Prelude to Levitation
Written and illustrated by Justin Jackley
April 28th,2016, will mark the beginning of the 9th year of the Austin Psych Fest – currently called Levitation. Headlining acts include Brian Wilson performing the entirety of “Pet Sounds”; experimental-noise-poppers Animal Collective; British shoegazers Slowdive; the newly un-broken-up ‘90s alternative weirdo cult band Ween; and an assortment of returning neo-psychedelic bands including The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Austin’s The Black Angels (purveyors of the festival), Black Mountain, Woods, Ty Segall, and many others that will be making their first appearance on the festival bill. This year’s festival also finds us with the inclusion of several big name stoner/doom/drone bands including Sleep, Sunn O))), Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, and Japano-sludgers Boris making their triumphant return to the APF stage looking suspiciously similar to a bunch of spiders playing guitars in a cloud of smoke.
Elevation Amphiteatre, 2013.
The 3-day festival will take place at the Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. The semi-wooded, open fielded property on the Colorado River is only minutes from the Austin Airport. If you happen to find yourself in this area at this particular time – it is strongly recommended that you attend! If you have never attended this festival or a similar one, you should plan accordingly. First of all, you are going to need tickets. You might as well drop $180 on a weekend pass and do the whole weekend. OR you could navigate a small water vessel from upstream and sneak in under the cover of darkness… but you will miss the day acts… and probably get picked up by security pretty darn quickly.
Prepare for the weather! Last year was a mud pit where many a shoe and/or sock were lost in various bogs. Abandoned chanclas everywhere! Bring mud boots. Knee high or higher. Up to your neck if possible. The year before that was a dust bowl in which we were all sneezing up dust for a week after the festival. Bring a handkerchief to cover your face. The year before that was a monsoon that caused me to miss Os Mutantes. The parking lot was a hydroplaning-car-pinball-machine disguised as some sort of palely bubbling tar pit and the river around the grounds was threatening to flood. Bring an umbrella if you are into that kind of stuff – but it may prove to be an exercise in futility. I believe that this year we are due for a swarm of locusts. Bring your industrial-sized fly swatter. Don’t worry. The quality of performers new and old and out of retirement at APF are well worth braving the plagues for a few days. We can never know what the crazy ass Texas weather will be like. Whatever she may choose – you can count on it changing back to arid heat 15 minutes after any unusual weather activity.
Loop perform on the Reverberation Stage, 2014.
You’re going to get thirsty at some point. Levitation allows you to bring in one un-opened bottle of water to the festival. “You opened the bottle to take a sip while you were still in the entry line?! You gotta throw it away! You can’t bring that in here.” Or you can chug it where you stand. Beers usually cost around $8 for a 16oz can. You get to choose from Dos Equis (that’s “Two X’s” for the non-Spanish speakers) or a yellow can of some questionable kind of cider that claims to have alcohol in it. Some tents will serve your beer in a big clear plastic cup. Avoid these. You are just going to spill half of that precious liquid before you can drink it as it quickly heats in the sun. Liquor is also available for astronomical rates that I personally can not afford to pay. If you drove to the festival – I hope you left a large ice chest in your car stocked full of Dr. Pepper and Big Red. That ice chest will also come in handy if you purchase any sweet vinyl (you will!) from one of the many well stocked vending tents and from the bands’ merch tables (support the bands!). Simply take that record out of its sleeve and place it hovering above your beer. I mean soda. Unless you wanted it to get warped by the 100+ degree ecosystem in your car. Occasional breaks to the parking lot are acceptable behavior to relax your ears for a few minutes and a great way to study the other weirdos hanging out in the parking lot (you can still hear the main stage from the parking lot). If you drink nothing but water because you have already achieved enlightenment and inner peace – good for you. We are all very impressed. You can refill your water bottle inside the grounds from one of two large water troughs or one of seven puddles around the Port-o-Johnnys. Delicious food is readily available with a 70% inflation rate. Try the fried chicken wrapped in a waffle! Bacon and cheese available upon request and smothered in syrup and Sriracha sauce (There’s a Rooster on the label!). I wouldn’t mess with the “artisan popsicles” unless you think Ginger and Chili Powder is a good idea for a popsicle. If you dare to try and smuggle in fruit and granola bars – they will promptly be confiscated at the entrance. If you put some fresh fruit in your pockets – they will never look there. Only in bags and purses.
Levitation Tent, 2014.
After a full day of mind-numbing beats and ear-ringing drones drenched in Drippy Eye Projections’ (from Brooklyn, New York) amazing light show (among other artists helping to revive the liquid light projections of the ‘60s – for our viewing pleasure) you are going to be exhausted – if you did it right. You have to be mentally and physically prepared for the great exodus when 1 or 2 a.m. rolls around (or whenever the current city noise ordinance tells us to pull the plugs) and thousands of twisted jerks, drunks, and a motley assortment of ne’er-do-wells are ushered into the parking lot and dispersed. If tradition tells us anything – the stoned parking attendants have your entire line of cars facing the wrong direction for any sort of logical exit. You can not exit the way you came in. You will have to follow a parade of cars in the seemingly wrong direction until you are spat out onto highway 183 just in time to do some quick goat thinking and guess which direction you should be going! If you did not drive. I hope you took an Uber or some other sort of hired driver. But good luck finding one on the way out! Your best bet is to walk as many miles away from the festival towards the glow of downtown Austin until you can go no further. Avoid the dancing lights. They are not your friends. Then call your Uber. Or hitch-hike. Don’t hitch-hike. Actually, if they were coming from the festival also – get in that car. What’s the worst that could happen?
Lightning Bolt in the Levitation Tent, 2015.
You also have the option to “camp” at the site all three nights. You can rent a tent for $450 - $750 (actually that is $839.33 plus a $300 damage deposit – wait… what?! AND you have to separately purchase a “camping pass” for $86.27 – are you guys serious? That is more than I have ever paid for a hotel…). I personally have never camped on the grounds because I live entirely too close for that. I prefer my bed. I just picture all of the people staggering around and trying to find the right rented tent and then settling for another one that looks similar but smells different. However, they all smell like Otto’s jacket. If you should find a stranger passed out in your sleeping bag – it is okay to drag them out. They will not mind.
Do be sure to study and print out a copy of the music schedule when available at www.Levitation-Austin.com. With three stages playing simultaneously – you don’t want to end up watching The Arcs at the Reverberation stage when you should have been watching Dungen at the Elevation Amphitheatre (hypothetical situation at this point). Plan accordingly! Sometimes there is nothing you can do but leave halfway through a band that you love so that you can see the beginning of some other band that you love even more! Also, you are bound to see and hear bands that you had previously not heard. It’s a good idea to try and sample everything.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, 2015.
Written and Illustrated by