The Levitate Music & Arts Festival this past weekend made its return to the Marshfield fairgrounds for its first full-blown event since 2019, and the musicians, artists, and fans didn’t miss a beat.
I acknowledge being more a fan of rapid-fire 3-or-4-minute songs than those that meander—the latter a speciality of many of Levitate’s performers. But when organizers invited us to attend, I took them up on the offer with an open mind. Bring on the jam bands, led by legendary Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s ensemble.
The sold-out event attracted a wide range of ages from way back Deadheads to a fair number of little kids, and everything in between. Tye-dye anything was the fashion of choice, though hemp hats, band T-shirts (“Stick Family,” for performer Stick Figure), and other casual wear also ruled.
When we arrived we got scared by a long line to get in, but soon realized the Festival had a system for alternating between allowing those in one line to flood in, then the other. It worked well. We saw few long lines at the many food stations, which ran the gamut from fair food like fried dough to lobster rolls and Filipino fare.
Been a while since I’ve had a Red Stripe, but it was the perfect drink for the venue. Liquid Death sparkling water, however, seemed to be the drink of choice for many.
An artisans’ section in the middle of the fairgrounds attracted steady traffic and sales of items such as gems and services such as face or body painting. Among the more unusual vendors: A provider of plant-based eggs that tasted darn good. Artists in action created murals.
One nice thing about this very chill festival is that you’re allowed to bring in blankets and low-backed chairs that can be located behind certain lines in front of the stages. So the crowds immediately in front of the musicians were large, but you could still find space (the event attracted 15,000 people a day, but it felt just right on the Saturday afternoon/early evening that we attended). People would catch a few songs, then relax in their chairs—a great pacing technique for a long day at the festival.
Bleachers near the main stage also gave fans an option to get off their feet—feet that could get dirty kicking around the fairgrounds terrain. Some patrons brought frisbees and footballs and tossed them around when space allowed.
Among the acts we caught were the versatile multi-instrumentalists of Midnight North, Durand Jones & The Indications (Jones easily had the best moves of anyone on stage), Umphrey’s McGee (they rocked as much as they jammed), Stick Figure (catchy reggae and dub), and headliners Lesh & Friends. About 30 bands performed over the three days.
We brought our earplugs, but the sound overall was clear and not overly loud. You did have to position yourself near the stage you wanted to focus on, as sound would overlap if you located in between two active stages.
We’d recommend Levitate when it comes around next year. It’s a feel-good gathering, and the Levitate brand organization added to that by unveiling a charitable foundation on the eve of the festival. The foundation’s focus: encouraging music, arts, and outdoors at the community level.