Taking the Downtown Detour

WALKING TOWARD THE City Hall East stage at Saturday’s L.A. Weekly Detour Festival, a grumpy girl in red Chuck Taylors angrily snapped at her boyfriend, “I can’t believe I missed Kinky.” At any event with four stages, participants must choose a festival philosophy: to float carelessly from stage to stage, or to commit. Those who decided on the former — which I did — missed some bands they probably should have seen, but were less stressed about it in the end. Which is another way of saying that I missed Kinky too, because I was planted at the Comedians of Comedy stage, where Brett Weinbach was obscenely, disturbingly brilliant.

People ran to see Perry Ferrell’s Satellite Party as though he were doling out free joints (not that there was anywhere near a scarcity, based on an unscientific whiff test), but I’ll never forgive him for that shitty theme song for Entourage, let alone the very existence of Porno for Pyros. It was during his set that some girl, out of the blue, shouted, “God, I love L.A.,” and she really, truly meant it.

In what should be required attire for all festival performers, one member of The Deadly Syndrome wore a white T-shirt with three simple words on it: “The Deadly Syndrome.” It was incredibly considerate, and saved people the confusion that accompanies four stages’ worth of mussy-headed indie boys — or, as Patton Oswalt described the crowd before him, “stinky hipsters.”

The Shout Out Louds seemed very clean and well-manicured, just like their guitar pop; the Raveonettes delivered dirtier songs that hummed across downtown like they were cast in chrome. Moving Units pushed forth a noble, if not wholly memorable, brand of guitar rock that recalled early U2, with ringing, anthemic guitars. Turbonegro taught their audience how to say many vulgar cuss words in Norwegian.

“Aren’t you high? Shouldn’t you be enjoying this?” wondered one member of our party to another during Autolux’s melodic drone fest. And perhaps therein lay the problem. I felt the same way about the highly anticipated set by the Aliens, who feature former members of the much-lauded Beta Band. Alas, they were boring, and with music all over the place and so many choices, that’s a very serious crime. Not so the Swedish band Teddybears, who were bouncing around in big bear masks and creating this odd sort of disco-meets-mutant-surf sound that the crowd loved. But, alas, Justice beckoned, and the race from one stage to the next looked like the beginning of the Boston Marathon.

Justice really need to address their live show. Because, yeah, the mustachioed Gaspard Auge is very good at pumping his fist at just the right peaks, and he smokes his cigarette very elegantly. But it’s really no fun just watching two dudes in black standing in front of equipment and bouncing to the beat. The biggest excitement up there came when a woman stepped from the side of the stage and started dancing right next to Justice. She was lost in the music, and helped push the crowd. But then security escorted her off — why, I’ll never know — and the duo continued fiddling with knobs. Maybe they need a pyramid or something.

That said, Justice captured the biggest, most raucous crowd, harnessed the moment and delivered a massive dirty-techno throwdown. People pogoed and threw their hands in the air, screamed for all the world to hear the chorus to their biggest anthem, “Never Be Alone” — “We. Are. Your friends. You’ll. Never. Be alone again, c’mon!” By the time the Frenchmen dropped the 3-6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly,” the crowd was heaving, and inflated condoms floated above the morass. The band’s fans moshed, crowd surfers rode the mass like this was a Pearl Jam grunge fest rather than a Parisian techno fest. It was a primal show of force, and no match for Bloc Party, who failed to inspire their own big crowd. Where Justice drew a mass of sweaty fans, Bloc Party, while much more lively and interactive onstage, were unable to transfer that energy into the crowd. A different festival at a different moment, and the tables could have been turned. But in the here and now, in that remarkable feat of aural magic that carries a song from a beat box through a cord into an amplifier that’s hooked into a monster sound system that delivers music across the whole of downtown Los Angeles — and into thousands of headz — it was Justice for all.