austin

Levitation: Chelsea Wolfe Holds Communion at Church

  

 

A dreary Saturday peers in through the stained glass at Central Presbyterian Church. The gothic arches, the ribbed vaults, the red velvet cushions lining the dark pews, along with the incredible acoustics of the church make this one of the most beautiful venues in town, especially for shows worth sitting down. The gothic architecture enhances the dark but sensuous sound. Chelsea Wolfe stood center pulpit in a glowing white dress with puffed glowing sleeves hanging from her shoulder, surrounded by orange burning candles and a paganesque set design of concentric white stick circles looking like bones.

Wolfe opened with “Flatlands;” the familiar opening chords and gentle lyrics facilitated an instant communion of music and spirit. Wolfe’s ethereal voice washes over everyone, the elevated spirit of music through her instructing the spirit of the audience to meet above in the vaulted ceiling.

The acoustic opening song was not the softest of the set, instead it was when she stepped down from her podium to take a comfortable seat to cover Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” When two festivals collide! Wolfe’s cover gives new life and context to the Mitchell’s golden ode. Woodstock sings about the freedom of rock and roll and the inherent stardust in us all despite the violence and uncertainty of the world outside. As the community and constituents of Levitation, we are still golden we are still stardust and we are still trying to find our way back to the garden.

The church is full of punks and fringe society here to hear Chelsea Wolfe mesmerize with “Mother Road.” A band of blue lights fan behind her like a peacock display, the swirling haze as the eyes of each feather. Geometric shapes dance on top of the stained-glass loops and parabolas. Sargent House holding mass in a dim lit gothic church on a Saturday afternoon was another sweet moment of Levitation magic, and Chelsea Wolfe beautifully expressed herself as an individual and a conduit of the spirit.

- Mel Green

Photo: Casey Holder

Levitation: Christelle Bofale Brings Local Flavor to Levitation

 


If you’ve been plugged into the local Austin music scene, then you’ve heard of Christelle and you’ve witnessed her graceful come-up. She released Swim Team earlier this year and captivated everyone including the folks at Pitchfork who gave her album a glowing review. Since the album’s release in May, she’s toured, headlined her own show, and played fantastic sets alongside locals acts like Calliope Musicals at the Horror Disco this past Halloween, and now Levitation.

 

Bofale opened Thursday evening at Hotel Vegas, managing to facilitate an intimate performance in the midst a large-scale festival. The room was packed but her omnipresent vocals over the resounding chords made the room feel like a private show. Her songs sing of vulnerability and truth, for example, “Love Lived Here Once, speaks the universal language of heartache. Empathy brings us together, and so does Christelle’s smile. Although her songs transport you to emotional landscapes, her joy is grounding.

 

Catch one of her shows when you can. We can’t wait to see what gifts the universe holds for Christelle and her music in the near, near future. If you haven’t listened to Swim Team yet, listen to it and be the first to show your friends.

 

-Mel Green

NightFire Releases Haunting Single with "Spell On You"

Ambient synths, haunting vocals and an undercurrent of deep house all coalesce in NightFire’s rendition of “(I Put A) Spell On You”. Released right before Halloween, “Spell On You” is a seductive soundscape with entrancing vocals that deftly masks a brooding menace that builds steadily throughout the track. NightFire is the burgeoning bedroom pop project of Houston-based chanteuse, Rebecca Chirich, who began making music in 2014 but only recently began releasing her music. “Spell On You” is the first of a handful of singles that will begin to drop over the next few months, potentially culminating with a NightFire debut album in 2020. Understated and seemingly nonchalant, Chirich has succeeded in creating an alluring aesthetic with NightFire. Her intimate lyrics and pulsing beats are addictive as they are enjoyable.. Keep an eye out for NightFire live shows coming in 2020.

-Lee Ackerley

“Spell On You” is available on Spotify/Google/Apple/Amazon

Levitation: The Flaming Lips Shower the Crowd With Rainbows at Stubbs

 


Since the Flaming Lips last played in Austin in January, the lead singer Wayne Coyne has become a father. The Flaming Lips played at the Hi, How Are You Festival on January 22, 2019, a tribute for Daniel Johnston’s birthday who passed away in September. The Hi, How Are You Project, inspired by Daniel’s art and struggles with mental health, holds space for conversations about mental health and reducing the stigma of mental illness by doing so.

 

The Flaming Lips drew a crowd of freak folk lovers styled in all fashions. Next to me, a couple with green hair. One said to the other, “See, you can have green hair and still be successful.”

 

The band took the stage, two drummers with green hair, Coyne in a white suit with his black vest/holster and Steve Drozd in a rainbow cape. The set begins with “She Don’t Use Jelly.” With each crest of the melody, confetti cannons release with oversized rainbow balloons. The vaseline chorus and rainbow rain mixing with the real precipitation felt like reality bent Levitation, surrounded by people with green hair, face paints, sequin shoulder pads, capes, berets, tangerines. Meanwhile, a crop-topped man straddling a surfboard of jello shots rides the crowd. They played many of the same songs as they did in January, including the Daniel Johnston cover, “True Love Will Find You in the End.” Since Daniel’s recent passing, one could expect the cover to be melancholy, but, instead, the song rang through as a joyful anthem.

 

As is their staple now, The Flaming Lips toted the huge foil all capital letters 'FUCK YEAH LEVITATION' onto the stage. Coyne threw the letters into the hungry crowd, who disassembled the syntax, and letters surfed through the venue like alphabet soup. Confetti still seemed to trickle from somewhere even though the cannons stopped releasing songs ago. 

 

The encore was a little painful given that Stubbs was sold out, peoples’ bodies are touching, but Wayne rides into the audience on a rainbow unicorn with rainbow angel wings fluttering behind him. The crowd was so dense that event staff had to split the sea of people for his chariot to pass through. I don’t remember the song we sang – edit: it was “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1” –  because I was levitating and seeing Wayne levitate on that unicorn, and really everyone levitating at that point even though unicorn took forever to make its dressage through the audience while the synth endlessly looped. What a lovely Levitation Fest.

 

-Mel Green

Photo: Casey Holder

Levitation: Devendra Banhart Kicks Off Levitation Weekend

 

One of the first acts of the festival, Devandra Banhart christens Levitation and sets the bar high for the weekend. Banhart commands the stage and all the audience’s attention with his charisma, confidence, and contagious mirth. (Shouldn’t Angel Olsen be opening for him?) While singing, he gesticulates and orients his wrist like a “Fancy Man,” and when singing this song he pours himself into microphone like an old crooner. Banhart, full of class and sass, will make you want to have him over for dinner and will make you forget that it’s 40 degrees out and drizzly cold. 

 

“I know it’s hot out there, Austin!” Banhart warms us with laughter,” I know it’s hot out there, but if we play this song well, really well, then in the next two months please go buy someone a pair of socks because people are cold out there.” What a beautiful preface to the following love song, “Shabop Shalom,” from his 2007 album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. They played it really well and if everyone at Stubbs that night could go buy someone a pair of socks, there would be less cold feet in Austin.  Along with “Never Seen Such Good Things” from 2013, Banhart playing songs off his older albums woke dormant parts of my soul. Amazing how music connects us not only to each other but also to our past selves. 

 

Amidst the play and whimsy, Banhart and the band introduced songs from their new album, Ma, with composure and tact. “My Boyfriend’s in the Band” features Banhart’s quintessential code-switching, the lyrics swimming between English and Spanish. The new album enchants with the same spirit at his previous projects. His magnetic presence is as inescapable as ever and amplified by his enduring sound.

 

- Mel Green

 

Photo: Casey Holder

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