This week Empty Bottle Presents & The Reverberation Appreciation Society are putting on the second annual Levitation Chicago musical festival from March 10-12 at the beautiful Thalia Hall, 1807 S Allport St. The festival has its origins in the Austin Psych Fest which evolved into Levitation and has been expanding its reach beyond Texas to the rest of the world. Every Levitation event has its own take on channeling psych music. There is no clear definition to what kind of bands end up playing at the festival, just that they somehow embody the idea of psych music, from its weirdness, intensity and freedom.
Three day passes for the event sold out quickly this year but single day tickets are still available. You can check out the full lineup below as well as some highlights from each of the nights to make your decision of which day (or days) to submerse yourself in all the eccentricities of psych music a little easier.
Oneohtrix Point Never probably best exemplifies what Levitation has become. His music doesn’t ever truly fall into any category as he changes up his sound quite substantially with every new album. The core of his music is electronic, but the textures and themes he delves into are always different and interesting. Garden of Delete, his latest, is darker and feels more epic than anything he’s ever done. There are elements of psychedelia mixed into the electronic noises and natural instrumentation mimicking the aforementioned electronic sounds that make his soundscapes unique and addicting.
When it comes to cult musicians, I tend to expect incredibly odd and experimental tones to wash over me. Gary Wilson not only meets those expectations but overwhelms you with his wonderful lo-fi songs that make sense if you into not making sense. Wilson spent decades in obscurity after his first album You Think You Really Know Me, but thanks to Beck in the 90s and new albums in the 2000s, Wilson has finally been getting the attention he so richly deserves. Likely to be the weirdest and most interesting set of the weekend.
Ryley Walker is a little bit of an outlier in the weekends’ lineup. His music isn’t as dark or heavy as most of the other bands, but his ability certainly matches up. Walker is an adept guitarist capable of getting an audience completely engrossed in his beautiful songs. He is also the musician most likely to transport the crowd’s mindset to a warmer springtime, likely the early 70s his sound revives.
Lightning Bolt is a ball of experimental noise that will leave you in a heap if you’re not careful. Every moment of a Lightning Bolt song is pure kinetic energy that is as loud as it is fast. You won’t have a better time than letting yourself go to their intense and often intimate live show.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight Circuit Des Yeux. What once a very singular experience of Haley Fohr has grown into a full band that creates a breathtaking atmosphere live. Fohr is spectacular at leading a band deep into mesmerizing and intoxicating sound, creating a seamless unity that her songs demand. However, the true star of a Circuit Des Yeux performance is Fohr’s voice. She can produce deep guttural growls that transform into beautiful meditative mantras.
Last year, Chicago based ensembles Natural Information Society and Bitchin Bajas collaborated on an album and it was a perfect match. Both groups make beautiful ethereal music that often feels more like a transcendent experience than a concert, so it’s no surprise that working together would result in an amazing release. The mixing of Natural Information Society’s jazz and Bitchin Bajas zoned out experimental music felt organic and incredibly essential. Autoimaginary captures the otherworldly feeling the bands’ strive for while working in sync and never overshadowing each other.