Mainfest At Alhambra, Saturday September 10th 2016
Saturday, the city of Alhambra was hosting its first Mainfest, yes, another music festival in Southern California, but this time it was time to shine for the little city of Alhambra. Several performers like SWIMM and Dead Sara joked on the fact they had never set a foot in Alhambra before, but frontmen Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant of Capital Cities seemed to say they were home, home in the San Gabriel Valley.
The first Mainfest in Alhambra, which, we should say is still located in Los Angeles just a few miles east of downtown, was celebrating the expansion of the city’s downtown business area, while highlighting the diversity of the community through art and music. It was an ambitious project for a premiere, Spaceland production had booked the bands, and since they had already produced Echo Park Rising a few weeks ago, they are definitively booking the best shows around LA,… they may become the new Goldenvoice told me someone, and I believe there is some truth into this.
Beside the large outdoor stage installed on Main street, and a DJ stage at the opposite side, several bars and restaurants had opened their doors for smaller ‘local stages’, which means that more than between 30 and 40 bands played Mainfest on Saturday afternoon…
If the crowd was a little thin at the beginning of the afternoon, it was a full house later and a giant dance floor in front of the main stage when Miami Horror and Capitol Cities took control of the night… Dance floor is actually a term that could very well describe the general feeling about Mainfest, if I never find enough synonyms of ‘psychedelic’ when I review bands playing Echo Park/Silverlake festivals, this time I am afraid I could repeat many times ‘dance floor’ because this was truly the case!
From Nite-Funk and their funky smoothy all-synth wobbling R & B, to the unruly and riotous !!!, the dance party didn’t stop a minute, followed by Miami Horror and Capital Cities, without forgetting Too Bad – I only caught one or two songs of their pumped-up synth EDM-inspired dance music – and Marc Baker, an elegant surprise with a sort of 80’s palette à la Depeche Mode and a touch of the Cure, a charismatic punk in a suit, playing dark punchy to triumphant music, although it may have been a bit too sunny for that!
Plus, there were all these bands playing inside the bars like prOfiles and their complex and explosive electronica, Iconique, a heavy disco band going from Bowie to Chic themes, with a frontman so glam rock he must have been a cross between Freddie Mercury and Liza Minnelli! He even found the time to change during a 20-minute set, reappearing with a glittery vest … I had never seen poseurs so stylish and so inspired! But there was also room for electro dance with futuristic NK Riot with his Robocop-esque helmet and his multi voice changer software, plus later, Kauf – whose set I did not see but I had already seen him during his free residency at the Echo last month … it was a giant dance floor of all sorts and shades.
But if you didn’t want to dance all the time, there were plenty of other choices, the psych pop à la Tame Impala of Swimm, which could turn to some intimate and soulful funk rap, or the surfy retro psych-Cumbia of Thee Commons who had accompanied their raucous joyous numbers with clown, dancer and hairy monkey … these bands were already on the bill at Echo Park Rising, but the ambiance was a bit different and not even close to the Echo Park crowd surfing riot, although they played with the exact same craziness. I guess Alhambra is not that punk after all.
You could also opt for many other bands, and if I have missed a lot of them, I caught the retro pop of Veronica Blanqui who seemed to revisit the 70’s with a real sweetness, or even Hirsh, perched like a rooster and singing enthusiastic-emotive-visceral-cathartic songs, or even Manhattan Murder Mystery and their ‘Too Tough to Survive’ new anthem (I just arrived when they were playing this one) which played a series of raucous drunk punk ballads making their frontman run away at the end. There was also Draemings, resurrecting glam punk rock with a rebel vision and a frontwoman who could have been the offspring of Patti Smith and David Bowie and especially Dead Sara, a ferocious punk rock band with a giant and aggressive sound reaching metal levels, covering a few White Stripes riffs and launching an outlaw set for the ages
But for me, !!! (pronounced chkchkchk) stole the show on the main stage, even though they were not the headliners,… that’s just a matter of taste, many people may tell you that Capitol Cities were the highlight of the night, but the dance punk led by restless Nick Offer, put up a memorable show, jumping above more barricades than ever, and criticizing the ‘wall’, between the public and the VIP section, ‘fuck that wall!’ while slightly alluding to politics. They were a punk riot, he was a hat thief, a crowd runner, a bouncer and a great entertainer and I should also mention Meah Pace, the firecracker woman with a great voice who was their special guest all set long.
Sure, one of Miami Horror frontmen risked his life (just kidding) when he climbed at the top of the stage scaffolding, but in general, their psych-dance electronica was much more tamed and polished than that of !!!, However, they brought sexiness and acrobatics and a few sweet funky disco. Capitol Cities played a lot of new songs, pleasing the crowd with ‘Space’ and ‘I am Rivers Phoenix’? Did I get this right? I vaguely knew a few songs, but I was the only ignorant one. They played their mainstream electro dance pop with a touch of funk and a trumpet, and sucked all the Sinead-pathos from Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares to U’ which sounded like one of their happy easy-listening blends… oh well people were so happy, so jumpy that I am sure everyone had a blast.