I was so wise in my decision to attend two Levitation festivals that surprised their attendees with changed venues at the last minute. It is such an absolute joy to find out that your modern pastoral vision of watching neo-psych shows in an open field while acquiring the drunkest sunburn with all your friends on a soft blanket is not happening. Rather, I was blessed with the opportunity to breathe in other people’s stale air for nearly 12 hours in the well-lit, joyous venue known as The Commodore Ballroom. Thank you Levitation.
In lieu of my feelings about being trapped in a room forever, it is no surprise that a cancelled Lev Austin preceded a stagnant, indoor Lev Vancouver. Finding scattered shows throughout the downtown core of Austin was like an inner-city treasure hunt. Finding shows in the Commodore Ballroom involved standing still. There was an unquestionable amount of talent during Lev Van, but watching band after band roll out methodically onto the same stage deleted a much-needed element of change for my ADD.
Wondering who shoved a stick so far up my ass? I was born with it! Do I have anything nice to say? Not usually! But the festival’s lineup treated Vancouver right over the weekend, making sure the city was tenderly loved and cared for, while remembering to occasionally sit on it’s face. Allah-Las and Fidlar did a superb job of tag-teaming the stage on Friday – beginning with the sweet nothings and loving lyrics of Allah-Las, whose stage presence resembled something awkward, like pubescent teen romance - an uncomfortable love we never forget. Also akin to my high school sex life, things quickly escalated in the next set. Fidlar likes to play rough – As if the disco ball was a full moon, the crowd became ravenous - scratching and screaming and frothing at the mouths. But even in the midst of the unruliness, Zach Carper successfully directed the audience to sit quietly on the Commodore Ballroom floor. 300-400 people. Seated. Anticipating their last song. “You’ll know when to get up”, Carper instructed. As soon as the intro of “Cocaine” rolled in, everyone erupted into a raging frenzy. Apparently Carper likes making you wait for it.
Friday’s main stage was wrapped up with the ever-so-talented work of Tycho, whose performance resembled a mellower Caribou set. Both bands perform with a high degree of professionalism and well-seasoned practice. The combination of Tycho’s chillwave-meets-psych sound and the Commodore’s incredible light show created the sensation of lucid dreaming. Other factors may have contributed to my dream state… but I credit the performance for an amazing, unearthly show.
Although the change of venue is a sensitive topic, the Commodore Ballroom provided a perfectly dark and sweaty environment for Thee Oh Sees performance on Saturday — no one wants to see the light of day while thrashing around to San Francisco’s punk gods. The Commodore’s expert lighting respectfully showcased the band’s dual drummers, Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon, playing harmoniously like Olympic synchronized swimmers. There was also no shortage of light on John Dwyer deep-throating the mic while simultaneously singing into it… talent comes in many forms.
The Growlers and Hinds did a flawless job of sandwiching Thee Oh Sees’ set. There was word that the all-girl band, Hinds, had a soft performance, but I found their set and stage presence to be a lot of fun. As for The Growlers, I think I heard a hundred panties drop when they entered onto the stage. In a sea of people eye-fucking Brooks Neilsen, my friend reported a die-hard standing behind him screaming, “I want to suck your dick, Brooks!”. So, obviously, he let fan-boy through to deliver the bouquet of flowers that he was holding onto the stage. Their performance derived a cultish vibe from the crowd that was a new experience for me. The band did an excellent job of playing as many crowd favourites as they could, including “Memories” and “Empty Bones.”
I would like to give a shout out to the gurus in charge of visuals at The Commodore Ballroom. Whoever they are, they brought the best part of my weekend to life – FLYLO’s performance, and I do not use the word performance lightly. His set was enclosed by two massive screens creating three-dimensional visuals that ranged from transfixing illusions to beautiful portraits to completely fucked-up imagery (kind of like his music). His performance felt like a musical on acid, which I now feel confident checking off my bucket list for attending. During one of his songs, he slipped out from between his trance-inducing cage to spit some mad fiyah. No surprise that the floor met my underwear at this point… anyways…
Thundercat was another shining star over the weekend. The jazz-inspired, somewhat psych-related California singer/bassist is difficult to place in terms of genre, setting himself apart with his funky sound, soft vocals, and intense lyrics. His stage presence is so incredibly groovy - holding the bass up beside himself with an infectious bob. When “Them Changes” came on, I hugged the stage security dude, who let me on stage, sort of pitifully, to grab a photo (thanks, love you).
My weekend timeline accurately reflects my inner sissy - I attended all the softest performances. Whatever, ok!? As for other shows I didn’t get around to, I was probably buying drugs in an alley, doing drugs in an alley, or hiding in an alley on drugs (just kidding, mum!). Shout out to Timbre Concerts for the press opportunity. Shout out to myself for getting my film camera in the pit. Besides the initial venue curveball, lemons became slightly sweetened.
‘Til next year <3
Written and shot by Elyse Mathes