At a time where funding for the arts is in critical danger, a sold-out crowd flocked to the Marshfield Fairgrounds to celebrate what once was a small birthday party for a local surf shop and is now a music festival imbued with local roots and headlined by Ziggy Marley and Dispatch.
Levitate Music Festival, named after the local surf shop on Ocean Avenue in Marshfield, is a hyperlocal celebration honoring art, surf, skate, and music. Deeply set in the community, the festival marked some major milestones in its fifth year; for the first time the concert expanded to two days and for the second year in a row, the concert sold out. The 2017 lineup included 20 bands playing over three stages and drew headliners including Dispatch, Ziggy Marley, Umphrey’s McGee, Stick Figure and Lake Street Dive.
“Levitate is all about community. Of all of the festivals I’ve been to, the atmosphere of Levitate is unlike any other. Growing up in Scituate, on the South Shore, I’ve been so lucky to find friends and family everywhere I go. To have a festival close to home that brings together local businesses and people from all over is truly magical. We live in a beautiful place and it’s only right to share it with everyone and anyone!,” said Jane Polito, of Scituate, MA.
John Sullivan of Marshfield echoed that sentiment, noting the importance of festivals like Levitate for the community. “It is important for town…. it brings community closer together.” Sullivan, a frequent festival goer, said, like most other fans, he was excited to see Dispatch. The Shrewsbury based band has been on hiatus for eight years and is now touring nationally in support of their new album, America, Location 12. Sullivan also noted that Umphrey’s McGee, an internationally renowned jam band, is a huge get for Marshfield.
The festival also included a skate ramp, local food trucks, a pop-up Levitate Surf Shop, and vendors from all over Massachusetts selling their wares. If you were bored between acts, you could shop, try a drum circle, or sign up for goat yoga at a farm in Rockland.
A standout of the two days was local talent Quinn Sullivan, who had the first set of Sunday morning. The 18 year-old who hails from New Bedford, Mass., is reminiscent of the second coming of Gregg Allman with his melodic, intricate guitar solos. Starting guitar at the age of three, Sullivan cites music lessons on the South Shore at Top Music in Fairhaven and at the Symphony Music Shop in Dartmouth for setting him on his musical path.
Sound of Boston caught up with the young blues guitarist, who is touring with guitar icon Buddy Guy this summer in support of his new record, Midnight Highway. On what it means to play Levitate, Sullivan remarked: “I am glad to be part of bringing back real music because I feel like a lot of pop music—I feel like a lot of it is good and a lot isn’t. A lot of these bands today are playing instruments. That is what music is supposed to be.”
The acts following Quinn brought some of that “real music.” Lake Street Dive, formed in 2004 at the New England Conservatory of Music, brought their classic, funky, feel-good vibes. Their set included a combination of older songs and hits from the new album, Side Pony, drawing a substantial crowd of happy, dancing, festival goers.
Finally, Ziggy capped the weekend with a set that fittingly promoted messages of peace and love. As the sun set over Marshfield to close the festival, the feeling in the air was clear: music and the arts are vital to maintaining and building strong communities. As one festival goer, Alanah Hall, commented, “regardless of what’s happening in the world, people will always be drawn to art.”