Photo by Philip Cosores
The second year of Culture Collide Festival saw the Echo Park event bringing in more acts from more areas of the world, but thankfully not for more money. The extremely reasonable $20 for access to all venues for all four days stayed intact from 2010, as did the blowout block party on the Sunday, which was free for everyone, even if they didn’t have a wristband for the other days. This was not only a showcase for acts from all around the world, but an opportunity to show why Echo Park is one of the most hip areas; the fantastic venues, the bevvy of food and drink locales, and the communal atmosphere stretching through the day into the night.
Following Rainbow Arabia’s departure from the stage, one of Culture Collide’s main venues, The Echo, had the pleasure of hosting New Zealand’s Liam Finn as its headliner for the first night. Prior to appearing onastage there was what seemed to be a huge excess of percussion instruments on the stage, but once Finn appeared it became a little clearer how it was going to work. Appearing solo to begin with he thrashed out a riff on his guitar, looped it, and promptly sat down at the nearest drum kit to bang along with it. Before long he was joined by the rest of his band and they brilliantly segued into the first proper song of the night, which was a psychedelic pop jam oozing with harmonized choruses and poppy verses. The rest of his songs didn’t seem to feel so alive with excitement, but throughout the set there was no lack of energy. In typical New Zealand style Finn spoke eccentrically about this and that between songs and in them it seemed nothing was sacred as he looped just about everything including his guitar solo. But, it all fit together into the pop puzzle that is his music, and it made for a great way to start the festival.
Downstairs in the Echoplex, Norwegian electronic maestro Lindstrøm was settling into his intensive 90-minute set. Not having brought his light show over the Atlantic for the performance, it was purely down to the man and his beats to get the party going. As the set wore on more people could be seen dancing, and for his part Lindstrøm seemed to be lost in his own world – head down, bobbing his head, and lightly whipping his blonde fringe. Whenever energy seemed to be getting low he’d work a more recognizable number into his songs such as The Who’s “My Generation.” When he stopped abruptly after 75 minutes you might have thought that people would be worn out, but after a brief applause he continued playing and the crowd obliged by continuing to dance. Finishing with his beautiful song “Where You Go I Go Too,” he sent people off happily into the night streets.
It’s strange to see a band who outwardly seem to be mismatched in the way they dress or their general appearance, but who go on to prove that they are in tune musically. This was certainly the case with Australians WIM. Lead singer Martin Solomon brought a lot of charisma to his role, which the rest of the still-young band seemed to rely on as they played on dutifully in the background, providing simple indie tunes to back up Solomon’s emphasized vocals. However, for the final song, everyone seemed to come out of their shells to hit something or play as loud as they could, building the noise to a musical peak and a notable conclusion to their set. It may not have been the most original music, but WIM seemed to show evidence that they have untapped potential that they could use in the future, both live and in the studio.
YACHT have a love of Los Angeles, as described in the title track of their newest album “Shangri-La” (or Shangri-LA as it was printed on their t-shirts). It was therefore unsurprising to see Jona Bechtolt gong pretty crazy onstage while singing, but it was still exhilarating. Having now grown to a full band for tours suits YACHT’s sound and greatly benefits their performance and their ability to bring a party atmosphere to any room they play in. Their huge and creative graphics provided an interesting backdrop to their all-black or all white-attire. “Dystopia” brought the house down with its cathartic chorus of “The earth is on fire, we don’t need no water, let the mother fucker burn,” which saw everyone singing and dancing along. For Becholt every song was a showstopper as she erratically moved around the stage and jumped down into the crowd or walked along the barrier regularly. This performance proved to me that now that YACHT is a full band, they can really fire on all cylinders live, as they’ve always threatened to do.
The most anticipated band at Sunday’s block party for most people was probably CSS, and perhaps rightfully so – who else knows how to get a street party started like Brazilians? Lovefoxxx came out wearing a costume which included a sparkly mask, but this was soon discarded as she was expending plenty of energy and was probably sweating profusely beneath. CSS fearlessly dropped biggest hit “Let’s Make Love and Listen To Death From Above” as the second song of their set, which at the time struck me as a mistake, but I was proven wrong as the slew of hits kept coming. “Off The Hook” and “Alala” provided two more bangers from their first album, but newer material was extremely strong too. “Hit Me Like A Rock” saw the whole crowd moving, and “Fuck Everything” saw everyone screaming along to the chorus. In just 45 minutes, CSS turned what had been a simply pleasant street gathering into a full on rave, and it was only 9pm.
Gang Gang Dance
For those still wanting to dance after the conclusion of CSS’s performance there was certainly opportunity to do so during Gang Gang Dance’s performance. The notoriously hard to pin-down band came out without fanfare and started out by making some melodic noise, wherein synthesizer player Brian DeGraw could be seen screaming into his microphone and lead singer Liz Bougatsos was thwacking wildly (but rhythmically) on a drum she held above her head. Somehow out of this clamour came the introduction to “Glass Jar” as the band subtly shifted their sound through the gears into the opening track from their most recent album, Eye Contact. Through the set they continued in the vain, even premiering a fantastic new song and taking some time to go on long uninterrupted instrumental segments. One of these passages, spawning out of “Romance Layers,” saw someone coming onstage to dance around with what looked like a baby tree strapped to their back. After this it was back to kicking ass for Gang Gang Dance with “Adult Goth” in particular standing out.
Gang Gang Dance are an American band that embraces different cultures and sounds from all over the world – I’m not sure if this was purposeful or not, but they were the perfect band to sum up Culture Collide’s intentions and hence the ideal closing band of the festival.