SXSW 2015 – Levitation presents Pharmakon, Golden Dawn Arkestra, Moon Duo, Lust For Youth, Gang of Four & more at Hotel Vegas, Austin

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Golden Dawn Arkestra

Golden Dawn Arkestra

SXSW and Austin Psych Fest combine in spectacular fashion at Hotel Vegas with a marathon of out-rock delights, Getintothis’ Peter Guy fills his slightly weary boots.

Just past the midpoint of our Austin adventure, we decide to take stock; a full Irish breakfast (white pudding, oh yes) proves the high of a dismal morning having watched Everton crash out of Europe in unceremonious fashion, and it seems somewhat appropriate that a Psychedelic Fix is in natural order to amend our bruised state of mind.

We take the long trek across town stopping at FloodFest for a brief beat down courtesy of high-flying Years & Years – their zesty bounce proving popular in the early afternoon heat. But we’re in need of a harder hit and get our stride on rocking up to Hotel Vegas on 1500 E 6th just in time for Talk In Tongues‘ summer jams blend sweetly into the sijar-tabla boogie of Gourishankar Karmakar & Indrajit Banerjee.

There follows a whole day of whacked out sounds lovers of Liverpool’s Psych Fest would joyfully immerse themselves in; it’s like a fantasy wishlist – a who’s who of contemporary psychedelia as Sacred Bones stack up the goods, with Al Lover following Deerhoof‘s rhythmic undulations and Moon City Boys (a Swedish all-female quartet channeling the Velvets) before Merchandise career into the scuzz histrionics of Holy Wave.

Later Gang Of Four delight as Pop Group provide a dose of controversy having their sound pulled dead due to a wrangle with their sound engineer – the kerfuffle continues in doors in a musical sense as Lust For Youth prove one of the day’s highest points blending New Order, Pet Shops and industrial house with a GallagherBrown frontman vibe – only bettered by a dude who acts as their in-house Bez – but instead of being feral and wild-eyed, remains seated the entire gig, centre-stage eating a box of chips. Only once does he move, to put on his sunglasses. It’d be pretentious were they not so on the money and cool-as-fuck.

Christian Bland and The Revelators add to the revelry while we’re lucky enough to chat to Samuel T Herring and talk Everton in a more positive sense – the Future Islands front man a big Blue.

But it’s at this juncture we must champion the day’s two big, big live winners. And how contrasting they were. Late afternoon The Golden Dawn Arkestra literally light up Austin with their 16-man-woman-beast ensemble mixing Sun Ra, Funkadelic, Moroccan funk, tribal cosmic disco and belly-dancing you’ve not seen the like of. It’s pure spectacle and can’t help but recall Goat – yet, similarly, this is no novelty act – they’re unreal players and there’s sheer delight in the crowd as they raise the roof with four extended brass-induced wonders. Let’s hope they tour outside the States soon.

At the other end of the spectrum, and the night, is Margaret Chardiet aka Pharmakon. Little can prepare you for a live show like this. Writhing across the floor, smashing pipes across sound boards, howling into the black, crawling on her knees amid the crowd, jabbing her ribs with drumsticks – it’s a perpetual masochistic ritual which is terrifying, gratuitous, compulsive – and dare we say it, almost perverse. It’s the closest thing we’ve seen to watching someone ripping out their soul and offering it to those in attendance – we’re exhausted when it’s over, Chardiet looks near-dead. Yet, this being SXSW, she’s whisked off for an impromptu gig on a bridge 35 minutes away.

We end our night at the PC Music show at Empire, catching SOPHIE once again and then darting off into the 3am cauldron that is 6th Street as we just make our last ride home. Another day, in this most magical of manias.

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