One of Austin’s few remaining independent niche music festivals, Levitation is a celebration of psychedelic music and experimental sounds that began in 2008, when Christian Bland and Alex Mass from the Black Angels decided to invite their friends and favorite bands to play a party in Austin.
The festival, originally known as Austin Psych Fest, returns Thursday evening to the Red River Cultural District and other neighboring venues as a series of individually ticketed club showcases, many of which are curated by boutique record labels, booking agencies and media outlets.
Levitation events continue every night this weekend; the festival also features afternoon shows on Saturday and Sunday. It’s possible to choose your own adventure and plan a full 10-12 hours of fuzzy rock, rowdy punk and dreamy pop. The festival also will host a stage each night at Waterloo Greenway’s free Creek Show art installation on Waller Creek.
More information, ticket links and the full festival schedule grid are available at levitation-austin.com. Here are a few highlights.
Friday: Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Holy Wave at Stubb’s outdoor. We get to see the outlandishly theatrical Flaming Lips on a fairly regular basis, as Austin has long been one of bandleader Wayne Coyne’s favorite cities (dating back to early-’90s small-club experiences and memorable South by Southwest adventures). But they’re an ideal fit as a Levitation headliner, too, especially with their close-knit pals Mercury Rev sharing the bill. (Rev founding bassist Dave Fridmann co-produced most Lips records, and guitarist Jonathan Donahue has been in both bands.) A perfect local opener is Holy Wave, arguably Austin’s second-best psych-rock outfit behind Levitation founders the Black Angels. $48.50. 5:30 p.m. doors. 801 Red River St. — P.B.
Saturday: Flipper with David Yow, Cherubs at Hotel Vegas. Sure, David Yow is pushing 60, but the bombastic Jesus Lizard frontman and Scratch Acid co-founder most certainly is not too old to crowd surf. Seminal San Francisco art-punk outfit Flipper tapped Yow to shout over their slow and sludgy pre-grunge rockers in 2015 when their frontman, Bruce "Loose" Calderwood, retired due to back problems. Now the band is on its 40th anniversary tour, just released a new 7-inch version of their classic track "Love Canal" with Yow on vocals and has been destroying live sets around the country. Recently reunited Austin noise-rock act Cherubs also is on the two-stage bill along with Noogy, Protex, Richard Rose, Richard Vain and Mujeres Podridas. $26.50. 7 p.m. 1502 E. Sixth St. — D.S.S.
Saturday: Black Angels, John Cale, Federale at Stubb’s outdoor. Levitation wouldn’t exist without the Black Angels, the band that has done more than any local act to carry forth Roky Erickson’s legacy of psychedelic rock in Austin. But it’s equally significant that this bill includes Cale, the viola player and composer/producer whose avant garde instincts helped make the Velvet Underground one of the most influential bands in the history of American music. Seven-piece Portland, Ore., band Federale opens. $45. 5:30 p.m. doors. 801 Red River St. — P.B.
Saturday: Chelsea Wolfe at Central Presbyterian Church. Leaving behind the harder edge of her 2017 album, "Hiss Spun," Wolfe’s 2019 release, "Birth of Violence," exists in a dark acoustic soundscape, where her unearthly vocals carry the emotional weight of a series of haunted meditations on love, loss and violence. This show, in the historic sanctuary of a downtown church, will be a quiet communion for wandering souls. Ioanna Gika opens. $32. 4 and 8:30 p.m. 200 E. Eighth St. — D.S.S.
Sunday: Damo Suzuki Network, Heart Bones at Hotel Vegas. The stacked bill for the two-stage bash curated by Jack White’s Third Man Records includes an appearance from Damo Suzuki Network, a project from the lead singer of German krautrock band Can that aims to engage Suzuki’s collective of like-minded musicians in an improvisational exercise he thinks of as "instant composing." The event also features Heart Bones, the collaboration between Austin’s Sabrina Ellis (A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit) and Sean Tillmann (Har Mar Superstar) that has produced a buoyant collection of woozy pop songs laced with just a hint of melancholy. Miami rockers the Jacuzzi Boys, David Nance Group, Easy Action, Long Hots, Stools and Deadbeat Beat also perform. $22.50. 5:30 p.m. 1502 E. Sixth St. — D.S.S.
Friday-Sunday: Creek Shows at Waterloo Greenway. The historic Symphony Square grounds are the site for these free shows with local acts from 8 to 9 p.m. each night. Alex Maas from Levitation host band the Black Angels performs Friday, followed by Money Chicha on Saturday and Annabelle Chairlegs on Sunday. In addition to music, the events will feature an "immersive and walkable art show," per the festival’s website. 1111 Red River St. — P.B.
David J, Curse Mackey, Rosegarden Funeral Party, Sine at Elysium
Black Mountain, Kikagaku Moyo, Stonefield at Mohawk outdoor
Deafheaven, Russian Circles, Brutus, Lingua Ignota, Emma Ruth Rundle, Jaye Jayle at Empire
Broncho, Death Valley Girls, Frankie & the Witch Fingers, Crocodiles, Elephant Stone, Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band at Barracuda
Strange Lot, Astragal, El Lago at Cheer Up Charlies
Nots, Hash Redactor, Aquarian Blood, Benni at Hotel Vegas
Red Fang, Windhand, Torche, Monolord at Mohawk outdoor
Beak, Tobacco, Al Lover, Deantoni Parks, Guerrilla Toss, Jjuujjuu at Empire
Coathangers, Night Beats, Moonwalks, Frankie & the Witch Fingers, Cosmonauts, Control Top at Barracuda
Blushing, Tan Cologne, Single Lash at Cheer Up Charlies
Kurt Vile & the Violators, Dinosaur Jr., Lala Lala at Stubb’s outdoor
Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dallas Acid, Black Drumset at Mohawk outdoor
Christian Bland & the Revelators, Ringo Deathstarr, Number, A Place to Bury Strangers, KVB, Cryogeyser at Barracuda
Deep Cross, All Your Sisters, Shana Falana, Filthy at Cheer Up Charlies