The Marshfield Fairgrounds is not exactly the beach, but once Levitate Music and Arts Festival is underway it definitely feels like you are at one giant beach party and instead of the ocean, you have a stage in front of you with bands playing all day. Were we at the beach, there would be the main beach, and two smaller beaches each representing different stages. The music and activities are non-stop and the line-ups this year brought in a crowd of people with a variety of musical taste. Young adults caught up for some drinks and banter as they headed over to see their favourite bands. Older adults, families and friends all gathered for a day in the sun with music, art, skateboarding, shopping, and of course non-stop music from late morning until well beyond dusk. This year’s line up included: Brandi Carlile, Trey Anastasio Band, Stick Figure, Goose, Peach Pit, Celisse Rebelution, Ziggy Marley, Shakey Graves, Larkin Poe, Ripe, Lucius, Collie Buddz, The California Honeydrops, Melt, Lespecial, The Q-Tip Bandits, Steve Rondo, The Elovaters, Donavon Frankenreiter, Lime Cordiale, John Craigie, The Heavy Heavy, The Birch Swart Band, FT. Anna Daley Young, Celisse, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Couch, and Veronica Lewis.
The Levitate Music Festival Experience
Arriving at Levitate Music and Arts Festival, you are greeted by a stream of people carrying beach chairs, children on their grown-up’s shoulders, hand in hand with their loved ones, and gaggles of friends reuniting for the day. Levitate Music and Arts Festival is a wonderful scene of food trucks along the perimeter, a giant sun arch with stairs that you can climb to see the lay of the land, unique wares in the marketplace, and three stages waiting for the next artists to fill the air with music. The sunshine arch is a great place to start the day and check out the scene of the moment. After convening by the entrance, some groups split up and set up chairs in front of different stages for the day, while others wander slowly past the murals watching the artists at work. Others arrive and head straight to their favourite food vendor for a mid-morning bite to power them through a morning of dancing and music. The stages are set up so that the front area is just for those on their feet dancing and taking in the music up close and personal. Off to the side, is the area for people who want to set up chairs for the day so that everyone has a dedicated space without interfering with the comfort or site-lines of others. As the day goes on, the spaces in front of the stage fill up and you will find it harder to navigate your way to the stage, but there is plenty of space for everyone.
A little about the Line Ups
Friday, on the main stage, began with Melt an appropriately named band for a weekend of hot and melty weather, but festival-goers kept cool with plenty of free water stations as well as the misting tent. Firecracker of a human on stage, Veronica Stewart-Frommer, got the party started with her high energy presence and powerful voice. Melt’s music is definitely not pure pop but has a pop core with soul woven in. While you could in theory catch every show each of the three days of Levitate, and many do, the energy of the day is to come and go and enjoy the space, the activities, the food, the artists and artisans selling their wares. Some of the highlights Friday included more soul, but with a much more old school feel from the California Honeydrops, and the very popular Stick Figure. I think I enjoyed watching the fans engaging with their beloved band just as much as seeing Stick Figure perform. Lucius stole my heart as soon as they sauntered onto the stage with matching head to toe hot pink looks and then filled the air with a sultry vintage sound. Lucius is within the Indie pop realm, but definitely have a sound and feel all their own which evokes a different time and place. Their connection with the audience is rich and only gets more luxurious as their set goes on. The band Ripe’s alternative pop filled the main stage early on with a cool airy sound with a pop beat that has everyone tapping their feet or bopping their heads at very least.
Saturday’s line up brought another mix of sounds to each of the stages. While Levitate has a reputation for being a jam band festival, and there were plenty of jam band vibes, I feel like that description really doesn’t capture the line-up to its fullest. There was really something for everyone. Saturday was all about Goose (also known as Proper Ganders I hear), for Goose followers, and Trey Anastasio for, well the Goose fans as well, and those older folks who had not yet been introduced to Goose. Every band from Peach Pit and Celisse to The Elovators had their own initial fan base and then many more new followers by the end of their sets.
Between sets, I went over to check out the skateboarding with Nora Vasconcellos. Throughout the day they had kids learning to skate, which was the cutest thing to watch. It is refreshing to see that “no fear” attitude that children often have and try to tap back into that as an adult. The food selection was excellent and plentiful. I had requests by my family to bring back food from all the trucks. They especially had their eye on the Broccoli Bar from VT. If you are sensitive to vaping and smoke, then this might not be the scene for you. Even though it is outside, you definitely were aware of it. No one, from families with young children to everyone else seemed to mind, and you could always find a spot on the edge of the crowd for a little more literal breathing room.
