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Levitiation: Emma Ruth Rundle Bangs Heavy Folk at Empire

  

 

From one night to the other during Levitation, the scene at Empire tonight feels drastically different but also the same. It’s still dark but dark rock, instead of dark wave dance, as Empire hosts a ticket of Sargent House Presents.

 

Emma Ruth Rundle is the penultimate performance of the indoor stage. The psychedelic grayscale light illustrations blanket over her body and guitar while the autumn breeze blows in feathering her bangs. Her silhouette is reminiscent of a young Stevie Nicks but her sound is uniquely her own. While the other bands of the evening fall on the heavy side of the spectrum, Rundle finds herself between metal and ethereal. Her voice soars from her trachea like a free bird or prey as she plays the goth folk anthem, “Shadows of My Name.”

 

The vibe of the night pivots beneath an undercurrent of rock as the heavy pull of her guitar and the war drum cadence of “Fever Dreams” spellbinds the audience into an amorphous bobbing of heads and knocking of knees. The subsequent song “Darkhorse” from her 2018 album, On Dark Horses, closes the set and seals the venue in a new covenant. With fests every weekend in Austin, one might forget that this is fucking Levitation fest and not just a regular Friday night on 7th street. The covenant of Emma Ruth Rundle makes this evening at Empire a timeless place of memory blessed by the deities of goth folk n roll in which we can return. Levitation isn’t every weekend, but you can still levitate daily and harness the residual energy and adrenaline of the festival.

 

-Mel Green

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Levitation: Kurt Vile Puts Austin in a Daze

  

Kurt Vile takes the stage at Stubbs casually and cool. His presence is always welcome in Austin, looking like someone you might bump into at the grocery store in Hyde Park with his long dark hair in his face and disheveled plaid shirt. His last show in town was December 2018 at Moody Theatre. The set list is similar to the last show here, playing mostly songs off his 2018 album Bottle It In, but it’s always refreshing to float along with his on and on lyricism and dreamy chord progressions.

The band opens the show with “Loading Zones.” Vile stakes his position as “a mayor of some godforsaken town.” The song’s story builds up to a repeated mantra: “I park for free,” because, yes, parking for free is the defining perk and achievement of political office. Imagine parking for free in Austin…I wonder if you can. 

There’s not much chat between songs as the band mellowly eases into each song. Of course, the audience lost it and sang along when Vile played “Pretty Pimpin’,” the hit that earned him significant cred back in 2015.

Wakin’ On a Pretty Day” - the 10 minute ballad of loafing and loving on a pretty day - would have been the highlight of the show if not for the encore featuring the guitar player of Dinosaur Jr. Clouds of smoke puff into the dark atmosphere above, and the audience bobs and sways as Vile’s mumbly articulation of the song draws you into a new state of day: “Wakin’ on a pretty day, don’t know why I ever go away. It’s hard to explain my love in this daze.” Try playing this song first thing in the morning and just see what happens - maybe you’ll have a pretty daze, whatever that looks like for you.

Vile and the band brought up J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr to encore with the song of “Hunchback,” from Vile’s 2009 album Childish Prodigy. It was a playful, dreamy song to close the weekend of shows at Stubbs, with both grown men singing about being hunchbacks “floppin an flippin around like fish on the street/floppin an flippin around like a fish along the sand.” 

The band exits the stage, the stage lights come on and the crew starts breaking down. Some of the crowd will go off to the last of the Levitation shows, but some will go home and get ready for a return to their subjective reality. Levitation is its own reality for scenes and subcultures of Austin, and the Fest was an excuse to show up, look hot, and hear great music.

- Mel Green

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Levitation: Chelsea Wolfe Holds Communion at Church

  

 

A dreary Saturday peers in through the stained glass at Central Presbyterian Church. The gothic arches, the ribbed vaults, the red velvet cushions lining the dark pews, along with the incredible acoustics of the church make this one of the most beautiful venues in town, especially for shows worth sitting down. The gothic architecture enhances the dark but sensuous sound. Chelsea Wolfe stood center pulpit in a glowing white dress with puffed glowing sleeves hanging from her shoulder, surrounded by orange burning candles and a paganesque set design of concentric white stick circles looking like bones.

Wolfe opened with “Flatlands;” the familiar opening chords and gentle lyrics facilitated an instant communion of music and spirit. Wolfe’s ethereal voice washes over everyone, the elevated spirit of music through her instructing the spirit of the audience to meet above in the vaulted ceiling.

The acoustic opening song was not the softest of the set, instead it was when she stepped down from her podium to take a comfortable seat to cover Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” When two festivals collide! Wolfe’s cover gives new life and context to the Mitchell’s golden ode. Woodstock sings about the freedom of rock and roll and the inherent stardust in us all despite the violence and uncertainty of the world outside. As the community and constituents of Levitation, we are still golden we are still stardust and we are still trying to find our way back to the garden.

The church is full of punks and fringe society here to hear Chelsea Wolfe mesmerize with “Mother Road.” A band of blue lights fan behind her like a peacock display, the swirling haze as the eyes of each feather. Geometric shapes dance on top of the stained-glass loops and parabolas. Sargent House holding mass in a dim lit gothic church on a Saturday afternoon was another sweet moment of Levitation magic, and Chelsea Wolfe beautifully expressed herself as an individual and a conduit of the spirit.

- Mel Green

Photo: Casey Holder

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Levitation: Christelle Bofale Brings Local Flavor to Levitation

 


If you’ve been plugged into the local Austin music scene, then you’ve heard of Christelle and you’ve witnessed her graceful come-up. She released Swim Team earlier this year and captivated everyone including the folks at Pitchfork who gave her album a glowing review. Since the album’s release in May, she’s toured, headlined her own show, and played fantastic sets alongside locals acts like Calliope Musicals at the Horror Disco this past Halloween, and now Levitation.

 

Bofale opened Thursday evening at Hotel Vegas, managing to facilitate an intimate performance in the midst a large-scale festival. The room was packed but her omnipresent vocals over the resounding chords made the room feel like a private show. Her songs sing of vulnerability and truth, for example, “Love Lived Here Once, speaks the universal language of heartache. Empathy brings us together, and so does Christelle’s smile. Although her songs transport you to emotional landscapes, her joy is grounding.

 

Catch one of her shows when you can. We can’t wait to see what gifts the universe holds for Christelle and her music in the near, near future. If you haven’t listened to Swim Team yet, listen to it and be the first to show your friends.

 

-Mel Green

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NightFire Releases Haunting Single with "Spell On You"

Ambient synths, haunting vocals and an undercurrent of deep house all coalesce in NightFire’s rendition of “(I Put A) Spell On You”. Released right before Halloween, “Spell On You” is a seductive soundscape with entrancing vocals that deftly masks a brooding menace that builds steadily throughout the track. NightFire is the burgeoning bedroom pop project of Houston-based chanteuse, Rebecca Chirich, who began making music in 2014 but only recently began releasing her music. “Spell On You” is the first of a handful of singles that will begin to drop over the next few months, potentially culminating with a NightFire debut album in 2020. Understated and seemingly nonchalant, Chirich has succeeded in creating an alluring aesthetic with NightFire. Her intimate lyrics and pulsing beats are addictive as they are enjoyable.. Keep an eye out for NightFire live shows coming in 2020.

-Lee Ackerley

“Spell On You” is available on Spotify/Google/Apple/Amazon

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