The negative energy was palpable Thursday night in Austin, Tx with thousands of festival goers unsure what to do. It’s perfectly understandable. Many traveled into Austin, Texas with the sole purpose of seeing Levitation 2016’s amazing lineup but unfortunately that did not give. Earlier that afternoon, a simple post went up on the festival’s social media saying “Levitation 2016 has been canceled. Please visit our website for full details.” Immediately, hundreds flooded the internet with refund requests and cries for company in a foreign place; some simply wanted to state how glad they were not to be in Austin. The latter was certainly unusual for a city that has been getting nothing but positive attention for the past few years. After the main event was cancelled, the planned pre-parties at various venues in downtown still went on.
Unfortunately, fans experienced the pre-parties turning into the party within the span of a few hours which left many who came to enjoy a weekend full of music with a confused sense of dissatisfaction. It’s hard to put your finger on it but when a city is so characterized by their live music offer, a moment like this does not go unnoticed. Throughout the night, the Red River District, which is usually a vibrant spot in town was wrought with a mostly negative vibe not often found there.
All three official Levitation pre-parties being held at prominent downtown venues (The Mohawk, Empire Control Room, and Barracuda) were fraught with unfulfilled festival attendees whose night was only supposed to mark the beginning of what would be an amazing weekend full of musical variety. At Mohawk, Chelsea Wolfe delivered her dark and sinister gospel. At Barracuda, Mystic Braves played a set of their signature ’60s influenced psych rock. But across the board, something just felt off…
On Friday, the festival organizers announced that many bands were being scheduled to play in various venues across town. The Historic Scoot Inn, Emo’s, Empire Control Room, The Mohawk and Barracuda all came to the aid of Levitation fans who had found themselves out of their plans for the weekend. Sadly, most of these shows sold out very quickly leaving many without the opportunity to see the artists they had been anticipating. Still, they provided some solace for those lucky fans who were able to score tickets. Throughout the weekend, fans gathered in and around the aforementioned venues to catch some of their favorite acts like The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dungen, Slowdive, Caribou, Animal Collective, Mild High Club, JJUUJJUU, Allah Las and many more.
The Levitation crew and others who joined the cause worked around the clock to salvage the situation as best they could. House parties and satellite shows popped up everywhere, and suddenly Austin showed its true colors. The city proved itself once more to be one of a kind. Never have I witnessed such cooperation between so many different parties originally unaffiliated with the festival who in the end came together to make sure the weekend worked out as best as possible given the circumstances. It seems like that kind of thing can only happen in a place like Austin, Texas. A weekend that seemed to be on the verge of being completely scrapped turned out to be one the most inspiring displays of synergy the music community has ever seen.
It is undeniable that some mistakes were made by the organizers such as not giving priority to ticket holders for the flood relief shows for which they received plenty of criticism. But just as many showed their support sending their positive vibes and trying to make the best out of the chaos. This incident proved to be an exemplary display of people coming together for their love of music and it was very heartwarming. As the weekend progressed, the mood of the show attendees improved dramatically.
Furthermore, criticism of the fest seemed to cool down after they updated their Instagram account with photos of a devastated Carson Creek Ranch after a night of very heavy winds and inaccessible rainfall at the festival site proving the naysayers wrong. Granted, there were still many fans who were disappointed they could not watch their favorite bands and understandably so. But by Saturday night, the activities surrounding the festival felt like they had a new sense of purpose: to make the best out of a terrible situation. And that’s when The Black Angels took the stage at the Historic Scoot Inn on Austin’s East-side.
The Black Angels put on the best show of their lives that night. They poured everything they had to once again prove to the world what an incredible band they are both as a musical entity and as individuals. This is the band that 9 years ago organized the first Austin Psych Fest, as it was then called. This year of the festival was undoubtedly going to be the biggest and it’s hard to even imagine the feeling of disappointment they must have felt when they were forced to pull the plug. But that night, they seemed to channel all that negative energy to put on what must have been the hardest, most emotional show of their lives. And it certainly felt that way to all who witnessed this beauty unfolding onstage. The fans at The Historic Scoot Inn that night were extremely supportive and sympathetic yelling at the top of their lungs after each of the band’s reverb-drenched tunes. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed.
This weekend was certainly not easy for anyone. The fans who traveled far only to be let down at the last minute, the employees of the festival who had to scramble all weekend to make things right, and all the bands who found themselves unsure of what exactly was going on all felt the negative impacts. But I don’t think anyone could have felt it more than The Black Angels themselves. These are people who work on this festival all year round because they just have an insatiable love for music. To watch them receive so much hate and criticism over something they can’t control was heartbreaking. Like Levitation posted on their Instagram on Monday, the troubles from this weekend are far from over. But they will persist and with the help of the rest of all the amazing people who make up the Austin music scene, I’m sure they will redeem themselves and more. What started as an incredibly disappointing feeling for me on Thursday evolved into empathy, love, and a new sense of respect for everyone involved, particularly The Black Angels. I am proud to be a part of the Austin music community and I know that after this weekend, they can handle anything.
Levitation 2016 went to hell but luckily, The Black Angels were already there to save us.