I first discovered Levitation thanks to their Levitation sessions through the first lockdown in the UK around April 2019. The Reverberation Society was already on my radar, but finding these live sessions of pretty much all my favourite artists really got me through the lockdowns. Fast forward 3 years and I’m faced with the opportunity to fly over to France with one of my best mates to cover the 9th year of the Levitation France festival. And what a festival it was.
Friday naturally started full of hope and excitement. Our flight was on time and, as far as we were aware, we had things locked down pretty tight. Everything changed once we finished moseying around Paris and decided it was time to hop on a swift bullet train to Angers. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. What we failed to realise was the fact it was a bank holiday weekend and every single fast train to Nantes was fully booked for the rest of the day. Bollocks. The solution to our problems was to book a coach to the same destination. A 4 hour coach. A 4 hour coach that took 5 hours. But, I can’t grumble too much, it was our own fault really.
After 5 hours of drinking lukewarm beer, eating loads of crisps, playing battleships on Birdy’s phone and desperately holding in a piss, we finally arrived in Angers around 22:00. We were greeted by the view of Château d’Angers, which is magnificent by the way! After smoking a ciggy and taking in the views we decided it was time to make a swift pit stop at our Airbnb before heading to Levitation to catch Gilla Band and hopefully some of Kevin Morby’s set too. As we approached the festival site and collected our press passes Kevin Morby was closing his set for the evening with his last 2 songs; one of which was my favourite track of his, Harlem River.
Next up, Gilla Band. Honestly, after a somewhat frustrating day these guys really hit the spot. Their visceral, jagged noise had the audience in the palm of their hand through their entire 50 minute set. After a legendary performance of Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage their set and the first night of Levitation France came to a close; it was at this point we would meet the first of many friends we made over the weekend, Martin, Basile, Noga and Yali. After a great chat and the gift of something nice to smoke from Basile we exchanged numbers and parted ways for the evening. Me and Birdy ended our evening by smoking Basile’s gift by the water fountain in the centre of town before heading back to get our heads down after our 36 hour marathon of no sleep, drinking, travelling and eating crisps.
Our Saturday started around noon. I left Birdy to get his life back on track while I went to explore Angers and grab the all important supplies; beer, cigarettes, a baguette, cheese and ham. After a quick lunch and a shower we headed out together for another look around Angers, and a few more beers, before heading back to the festival. The first band to demand my attention was Californian-Boogie-Doom-Garage-Rockers, Death Valley Girls, who I had heard before and grown pretty fond of. It’s safe to say they didn’t disappoint. Their fuzzed out psychedelic sound washed over the crowd, it certainly had me in some form of trance. Next up was a new one for me. Brooklyn based Art Punk 5-piece, Gustaf. These guys are super fun, super energetic and are led by a super gnarly bass tone. After a quick bite to eat from one of the superb food venders we bumped into our newfound friends, Martin and Basile once again. It was at this point my favourite feature of the festival came into play. The festival was set up so both stages were on a staggered schedule, facing each other; meaning you can watch every band playing if you wish. Me, Birdy, Martin and Basile made our home slap bang in the centre, next to the sound desk. It was from this point we would continue to have the best time laughing and dancing while watching sets from Kim Gordon, Pond and Kikagaku Moyo without ever moving 10ft in any direction; apart from going to the bar for ‘refreshments’, which was only about 30 ft away.
After leaving the festival that night we went on to meet the next rabble we would come to make even memories with over the weekend; Anthony, Matthieu (A.K.A Dick Vein, long story), Paul and 2 others that I never caught the name of. That night we went on to sit by the river Maine, smoking, chatting and exchanging our favourite bands until 04:00. As the night drew to a close we all exchanged contact details and arranged to meet once we had arisen from our slumber to enjoy the last day of the festival together.
