“Levitation 2022 lineup out 😍”
“I am again considering coming out for it. A good few bands I wanna see that don’t have a Denver date.”
Oh heck yeah. I’ve been slow to reacquaint myself with live shows since the pandemic, but I had a good feeling about this one. Zach, my friend from my college radio alma mater (shout out 90.5 KCSU-FM Fort Collins), was coming to Austin. Levitation 2022 was going to be my first festival in years. I have never been a fan of crowds (and COVID didn’t help), but I thought this would be a great way to reintroduce myself. We snagged our show tickets and impatiently waited until, 5 months later, Halloweekend finally arrived.
Levitation has all the makings of my dream festival: it makes use of all the great venues in downtown Austin, it’s got a specific niche (psych rock and the various synth/goth waves), and it’s big enough to pull some heavy hitter headliners without turning into a 100,000-person event.
Zach’s favorite band, Desire (“they wrote my favorite song ever”, he said), had organized and were headlining the show we attended Friday night: a showcase from Portland independent record label Italians Do It Better. When we arrived at Antone’s, one of the doormen checked Zach’s ID, tipped his cowboy hat, and said “Welcome to Austin.” He also said it to me…but to be fair, I do have a Massachusetts driver's license. The second we stepped inside, I knew it was going to be good. Johnny Jewel, the founder of Italians Do It Better and one of the members of Desire, was already warming up the crowd with a disco-laden DJ set. We immediately started to dance, despite being two of only about four people who stood out against the rest of the folks milling about and swaying gently.
An hour later, Club Intl stepped out on stage and kicked off what ended up being an ideal showcase of what’s happening in dark/new wave and gothic electronic music. With soaring vocals and steady guitar lines that balance the high-pitched synths, their performance was a promising preview of their debut album next year. MOTHERMARY was next, stunning with their sexy PVC lace-up corset mini dresses and interactive set. As sisters, their voices melded together beautifully and their stage personas (devilish ex-cult members who recruited members from the audience through a mid-performance wine communion ceremony) fit perfectly with Halloweekend. Note that they are, in fact, ex-cult members who escaped a fundamentalist Mormon cult.
The fourth act of the night arrived on stage dressed to impress in devil horns, a nude bikini adorned with pearls, and a ruby bleeding heart. Glüme’s vocals shined and her driving rhythms contrasted with her puppy dog eyes perfectly. Finally, we arrived at Zach’s most anticipated show of the whole weekend: Desire. Singer Megan Louise carried the “dressed to kill” torch with a latex midi dress and Johnny Jewel furiously played his various synthesizers. And there were props! A Phantom of the Opera mask, a nod to the Masons with a wine glass and skull, and a telephone for their track “Don’t Call.” The whole set was electric and you couldn’t help but dance and punch your arms every which way.
Two things really stood out to me at the showcase. First was the genre-bending covers: Club Intl performed “The Tide is High,” MOTHERMARY blessed us with “Like a Virgin,” Glüme performed Marilyn Monroe’s “After You Get What You Want (You Don’t Want It)” from No Business Like Show Business, and Desire completed the quartet with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (check out the playlist below to hear these covers and more from each artist). All the acts took these records through a transformation and you could feel the crowd surge with excitement as we sang along. The second factor was how they handled the interlude between acts. Instead of listening to overplayed classics, Johnny Jewel DJed through the transition, making it all but disappear. Other showrunners take note - it kept the energy high throughout and was a simple but incredibly effective change.
After Desire’s set, DJ Johnny Jewel closed us out with “More Than a Woman” and we grooved our way out onto 5th Street and all the way home.