This year, the lineup at Taste of South Lake, the free festival that combines music and food was really good. I arrived just on time to catch James Supercave’s set, and if I had seen him several times before — he played at Make Music Pasadena this year and one of these Echo Park Rising events — I get surprised and entertained each time. James Supercave is the name of the group, not the name of their frontman Joaquin Pastor, but you get the idea, there is super in the moniker, like in the name of superheroes… David Bowie did invent Ziggy Stardust after all, and if the mention of such a superstar’s name may look intimidating at first, I only see greatness in James Supercave’s future… Wearing a Batman shirt to go with the superhero theme, there was something very inventive in the music, a music that everyone keeps qualifying of psych pop although some of their songs were easily much catchier than anything psych-pop kings Tame Impala have ever done. They certainly have several true earworms, like ‘The Right Thing’ in a complete epic way, or ‘Better Strange’ (the title track of their album) and ‘Burn’ in a very melancholic way but also dance-y way, as their ‘warehouse dancefloors’ could go in many directions, something difficult to accomplish. There was a bit a weirdness, tons of creativity, an occasional falsetto croon, plenty of infectious rhythms and a sort of vulnerability delivered with a big smile and a laid back attitude,… I guess all the girls should have a big crush by now.
With The Shelters, Tom Petty’s young protégés, it was time for authentic rock’ n’ roll and epic layered guitars and voices… the band has already small credits on a Tom Petty album, the famous rocker was so impressed when he saw them, that he invited them to contribute on his 2014 album ‘Hypnotic Eye’. Later, Petty helped co-produce the band’s debut EP and full-length, and they even opened for Mudcrutch, this summer. You could almost hear the Petty touch at each guitar riff, and they had plenty of them during their songs full of swagger, backed up by a massive bass and some big drumming. There was a taste of hard rocking Americana, a large dose of 70 psychedelia on certain songs, while the vocal harmonies and their fast-driven though guitars tended to prove that the Shelters could be the missing link between garage rock and old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, in a sort of modern-meets-old way. They became far more epic after a few songs and their radio-hit ‘Rebel Heart’, as some songs were at times as gutsy as a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club tune but as catchy as some oldie. An entire encyclopedic volume of bands have been cited to describe their sound, simply because all this has been done and explored many times… Does it mean The Shelters are just nostalgic copycats? No and yes and no, the music was certainly high energy, real youth injected into old Americana, a formula reworked a thousand times, but not all their songs were radio-ready, several of them asked for attention, wandering into powerful psych solos, meaning that they were not always looking for easy hooks.
Brooklyn synth pop Chairlift was next and they couldn’t have been more different from The Shelters. It was all about Caroline Polachek’s ethereal vocals, a soft jazzy feeling thanks to a sax, drums in the front and guitar in the back. Polacheck was kicking the air with her legs and arms, just after one expansive gracious dance move, while her voice was evaporating or soaring into pretty and eerie highs. She was frolicking around the stage and the music was part dreamy, part dance-y, with a light R&B vibe on a song and a much more electronic dance statement on another one. She invited people to get closer but the security didn’t let them go over the barricade and she seemed a bit disappointed. Nevertheless, people did enjoy their number filled with sweet emotion like their Apple-commercial tune and its floating ooo-ooos, and the songs were decorated by synth lines although she rarely played the instrument during the set.
It was my third time seeing Atlas Genius, and this time the LA-via-Australia band played a far less high-energy set, focusing on their vocal harmonies with a quieter sound. If they were rocking very loud at Make Music Pasadena back in June, this time, the acoustic guitar was giving the impression of intimacy, and looking at a girl in the crowd who knew all the lyrics and was singing along, frontman Keith Jeffrey nicely dedicated a song to her. Although their songs have this formulaic vibe and predictable structure, the delivery was poignant and done with confidence, even when they played their classic Tears for Fears’ cover ‘Everybody Wants to Rule The World’,… they should try another cover, as they seem to play it each time I see them! The rock star swagger had partially disappeared to reveal more vulnerability, with a real optimism, at the image of the dopamine molecule necklace Jeffrey was wearing, probably a nice allusion to one of the band’s single.
Los Angeles has many music festivals, but Taste of South Lake combines food and music, and while many celebrity chefs were making live cooking demonstrations, while the crowd was binging on free samples, I was absorbed by the music and I almost forgot about all this gourmet food during the whole afternoon.
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