LA Witch, Gateway Drugs, and White Poppy keep Levitation finale evil

unnamedThe final set of Levitation Vancouver took place at the Cobalt on Sunday night and featured BC’s White Poppy (Crystal Dorval) and two Los Angeles bands, Gateway Drugs and LA Witch.

Appearing solo, White Poppy commenced her loop-based performance by weaving a soothing instrumental tune. Just as the crowd began immersing themselves in the song, Dorval suddenly plunged them to the ocean floor with deep, harsh, oscillating tones. Unlike her established oeuvre, most of her set was free of the fuzzy effects that define her sound; it was, excuse the pun, crystalline. A repeating electronic phrase played like a fog horn, a beacon in a psychedelic fog – comforting, like being lost but knowing that there’s someone out there waiting not too far away.

White Poppy may not have rallied together a band in time for Levitation, to put more muscle behind her ambience, but she was more than capable of filling the Cobalt with a hefty sound. Dense and icy, her music conjured a sense of vastness and grandeur.

Gateway Drugs kicked things into high-gear where the festival finale remained the rest of the night. The haunting hard blues rock quartet is still new to many ears, but they’ve gained the approval of some major audiences: not only are three of the four members children of the Knack’s bassist Prescott Niles, but the band had befriended Blind Melon’s Christopher Thorn who landed them time in Dave Grohl’s Studio 606. Grohl also went on to produce Gateway Drugs’ debut album, Magick Spells (out now on Cobraside). On top of all of that, Drugs just wrapped up a US spring tour with alt-rock legends Swervedriver and opened for the iconic Jesus and Mary Chain at this year’s CMW.

Unsurprisingly, Gateway Drugs were a force from out of this world. Their guitars were fast-driving, and their killer drumming never wavered – Gabriel Niles kept the tempo high, pounding the skins even as the other members tuned up between songs. The band was a little destructive with a gothic Gun Club edge, especially as Gateway Drugs appeared decked in black, in front of a vampiric red curtain.

LA Witch’s name says it all: West Coast punk mixed with black magik rock ‘n’ roll. When they played the Electric Owl at the end of last January, as part of their first tour, singer/guitarist Sade Sanchez came off a bit shy. But even though it has only been a few months, the band seemed collected this time around. With big riffs and ramshackle guitar-revs that exploded out of swampy, bubbling blues, LA Witch had fans chugging their wicked brew. Psychedelic, blooze-fueled, and a little bit evil, LA Witch played a fitting end to a successful first-run for Levitation Vancouver.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu