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Echo Park Rising Day 1, Friday August 15th 2014

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Kera & the Lesbians

This Echo Park Rising has become the most overwhelming thing ever, first of all it has extended to three days and more than 300 bands are playing over the weekend! It’s way too much for one woman and how do you cover such an event? Of course you pick and choose but the festival is happening over 20 locations, stretching along Sunset Boulevard and beyond, and it has become a real challenge to run from one place to another, going indoors then outdoors then indoors again, inside the Taix restaurant, inside the Echo, down to the Echoplex, back to the outdoor main stage, I am already exhausted and there are many places I haven’t checked at all… Obviously I can’t catch every single band playing, I can’t even do a third of them, so rather than running everywhere while seeing half sets here and there, I decided to watch full sets played by bands I liked. But can you even imagine what 300 bands represent, 300 burgeoning bands walking on the path of fame, some already more famous than others…That’s a lot of music and a lot of people playing music and this speaks volume on how fertile the Silver Lake-Echo Park Terroir is.

I recognized many familiar names and it’s true that, when I have to choose among 100 names, I have a tendency to pick the bands I already know and like, it’s safe territory and some assured reward against a lot of walking around, but I also ventured onto unknown paths. When I arrived around 4 pm, I heard Corners playing on the main outdoor stage, and there was no dilemma at this minute, I stopped by and watched their set under a hot and burning sun. Opening with Corners couldn’t have been more perfect as they had kept me on the edge of my seat (if I have had a seat) all summer long with their July residency at the Echo. It was so weird to see them with so much light, so much sunshine, but the punk energy and tough delivery were the same. They were sweating all they could and it was definitively too early and too hot for some good old crowd surfing! The synth had this strange after-hour vibe, but their awesome sound still worked great under the hot sun, and believe me, it was hard to move with this 95 ºF heat.

Santoros were next and I decided to wait to catch their set as they usually play very late and start a riot each time. They were a lot on stage, played surf-psych 60-inspired rock and it was a party. For a few minutes I thought either they had a different singer or he has had an haircut or both, but no, the singer I knew came on stage after a few songs. The music became a more epic wide-screen druggy-psych serenade sung with nasal vocals, while he was throwing t-shirts and bottles of water to the crowd. Santoros were great and festive and singing about girls, but without losing time, I ran to the Echo/Echoplex for a few minutes to catch the explosive 80s synth of Mother and the hard rocking music of Vision, then ran outside again to see Crystal Skulls.. and they were famous! Kind of, as a lot of fans were screaming their name and asking for songs. They played a bunch of happy tunes with nice harmonies and occasional reverb in the vocals… it was rather gentle, upbeat, hooky, poppy music, music to dance to during a nice summer day, but you have to excuse me if I couldn’t pinpoint anything more characteristic of their music, may be laid back, even a bit jazzy at times and totally inoffensive.

Back inside I wanted to see Kera and the Lesbians once again because I simply love her and her big smile, punk haircut and gypsy-Hawaiian-moody-bipolar guitar. She was alone this time, doing a stripped down set, but totally making a show by herself, with her unique exuberance and foot-tapping-crazy-maniac dance. However, you could hear the loud sound of Cherry Glazerr playing outside and it was partly covering Kera’s voice. She called someone in the audience, found some sticks and he helped her build a bigger sound with some violent outburst drum effects. ‘This was not planed at all’ she said, she broke a string, the guitar became an extension of her undulating body and she went from crazy clown to electrifying spring machine, bleeding all over the place.

As the evening progressed, the crowd became more and more dense. On the main stage, Woods had a big psych arena-rock sound with gentle falsetto vocals, but wait a minute, these guys are from Brooklyn? Would Echo Park Rising start to lose its spirit here? Aren’t all the bands playing supposed to be from LA? Anyway they sounded like some indie Pink Floyd with long jams, wobbling keys and wha-wha pedal on guitar. Then there were the Allah-Las, who, looking at the crowd, have certainly become a big deal. I managed to get in the photo pit during Woods (and I didn’t have a photo pass) so I could see all this crowd surfing going on while the Allah-Las were playing their catchy-surf-garage-rock songs. It’s so retro you always ask yourself if they are not covering some instrumental of the 60s, but no these are original songs with nice harmonies that people listen to with weed-fogged-eyes. A lot of people were dancing too, while the band on stage had this static presence, playing hypnotic-druggy-surfy tunes, glittering all that 60s spirit and snoring like good-oiled engines

Back inside the Echo, I saw a bit of Avid Dancer and his muscular pop-rock, it was a sweaty ambiance and the end of his very successful set, then I ran downstairs to the Echoplex to see De Lux… I had seen them a few weeks ago during the Twilight concert series in Santa Monica, and they sounded a bit more playful and relaxed this time – singer Sean Guerin had traded his melancholic look for some sexy dance moves. They played their unique take on neo-disco via LCD-Soundsystem and the Talking Heads, and, I have checked, Pitchfork hasn’t discovered them yet, so judging from the large dancing crowd, they are very late on this. They did a new song and Guerin let his guitar down to croon on a dance-punk number with the mic in one hand.

I was already exhausted, but walked back to the Echo and caught almost the entire set of Dante versus Zombies. These guys are totally insane, in the good sense of the term, they looked like a Halloween party fronted by people escaped from a psychiatric ward, but they know how to throw a party, a punk party. Their energy blew up the roof several times, they trashed the place over and over, and people blew up their lungs while singing their lyrics. I left after them, it was around 1 am, but there were still bands playing afterwards and the streets were resonating with all these different sounds coming from all these places.

How many bands are gonna make it and go beyond their Echo Park fame? I don’t know. How many bands have already made it? I don’t know either, there are too many bands and too little time, but this Echo Park Rising festival is a real success. Two more days to cover and two more days of difficult choices.

Plenty pictures here

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