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4th Of July Block Party At Grand Park, Los Angeles

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Rocky Dawuni


This 4th of July Block Party at Grand Park downtown LA was a new event, the city of Los Angeles is working very hard to make downtown a more convivial place, and using Grand Park for each national holiday, as if it was a new Times Square for LA. We already have Grand Park’s New Year Eve party, but there is now Grand Park’s Block Party for the 4th of July, or another occasion to make Angelinos believe we can have one big giant BBQ together to celebrate Independence Day, although no BBQ was allowed on site of course. There was an impressive amount of security everywhere, at the entrance and inside, which could be very reassuring or make you even more nervous these days… did they expect anything? Big crowd are always a threat and a possible temptation for terrorists, but everything went very smoothly.

The music was for the most part very ethnic with DJs spinning tropical sounds with remixes of jazz, funk, reggae and hip hop and several global-sounds bands mixing about everything like Kotolan, 208 Hill (sounds of Bombay) La Junta, Afro Funke’, Echo Park Project (salsa) Rocky Dawuni…

And if I did not catch all of them before the fireworks, I saw Dexter Story, a large band mixing funk, jazz, soul and Ethiopian music. They were purely instrumental and an excellent band making people dance and move at the sound of a lot of familiar sounds. It was fusion at its best, and if Story was born and raised in LA, NPR describes his album ‘Wondem’ as ‘an informed take on pan-global music, focused on the multiverse of tonalities found in one of the birthplaces of humanity ‘… So far I was bathing in Reggae and afro-roots, but, in the middle of all this, there was a performance by Jenny O and I wondered what an indie songwriter was doing there, in the middle of this cultural diversity. But may be she was exactly where she was supposed to be, representing another side of LA. If I have never identified intimate songwriting with 4th of July patriotism and block parties — and I suppose Jenny O hadn’t either — she played a few songs from her very personal repertoire between a Cumbia DJ and the highly anticipated fireworks behind the City Hall. I had wondered what had happened to her since her ‘Well Ok Honey’, a song with a killer bass line, which could had all the potential of a hit. If it was not your typical music to celebrate Independence day, people enjoyed her 70’s-inspired folksy catchy songs, her timid but very sweet voice, breezy sliding guitar effects and Laurel canyon harmonies with her drummer. She is more than another cutesy folk pop singer, her songs are diverse and inspired and she can suddenly bring you from an almost Simon & Garfunkel-like tune to bluesy distortion. She has an EP, ‘Work’, which should be out soon and will be followed by a full album.

Before the fireworks, I spent more time with Grammy nominated Ghanaian singer and songwriter Rocky Dawuni and his blend of reggae, afrobeat and soul, it was a good conclusion for the eclectic night, as he looked like a sort of Bob Marley preaching brotherhood, while spending his life between Ghana and Los Angeles. The night finished with a bang and the fireworks while thousands of families wearing red, white and blue bandanas were eating hot dog topped with spicy nacho cheese and jalapenos. They have estimated the event to have attracted more than 20,000  people, which is a good number for a first. I suppose it was your typical 4th of July celebrating LA’s diversity and eclecticism.

More pictures here

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Jenny O

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Dexter Story

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