The headliners were definitely the icing on the cake each day, but you know when you have chocolate chips or little chunks of cherry in a Black Forest Cake, they may be baked down into the cake, but you seek them out because they are morsels of deliciousness. That’s what all the smaller bands are; they are those delicious smaller morsels. Some of them may be smaller bands you have not heard of but plenty have a following all their own already.
Friday Headliner: Stick Figure
Stick Figure was Friday’s headliner and, since Reggae is not something I listen to a lot, they were the first “white guy” reggae band I had ever seen perform. Ironically, my mother-in-law, a school teacher from rural Pennsylvania, has always been a huge reggae fan and my husband is too. I think they both would have loved Stick Figure, despite not being their biggest demographic. Stick Figure fans were definitely skewed slightly younger, but they were devoted fans. Stick Figure’s music brings that chill vibe of reggae and a reverence for marijuana and riding that high. The music isn’t just about that chemical reaction though, it is also about seeking that feeling of freedom and carefreeness in life in general. It is something that we all seek regardless of taste in music or how we get to that more zen state of mind. It was music you could dance to, relax on your beach blanket to, or nod your head too.
Saturday Headliner: Trey Anastasio
Trey Anastasio is my OG of the kind of music you listened to for capture that laissez faire life and riding the wave of that slower anti-rat race kind of life. Phish was from my high school days and (big surprise) life took over and I lost track a little of that energy and state of mind, getting caught up in the rush of busy-ness. I have a few high school friends, and new friends in Boston who are around the same age us me and were more dedicated to the band. They were smart and kept up with it. It was wonderful reconnecting with the music and glowing warmth that Anastasio emits when he is on stage. It is pretty magical when some of those feelings of your youth are re-awakened in you. It doesn’t take much to reconnect with that person you were and I’d say still are. It just takes the right art. For the younger crowd who were not around for the early Phish days, Trey Anastasio offers everything but the nostalgia. Again, just watching Trey Anastasio perform makes you feel some kind of bliss. The music itself is like a massage for your mind and ear drums. They are lulled by the beat and whether you are listening to the lyric or just absorbing the music by osmosis you’re on a journey. There is a lot of jazziness to jam band music and long riffs that take you on a side quest.
Sunday Headliner: Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile was the headliner for Sunday and there was quite a buzz about it because she was maybe a little different than past Levitate Music Festival headliners. She was, however the perfect person to close out the festival on Sunday. Her presence filled the fairgrounds with physical bodies from the artists bleachers by the makeshift “green room” to the vast fairground space around the main stage. Carlile had the attention of the entire place. She also brought on so many different artists to perform with her throughout the night including Lucius and Celisse. Brandi Carlile’s music tells stories without leaving out some of the deepest emotions. She has a way of making you feel what isn’t spelled out. I’m not sure if it’s the right mix of words and her velvety rich voice, or just the familiarity of the stories but Carlile also shares deep emotional moments from her life. She was so sweet and loving to her audience, including when anyone had to be taken out for emergency care. Carlile assured them they would not be missing too much (of course they were) and that she’d see them next time. While not every band that played Levitate would agree that all art is political, I think when you have a voice and a point of view whether you use it overtly or not, all art is political. Brandi Carlile does not shy away from that practice. Closing out the evening on Sunday, with the sky dark and the air finally a bit cooler, there was magic in the air. You left Levitate Music and Art Festival feeling changed for the better and looking forward to the next one. The icing on the cake may even have been a few weeks after Levitate closed when Brandi and Catherine Carlile released their version of Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls for the Barbie Movie soundtrack. For those who had just recently seen Brandi Carlile live, this song, which some of us had seen live many years ago by the Indigo Girls at Lilith Fair (or maybe more recently when Indigo Girls were in town) came alive on a whole other level.
For those of you who missed out on Levitate this summer as well as those still craving more, you are in luck because Flannel Jam is coming up soon. Flannel Jam Nantucket is sold out but you can still get tickets for Flannel Jam in Marshfield on October 8th