Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jubilee Music and Arts Festival 2013 - From Dead Ships to Kitten to Bleached to The Drums and the Jesus Christ of Music Festivals

A couple of weeks ago I checked out the Jubilee Music and Arts Festival which was held in the "Arts District" in LA. This awesome little music festival (formerly called the Silver Lake Jubilee) used to be situated at Sunset Junction were Santa Monica and Sunset Blvds touch. At that Silverlake location it really felt like a block party as the bands and fun were corralled in between businesses on Sunset and neighborhood homes and apartments. I mean, I used to feel bad for the locals (some of whom could not get their vehicles to their homes) but the music party was really cool and you could traverse out and visit bars and restaurants if you wanted to and then come back and enjoy the sounds. DOES that happen at any music festival (or club even) anymore??? The fact that you could actually leave and come back made that festival so special.

Ok, enough reminiscing. This new locale near the Lucky Brands headquarters and in the shadows of the 6th Street Bridge was in the arts district in LA off of Sante Fe Street. Gone was the neighborhood feel as well as being able to leave and come back. Frankly, there would be no reason for "ins and outs" as bars or eatery would be blocks or miles away. Free parking was a bitch but not unattainable. Previous years the stages were for the most part all outside (except for the Eagle Stage at the funky gay bar) but at this new location bands rocked on the Sunset stage (with the 6th street bridge providing a rustic gritty backdrop) as well as the Mayra and Hoover stages that were located in old brick buildings. Another building housed the small Santa Monica Stage for literature, comedy and DJing. If you noticed the stage names were pulled from the old location which was a nice nod to the Silverlake Jubilee. The fact that the majority of the stages were in buildings was ok and a good way to get out of the sun. The buildings themselves were old and rustic with just the right amount of urban decay to look cool. The comedy stage building might of been the most decrepit looking prompting one of the best comic lines of the festival from comic and host Iliza Shlesinger who said: (about the building) "pretty sure a snuff film was shot here" (or something to that effect). 

The biggest surprise of Day one of the 2 day festival was the lack of attendees. A fellow blogger and photog I had the pleasure of hanging with joked that their were more photographers than people and at times it felt like he was right. The awful attendance also kind of put a damper on the overall excitement. I guess it was like going to a near empty restaurant. While the overall attendance was lackluster for both days, crowds did grow to respectable numbers in the evenings especially on the second day and the crowd packed in tight for the Drums who was the last band standing on the Sunset stage. 

One thing that the Jubilee festival always gets right is the nice broad selection of food trucks and they had some yummy stuff for people to enjoy. I also appreciated the free Perrier tent by the Mayra stage. I didn't have to purchase anything to drink over the 2 day event. The bands were pretty varied and if you were to have an "indie" gauge that would work in the same way a Geiger counter measures ionizing radiation  (you can argue amongst yourself what indie is) I would say that the indie counter meter would flutter a little at the Hoover Stage, move back and forth steadily at the Mayra stage and go off full tilt at the Sunset Stage. 

The Jubilee Music fest also raised those unanswerable questions that always pop in my mind at other festivals like:
1) Why do people bring tiny toddlers and even babies to rock festivals?? (poor wee ones ears)
2) Does the face painting girl paint faces so wonderfully because she gets paid to do so or does she just love to paint faces??  (she did such a lovely job)
AND finally
3) Who the hell is that guy who is at every goddamn music festival in the very FIRST ROW?? You know the guy and if you don't, I scammed pics off the amazing Grimy Goods. He is a constant at So Cal festivals and usually doesn't budge from the front stage barricade. 

At FYF shows he picks the stage of his liking and hunkers down. I don't think the guy ever goes to the bathroom. I think he has honed some mystical monk like powers that allow him to hold in his pee and poo all fucking day. I gave him a bro head nod at the last FYF and spoke to him at the Echo a bit at the Wires on Fire reunion show in February but other than that he is a mystery. At the Jubilee (because it was not crowded) he was actually able to run back and forth between stages and STILL maintain his front man status at the Sunset Stage which he obviously favored. My guess is that he even had time to visit a porta potty and grab up free Perrier water. Anyway, this guy must be a huge indie rock fan and I applaud him for that! From this day forward I am going to refer to him as the Jesus Christ of Music Festivals.

The Jubilee 2013 didn't feel overall amazing but there were some amazing performances. The new location made it feel like a new baby festival but I am sure that over the years it will learn to crawl , walk and then start sticking forks into electrical outlets. I seemed to find myself engaged between the Sunset and Mayra Stages. Like all festivals of any size, I somehow manage to miss a shitload of bands that I wanted to see. It just happens that way as you end up running into friends or get diverted or set times just don't gel your way. I did shoot a fair amount of video which you can find at here (more will be added from time to time) and some pics here.

