Empire Control Room & Garage was absolutely packed Thursday for Day Two of Austin’s annual psych rock fest, Levitation. The five-day experience prides itself in showcasing some of the coolest and most unique shows anywhere in America. This night, Empire would be hosting some rising artists, such as Nation of Language and Rosegarden Funeral Party, as well as seasoned veterans Drab Majesty and Boy Harsher. In my opinion, this was the best lineup of music on any day of the festival.
The lineup was split between two stages, some bands performing outside at the ‘Garage’ and others inside, aka The Control Room.
The night began with Nation of Language, a Brooklyn-based indie rock/synth outfit who have exploded almost overnight. 2020 was very kind to them, as they saw their popularity increase exponentially after the release of their debut LP Introduction, Presence. It became quickly clear that their recent sold-out tour was no fluke, as they tore through an unbelievable set of songs. Fans screamed back the lyrics to almost every song and made it apparent to everyone in attendance that this band is here to stay.
Drab Majesty was next and, while they had a similar 80s-esque sound like Nation of Language, they were much more reserved onstage. The set felt very futuristic, each member wearing silver face paint with large black sunglasses. They performed as if they were robots programmed with nothing but 80s synth music. So far, the first half of the evening had a very retro vibe, but that was about to quickly change as I made my way into the smaller half of the venue.
Rosegarden Funeral Party hails from Dallas, Texas and the best way I could describe them is goth rock.
They opened with my favorite song “Fear of Feeling Nothing” and, even though the start of their set overlapped with the end of Drab Majesty, the people watching lost their minds. They were the heaviest of all the bands performing, but nobody watching seemed to mind. Lead singer Leah Lane is a cross between Lita Ford and Joan Jett — an amazing vocalist and an even better guitar player. High energy and fun, they got my blood sufficiently flowing before I made my way back outside to spend the rest of the night dancing.
Boy Harsher have amassed a cult following throughout their seven years performing and making music. When it was announced they would be headlining this night of Levitation, I immediately purchased tickets. I absolutely love their minimalistic style and find myself dancing to them more than any other group I can think of. Their song “Pain” is stuck on repeat on almost all my mixes and is a go-to when working out or running. Having only played a couple shows since COVID, Jae Matthews didn’t look like the break slowed her down at all. The performance almost felt like a rave: hands waving in the air, as the entire crowd danced to the hypnotic and thundering beats. My favorite song of the night was “Modulations” and my only complaint was they couldn’t keep it going all night. I can’t wait to hear what this extraordinary duo has in store for us next!
Photography by Derek Jones