Alas, I’ve arisen from my post SXSW coma to finish dissecting the fun times. Perhaps one of the reasons I’ve been wandering around feeling a mixture of death and elation was due the 12 splendorous hours I spent at Hotel Vegas for the Levitation showcase. Presented with Sacred Bones Records, ATP Recordings, and Desert Daze, the event was the highlight of my SXSW adventure, mostly because of the sheer magnitude of acts that I was able to jam into one day. So many that I had to separate day and evening into two posts.
The afternoon began on a silky smoove note as Australian trio Methyl Ethel swashed listeners with their heartfelt emotive grooves. After mentioning the group in my SXSW Preview, it was pleasing to see how their live show resulted in breezy yet still booming jam departures between songs, taking cues from the gentle withdrawn spirit of classic indie yet injecting that modern Aussie mind warping send-off to keep your head spinning. The haunting opening for “Idée Fixe” instilled an icy disco vibe, the perfect number for easing into the day. Hope the Perth crew make it back stateside asap.
Yak‘s appearance on the day’s lineup came as a great surprise to me, as I’ve been following these guys since they started turning heads with their EP last year. It felt a bit early in the day for these London lads, yet their furiosity was matched by the afternoon sun, resulting in a sweaty, sneering and enthused performance. Their early single, “Hungry Heart”, interluded with a gritty version of the old Appalachian folk tune”Cumberland Gap” was a standout. By merging their punk undertones with a classic song, they breathed new life into the track, and topped off their set with a thermal guitar meltdown. The newly released video for “Harbour the Feeling” matches the group with amateur bull-riders, a scenario almost as thrashing as their live presence.
Sugar Candy Mountain
Journeying indoors to the Hotel Vegas adjoined Volstead stage, I encountered my first new discovery for the day, Sugar Candy Mountain. Living up to their namesake, the Oakland, CA natives drenched the room in retro San Francisco psych syrup. A little bit Beach Boys pop nostalgia, and a lot of hip-shaking surf reverb, SCM has even done a cover of The Beatles “Rain” for The Magical Mystery Psych-Out – A Tribute To The Beatles.
Indrajit Banerjee and Gourishankar
Each esteemed and world-class artists in their craft, it is easy for even the casual listener to distinguish these maestros apart from other musicians. Every microtap of the tabla (Gourishankar) was answered by the corresponding hum of the sitar (Indrajit Banerjee) and vice versa; their exchange happening at such a feverent and quickening pace one could only guess that the two truly have elevated their communication to another level. Indrajit Banerjee and Gourishankar performed at Levitation 2015, and they are not to missed if you have the opportunity to tune into their scintillating talents.
Though I only caught Cosmonauts briefly, I lucked into getting to see them play “Sweet Talk”. It was definitely one of those moments where you want to facepalm yourself for having slept on a band for so long. Slinky, atmospheric garage pop with enough howl to make you ponder your recreational drug use.
Shannon and the Clams
First off, the #1 Best Dressed group of the day by a landslide. The choice of fashion was a slight nod to their sound: sharp, throwback, maybe a bit strange…..One of their newest tracks, “The Bog”pulsed into the dusty afternoon air, all at once charming and eerily hypnotizing the (now growing) audience. There was enough quirk to enliven the surf-soaked California rockabilly numbers , making Shannon & The Clams one of the most interesting acts of the day.
Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees at the Levitation showcase was the first of 3 sets I was able to catch from them during their 5 day Austin residency (including a secret show where I crowd surfed and briefly swung off of a chain on the ceiling. That’s another story). Singer/guitarist John Dwyer talked some enjoyable shit to the crowd before bursting into the nervy and deranged psych sludge the gang is so loved for. A perfect transition into what would prove to be a most killer evening.