Sunday morning was rough, I woke up with the same headache I fell asleep with but I knew I had to shake it pretty soon. Today was the BIG day, 2 of my favourite bands were playing later on; The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Frankie and the Witch Fingers. After a sausage butty, a breakfast beer and the best damn coffee I’ve ever drank in my life we arranged to meet Basile and Martin at The Joker’s Pub at 15:00 for a beer before heading back to the festival site. While sitting outside Joker’s we bumped into Noga and Yali again, who were looking worse for wear than me and Birdy, which was no small feat! We also saw a British couple who my travel companion had met a day earlier, Joel and Georgia. They informed us that they had spotted some members of BJM in town, the excitement was now becoming very real.
We arrived at the festival at 17:30 sharp, ready for the evening of music ahead of us. Gondhawa kicked off the day with their Sabbath-esque set of big, disgusting, sludgy, stoner riffs. Following them were tripped out, shoegazers from Hull, BDRMM. This was something the festival did really well, mixing and blending genres – yet no band seemed out of place. After BDRMM we took a fond liking to the sonic vibrations and awesome sense of humour delivered by Canadian melody aficionados, Ghost Woman. These guys are well worth watching for any fans of that hazy, dark, psychedelic sound; they’re playing Manchester Psych Fest this September, don’t sleep on that one! After 3 outstanding performances we took a bit of a break to grab some food, kick back and roll up something funky to smoke with Matthieu.
The next band that dragged us off our arses were Crack Cloud. I had seen Crack Cloud supporting Osees a couple of weeks earlier in Manchester. I did notice that these guys had taken a thing or 2 from their time spent with Osees – and good on them! Their hostile, post-punk sound hit with the force of a stampede and I for one won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. After Crack Cloud me and Birdy got chatting to Evan from Ghost Woman. While chatting we were approached by a guy who we would later come to realise was Trevor, the drummer from Acid Dad – a band I had recently discovered through their Levitation live session and couldn’t get enough of! Trevor sorted both me and Birdy a free Levitation t-shirt and his lovely partner Devon took our photograph as Frankie and the Witch Fingers started their set in the background. We were both on cloud 9 at this point and decided the only logical thing to do was throw ourselves right in the middle of the waves of people lost in the transient, high octane sounds of Frankie and the Witch Fingers.
It was now time for The Brian Jonestown Massacre. We linked back up with Matthieu and rolled 3 rather long, jazzy cigarettes, ready for the most anticipated part of the festival; for me at least. I still haven’t recovered from BJM’s set, I’m genuinely lost for words. The free and easy yet still super tight nature of the band simply blows my mind, their communication on stage, the long breaks between songs that should be awkward but just aren’t. There’s a real magic to BJM that not many bands can replicate, no matter how hard they try. At Levitation it was really lovely to watch the brother-like friendship between Anton and Joel come out to play as they joked and exchanged cheeky smirks throughout their performance. Their set was made up of a few select favourites but mainly new stuff, much to my enjoyment. Anton stated “we just want to play good songs. We don’t care if you know them or not, it’s about having a good time…music and learning is all about the unknown.” Overall, an incredible performance from an incredible band that could’ve gone on all night for all I cared. If you don’t know much about BJM, get to know!
It’s no easy task to follow BJM, but a task that Lumer didn’t take lightly. We had met Ben from the band earlier in the day and he was a great laugh. Their sound is a bit like The Stranglers with a big kick up the arse. In all honesty, I don’t remember a great deal of the set, through no fault of theirs. By that point in the evening I was flying high and had no plans of coming down anytime soon. We spent the rest of that evening sitting just outside the festival site with Paul, Matthieu, Basile and co while smoking the last of Basile’s gift until 03:00.
Monday morning we had to set off early to grab our lovely 4 hour coach back to Paris. Much to our pleasure we bumped into Martin and Basile for one last farewell before parting ways – I don’t think we realised at that point just how closely we’d stay in contact with them both after the festival. After a day exploring Paris we landed safely back on UK soil and BOOM! At that very moment, the festival blues kicked in.
Overall, the whole festival was fantastic. Everything from the music and people to the food stalls and location was so well put together. I will 110% be going next year, but this time I may fly to Nantes rather than Paris. If you like anything Post/Art Punk, Garagey or Psychedelic then you have my word you won’t be disappointed. Take a punt of Levitation France 2023 and I’ll see you there!