Redd Kross' Steven McDonald brings the rock (Photo: Beth Stirnaman)
Is there a better venue to host over one hundred different performers and thousands of enthusiastic kids than the LA State Historic Park in downtown Los Angeles? The 32-acre park, which was literally a cornfield a few years ago, is a block from LA’s metro (yes, they do have one) and has enough space to support four massive stages, a dozen food trucks, a mall of vendors and even a small set of midway games. Most importantly, with temperatures reaching into the low 90s, the park provided enough shade for rosy attendees to hide-out before catching another act.
California punk rockers Redd Kross had an early afternoon set full of essential stagecraft (one foot on the PA, long flowing hair, high kicks), digging into a lot of material off of their newest album, Researching the Blues, warning all those pogo-ers in downtown that they “better stay away from downtown.” Clearly, it was a little late for that message.
In keeping with the throwback theme, the Glaswegian rock band the Vaselines enjoyed a bit of the limelight. They worked through a handful classics before a surly crowd, giving back as much as they got. “I’ll have to spank you later,” scolded guitarist/vocalist Frances McKee to a rowdy crowd member. “And then I’m gonna shit on you.” The three guitar lineup got the crowd moving, putting a bit of a twang to “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam.” The Vaselines were in fine form, doling out abuse to each other and the audience while keeping the beat heavy and the wall of guitars churning.
The comedy tent, which unfortunately wrapped up in the mid-afternoon, offered a handful of challenging comedians. Podcast godfather Marc Maron launched a set touching upon everything from mouth cancer to Hasidic jews while battling neighboring performers King Tuff for sound space. “What are they called?” asked Maron. “Oh, they’ll never make it.”
A few hours later the tent filled for Neil Hamburger who attacked some large targets: Paul McCartney, Britney Spears, photographers and his audience full of “pigs.” His snide delivery and throat clearing gargle had the audience begging for more as he provided a caustic set of music festival-friendly punchlines.
Adult Swim star Eric Andre closed out the comedy tent with a stage version of his live show. The goofy host and his jazz trio backing band worked through a series of live and taped routines. Midway through his set, he invited up Octomom, California’s most fertile woman, for an interview. The band relentlessly played while Andre attempted an interview. When the band finally stopped, he chopped his desk in half, stripped to his underwear, doused himself with a gallon of milk and ran off stage. Things never got much more spontaneous than that during the day.
Fucked Up front man Damian Abraham tried, bark-growling his way through the pit as his band churned wildly on stage while AA Bondy went a different direction, keeping things much more subdued with his sleepy rock band across the park.
Moody warblers Warpaint had a massive crowd for their oohs and aahs while Chromatics were equally moody with their dance beats and ethereal vocals. A strange cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My” turned the tune into a thumping dance dirge that felt wrong for so many reasons.
As the sun set, the lighting on the stages became much more extravagant and the sound got a lot louder. Drum machines were released from their cases and set loose on the LED-splattered stages.
Canadian blip rockers Purity Ring had an elaborate lighting set-up sequenced to their drums. The duo dealt in herky-jerky ’80s beats, inspiring more than a few people to quietly dance by themselves in the dark.
Sleigh Bells brought the stadium rock with a deafening sound and blinding lights. Vocalist Alexis Krauss pushed the limits of her raspy yelp while her bandmates stomped through the set with abandon. M83 followed, keeping the Reagan-era dance party in full swing.
Throughout the festival, the crowd was streaming back and forth, headed for the next stage, gripping their printed line-ups. Despite all the movement and sheer volume, the crowd was unbelievably mellow. While lines for food got a little long (25-minute wait), there was never a line for restrooms and a free refillable water bottle station was a generous offering. It’s hard to argue with the success of this event—if only they could figure out how to drop the temperature 20-degrees.
FYF: Day One @ Pure Volume