Broke L.A. Fest, Saturday April 8th 2017
Yesterday was my first experience with Broke L.A., a music and arts festival which used to be called Brokechella… until Coachella complained… As if Brokechella was a threat? It was ridiculous, but, at this time of the year, when everyone in LA is desert-ready for the big kahuna, there are still people who, like me, don’t want to spend a fortune to roast in the desert while waiting for Lady Gaga… and for these people, there is Broke L.A., a human-size festival with no huge pop stars but tons of bands to discover all day long. It’s simple, I spent more than 7 hours there and I have barely seen what was happening.
Located in warehouses in East LA – a part of town where I never step a foot, because why would I? – Broke L.A. Fest had moved the date for its 2017 edition, and was happening a weekend ahead of the two Coachella weekends, so that the big Indio event didn’t had to worry, both festivals would not be in competition anymore!
Organized by cARTel: Collaborative Arts LA, Department 4, Brownies and Lemonade and Shifty Rhythms, the festival had a lot to offer with many musical acts and comedians performing from 3 pm to midnight, visual artists, vendors and a large choice of food trucks! Plus the festival had teamed up with another burgeoning and excellent festival I had attended last year, the Sunstock Solar Festival, and many stages and activities were indeed solar-powered.
If I concentrated mostly on the large outdoor stage headlined by Brasstracks, Bloodboy and James Supercave, the Ball Pit stage also had a lot to offer, whereas the Swings stage and the Bounce House became the favorite place for party-dancers. More than 80 artists, bands and comedians performed during the entire afternoon and evening, and it’s a quite overwhelming number when you want to cover a event like this.
When I arrived, Ugly Sweaters were rocking and bouncing really hard on the outdoor stage, making the crowd respond with the same rebound. They were a really high-energy pop band with a restless stage presence and their pop bounce was the perfect start for the day. Ardency was playing inside on the Swings stage, Hikkeii was already making people jump in the Bounce House, which was built inside in a large inflatable reptile of some sort, and meanwhile I managed to catch Kid Wave, which followed Ugly Sweaters on the main stage… didn’t this indie rock via Sweden opened for the Shins lately? Frontwoman Lea Emmery is Swedish and her band sounded a bit darker than I remembered (I already saw them at a small festival at the Bootleg) but they certainly had big melodic hooks with a rock star attitude.
Still on the main stage, Kolaj was fronted by a siren with a commanding powerhouse, who was dancing-bouncing at the sound of percussion-heavy electro-pop, with a touch of hip hop. Back inside, Raener was a dynamic electro-synth-guitar with an occasional auto-tuned falsetto and they got very inventive and emotive with a tearing and atmospheric guitar. LA Bouquet rocked the outdoor stage very hard, they were loud and had a bouquet of fresh red roses attached to each one of their mics, so they were quite a vision of earthshaking and layered guitars, dominated by the long shrieks of Bryan Sammis, who used to drum for The Neighbourhood.
Back inside, Boyo played a sweet and fresh pop with cute and sensible vocals and a crazy-romantic vibe, which nevertheless showed a few mad chord-accelerations. Bloodboy put the outdoor stage on fire, I already had the pleasure to see her, and she is simply spectacular, a big-drama dancer singing grand hooks. Theatrical, synth-pop, glam, punk,… all the above, plus frontwoman Lexie Papillion has a sort of chic retro style, she has the stage antics of a female Freddy Mercury dressed like Marc Bolan. Zealyn was a very light electro-pop dance act with ethereal and emotional vocals and a touch of R&B… she was very expressive body-wise, moving graciously and, if you watch that kind of show, you may remember her because she came in third place on the 12th season of American Idol.
Brasstracks, a duo from New York I knew nothing about, took me by surprise, they were all horn-power, and their blend of jazz, electronica, funk and R&B topped with layers of hip hop tracks was a huge crowd pleaser, it was as if they were combining everything people like at the same time, live trumpet mixed with rap and beyond, and it may have been what they call future brass… It was exuberant and powerful with 2 special guests, Trap house jazz saxophonist Masego, and trombonist extraordinaire Alexander Lewis. Sure, Ivan Jackson (on trumpet) and Conor Rayne (on drums) are not newcomers, they have worked on Chance the Rapper’s latest mixtape ‘Coloring Book and have recently produced Anderson .Paak!
There was too much going on at the same time, but I did manage to check a bit of Dream Machines during Brasstracks’ set and they were a lot of fun. Their dance-punk songs were bringing a lot of funk and disco balls, and one song I heard had a very LCD Soundsystem dance groove with a Prince’s funkiness while the band was dancing like the Supremes.
I ended the festivities with one of my favorites, James Supercave, a band I have seen a few times already, but which had to feel totally at ease with their so-called ‘warehouse dancefloors’… we were in the middle of warehouses indeed! James Supercave’s psych-pop dance grooves should be legendary by now, although they played a few new ones, the songs I know (‘The Right Thing’, ‘Better Strange’, ‘Burn’) have grown on me in a very infectious way… their vulnerable dance grooves are as inventive as they are charming so spending some time with Joaquin Pastor’s psych falsetto and his red shoes was not a bad way to end the night.