BAND Observations (in no particular order):

I have seen Pangea and Bleached enough times to know that they do not disappoint and again they played great sets providing the most mosh worthy portion of the festival on the Sunset Stage. Every single time you see Pangea there is a sense that anything can happen and while I have seen them perform all the songs they played at Jubilee before this was the first time I captured their cover of "Be My Baby" on video (awesome). Bleached having recently toured seems happy to be home playing favorites and songs off their new album ("Ride Your Heart") like "Dead Boy". I didn't recognize their bassist but damn, her plexiglass guitar was super sweet looking. Poking around I found out she is Micayla Grace (touring player).  Mikhael Paskalev (with a band so damn tight) played a great set on the Mayra Stage. I was so stoked to see him and felt kinda bad that the festival was so under-attended as he deserved a larger audience especially since they had traveled all the way from Norway. His rendition of "Sayonara Saigon" was touching to say the least. Another act that was far away from home (and under-attended) was Soko who brought a dreamily edgy set to LA from her native France. Stephanie Sokolinski also brought some sparks as she cursed out of the event staff for rudely sauntering by as her band performed. The Dead Ships brought the full weight of Devin McCluskey's vocal wails to the boomy Mayra room. While I had heard some of their material before it was eye opening to experience them live and led me to their bandcamp and the stunning garage rocker Ophelia

I don't mind saying that every now and then some Tapioca pudding with a hint of cinnamon hits the spot. Now, I don't know if Samuel Jacob digs the stuff and what inspired him to name his stage persona / band Tapioca and the Flea but their performance on the Mayra Stage was full of energy fused out of many musical flavors. They also did a cool unexpected Billy Idol cover. Speaking of energy, without a doubt, Kitten burned their pure rock/pop/retro-synthy/new romance wave/ dance/ power pop blend of music deep into my brain. I will be forever branded by the bands tightly woven sound. The guitar work felt worthy of a stadium show, the bottom heavy bass lines hit your stomach like a rave and teen rocker chick Chloe Chaidez in all her controlled chaos made it all feel like a crazy house or warehouse show. Kitten's songs carry within them all the enchanting dreaminess that is youth wrapped up in rockish glam tunes and Chloe embraces all those feelings in her performance. It is a tight wire act with tenderness on one side and sexy bravado on the other. On the Mayra stage she was in go mode: non stop gyrations, climbing atop precariously stacked PA speakers, beating on her band mates, body grinding against a fan's head and almost shyly pointing out a few of the Kitten die hards that are at every one of their shows. She owned the stage as did her band and their performance of "Cut it Out" transported you to a High School dance in a John Hughes film.

The crowd for Black Lips were there to party and party they did despite what sometimes seemed like a never ending series of technical issues resulting in a set that lost momentum in spots, so much so that guitarist Ian Saint Pe said "Welcome to Black Lips unplugged" and "I guess we're bad people cause God keeps messing with us."  Well, I know the feeling cause somehow I cannot find the Black Lips footage I shot at Jubilee and I know I shot them! Despite the Black Lips seeming frustrated with the technical crap they had to endure,  they still cranked out their usual rough and rowdy garage rock and tossed out toilet paper rolls to the crowd who who proceeded to TP everyone and everything. Jared Swilley ended their raucous set by totally destroying his Beatle Bass and tossing it's remains into the crowd while Ian smacked water bottles out into the audience with his guitar. 

The Drums closed out the festival at the end of day 2. It was so packed in tight full of people that it felt like the festival grounds had been picked up and tilted, sliding everyone at Jubilee right in front of the Sunset Stage. Part of the reason was that they were the last band standing, the last musical hurrah before people had to head home or grab late night eats a Fred 62 or Tacos El Gavilan. Another reason is they had a ton of fans there ready to eat them up. The only band with their own backdrop, they felt like the most slick indie band of the festival. Jonny Pierce in his good-natured cool way announced "Los Angeles. Hey(!) we're the Drums!" to appropriate applause. "Let's try to have a really nice time tonight huh? Let's have some fun. This is our first show in like 8 months so we're excited to be here." The crowd was too and as they tore into "What You Were" the dancing started. They played a ton of stuff off of Portamento as well as older and newer songs. They sounded super tight, Jonny was his adorable self. It was a wonderful ending to Jubilee. 

There were other bands I got to see and enjoyed like Calvin Love, No, Tashaki Miyaki, Yellow Red Sparks, Lovelife and Cayucas. There were about 20 more I wanted to see so much but did not- such is life!

I hope you enjoyed my remembrances a tiny bit. Please check out the Jubilee Playlist I will be updating from time to time as well as the other videos I have shot here: American Pancake Youtube Channel

Please like my (sometimes our) facebook page: American Pancake

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