Day three (and last day) at Echo Park Rising was concentrated inside the Echo /Echoplex. There was still a lot going on about everywhere, but there was already so much to see inside the two-level club, and the twelve or so bands that I saw there kept me very busy.
I arrived when Kim & The Created had taken the Echo stage and the energy was already very high. It was a Lolipop vs Burger Battle of the bands all-day long, as the two small labels alternatively presented bands, and Kim and her all-girl band represented Lolipop with all the dynamism they could deploy. Kim was wild, blonde and dressed in white, with certainly a few other punk frontgirls in mind and a raucous voice that she was fully using. Was that another riot girl? Sort of, she was jumping, bouncing, getting on the floor and moshing with people… I wonder whether there still is a performer that stays on stage these days.
Downstairs, the Record Company had started his set of bluesy tunes, true to the real spirit of the genre. Chris Vos is closer to John Lee Hooker than the Black Keys, but the trio can have a very expansive sound, raw and beautiful, rooted in Mississippi blues, with a lot of screaming that can punch people right in the stomach. Vos was sometimes sitting, playing with his guitar flat on his lap during ‘Baby I’m Broken’, or standing with his only harmonica, becoming a force of nature with a very Elwood Blues number. With a bit of that Southern rock (think ZZ Top may be), they knew how to make a show move the right way, making a lot of people dance, producing an arena-rock sound level. There was nothing fake in all this, Vos was playing with all the guts he had, possessed by the soul of blues and I wanted to film one of the songs, but realized we were already at the end of the set before doing it, I was probably too captivated.
Darklands was scheduled at the Echo, but instead Pastilla (I hope I got their name right) played a set of melodic and catchy tunes, and their music sounded a bit like some Beatles songs played very fast with an explosive energy. They were fast and loud with distortion and lots of pedals, a rock-en-Español take on punk rock, with a few breezy interludes, turning a bit psychedelic. And it was already over! It seems that some bands were a bit ahead of their schedule and I was running upstairs and downstairs, missing a bit of every set.
Inside the Echoplex, Silver Hands had set up a totally different ambiance. It was a duo à la Sleigh Bells, with a frontgirl singing over recorded tapes and live drumming. Although she was a bit less aggressive than Alexis Krauss, she had a bipolar personality, mixing bold moves, almost spoken singing and operatic howls, blending swag with sweetness. She was restless, dancing around like Dorothy going to the land of Oz, taking languid pauses then jumping like Jessica Rabbit. She knew how to seduce everyone with her sexy dance over tropical techno, singing with a sweet voice ‘I wanna be your a girl’ while giving the finger to the audience!
The Buttertones had already started their set upstairs in front of a full house. I managed to get more or less to the front, but as the evening was progressing it was becoming more and more difficult. Oh, but they were a boy band with four heartthrobs, ready to get all these girls front row, while the guys were moshing… moshing? And I realized this during their most quiet song. What the problem with all this inappropriate moshing? I didn’t find their retro garage rock especially punchy, there were harmonies and the Buttertones were not the new Beatles or anything. But they had that retro feel and they played ‘La Bamb’a to end their set, rising, well, another mayhem!!
Watching Green Gerry downstairs, I was thinking again, where do all these bands come from? Gerry Green or Green Gerry is from LA via Athens, GA and I arrived when he had started a riot, yes, another one, exciting the crowd and getting in the middle of it. There were a lot of musicians on stage, the performance was explosive and layered, a bit overwhelming, ascending and building over and over, as if they had listened to Arcade Fire too many times – although the music didn’t sound like the Montreal band’s at all. From what I saw, Green Gerry was screaming, preaching, commanding everything but I only saw a few songs of their set.
At the Echo again, i got to see Empty Frames next, and when I saw them I said to myself, at least some ‘old guys’! Not that they were old at all, but at least they weren’t 16 like all these kids playing surf guitars. They had a nervous loud and fast sound, the bass player was moving around quite a bit while the guitarist was staying static… Why aren’t people moshing, I asked myself, but I had spoken too fast, and soon everyone was moshing to Empty Frames’ punk and super fast sound, which was full of anger but slowing down at times like a slow ticking bomb. I liked their music, it was punk, cool and complex, but I couldn’t find anything about them on the web, do they even exist?
Dead Dawn was another punk surprise, fronted by a girl who may have watched Sid Vicious or Siousxsie and the Banshees too much when she was little. She was a vision of apocalypse, dark and ultra thin with a ‘Morbid’ neck tattoo, while the other blonde girl on guitar was wearing red flowers in her hair and a cute little dress. Their performance was fucking intense, dark and creepy, and jeez, did this thin girl have some rage to let out! With a punk-hardcore-doom-metal mix, she seemed she was ready to open up a few people’s throats during the dark hours.
Upstairs, Girl Tears had launched a fast and furious crowded party with their bullet-like, bass-line-driven short songs. They seemed to have captured the essence of punk rock with shouted monochord vocals, and faster, going faster-and-faster songs, with abrupt stop and start,… they were shaking the crowd’s neurons like a missile crashing in the middle of the brain and of course they started a giant mosh pit.
Gateway Drugs were a bit mysterious, first of all, they have the same moniker than a band from South Africa and secondly they have a song called ‘Los Angeles Will Have Its Revenge on Frances Bean’, because Frances’s fiance, Isaiah Silva, wanted to use the same moniker for his own band! Anyway I have no idea if they played this one but they were rocking hard with an additional snare drum and a fuzzy and somber sound, a bit shoegazing, a bit druggy (of course) a bit tambourine a la Brian Jonestown Massacre or the Dandy Warhols, but certainly very loud, forcing me to put these earplugs very deep inside my ears.
I left the Echoplex to check a few minutes of Froth upstairs, and it was really hot and crowded, a full house. First, I thought I would never make my way to the stage, the Echo was beyond capacity but climbed on the two steps on the side of the stage, I could take pictures of the crazy crowd, and probably got my best of stage diving pictures over there. I guess I will never understand why a band is more popular than another… Froth is great, they have a poppy retro surf-punk sound but there are so many of these bands around. it looks like they were on everybody’s list and it was my third time seeing them. I read somewhere that Joo-Joo Ashworth — who graduated from High School in 2012, again, he is a kid again! — started the band with some friends as a joke (they have a dirty moniker, do some research) but the joke really took off.
Bonfire Beach was the last band I saw, but the festivities were still going on… It was my second time seeing them although frontgirl Dexy Valentine also played in Magic Wands (I saw them playing with the Warlocks early July) and guitarist Brandon Robert also played in Night Nail, that I also saw at the Echoplex in July. At the time, I had compared their music to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, but of course there’s more than this in their dark leather-jacket tunes with ballooning harmonies and badass sexiness. They were darker than I could remember with Valentine’s buried reverb vocals, reconciling dream and danger.
Echo Park Rising you are gone for another year, but I hope we will meet again. The crowds were rowdy, the lines too long, but the security was cool and let me walk almost everywhere with my cameras. I think I did all right, I saw 34 bands, more or less, plus some glimpses of others, I took thousands of pictures climbed hundred of stairs and my eardrums are not going to recover soon.
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