Now that Austinians have spent the year pregaming at SXSW and ACL, it’s finally time for the Texas capital’s main festival attraction: L. Spanning a modest four days (what’s SX now, an entire month? As a non-Austinite, I honestly don’t know if ACL ever stops?), Levitation is an expertly curated line-up of artists as engaging as they are easy to zone out to in the best way possible, with no substances necessary.
Although many locals are familiar with The Reverberation Appreciation Society and most of the psych-wary headliners, there’s plenty of hidden talent listed in smaller fonts on each night’s bills across the city. Because no one else is gonna help you with the task of mapping out your weekend (note: this is almost certainly not true), we’ve thrown together a handy guide of which artists we’ll beat your ass for not arriving early enough to see. (Just kidding…unless?)
All Your Sisters
If you need some thick-as-sin reverb to dance to, All Your Sisters serve up the same viscosity of fuzz as their Levitating peers, but with an electronic industrialism like Cold Cave covering A Place to Bury Strangers. Though it’s as dark as anything The Flenser has given us to date, there’s definitely a trace of upbeat new wave entombed in the aggressive, full sound of April’s Trust Ruins LP—if you’re looking for a cleaner electronic sound, you’re probably at the wrong festival, you dummy.
All Your Sisters plays Sunday, November 10 at 11 p.m. @ Cheer Up Charlies with Deep Cross, Shana Falana, and FILTHY
Deafheaven and Power Trip is a lot to experience in a single weekend, but if you think your body can handle it, Devil Master is just hardcore-punk enough and also black-metal enough to get you warmed up for both pits. The Philly group’s extremely loud hexes carry the weight of a million condemned and screaming souls, begging to be reanimated as attendees of Levitation Fest 2019 in Austin, Texas, as heard on the misanthropic deathrock of last March’s Satan Spits on Children of Light. Live up to the privilege of being animated and throw some limbs at this one.
Devil Master plays Thursday, November 7 at 8 p.m. @ Mohawk with High on Fire, Power Trip, and Creeping Death
Emma Ruth Rundle
Helping Chelsea Wolfe with goth representation at Levitation this year is Emma Ruth Rundle, who’s been instrumental in spreading the quote-unquote death gospel sound in and outside of metal circles for the better part of five years. Less experimental than Wolfe, and less heavy than peers like King Woman, Rundle seems to have carved out her own corner of the movement that’s more “The Man Who Sold the World (MTV Unplugged (OK, Definitely a Little Plugged))” than it is “Vessel”—or in metal terms, more Inconsolable than House Primordial. Bidding on ERR’s sweater starts at 75k.
Emma Ruth Rundle plays Friday, November 8 at 11:15 p.m. @ Empire with Deafheaven, Russian Circles, Lingua Ignota, Brutus, and Jaye Jayle
Guerilla Toss is what a DFA-signed artist might sound like if they were permitted entry to the city of Austin the weekend of Levitation Festival, a hypothetical that runs deeper than the verifiable fact that the former DFA signees happen to be playing Levitation this year. GT offer a different kind of trip from their heavy-psych contemporaries, serving up five of the breeziest psych-futurist anthems last month with their What Would the Odd Do? EP, bridging the previously uninvestigated gap between The Rapture’s alt-acid house and Deerhoof’s jarring revisionist noise rock. To answer the band’s question: the odd would attend Guerilla Toss’ set Saturday, November 9 at 11:15 p.m. @ Empire with TOBACCO, Beak>, Deantoni Parks, Al Lover, and JJUUJJUU.
Guerilla Toss plays Saturday, November 9 at 11:15 p.m. @ Empire with TOBACCO, Beak>, Deantoni Parks, Al Lover, and JJUUJJUU
The music Lillie West writes as Lala Lala isn’t “psych rock” per se, but one could make the argument that the “rock” songs from her latest LP Destroyer expand one’s consciousness to the point that it feels like a “psychedelic” experience, aha. You ever hear her witty, sarcastic stage banter? Yeah, more like “sike” rock, ha ha. She must be “psych”-ic to know exactly what song we want to hear next, hah hah hah! OK but seriously, “When You Die” makes me cry every single time I listen to it, and “Destroyer” is an astonishingly perfect pop song—please don’t let this terrible write-up deter you.
