Words by: Trish Connelly
Emotions were at an all time high this weekend after the cancellation of Levitation Fest in Austin, Texas, with less than 24 hours notice. Was this some kind of cruel joke? Can I get a refund on my round-trip plane tickets from Norway? Despite the chaos that ensued, the majority of the festival-goers made the most of it by attending rescheduled sets at local venues downtown and did their best to nab a couple online tickets to bigger headliner sets while they could. On a high note, the scheduled pre-Levitation shows set to go down on Thursday, April 28th still went ahead as planned. Both indoor and outdoor stages at Barracuda provided stacked bills with Burger Records’ Quintron & Miss Pussycat, The Coathangers, Levitation Room and Death Valley Girls, and The Committee to Keep Music Evil’s Mystic Braves, The Veldt, The Turns, Sugar Candy Mountain and Floorian. Unfortunately the pending line outside prevented me from catching Floorian and Death Valley Girls (although DVG did put on a mesmerizing set when I caught them during SXSW this year), but I was pleasantly surprised to catch Oakland-based Sugar Candy Mountain’s jangly psychedelic set. Drawing influences from classic rock bands The Beatles and the Beach Boys, the band’s strong suit was melodies and catchy pop hooks, the perfect soundtrack to a summer road trip set in the desert. Next to take the stage was another act from California (that seemed to be the underlying theme here), psychedelic band, The Turns. Michael Eng and Danny Winebarger’s vocals fit together seamlessly with their experimental-pop harmonies and the kaleidoscopic blend of swirling colors behind them made for a dazzling live spectacle.
Set to take the stage at midnight were North Carolina based act The Veldt. Emerging in the late 80’s as a shoegaze band with R&B influences, The Veldt struck me as a beautiful enigma, staying true to their unique sound and cross blending of genres. My anticipation was high before the show and from start to finish the band did not disappoint. Enveloping the crowd with reverb-laden guitars (including a 12-string played by Danny Chavis), Daniel Chavis’ soulful croon was breath-taking and extensive in his range. The band played a personal favorite, “Everlasting Gobstopper”, Chavis’ vocal inflections and pauses giving it that much more of a intimate note. Their performance ended with a steady climax, a synthesis of dreamy soundscapes and raw energy purely coursing through Chavis’ body. I snagged the opportunity to chat with the band later on during the night and Daniel at one point asked if he went overboard with his stage performance. “Impossible”, I told him, or in such similar words. Rather, the heart, soul and experimental nature that The Veldt put into every nuance of their live act is what makes them distinctive from the rest of their peers and will keep them as stand-outs for a long time to come.
Levitation Room brought all the feel-good hazy vibes to the outside stage at Barracuda, the band recently embarking on their album release tour from California. Packing on the fuzz and reverb-intensity, the band looked like the only place they’d rather be was up on that stage, blissfully in the moment playing to a packed crowd. With most tracks peaking at three or four minutes, Levitation Room kept the energy high throughout their set. Closing out the night outside was a band I had been hearing a lot about but had never seen live, Quintron & Miss Pussycat. Based in New Orleans, their dynamic stage presence of technicolor puppet shows, macara-playing, electronic sounds and psychedelia had their audience moving and dancing to a closing finale. For the duration of the night the disappointment of Levitation Fest being cancelled was abandoned, and the fortune of getting to experience such immersive sets and talented bands from across the country in an intimate setting presented memories that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. She may have a tad obsession with comics and Corgies, but she keeps it under control. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.