Monday, July 29, 2013

Viva Pomona - Music Festival- July 27th- Absolute Best Summer Bang for the Buck-!





















(Tim Hatch from The Lovely Bad Things)

Young stalwart promoter Rene Contreras and his team put together a very sweet summer treat in the arts district of Downtown Pomona. Previous Viva's have always used the legendary Glasshouse as the festivals hub and then used other side venues like Aladdin Jr as additional stages. This time around Rene decided to utilize the outside small amphitheater directly across from The Glasshouse (deemed the Thomas Stage) as well as a stage situated between those historic stone planters across from Glasshouse Records (deemed the Radical Stage). The Glasshouse has been going through improvements over the past year and now the stage has pretty projectors that cast psychedelic images mirrored from whomever is playing on stage. The Viva team also dolled up the stage with party ballons. The Radical Stage was punked out spray can paint on bedsheets and the Thomas Stage was prettied up with hundreds of flowers that eventually ended up strewn about, the flowers being picked up by audience members and often times given to the performers.

On a day where hundreds of attendees were undoubtedly siphoned off to the US Open of Surfing who probably had 70,000 mostly young people, Viva still brought in admirable numbers. Tickets running from $15 to $18 depending on where and when you purchased, Viva was the single best Summer Bang for the Buck with 23 bands performing. The outside stages were basically free to the public anyway but even if you were to only include the bands at the Glasshouse where a ticket was required it was well worth the price of admission for the amount of varied talent from the headliners The Allah Las to Milk Music to the Lovely Bad Things, Mrs Magician, San Pedro El Cortez and Ruptures.

This musical affair also had elements that many other festivals do not. Ins and outs allowed, freedom to roam wherever you want, not being held hostage to expensive food trucks and the open access allowed friends who held tickets to attend with friends who did not. It was a super chill atmosphere that invited a community spirit and bekoned people to hang out, so much so, in fact that the flow patterns, the traffic in the venues was sometimes surprising and impossible to predict. Ticket held (or comped ) attendees hovered around 700 with free attendees probably adding about an additional 200 but often times The Glasshouse would feel underpopulated for certain bands. Mrs Magician who played a great set felt a bit sparse for the caliber of talent on the stage as did 100 Flowers. The Lovely Bad Things pulled in an enthusiastic 250 to 300 ( first act of the day to induce crowd surfing)  and The Allah Las easily drew in 500 plus but Milk Music played to a small crowd while at the same time Sea Lions performed to a packed street on the Radical Stage. Weighing one band on a well established label (Fat Possum) versus the other on so called lesser labels, it felt like a David and Goliath story of sorts. One can say that some of the outside acts having more bodies around them was due to the fact that the outside venues were free but that is simply not the case because the paid bodies were there in attendance. I must also say that the Radical Stage was an inviting place. The stone flower beds made for great places to sit and chill. You could light up a cigarette and talk to your friends as the music enveloped you. It was the house party spot. In any event, the musical democracy was in full force- people casting their ballot for who they wanted to support wherever they played. One thing is crystal clear, one report (by a major publication) of the Glasshouse never having more than 20 or 50 people at any given moment is utterly false and on it's face ridiculous.

I enjoyed so many acts and missed too many. Late Nite Howl was as vulnerable as his music at one point stated that he was a bit nervous which made him even more endearing. Surf Club played sounds that infused 80's romantic wave music into elements of shoe gaze like the Cure meets My Bloody Valentine. While I have not fully succumbed to the Aquadolls admitted charms it is evident that the crowd thoroughly adores them and this band aims to please. GRMLN puts out solid punk pop full of catchy melodies and tempos that energize you from the inside out. I like their set a lot. Mrs Magician played a killer set and while I wished the room was more filled out I nevertheless enjoyed every bit of them. Wild Pack Of Canaries was that special chocolate morsel in the Sees Candy Box. The progressive art rock was electric, manic and spoke to me. Sea Lions were maybe the most chill band playing indie sounds with surf guitar and vocals tinged with a lovelorn vibe. Milk Music's grunge punkish sounds felt more solid rock, sometimes even boogie rockish live but it fully gets you head banging. You Me & Us were incredibly fun to experience. There was something about Carlee Hendrix in her book wormish attire savagely bending wads of screaming distortion out of her guitar that was so very awesome. Combining the heavy guitar sounds with pop melodies and potent bass and drums is a combustible combination. Moses Campbell somehow didn't look right on that small outside stage, it was too bright, too clean and too much NOT like the Smell in LA but they stilled kicked out awesome sounds. Tomorrow's Tulips held court on the Radical Stage with Spencer from the Allah Las doing the sound.  Alex Knost had surfed heats in the US open of Surfing in Huntington Beach that same day only to woo us with his Lou Reed-ish swoon under the stars at Viva. Very... very cool.

Others memorable moments. I Can Chase Dragons who were flown in from Mexico City are two guys who produce infectious loop based experimental pop songs. Upbeat, fun, energetic, prancersize on Redbull that puts you in a happy head space. I really like them. The Lovely Bad Things debuted two brand new songs which was exciting to hear. Both well received, one diverted a bit from their current sound with a funky bass hook and almost heavy metal guitar. A bit of metal meets a bit of funk meets post punk pop. I was graciously asked not to You Tube the new songs (maybe because they are works in progress, I dunno) but look out for them. Writer, those brothers from San Diego way, played a super cool set on the Thomas Stage. They get better every time I see them. The Special Guest were the Gabba Gabba Heys, a Ramones tribute band. I knew they were going to be on the bill since the Jubilee festival and I wasn't thrilled with the idea. A recent random tweet I saw put it best:

27 Jul
The "special guest" at viva pomona is a ramones cover band. No offense but f I wanted to see a cover band I'd go to a wedding or bar mitzvah

Please let it be know that my hard fast rule is that I fucking hate tribute bands of any sort. That being said, the room was filled up nicely during their set and I saw many people singing along, crowd surfing and enjoying them. As serious as I take my blogging duties (ok I kinda take them seriously) I totally missed the Allah Las. If you don't already know but their drummer was awol for quite some time which delayed their set time by 45 minutes. At one point I imagined that Matt was in a local motel bathtub full of ice and missing a kidney.  One of the people I drove to the venue was not feeling well and try as I did to delay leaving I ended up missing the headliner. I have seen them at least five times and I am sure they were thoroughly enjoyed. When I left the room was packed in nicely as San Pedro El Cortez took the stage to stall for the headliners. 

Other sweet occurances. I met Spencer from the Allah Las and we had a really nice conversation. Interviewed the guys from Wild Pack of Canaries as wells as Surf Club and it was awesome. Met and spoke to Bethany Cosentino every so briefly walking down the sidewalk from the box office. She was very cool.

Bands I hated missing: Ruptures, Crater Creator, Bronson Caves, Bad Suns and Colleen Green.

Viva Pomona is a music festival that is growing, maturing, changing, shifting and finding it's way just like it's young creator. I look forward to it every year.
-
Robb Donker

I will post full video performances soon but for now you can check out this sampler video
: Viva Pomona 2013 Sampler


Photos by Alyssa Holland
(click to blow up)























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