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Austin Psych Fest: The French connection

Deborah Sengupta

Editor’s note: This article was originally published May 5, 2014

When the seventh edition of Austin Psych Fest kicked off Friday at Carson Creek Ranch, the first band to hit the Levitation stage was Eagle’s Gift, a group of young guitar fuzz enthusiasts from Angers, France, a small city about 190 miles southwest of Paris. Over the past few years, Angers has developed a sister city relationship with Austin, which led to the creation of business organization Austin Angers Music, an entity devoted to building a connection between the two cities’ music scenes. The organization brought a group of artists to Psych Fest and set up a lounge tent to share information about Angers and the musical alliance.

“Angers used to be a huge music town. It has huge potential,” said Christopher Davy, a French promoter and partner in Austin Angers Music who goes by the name Doudou. Doudou has a long history with Austin. He’s been coming to SXSW for 15 years. He’s also the primary promoter for Austin psychedelic rock band the Black Angels in France.

“France seems to be the best market for the the Black Angels in the world,” the band’s guitarist Christian Bland said recently. After years of promoting successful Black Angels concerts in the country, Doudou approached the band about replicating Psych Fest — an event run by the Reverb Appreciation Society, a group that includes Bland and Angels vocalist Alex Maas along with a few friends — in Angers.

They decided to call the event Levitation, named after the annual SXSW event the Angels produce. The inaugural Levitation France came together in just nine months, with the Austin-based Psych Fest staff handling booking, artistic direction and design and Doudou’s crew managing logistics and promotion. It was successful, selling out two days. Tickets are already on sale for the second Levitation France, scheduled to take place Sept. 20-21 at Le Chebada in Angers.

The success of Levitation France has the Reverb Appreciation Society investigating possibilities for franchising the brand internationally. Preliminary plans are for Levitation Australia and Levitation UK, both likely to happen in 2015.

Back in France, Austin Angers Music is working to build the connection between our cities year-round. The group recently hosted the local art rockers Octopus Project for a couple days, and they helped Austin hard rock powerhouse Ume book a recent French tour. As for other Austin bands interested in playing Angers, Doudou invites them to “knock on the door.”

“We have a house where they can stay,” he said. “The idea is to use Angers as a point of entry to France and to Europe.”

More information on Levitation France is available at austinpsychfest.com/levitation-france. More information about Austin Angers Music at austinangersmusic.com.