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Levitation: Devendra Banhart Kicks Off Levitation Weekend

 

One of the first acts of the festival, Devandra Banhart christens Levitation and sets the bar high for the weekend. Banhart commands the stage and all the audience’s attention with his charisma, confidence, and contagious mirth. (Shouldn’t Angel Olsen be opening for him?) While singing, he gesticulates and orients his wrist like a “Fancy Man,” and when singing this song he pours himself into microphone like an old crooner. Banhart, full of class and sass, will make you want to have him over for dinner and will make you forget that it’s 40 degrees out and drizzly cold. 

 

“I know it’s hot out there, Austin!” Banhart warms us with laughter,” I know it’s hot out there, but if we play this song well, really well, then in the next two months please go buy someone a pair of socks because people are cold out there.” What a beautiful preface to the following love song, “Shabop Shalom,” from his 2007 album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. They played it really well and if everyone at Stubbs that night could go buy someone a pair of socks, there would be less cold feet in Austin.  Along with “Never Seen Such Good Things” from 2013, Banhart playing songs off his older albums woke dormant parts of my soul. Amazing how music connects us not only to each other but also to our past selves. 

 

Amidst the play and whimsy, Banhart and the band introduced songs from their new album, Ma, with composure and tact. “My Boyfriend’s in the Band” features Banhart’s quintessential code-switching, the lyrics swimming between English and Spanish. The new album enchants with the same spirit at his previous projects. His magnetic presence is as inescapable as ever and amplified by his enduring sound.

 

- Mel Green

 

Photo: Casey Holder

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Thievery Corporation Thaws Austin with Spiritualized Vibes

  Frigid temperatures seeped through the inadequate winter wear of Austinites gathered at Stubbs on Wednesday night. With indoor concerts like Two Door Cinema Club, the Black Keys and Modest Mouse all happening around town on the same night; it wouldn't be illogical to think that music fans might opt for a cozy, comfortable venue in which they could enjoy their beer and music without harsh artic winds blowing around them. Yet the tandem of New York-based party outfit, Brazilian Girls, and the Austin-affiliated eclectic electronica group, Thievery Corporation, would bring a dedicated crowd that mitigated the November frost by manifesting a soulful dance party.

Brazilian Girls' original lead singer, Sabina Sciubba, declined to come on tour; yet her presence was hardly missed since her replacement, Sophia Urista, injected a youthful vigor and smoldering sexuality into the band's dynamic. Gyrating and erupting through the band's staccato hit "Pirates", it became clear that Sophia had no qualms making these songs her own. As the crowd continued to trickle in, Brazilian Girls began to hit the zenith of their set with elongated jams to hits like "Don't Stop" and "Pussy". The festive and tropical stylings of Brazilian Girls served as a perfect preface to the spiritual zionist vibes of Thievery Corporation that would follow.

It has to be a powerful force that can pull Austinites out of their central-heated homes and into freezing temperatures, but Thievery Corporation transcends being 'just another' touring band - they're an immersive experience. While the foundational duo of Thievery was incomplete (Rob Garza was present but not Eric Hilton), the constant stream of featured artists kept the audience fixated on what felt like a variety show stage of incredible talent. A melange of exotic musical influences weave through the band's sound, all tethered together with a streak of elevated consciousness. A bedouin-influenced opener of "Facing East" soon flowed into the latin-styled "Sol Tapado" which then warped into the politically conscious hip-hop track "Culture of Fear". A parade of featured artists emerged on nearly every track: Mr. Lif, LouLou, Puma and the indomitable Raquel Jones. 

The epoch of the show would arrive with the Thievery's mega-hit "Lebanese Blonde", followed by the francophile-disco track "Voyage Libre", which was bookended by the heart-wrenching "Sweet Tides". An intimate acoustic interlude was unexpected but allowed a degree of gravity and introspection that cleansed the palate for the last few songs."Ghettomatrix" and "Richest Man In Babylon" would close out a night of spiritual ebullience. In a time when extremes seem to polarize, strain and distance us - Thievery Corporation brought an atmosphere of benevolence and self-love that warmed every soul bearing the wintry winds of our time.

- Lee Ackerley

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Levitation Fest: Jonathan Bree Swanks the Scene at Empire

 Each bar of Levitation Fest ostensibly has its own scene given the night’s set, and as the weekend went on the scenes became more apparent. Thursday night at Empire listed dark wave dance artists, Jonathan Bree headlining. The humid hazy room was a relief from the damp cold outside. Jonathan Bree and his masked band elegantly entered the stage. The women in powdered wigs and ruffled collars and petticoats, the men with suspenders and black bowl haircuts. The dark dulcitone sounds danced with the light illustrations on the backlit wall. Jonathan Bree crooned and swayed, breaking into and out of synchronized choreography with the ladies.

