Nightranger: Who Needs Sunset Junction? Saturday's Parties and Concerts Reviewed
Butch Walker and the Black Widows
Strolling through the events that popped up in the wake of Sunset Junction's cancellation, it was clear that folks were upset.
The maelstrom of negativity against the fair and its director Michael McKinley -- as seen on Facebook and in the comments section of blogs like this one -- may have expressed a sentiment of "good riddance." Folks still wanted to party, however, so much so that they decided to have their own. Many were overheard saying that the weekend's smaller events, in fact, conjured the communal vibe of what the fair once was.
As someone who grew up in Silver Lake and has attended the fair for over 20 years, we can't say that's completely true. Sure the scene and the music were good, but without all of the families and greasy food and beer gardens and rides, something was missing. Still, it's fair to say that Silver Lake shined.
Dangerbird Records' outdoor area was packed with the expected Raybans and boho rags crowd all day. We caught Butch Walker closing down the live band line-up, and he expressed disappointment at not being able to play the fair for what would have been his first time. Walker and his band The Black Widows served up their entire new album (which comes out this week) and it was as catchy and harmony-packed as we expected. For those unfamiliar, Walker is a successful songwriter/producer who has worked with the likes of Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Fall Out Boy and Weezer. Maybe not the indiest act from SJ for Dangerbird to showcase as headliner, but definitely one of the most talented.
A few blocks east, the groovy furniture store Living Room offered its own "Function at the Junction" stage, featuring lesser known acts booked by the store's owner Steve Melendrez and his sons (members of the band Raheem Cohen). It wasn't the first party the store has held during the Junction, but it did appear to be the biggest, Silver Lake-based Moheak Radio on the scene (on which yours truly has a show), more seating than we've seen there before and a tented band area. It was a pretty loose gathering, with unannounced acts added all day, including a wacky and fun one called Brandy Knights .
"We've always loved Sunset Junction, it just needs to be tweaked a little," said Melendrez.
Other events in the area -- Vacation Vinyl's haps and the Sunset Crunktion Party at the space formerly known as Department of Flying Vehicles (3303 Sunset) - saw the streets filled with visitors. Efforts via Facebook encouraging people to patronize the Junction's restaurants and shops even without any music seemed to bring more bodies to the region as well.
But not every SJ alternative event was in Silver Lake. "Echo Park Rising" gathered several businesses further east, with the hubs being The Echoplex and Origami Vinyl. Though El Cid had planned to continue its "Locals Only" stage, most acts migrated downtown to The One Eyed Gypsy aka Bordello-in-transition. Dana Hollister's new bar offered up the space last minute. We caught opener Ricky Lee Robinson, who plays guitar, drums and keyboards all at the same time and calls himself "the one man Tsunami." We were impressed by his White Stripes-ish rock.
If Sunset Junction has inspired ire for its corporatization, the increase of "hipsters" to the hood has as well. Of course, longtime residents know it's always been hip here, it's just what is considered hip or cool that's changed. Actually some things are exactly the same. When we first worked a booth at the Junction back in '87, de riguer looks included cowboy boots and floral dresses for gals and Hank Williamsy duds for dudes. At Conjunxion - agruably the hippest alternative-SJ soiree Saturday - we saw plenty of both. Even the bands had a hipster hillbilly vibe going on: Gypsy River Haunts offered up bluegrass-infused rock that had young 'uns hopping about like it was a moonshine-soaked hoedown.
Other bands at the packed party included: Downtown Train, Peg Leg Love, and 1776 all presenting diverse forms of indie rock. But it was Vanaprasta that impressed us most. The band got some press last week for speaking at the hearing where the festival permit was denied again. The opportunity to open for Helmet meant a lot to them, they said. The band may not have been on a big stage, but they did have a big crowd, and they delivered. Their psychedelic jams provided the perfect late night vibe for the boozed bunches at What Cheer? (the name of party promoter Anthony Giancola weekend event the Holding Company space in the alley next to Medusa Lounge). After checking out the Prince Purple Party there last month and Giancola's gathering last night, we see plenty of wild bashes in this spot's future.
More rescheduled Sunset Junction parties are still happening. (See our complete list here.) Our report from Sunday's alternative-SJ festivities go up soon.
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