Levitate Music & Arts Festival 2022: Review & Photos
Bryan Lasky shares his favorite moments and images from three days of music and more at Marshfield Fairgrounds.
The ninth annual Levitate Music Festival should have happened in 2020 and then in 2021, but COVID-19 derailed both of those plans. Organizers held on and put together one of the best weekends of the year so far in Marshfield, Massachusetts with their biggest lineup yet. Both Jack Johnson and Phil Lesh stayed on, as did many others from the 2020 lineup, and as an extra boost Vulfpeck was the third headliner, marking their first appearance since their Madison Square Garden show in 2019.
Before taking in any of the music you could see how family-friendly and locally focused this festival is. The Kid Zone had a chalk wall, postcards to send to artists, and a face painting station with the entire area packed anytime you walked by. There were local vendors set up all weekend selling everything from hats and clothing to paintings and other art. Artists were also creating paintings throughout the grounds all weekend long.
Something that stood out over the weekend was the representation of women across all of the stages. Amy Helm sang a beautiful “Stella Blue” late in Phil Lesh & Friends‘ set, putting all of her energy into a fan-favorite song, as well as excellent backing harmony throughout the set. flipturn‘s torching rocker of a set was held down on the low end, along with some vocals, by Madeline Jarman, and was quite the way to kick off the weekend. You only needed to hear a brief second of Carly Kraft’s vocals to be sucked into watching and listening to all of Coral Moons‘ set, which included great takes on Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well as a batch of originals. Melt, led by Veronica Stewart-Frommer on vocals and Marlo Shankweiler on lead guitar, put on a high-energy, funky set that had the crowd dancing up a storm.
Elliott Peck‘s voice boomed off of the stage during Midnight North‘s set, which included a Mihali sit-in for three songs to close the set. The set was watched by Phil Lesh from the side-stage and the proud dad of Midnight North guitarist Grahame Lesh was beaming with a smile the whole time.
Sal Johnson & The Crowded Table kicked Sunday off with psychedelic jamming, which leaned towards prog-rock at times, that really set the mood for the last day of the fest. Fruition‘s Mimi Naja‘s vocals and mandolin playing was fantastic as the set of rootsy rock ‘n’ roll had the crowd growing constantly throughout the set. Their brand of inspired roots-rock was truly something to behold.
Then there was Hannah Wicklund who just needs the right crowd to see her absolutely shred her guitar for her to become a superstar playing major venues. Last but not least was Sammy Rae, who along with her band Sammy Rae & The Friends, put on an hour-long, enthusiastic, non-stop rock ‘n’ roll show at the height of the day that should not be missed when they come to your town. She and the band were one of the tightest acts of the weekend.
There was plenty of reggae all weekend long that had some of the biggest crowds stretching almost as far back as the fields went. Stephen Marley honored his father as well as played plenty of originals, Stick Figure ended their summer tour with what was basically a local show and the crowd showed up strong for them, despite some of the hottest temperatures of the weekend during the set. The Elovaters, another local band who has done very well, drew an early large crowd to open the main stage on Saturday. While it was rough for folks to choose between Dirty Heads and Mike Love on Sunday, both had fantastic crowds for their sets.
There was plenty of improvisation too with moe. and Umphrey’s McGee both putting on clinics of various jamming styles during each of their almost 90-minute sets. The New Motif, who had extra horns in tow, wowed the mid-afternoon crowd, as the up-and-coming jam act moved from funk to spacey psychedelia with barely a sweat. GA-20‘s old-school blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll saw the two guitarists go back and forth with slides and finger picking while Too Many Zooz used their two-horn one drummer line-up to transport the crowd from the sunny summer day into a late-night dance club.
Twiddle frontman Mihali put on quite the golden hour show on Sunday that saw G. Love guest early on and a horn section to beef up the sound. You could feel something in the air as the set continued to build, reaching its peak during the final moments of the set and the crowd going absolutely bananas after the final note. Mihali’s solo band is in a special place right now with plenty to come on the horizon.
Durand Jones & The Indications put on the funkiest, soul-soothing set of the weekend. Jones’ voice pulls you in and never lets you go. A cannot miss act if he is on a festival bill or coming through your city.
Vulfpeck’s Friday headlining set was astounding. From the minute they took the stage in their “schvitzing” outfits through Theo Katzman taking an ice bath, it was a dance party in the crowd. The smiles on everyone’s faces told the story of this set. Hopefully, there are more shows on the horizon because it would be a shame if this was just a one-off.
The following night, Phil & Friends featuring Helm, Grahame Lesh, guitarists Luther Dickinson and Stu Allen, keyboardist Jason Crosby, and drummer Cody Dickinson, went for the proverbial it, and got there. The opening notes of “Viola Lee Blues” echoed through the grounds and weaved through the first few songs, much to the delight of the crowd. “Unbroken Chain” may have been the highlight of the set, leaving the confines of the song as the band explored interesting territory before finishing it up and dropping directly into a “Help On The Way” into “Slipknot!” into “Franklin’s Tower” suite. The show-ending “One More Saturday Night” didn’t leave time for an encore or donor rap, but Phil made sure to introduce the band and thank everyone for coming.
Jack Johnson, easily the biggest name on the bill and a rare treat for the East Coast, closed the festival down with a 25-song set leaning heavily on covers due to his band contracting COVID-19. He had plenty of help from members of Fruition, G. Love, Mike Love and Donavon Frankenreiter throughout the set though and you might not have known it wasn’t his usual band if he hadn’t mentioned it.
His easy-going vibes were a perfect capper to the weekend as the sun began to set on the festival for 2022.