 

When the band began “Waiting on the Moment,” everyone joined in and seemed to know the choreography. The light output reflected the women dancing on stage creating double vision on top of the already amorphous crowd in rhythm. The scenes will vary slightly each night at Empire, but on Thursday the scene was destined to dance.

 

The female mannequin froze Jonathan while she broke with the opening lines of “Say You Love Me Too.” The bass skips on top of their whispered lyrics. The steady, looped tempo challenges the building tension of the song, reflected in the fevered back and forth chassés on stage. Each suave detail contributed to a masterfully rehearsed performance and darkly curated dance wave that bewitches everyone into grooves and boogies. Bree’s “You’re So Cool” must be the spellbinding song that wins souls into his cult following. The song itself will leave you insatiable for it on repeat, but the live performance and magic that is Levitation fest has left Austin as fertile ground for his next church.

 

Photo: Casey Holder

Article: Mel Green

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Glasshealer Exudes Energy with New Single "Empty Bottles"

 

It’s hard to pin down exactly what you’re hearing when listening to Glasshealer. With a mix of electronica, noise rock, and a twist of pop-punk, the band’s high energy vibes and emotional lyrics certainly deliver excitement and intrigue. Their latest single “Empty Bottles” is no different. 

 

“Empty Bottles” feels like a more manic, less centered type of new wave. It has the same electronic waves and steady beats, but the vocals are more reminiscent of early 2000’s Brendon Urie; emotional and frequently veering towards sarcastic. The biggest impact from the song comes from its sense of urgency. It pushes you to get on your feet and do something, do anything other than staying stagnant. It’s difficult to maintain such an intense pace without overwhelming the listener, but thanks to how synced in the band is, the song keeps the tempo high and exudes good vibes simultaneously.

 

-Avril Carrillo

 

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Waldo Witt Debuts Video for Goth-Synth Track "Carteret"

Waldo Witt knows how to make a video. The electronic pop singer and songwriter understands the power of images, and he knows how to underscore and amplify the emotional intensity of his songs through visual storytelling. So far, his clips have been beautifully shot, dramatically acted, and as compelling to follow as any motion picture is. "Crystal Ball," his last video, was practically a love letter to '80s cinema: it featured the Chapel Hill artist in a succession of scenes and poses deeply reminiscent of the best-loved and most emotionally provocative movies of the first synthpop era. (Even the titles looked vintage!) "Carteret," the latest Waldo Witt video, ups the ante with a gripping story-line that borrows equally from dystopian and gangster cinema. He's an artist who understands the camera – one with a knack for making film-historical tropes his own. 

 

Nobody who knows the artist will be shocked. His music does something very similar: it alludes to prior electronic pop models and juxtaposes them, boldly, with contemporary approaches. Waldo Witt's music is gorgeously appointed, texturally sophisticated, harmonically rich, and sonically arresting. Once heard, it's not easily forgotten. Witt makes songs that cry out for video treatments – songs that feel like soundtracks to unforgettable moments. Call it psychedelia, or dream pop, or electronic soul, and he won't mind; what matters is the profound effect these cuts have on those who listen to them. "Carteret," for instance, is quintessential Waldo Witt: it's a waking reverie, a swim in a deep river with dangerous undercurrents. 

 

Sefárdico's "Carteret" enhances the dreamlike quality of Waldo Witt's music. The director presents a magic realism treatment on the United States – one populated by a desperate and passionate multicultural youth defined by its opposition to the dominant power group, in this case the Kadabros gang.  This is a needle-drop into a deep groove: a look at a subculture struggling, and celebrating, and adapting to a hostile society. But a closer look at the cosmetics suggests a division. The different clown face paint worn by the Kadabros and the minority gangs signify the differing ideology they present to the world. Narratively speaking, the clown face is also a device to lighten up the very stark situation in which we found ourselves as a country - that we are ultimately divided. Our hero is a young woman with a butterfly chest tattoo whose innocent appearance belies her dedication – and her determination to overthrow the current corrupt and obsolete order.  Only by symbolically killing the societal ideal we have of those in power we will be able to celebrate underrepresented voices and move forward as a society.

 

 

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