Broke L.A. At The Regent Theater, Saturday April 21st 2018
What do you know about August Eve, Omenihu, Dana and the Wolf, Axel Mansoor, Jen Awad, Vox, Vokes, Alexander Vincent , Twinkids, Madnap, Robokid, Whereisalex, Drewsthatdude, Tek.lun, Sugar Rum Tantrum, Salt Petal, G. Smith, Lion Goodwin, Soul Bandit, King, Princess Cyberspace, Pennywild, Theguidance, Nkriot, Alexia Riner?… and I could go on. All these bands were part of Broke L.A., Los Angeles’ discovery fest, whose mission is to present you new talents before they blow up.
For its 8th year, the little fest, which is thinking bigger each year, had moved its location to The Regent Theatre, with Spaceland for new partner, and the event took over downtown LA for two days instead of one, while presenting 50 musical acts and comedians over three stages and 4 venues.
Of course it is not a coincidence if Broke L.A. is happening during a Coachella weekend, it used to be known as Brokechella until the big festival noticed and didn’t really appreciate. But Broke L.A. doesn’t want to be your local Coachella, looking at all these band names, there were certainly no superstars on Saturday, and the idea for the entire event was still pretty much homegrown and independent while the goal was to make you discover new artists and new music.
At the end, the first day at Broke L.A. was probably not too different from the titan festival, I mean by that there was a lot of diversity, and rock was completely under represented (signs of the times) as there was a large dominance of electronic, hip hop and acts combining a bit of the two, at a few exceptions of course. I managed to see about 21 musical acts on Saturday, and since I didn’t stick around past midnight for DJs, I probably left when the most intense dance party was about to kick off… what can I say, shooting DJs behind their tables is not the most exhilarating part of the show and standing up for 10 hours was exhausting enough.
There was certainly a lot to see, and electronica had a large place in the festival with G.Smith and their cathartic emotional electro-pop bouncing around a sweetness of Kate-Bush-ethereal vocals, or Dana and the Wolf, a stormy duo mixing hip hop, electronic and drama pop led by their fierce frontgirl’s strong vocals, a cinematic noir ambiance and a new take on sexual violence and predation. Vox, with a wedding dress and trapped inside her spider-virgin veil, was producing visuals evoking all kinds of metaphors, from vulnerability to rebirth and escape, around minimalist and harsh beats; she was an eerie vision and her dark electronica ended into the classic ‘Cry me a River’. Ex-drummer Alexander Vincent had his own brand of moody electro-pop filled with beats and pathos, Axel Mansoor was more on the pop side, with delicate low-key slow songs, that he sang with a soft falsetto and an occasional Mac DeMarco vibe, while Twinkids, a self-proclaimed queer pop duo, had dreamy electro-soul, with a quietude interrupted by a brief storm and a song in Japanese. Later on, Robokid brought a similar vibe, blending genre like many artists of the fest, navigating between electronic, R&B, pop, emo and hip hop with the help of a sexy partner.
Omenihu, a hip hop artist from Texas who has recently moved to LA, could become your next new favorite rapper in a few years, as his music had a Chance the Rapper-Kendrick Lamar consciousness, while Lion Goodwin brought good vibes of peace and love with an upbeat hip hop and a retro Afro hairdo.
The outdoor stage brought a more ethnic ambiance with Sugar Rum Tantrum, an accordion and an early Gogol Bordello affair with soft female vocals, but Top Shelf Brass Band brought everyone on their knees with a mix of Cuban rhythms and Blues Brothers old soul…they made an unexpected apparition inside the theater between two acts for everyone’s greatest joy.
Vokes may have been the closest thing to rock the festival had to offer, with a classic lineup of guitars, keyboard, drums and cowbells but their indie dance floors were too funky to be only qualified of rock. And since every festival must have its soul queen, I have to nominate Jenn Awad for this award, she was an amazing surprise with songs that sounded like instant classics, mixing Etta James’ soul, Elvis’ love for gospel and a powerhouse for voice with a badass heel-tapping attitude. She was the whole package in glittery tight skirt surrounded by 8 musicians and 2 back-up women on vocals, an old school act vibrating with nostalgia but done with a gut wrenching stomp and a chill on the spine.
There was also a great diversity of bands inside the small Love Song bar, adjacent to the Regent, and if I couldn’t decide whether Princess cyberspace was a singer, a DJ or a multi media hip hop/pop act, she certainly had style, while Pennywild was an inspired hip hop DJ with dancers and choreography. TheGuidance managed to surf crowd inside the small bar after a curious blend of dance pop with an existentialist conscience, and Nk-Riot was an electronic madness played by a man under a cyborg mask, as if Dark Vader was composing with Daft Punk…the day ended with DJs such as Madnap and his EDM remixes transforming the place into a nightclub, and if there were a few more DJs later on, my head was already full of sounds and images, and I left Broke L.A., the festival with one of the longest lists of performers I have ever seen and no headliners.