Levitation returned to venues across Austin, Texas on Halloween Weekend 2023, Thursday-Sunday, October 26th-29th. This four day multi-sensory experience is for those who prefer digging for deeper cuts in the album bin and the lineup for this year did not disappoint. Levitation 2023 had everything from favorite bands doing DJ sets in the Levitation Lounge, liquid light displays that saturated every surface, and the fuzziest guitars, basses, and keys that made the season change in front of festival goers’ eyes.
Levitation organizers were kind as they pondered the Sunday schedule. Three days and nights of performances can be a lot to ask for music fans that are getting into their 30s and 40s, so thankfully Sunday shows didn’t kick off until close to the dinner hour. What had been a muggy, moist, and unseasonably warm late October transformed overnight as a cold front blew chilly wind and mist that had festival goers scrambling for hoodies and thick layers. To warm up, a modest crowd of festival goers started dancing to a DJ set at the Levitation Lounge by evening headliners Death From Above 1979.
Across town at the Far Out Lounge, Anthony Lawson Jude Ifeanyichukwu Obiawunaotu, better known as Fat Tony, took the crowd into golden hour with a rapid fire set. The Nigerian-American rapper out of Houston returns to Austin after a noteworthy May performance at the Empire Control Room on Red River. Over the summer the rapper traveled Europe primarily in England and Belgium in support of his collaboration with Taydex on this year’s I Will Make a Baby in this Damn Economy.
DJ Shadow fans were not fazed by the crappy cold weather that blew cups and wrappers around the festival grounds. When the venerable crate digger took the stage, he apologized to the crowd that he had an issue with visuals and that he’d have to rely solely on his DJ skills, which were polished and bountiful that evening. Having taken a several year hiatus before putting out new material, the artist is back on the road this year for his latest album Action Adventure, which features ‘80s sounding glitchy beats with a touch of drum and bass that are reflective of our anxious times.
The jazz element of Levitation has been another welcomed addition as the festival expands its focus to not just include traditional psychedelic rock. Take for example, Thundercat’s set in 2021 at Stubb’s (QRO photos) that showcased one of the most talented and complex jazz bassists to grace the lineup. Canadian jazz and hip hop musicians BADBADNOTGOOD were expertly placed as headliners on Sunday that featured more of a hip-hop vibe. No strangers to cold weather, the Toronto-based quartet were bundled up and bathed in 16mm film projections that ranged from nostalgic images of Joshua Trees along with teal and blue ocean waves. The dramatic resonance of songs such as saxophone-forward song “Confessions” from the 2014 album III highlighted the incredible skills of each of these finely tuned musicians.
For those wanting to extend their listening on late Sunday evening, the place to be was Empire Control Room for JJUUJJUU’s 10:20 pm set. The otherworldly and tribal electric sounds of the Los Angeles, California band led by messiah-like figure Phil Pirrone capped off a glorious weekend of transcendence and revelry. The cramped confines of the room were expanded and brought to life with colorful washes of magenta and cyan swirling about, uniting the band and the crowd in mysterious light as transmissions and cacophony from another dimension reigned.
-words: Alex Freeman & Lindsey Sutherland
-photos: Alex Freeman