festival returned last weekend with live performances from over 70 bands and artists playing in venues across downtown Austin. Named in honor of Austin’s psychedelic rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, Levitation Fest is a community-focused celebration of the underground, featuring a variety of rock sounds including noise, goth, punk, and metal.
The Levitation Kick-off Show took place on Wednesday, Oct. 5th and acted as a primer for the festival proper. Six bands played across two stages, one indoor and one outdoor, at Empire Control Room. Like most venues in the festival, Empire was an intimate spot used to house some truly larger-than-life talent.
Starcrawler, a high-octane alt-rock band with heavy metal and pop-punk influences, took the outdoor stage, known as The Garage, just as the night began.
Guitarist Henri Cash played with electrifying energy as he jolted around on stage, but the crowd’s eyes were glued to lead singer Arrow de Wilde, who demanded full attention for every second of the performance. Her glam-rock getup stuck out like a shining star among her bandmates, and she wasted no time getting to the front and center. As she sang lyrics filled with attitude, de Wilde strutted around and danced with reckless abandon. At the end of the set, she walked off the front of the stage, pushing aside people from the cheering crowd like they were flimsy curtains. She came, she killed it, and then she was off. A true rock star if there ever was one.
Enumclaw was the first band to perform at the indoors Control Room venue. A stark contrast from the bombastic chaos of Starcrawler’s performance, Enumclaw’s mellow 90s rock sound and personal lyrics about failed relationships invited the crowd to get in close.
A sense of togetherness was further established by the warm presence of lead singer Amaris Johnson, who at one point talked about his love of the television series King of the Hill before his bandmates played the show’s iconic opening theme. The four-piece from Tacoma, Washington started putting out music this year and quickly gained traction after critical acclaim from the likes of Pitchfork, Stereogum and KEXP. Their debut EP Jimbo Demo was released in April, and its quality proves Enumclaw is a band with remarkable things ahead of them.
Back at The Garage, Nothing performed to a dazzled audience. Their heavy shoegaze sound filled the night air with fuzzy guitar riffs and moody vocal harmonies. The band’s frontman, Dominic Palermo, was a part of a hardcore rock band before forming Nothing and he has taken a pinch of that intensity into the band’s music.
The last act to play The Garage was The Sword, a local band hailing from Austin and fan favorite at Levitation. With a combination of fast-paced heavy metal and lyrics steeped in themes of high fantasy, The Sword draws an obvious comparison to popular metal bands from the ’80s. Their abrasive sound drew in the biggest audience of the night and had everyone banging their head to the beat. If someone needed a band to get a crowd’s blood pumping and ready for an impending music festival, few bands would be better suited for the job than The Sword.
The event closed with Frankie Rose performing a late-night set in the Control Room. She and her band, comprised of a bass player and a synth operator, performed ethereal-sounding indie-pop underneath mysterious low lights and in front of a trippy backdrop. Rose’s voice lends itself well to the high-pitched humming of synthesizers to create a beautiful soundscape and the group’s overall gothic sound and stage presence was the perfect match for the Halloween weekend.
Overall, the event showcased the wide range of musical sounds coming from the bands playing over the course of the festival. The focus on underground artists and community engagement set Levitation apart from other festivals in the Austin area. The intimacy of a smaller crowd allows a band or artist to make a genuine connection with their audience, which is something that can get lost in larger venues. This paired with the decentralized approach of letting bands perform in venues throughout downtown Austin causes Levitation to have a wholly unique identity and be an incredible experience for any fan of rock music.
Featured Image by Jared Dudley
Written by: ktsw899