Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sunset Junction 2008

I had a good time at Sunset Junction on Saturday (August 23). I like a function that attempts to obliterate the borders between people. Admittedly, I was attracted to the function 2 years ago by the music (I had only been going to live shows for a few months, at that point), but it was when I wandered off to explore that I saw what a remarkable, coalescent event it really is. The array of arts and crafts available, the variety of foods that were decidedly not carnival-quality and the cross-cultural mixing of every sort of Los Angelino. And I heard not one raised voice, not one harsh word, saw not even a trace of the cross-cultural acrimony that seems as American as apple pie in the 21st century. Overall, I always look back on it as a healing and nuturing experience. As well as a sun-burning and foot-taxing ordeal.

In 2006 I went to see Great Northern because they were one of the first local bands I followed around and had met Rachel and Solon a few times (I've seen them a dozen times by now), but I knew almost no one else. I had recently discovered the Eels and was anxious to see them too. That day I stood in the hot sun and enjoyed The Minor Canon, G. N., The Little Ones, Monsters are Waiting, Darker My Love, Lavender Diamond. I took a break and wandered around the fair and ate and came to realize that the whole event is what makes the festival special. I came back in the evening to see Eels and The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I loved the Eels! I only attended Saturday (August 26, 2006), they always book the bands I most want to see on the Bates Stage on Saturdays, each year.

In 2007 I went to see almost all the Saturday (August 18, 2007) afternoon bands: Division Day, The Pity Party, The Parson Red Heads, The Broken West and Sea Wolf. That night I saw the terrific Autolux and part of the Blonde Redhead set. It was also a hot-as-hell day (Thanks for the Indie 103 misting tent), but again I took in as much of the festival as I could and it left me feeling great about Los Angeles.

So this year I was a little surprised by the snag in the planning that resulted in the first band taking to the stage an hour late. And it was Radars To the Sky, one of L.A. most conspicuous rising star bands. But they are professionals and they just threw out song after song, each one luring you further into their spell. This band keeps on getting stronger and more assured each time I see them. Andrew Spitser, showman that he is, showed no annoyance at the late start, playing and singing with intensity and passion. Strong backup from the band and lovely keyboard and a vocal by Kate Spitser made their short set count. Admittedly, I got so caught up in their last song I wanted them to go on.

At this point, some friends and I needed some food so we ventured down Sunset in search of sustenance. The Happy Hollows were up next but since the organizers had decided to try to catch up to the schedule, they cut the afternoon bands sets down to 4 or 5 songs each, so I missed their set completely. Caught most of Castledoor, who gave a good show, though rushed they managed to shine with their energy and craft. I managed to stop Nate afterwards so I could buy their new 3-song single. Then Bodies of Water performed their folk-rock anthems to a pretty responsive crowd, but I had to go home for a couple of hours to feed my cats and myself and get back in time for Menomena.

Menomena, from Portland, was my primary reason for attending the Junction at all. I saw them for the first time last year (June 12, 2007) at the Troubadour and they blew the top of my head off with one of the best concerts of the year. I arrived back at the Bates Stage as they were setting up, managing to get up really close. It can be frustrating when a band takes forever to set up, but with a band of the quality of Menomena you want them to take all the time necessary to recreate their complex tapestries of melody and rhythm. This band has talent pouring out of them and they display it without pretention or any air of self-importance. They are so inventive and so creative they just leave me breathless, starting with the first song, which was a new one, and one of the best songs of the entire set. And I'd never even heard it before. In fact, their whole set was transporting, especially "Weird" and "Evil Bee" from the fabulous Friend and Foe CD. All three band members possess voices that would lead in any individual band, but they all share lead duties. I don't even know how many instruments each one plays, but I will say the drummer is one of the best I've ever seen.

Coming back to the festival when I did, it seemed everyone I knew was gone, so after Menomena I thought I'd stroll around a bit waiting for The Broken Social Scene. But the place was getting packed and you had to move in herds, so I stood off to the side to see if anyone I knew went by, and lo and behold friends, Aaron and Megan of the Flying Tourbillon family, came by just then.We tried to get up to Broken Social Scene but it was wall to wall people (though they sounded good) and seemed hopeless so we ducked into El Cid. At least I've seen them a couple of times before and El Cid was offering it's own program of three bands and a calm, comfortable atmosphere after all the chaos outside. We got to settle into one of the great booths in the balcony.

Aaron knew one of the bands and the headliners were Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, made up of members of Amnion, Ima Robot and The Airborne Toxic Event and others, so we decided to stick around. I enjoyed the first two bands and wish I remembered their names, but Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros had 11 or 12 performers on stage, all striking musicians in their own right, but I'm afraid all they produced was a big mess. It was interesting to hear and I'm glad I saw it but not one song came together and it really most resembled a big messy jam session. I'm sorry, but anytime Aaron Embry is on stage and you can't distinguish his piano and he is not asked to sing, is a crime. They did look like they were having fun though, but I need more than that.

Nonetheless, it was a great day and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

It's ridiculous the length of time it took to get this post together but it's a direct result of the Democratic Convention, which grabbed my attention every night it was on. It was facinating witnessing history being made.

Go Obama/Biden!!!


1 comment:

ishouldbeking said...

The two bands we saw before Edward Sharpe & co were: Jail Weddings (who gave one of my favorite perfomances of the entire festival) followed by comedy-rockers I randomly happen to know, The Fresh. Great post Brad!