More About Air + Style Festival At Exposition Park, March 3rd-4th 2018
After wandering inside Air + Style for 2 days, going from one snowboard competition to the winter stage to check out Cashmere Cat or Griz, then back to the skateboard track or the summer stage to catch performances by Washed Out or Cut Copy, I can say with certitude that the real stars of the festival were not Zedd, the electronic god remixing ‘80s hits at the top of his high stage, or not even Phoenix, the French band which sings in English,… no, the real stars were certainly the athletes, whose performances dominated the festival.
If I didn’t see all the performers, but I tried to see as many as possible, I was caught for several hours watching these amazing daredevils, the ballet of these skateboarders flying in the air, defying gravity, and landing on every part of their bodies as if they were made of rubber. The time it took me to pass the barricade to get to the media zone, they had already run the track three times, made four or five tricks (a term to define some acrobatic figure) and did even more. And of course most of them are ridiculously young. Imagine being a skate star at 14 with 200K followers on Instagram? Ask CJ Collins how it feels, and forget about rappers, these kids are the real deal.
The festival was certainly the place to be if you liked board sports, even the temperatures had significantly dropped to make snow in LA more credible than usual and Exposition Park was packed with top skateboarders and snowboarders, 2018 Olympic games gold medalists such as Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, and of course festival founder Shaun White, who congratulated the winners of the Skateboarding and Snowboarding contests on both days.
Of course, there was the music, the aggressive type played on a stage at the top of a skate ramp. Ex-Cult and Surfbort played their punk aggression on Saturday, fueling the mayhem of skateboarders going free style in all directions. It was also the case for the Birth Defects, who played their blend of hard heavy melting face fun, followed by the Paranoyds. And this was happening on the side of the snow track, during the snowboarding trick competitions on Sunday. So did it work? It sure looked great and energizing, board sports and music are made for each other, but the bands were sort of second actors in this case, as everyone was watching the athletes.
Then there was the music on the big stages, after all, I was originally here for the music, and beside the previously mentioned bands – the familiar ones which play every week in my Silverlake neighborhood – there was a lot of unknown, there were a lot of urban/DJ/EDM/electro pop oriented bands… From Australian DJ duo Cut Snake and their infectious beach-inspired techno dance to Australian electro-pop Cut Copy, people had plenty of occasions to shake their bodies and they did. Cashmere Cat and his electronic pop remixes seemed to just prepare people for Zedd, who seemed to have escape his Las Vegas residency for a day, with plenty of grandiose decorum and a veil descending in front of his throne to project a very familiar video: Michael Jackson’s Thriller with a sort of EDM remix. Really?
The next day, Tinashe burned the winter stage with her tropical choreographed dance-y party and her mix of R&B-EDM sauce of aerobics, Phantogram had a few dramatic moments on the main stage with Sarah Barthel’s powerhouse vocals and long franged vest and I barely saw anything from Washed Out’s synth pop chill dance, and definitively nothing from Gucci Mane’s rapping number as a huge crowd had gathered around the place. GRiZ was certainly more inventive than any electronic number I have seen, bringing on stage a sax and a dynamic dub-funk urban glitch jazz, while the night ended with the very predictable Phoenix playing most of their hits (Lisztomania or 1901) and Thomas Mars’ obligatory crowd surfing during their encore. The stage and the crowd were big, the place looked packed at this point and Air + Style had the allure of a unique festival managing to combine sports and music.