Lala Lala plays Sunday, November 10 at 5 p.m. @ Stubb’s with Kurt Vile & the Violators and Dinosaur Jr.
I’m so, so sorry, I know y’all already know you need to see Night Beats—a Lone Star–caliber fixture in Austin’s grimy psych scene for nearly a decade now—and I don’t mean to insult you. It just can’t be overstated how transportive the group’s live show is—that beatnik energy filtered through the opium-den aesthetic popularized by heavy-psych step brothers The Black Angels…not to mention those extremely round hats and on-point cowboy getups. I know you know this, but their sets only get tighter as the band ages, and you can’t afford to miss them playing their three-times-certified platinum single “Puppet on a String,” or any of the just-one-time-certified platinum singles that followed.
Night Beats play Saturday, November 9 at 11 p.m. @ Barracuda with The Coathangers, Frankie & the Witch Fingers, Cosmonauts, JJUUJJUU, and Moonwalks
It appears as if aughts indie-rock historian and Coen Brothers casting director Ryley Walker is dipping his toes in the guitar-rock game, teaming up with the likes of Bill MacKay, Daniel Bachman, Charles Rumback, and everyone’s favorite gerund band in the years surrounding his recent opus: a full-album cover of Dave Matthews Band’s Lillywhite Sessions. When he’s not tweeting out the math-rock sequel to Meet Me in the Bathroom, Walker’s throwing down on primitivist improv collabs and psych-folk solo records that sound more in tune with the cornfield towns of Illinois than his past residences of Rockford and Chicago’s Empty Bottle. It’s still unclear whether he’ll be blessing us with material from his forthcoming Rumback collaboration or forty-five minutes of monologue.
Ryley Walker plays Thursday, November 7 at 11:45 p.m. @ Hotel Vegas with Pink Mountaintops and Christelle Bofale
If the thought of a Cocteau Twins album with discernible lyrics doesn’t turn you off completely, SRSQ’s Unreality is just as good as whatever that might possibly sound like. Or maybe imagine if instead of running up that hill to make a deal with God, Kate Bush were running down it, to sort shit out with Satan. Imagine if Dead Couldn’t Actually Dance. I could keep making stupid jokes to give you an idea of what Kennedy Ashlyn’s music sounds like but I won’t—you’ll have to show up early for TR/ST to find out for yourself instead.
SRSQ plays Thursday, November 7 at 10:15 p.m. @ Empire with TR/ST, Jonathan Bree, Troller, Black Marble, Hey Jellie, and Automatic
You may not know this, but Pittsburgh can get really, really weird. Besides that shitty Batman movie where Hines Ward returned an opening kickoff for a TD only to realize the entirety of Heinz Field had been detonated, Black Moth Super Rainbow is probably the weirdest of all things that have taken place in the Steel City, with TOBACCO being one of the many weird factions that make up the weird whole. No less weird without his backing neo-psych band, we have Thomas Fec to thank for the weirdest moments in Beck’s, Aesop Rock’s, and, eh, debatably, The Flaming Lips’ careers. Actually, “yinz” is weirder than BMSR.
TOBACCO plays Saturday, November 9 at 10:30 p.m. @ Empire with Beak>, Deantoni Parks, Guerilla Toss, Al Lover, and JJUUJJUU
After a long week of being around extremely normie co-workers, you’re finally indistinguishable amidst a sea of black tees, letting your hair down, and banging your head perfectly in sync with everyone around you to the snail’s-pace riffs of state-of-the-dark-arts stoner rock. A teen passes you a joint; you say, “I’m good, man,” only because you feel weird accepting substances from a teen, though you still want him to think you’re cool. It’s catharsis without excessive expulsion of energy, it’s metal without the whiplash. It’s Windhand, babyyyy.
Windhand plays Saturday, November 9 at 9:30 p.m. @ Mohawk with Red Fang, Torche, and Monolord