Psych Feasts and Intimate Spaces: Levitation Vancouver 2016 Review

by Brittany Campbell

Levitation Vancouver 2016

The year 2016 strikes again. It seems like this is the year of cancellations and changes for Levitation, the Austin based psych-rock festival. After the news hit that the Austin leg of the fest would not be happening I decided to head to this year’s Vancouver Levitation. Yet, before I even landed news of Russian Circles canceling from a car wreck and the complete move of the fest from the outside venue of Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park to the Commodore Ballroom had already spread.

Since Russian Circles canceled I made the decision to sit out the opening show and partake in some local parties related to the festival. I headed to Dock Lunch, a quaint restaurant that reminded of Justine’s with a select menu themed “Psych Feast” featuring mushrooms, cactus, and mezcal. The following day the sun was up and locals headed to third beach to soak up the sun before the nights show. It seemed that the general sentiment of locals was “another show at the Commodore;” many assumed the move was due to the all day drizzle Saturday but it seems that the most likely reason was lack of ticket sales.

Levitation Vancouver

We headed to The Commodore Ballroom, a venue built for elegant events in 1929. The venue was equipped with a wooden dance floor, full service dinning tables and a curtain dropped balcony. I arrived just in time to catch Allah-Las, a Los Angeles-based dreamy psych-pop group who were highly recommended to me for the Austin Levitation, and they did not disappoint.

We caught a few more bands, however, the lack of interest was building. Outside it was 64 and sunny and in Vancouver the sun does not set until well after 9pm. This was definitely a drawback to the indoor venue. No one was sitting still and half the venue had emptied out by the time Tycho hit the stage. After a stroll downtown in the final minutes of sun up, we caught the tail end of Tycho. I felt as though I would never be able to see a headliner in a space like this back home in Austin.

Rain hit just as expected, however Saturday’s line-up was much anticipated. Having only seen Thee Oh Sees at Hotel Vegas and other dive venues it was a pleasure catching them on such a stage. The sound was perfect and the crowd’s energy was high. The attendance was double of Friday. My personal favorite, the Growlers, were up next. By this point the local psychedelics were kicking in and I headed to the balcony where apparently you do not need any special credentials. The view was amazing! The lights were fitting, crowd chanting, but the only thing that lacked was the typical Growlers stage props and theatrical dress and Brooks vocals seemed poorly mixed.

Flying Lotus followed with a show coveted for its visuals. Yet again the venue seemed to empty out once they hit the stage. Having seem them before I left to make it to the Rickshaw, another theatre style venue with balcony, tiered seating and standing room pit. I arrived at the Rickshaw for the only Austin band on the line-up, Holy Wave. The oil projections with the desert-psych vibes of Holy Wave made for a dream Levitation show.

Levitation Vancouver Holy Wave

Austin’s own Holy Wave performing at Vancouver’s Levitation Fest

The last minute addition of Brazilian band Boogarins followed. Talk about a psych revival, this band was all over the place with trippy vocals, heart pounding drums, and tantric moves. The night ended with fuzz rockers Dead Meadow. Their drummer stole the show with his straight-arm toy drumming style.

Levitation Vancouver relied on ACL style headliners to draw a crowd, but with lack of promotion it seemed the move to the indoor venues were for the best. All and all, I would totally recommend Levitation Vancouver in the future to check out these heavy hitters in a more personal space, take a break from America and enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Brittany Campbell is a freelance booker and BMXer in Austin, Texas.