Codeine, Unwound, and More: Highlights from Levitation Festival 2023 Select Levitation Acts On October 26, 2023
AUSTIN, TX- Levitation is an independent festival and is held in the Red River Cultural District in downtown Austin. TX, in the city’s best venues including Stubb’s, The Mohawk, Empire, Hotel Vegas, Parish, Antone’s, and more featuring a variety of musical acts that have roots in psychedelic/experimental rock. Our contributor roamed the streets of Austin to find the acts that spoke to her.
In the ever-evolving realm of music festivals, where reunions and comebacks have become the latest trend, it was nothing short of a sonic resurrection when the iconic New York band Codeine emerged from the shadows of the ’90s to grace the stage at Levitation. This trailblazing trio had left an indelible mark on the alternative rock scene before disbanding in 1994, with only a brief return in 2012. Yet, in 2023, they resurfaced, reigniting the pioneering sounds that have inspired generations of musicians and fans alike.
Levitation, known for its eclectic lineup and diverse musical offerings, kicked off this year with a bang as Codeine took the main stage at The Far Out Lounge. The audience was treated to an extensive and substantive performance, accompanied by some of the most mesmerizing visuals of the entire four-day event. The interplay of lights and projections created a spectacular sensory experience, elevating an already stunning concert.
As Stephen Immerwahr, John Engle, and Chris Brokaw took the stage, it was immediately evident that their ability to navigate intricate musical passages with finesse had only grown with time. The setlist was a carefully curated journey through their discography, offering a blend of fan favorites and lesser-known gems. Surprisingly, even the younger audience members up front seemed intimately familiar with Codeine’s repertoire, a testament to the band’s enduring influence.
Codeine has carved a niche for itself by adopting a musical language distinct from the conventional “classic rock” genre and the somewhat unfortunate label of “slowcore.” Their performance at Levitation showcased their mastery of quiet and loud dynamics, creating an experience that was both tentative and subtle yet remarkably assertive.
Levitation witnessed the arrival of underground legends and quintessential ’90s cult band Unwound. Renowned for infusing traditional pop-rock with furious noise, angular riffs, and avant-garde sensibilities, the Olympia band delivered a timeless live performance that resonated with fans old and new.
Unwound’s prolific musicianship and uncompromised creative ethic, combined with their amalgamation of wonders, attracted a diverse audience, including seasoned music enthusiasts and curious locals eager to witness this iconic band live. Unwound’s reputation made this performance a must-see, as opportunities like this might not come around again.
Their complex musicality was marked by intricate rhythm changes that held the audience in rapt attention. Sara Lund, the band’s drummer, showcased her meticulous and unconventional abilities, holding the entire performance together with precision and flair. Guitarist/vocalist Justin Trosper led the sonic assault with dark, odd tunings and distorted bursts, punctuated by screams and signature feedback that reverberated through the outdoor venue. Bass player Jared Warren, stepping into the large shoes of the late Vern Rumsey, delivered accurate and professional interpretations, treating the project as if it were his own.
Unwound’s performance at Levitation was a relentless excursion of constant and unexpected grooves, as disorienting as the art projections that held the audience in a trance-like state. They remain one of the most compelling wonders of the Pacific Northwest.
Annabelle Chairlegs, local darlings of Austin’s music scene, brought their electrifying set to Levitation this year. With a presence felt from the iconic stages of ACL Music Festival to the chaotic energy of SXSW, the band has earned a reputation as a beloved local gem. Their performances transcend mere music showcases; they are immersive experiences that capture the essence of Austin’s diverse music culture.
At the forefront of Annabelle Chairlegs is Lindsey Mackin, a dynamic force in the local music industry. Having written and recorded her own music for nearly a decade in Austin, Mackin’s musical journey epitomizes passion, dedication, and raw talent. Her charismatic stage presence and soulful vocals have become synonymous with the Annabelle Chairlegs experience, drawing fans in with each electrifying performance.
With two full-length albums, an EP, and a string of singles under their belt, Annabelle Chairlegs has consistently produced authentic, high-quality music. Their discography showcases a range of influences, from gritty garage rock to infectious Sixties-inspired melodies. As anticipation builds for their upcoming third album, Austin eagerly awaits the next chapter in the Annabelle Chairlegs story.
Yeule, the musical project of Singaporean songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Nat Ćmiel, delivered a dazzling performance at Levitation Festival that left a lasting impression. With a set that preceded the highly anticipated Oneohtrix Point Never, Ćmiel’s versatility and ability to seamlessly weave together various musical elements were on full display, setting the crowd on fire with a performance that evoked screams, sing-alongs, and even moshing in sheer delight.
Fearlessly experimenting with different sounds, Ćmiel’s performance combined the rebellious tones of emo nostalgia with avant-pop influences, creating a dynamic and unpredictable sonic journey. Amidst the driving pulse of the performance, there were moments of respite, with ambient sounds, gentle guitar strumming, and softer vocals weaving in, offering a captivating contrast.
As the crowd roared in appreciation, it became evident that Yeule had left an indelible mark, introducing a new act that was destined to make waves in the music scene.
Daniel Lopatin, known as Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN), took center stage at the new-to-me venue, The Concourse Project, headlining the night with a performance that showcased his latest album, “Again,” along with selections from his extensive discography. Lopatin immersed attendees in the depths of OPN’s experimental yet accessible musical universe.
The juxtaposition of “Again” with fragments from his catalog highlighted the evolution of OPN’s sound. Amidst the apparent chaos, there was a methodical approach that defined Lopatin’s manipulation of electronic textures and the interplay between dissonance and harmony, making Oneohtrix Point Never a truly unique and compelling force in the realm of experimental music.
Flickering lights and glitchy projections added layers of mystique to the performance, creating an atmosphere of tension and anticipation. These were not mere embellishments but integral components of the narrative that held the audience in rapt attention throughout this one-man show.
Whether crafting soundtracks, collaborating as a producer, or presenting his own compositions, Lopatin’s sonic fingerprint remained instantly recognizable, and this night was no exception. Oneohtrix Point Never’s performance at Levitation was a testament to the boundless creativity of an artist who continues to push the boundaries of music.