Very few things can pry Vancouverites away from the beach and our few, precious patios on a sunny day. On the opening night of Levitation Fest, every artist on the Commodore Ballroom bill profusely apologized to the audience for keeping them holed up in a darkened space on the brightest day of the week. But from where I was standing, no one in the crowd seemed the least bit worried about abstaining from some Vitamin D – taking in doses of the best psych, experimental, art rock and punk acts over the next 48 hours was the superior option.
Singer-songwriter and local darling Louise Burns warmed up Friday’s crowd with her brand of coastal folk ditties, similar to the bittersweet sounds of acts like the Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, and Tennis. The 30-year old music vet (formerly of the 90s girl group Lillix) was honest and at ease on stage – her clear, velvety voice revealed wisdom and confidence beyond her years. Her captivating rasp on tracks like “Emeralds Shatter” compared to the early performances of Stevie Nicks.
All eyes were glued on guitarist Kenneth Williams as soon as he started to shred his menacing, distorted riffs from White Lung’s lauded LP, Paradise. The energy only intensified with the gut-busting drums from Anne-Marie Vassiliou and the crowd went berserk as soon as frontwoman Mish Barber-Way jumped on the stage. Channeling the grit and chaos of Kathleen Hanna with the seductive and dangerous glares of Debbie Harry, Mish had her devotees eating from the palms of her hands.
A wave of nostalgia came over the audience as soon as California natives, The Growlers eased onto the stage. Guitarist Matt Taylor played a sultry palm-muted intro, an homage to the Zombies “Time of the Season,” before the band leaped into their brand of swinging Beach Goth. The blend of Brooks Nielsen’s bluesy snarls, tropical drums, and psychedelic guitars brought an ominous, but a whimsical element to the festival.
Stop whatever you’re doing and add Of Montreal to your concert bucket list. The experimental glam legends have had the most spectacular and unpredictable metamorphosis over their 20-year career and consistently put on unforgettable live theatrics. Outfitted in costumes from your wildest psychedelic dreams (from fur stoles to bedazzled scrubs to renaissance wigs), they played the exuberant, synth-laden, psych-disco tracks from their 2015 recent triumph, Aureate Gloom. Stay tuned for the release of their newest record, Innocence Reaches, via Polyvinyl on August 12.
Thee Oh Sees
San Francisco garage band, Thee Oh Sees, packed the Commodore on Saturday night with their monstrous set. Drummers Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon were a symbiotic force to be reckoned with – they blazed through every fill, drum roll and crash in synchronicity like maniacal mirror images. Frontman John Dwyer elevated the momentum with his deathly screeches and sirening guitars.
LA Skate Punk outfit Fidlar was the weekend’s crowd favourite – the rowdy band indulged their inebriated fans with odes to beer, skate, and surf, in true California fashion. Boasting bright, anthemic guitar lines, humorous lyrics, uncontainable energy, and beastly drum lines, these fellas were the undisputed kings of the party.
Our friends in Toronto, we’re in no way leaving you out of the fun. Catch these incredible acts at a venue out East later this year:
Wednesday, July 20 – El Club – Detroit, MI
Friday-Sunday, July 22-24 – WayHome Music and Arts Festival – Oro, ON
Sunday, July 24 – Panorama Festival – New York, NY
Friday-Sunday, July 29-31 – Osheaga Festival – Montreal, QC
Wednesday, September 14 – The Haunt – Ithaca, NY
Friday, September 16 – Majestic Theatre – Detroit, MI
Thee Oh Sees
Wednesday, November 16 – La Tulipe – Montreal, QC
Thursday, November 17 – Danforth Theatre – Toronto, ON
Friday, July 22 – WayHome Music and Arts Festival – Oro, ON
Saturday, July 23 – Mo Pop Festival – Detroit, MI