thI’ve now had a full two weeks to let the stoke, style, and soul of the Levitate Music and Arts Festival 10 anniversary sink in. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend seven of these Marshfield weekends. Simply, this festival produces moments. As a result, it has inspired me to share 10 life lessons to take from 10 years of the Levitate Music and Arts festival.
“There’s a thing about surfing that you can’t define — everyone is attracted to that. Music has that as well,” Levitate owner, Dan Hassett told me in 2018 interview about the festival’s groundswell. Perhaps therein lies the ingredient that the Levitate has ridden on since 2013. It’s a value that recognizes the power of the community, celebrates it, and then builds upon it.
Bands with local roots like Stick Figure have been there every step of the way. Stick Figure has played all of fests, culminating in a headlining slot this year.
What started as a brainstorm idea in 2012 – as to how to celebrate the surf shop’s 10 year anniversary, has now evolved into the likes of Jack Johnson and Brandi Carlile making significant tour stops in Marshfield. Artists such as Passafire, Dan and The Wildfire, and Windsor Tree kicked things off in 2013. Then, Carlile closed the show this year with her song “Hold Out Your Hand.” An appropriate encore message to put a bow on the party while also stirring your curiosity as to what could be next.
Here, we zoom in on the 10 life lessons we can all take from (the first) 10 years of the Levitate Music and Arts festival.
10. Jack Johnson – “You can meet the moonlight any night you really wanna. It’s waiting in your own backyard.” Dream it and believe it. Sometimes you seek, search, and wander, but the best moonlight is waiting for you in your own backyard. And sometimes that backyard then ends up hosting concerts with Citizen Cope, Matisyahu, G.Love, Mihali and many more.
9. Trevor Hall – Speaking of surreal moments in the backyard. During the pandemic I often listened to Hall’s music to calm the vibe. His song “House” particularly spun regularly inside my own. To then see him live as the sun was setting during 2021’s Pop-Up Festival was an unforgettable experience. The lesson here is faith. The tagline of ’21 was “bringing the community back to together.” We all believed it could happen, and Hall was there when it did, “humbled by the sight and the sound.”
8. Lake Street Dive – “We feel that was the best festival set we ever played. At least the best feeling set,” drummer Mike Calabrese told me minutes after Lake Street Dive stepped off the Levitate Stoke stage. Over the years, Lake Street Dive became a natural Levitate home run. Though, they had no geographical tie to the south shore, they always brought their best, and the crowd responded. You never know who will connect with your art. Always bring your best, and always be dialed into the moment. Just like Lake Street Dive. This was also the first band I ever interviewed as a full group at Levitate Fest.
7. Michael Franti – Good vibes only. Franti and Spearhead emote one mood – bring the optimism. “Every moment of this life that we’re livin’ is a life that’s worth living for. It’s extra-ordinary,” Franti says. It doesn’t hurt to stay human, either. Franti is always barefoot so that he can always feel the earth beneath him. It then levitates through him and he shares it with every audience.
6. Ripe – “And in Boston it grew some,” Ripe emotionally sings towards the end of “X Life.” Ripe is band that has continuously believed in themselves. They have always known they are a live show band. And man, do they deliver. Before the first song of their 2023 set (main stage), singer Robbie Wulfsohn spoke to the crowd for a few minutes prior to the first song starting. This type of engagement is a big reason why we have seen Ripe’s name rise up the Levitate Fest poster over the past ten years. The great songs help, too.
5. The Elovaters – Put in the work. This is another band that is an extension of Levitate. Over the years they often work a double, playing an acoustic set in VIP, and a main set on either Stoke or Style stage. This is a band you just love to love. As a group they exemplify gratitude. They find great meaning in adjusting their songs to be applicable to anyone’s life. “Remember you have power, and you could be a ladder.”
4. The Original Wailers – The original headliners. You have to respect that the band that closed out the first Levitate Festival can essentially be the Godfather of every other artist that’s been part of the 10 year history. The Original Wailers blazed a trail, and I’m not sure anyone could have predicted all those who would then follow. An extra special shout-out to Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, and Ziggy Marley who have all played respective years. “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.”
3. Trey Anastasio – Try new things. Anastasio has headlined twice (2018, 2023). I admittedly have not usually been a jam bander. Though as a guitar player, I have deep respect for such artists’ unworldly level of muscianship. This grew 10x when I saw the joy just playing in the Marshfield environment gave Anastasio upon the Levitate stage. It was like nobody else was there, and that’s all he needed. This then turned me on to Goose, who delivered a fan-favorite set this year (with a cover of Blind Melon’s “No Rain”). I also tried wonton tacos, at Levitate Fest and now love them more than anyone should. I guess, “I’m trying to share what it’s all about. Let the music do the talking.”
2. Brandi Carlile – “Follow your heart and see where it may take you.” That’s the first line of the first song on Carlile’s first record. I’d say she practiced what she preached and continues to back it up. I’m sure she is glad she did. The path she followed started in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. She just kept singing, and then picked up a few Grammy awards along her route to the south shore of Massachusetts. As Carlile closed out the 10 year anniversary, I’m sure every person there was also grateful she followed her own advice.
1. Stick Figure – “When you focus on the good things, all things under the sun. You free yourself from negativity and the good shall come.” Stick Figure made the choice to open their show this year with the song that contains this lyric. I’ve never seen a crowd so happy for a band in all my concert experiences. To headline their hometown throw-down on such an occasion was such a joy shared from band to community. The feeling that really can’t be captured in words here is what the Levitate Music and Arts festival is all about.
“You have to be grateful to be in our position. It’s important to remember to keep building. You can’t take it for granted. It’s also fun because we’ve done it alongside bands like Stick Figure and Ripe. Sometimes it feels like we’ve done it all together,” Hassett said when asked to capture the Levitate journey in words. Stick Figure echos that sentiment with their song “Fire On The Horizon” (which opened their encore), saying, “So many miles I’ve walked. So many rivers I’ve crossed. So many battles I’ve lost, make me who I am today. And when tomorrow, it comes, there’ll be a brand new sun. This song is not over, it’s just begun.”
*Have you seen Artist Waves Live x Levitate Music & Artist Festival Mini-Documentary? You can find it HERE.