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Make Music Pasadena Part Two, Saturday June 11th 2016


James Supercave


Almost at the same time than The Dead Ships, Papa was playing on the Playhouse District main Stage, and I only caught their last songs to witness their great showmen abilities. Lead singer and drummer Darren Weiss had just plunged in the crowd, mic in one hand, while not missing a good photo-op during a head-banging number with tropical guitars. It was pure crowd love and music to celebrate with Weiss’ distinct vocals. He used to play in Chris Owens’ band Girls, but with such a riotous and strong personality – he was even wearing his band’s shirt – he obviously had to have his won band.

The Mowgli’s were about another kind of exuberance, a joyful all-you-need-is-love exuberance, not that they sounded like the Beatles, but they were truly happy loving people. And they wanted to make everyone very very happy, singing about summertime and the sun, which, in reality, was definitively not making an apparition despite all their efforts and the sad beach balls bouncing around. Sure, there were a lot of ooo-ooo-ooos and the sweetness that was coating each one of their choral sing-alongs could easily make you overdose on sugar, but you couldn’t blame them for not trying very hard to uplift everyone’s mood. These people must have been raised during the summer of love – hey their last album is called ‘Kids in Love – and all their happy songs will surely be finding their way to your happy family car commercial.

If you were at Make Music Pasadena, I hope you didn’t miss Thee Commons’ set on the Memorial Park Main Stage, because it was the most fun I had the entire day. This crazy bunch was simply unstoppable and their stage antics were so playful and insane they immediately won the crowd. They played a sort of psychedelic Cumbia with a sax and a punk attitude and all sorts of acrobatics. They had the most original sound of the day, mixing Mexican folklore with distorted guitars, 60’s surf guitar sweetness and horror punk, they were not afraid to go in the crowd and their sax player even rolled his back in the wet grass a few times, at the risk to soil his immaculate white shirt… actually these guys were fearless and funny, wearing animal masks, playing with confidence without taking themselves seriously for a second, singing their intriguing songs, both retro and inventive, with raucous vocals.

Without any doubt, Atlas Genius was the rock band of the night, The Australian-born brothers Keith and Michael Jeffery now live in LA, and, looking at the very female crowd around, they have gained a large following here. They were rocking hard and loud, in full force with the rock star allure, and panoply, black leather jacket and ripped jeans included… all this was sweating confidence and if their high-energy electro-rock-pop did sound a bit generic to my ears, everyone was dancing and bouncing around. The crowd participation reached new levels with energetic clapping and jumping and I thought, may be this guy is the new Bono? There was something in the guitars and the higher-than-the-sky vocals during ‘Stockholm’, that brought U2 to my mind… and in this case, they have all the chances to succeed since Keith is way cuter than Bono. They covered Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’, so we stayed a bit in the mid 80’s, but it was high enthusiasm all-set long, and they basically gave away everything to their fans at the end of their set, drum sticks, guitar picks, setlist…. But let’s not be carried away, they were on fire but didn’t re-invent rock & roll because they were loud.

James Supercave was headlining the festival and the young band was such a good surprise, frontman Joaquin Pastor could be a star-in-the-making, he was cute, confident and vulnerable, beginning his set lying on the floor as if he had suddenly fainted, singing with a dreamy falsetto, as the band started with their super-catchy-groovy-dance-y ‘Better Strange’ off their last album of the same title. After ‘Burn’, the photo pit had transformed into an improvised dance floor. These were giant hooks, as light as they were danceable, from psych-pop to surprising poppy explosions, the music was sweet and unexpected, and when Pastor took his guitar it went even sweeter with vocal harmonies and unassuming synth lines. There were so many ideas and lots of different textures during their too-short set, that I read a review of their album by AllMusic which managed to bring up about 9 big names from Beck to Radiohead or MGMT… and I can totally understand the Tame Impala one. But it was music difficult to get at the first listening, it was music to re-listen to over and over in order to catch all the grooves and detours, and this is certainly what I will be doing this week.

More pictures here.


The Mowgli’s


Atlas Genius


Thee Commons



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