Saturday marked the first Venice Beach Spring Fling Festival, a new seasonal counterpart to its Summer Music Festival showcasing local bands and artists. The locally sponsored Fling is only the most recent effort from the community to prove that there's more to the boardwalk than hippies and head shops. But did it manage to escape its stereotype? Here's a breakdown of the good, the bad and the bizarre:
Tracii Guns Bastard Blues Band - Decidedly the day's finest act, so it's a damn shame the fest's crowd of sun children had dwindled by the time TGBBB took the stage at 6 p.m. Despite a glam metal pedigree, including L.A. Guns founder and one-time GNR member Tracii Guns, the band delivered a refreshingly straightforward round of hurts-so-good blues in their second public show. Notably, frontman Bronx Style Bob (Ice T, Zulu Kings) unleashed a set of pipes that gave Charles Bradley's performance at the Echo last week a run for its money.
School of Rock - Contrary to what you're thinking, they dragged their moms down here. These tikes remained dutifully gathered at the stage throughout TGBBB's set, bobbing their heads and making iPhone recordings as they watched their music teacher/bassist Muddy Stardust play. Oh, and they're in a band. How long have The Rockaholix been together? "Two years. Can we go watch the show now?"
Tone Def Punk Rock Karaoke - What's more fun than playing Clash and Iggy Pop covers with your high school punk band? Playing them again with guys who actually know how to use their instruments. Not quite a cover band but in no way traditional karaoke, the fellas of Tone Def showcased their devoted karaoke "all-stars" for a sing-a-long that drew the day's largest crowd at just 2 p.m.
Baby's on fire - Not in the Brian Eno way.
Is that Howard Stern? - While the afternoon's slew of generic ska/reggae outfits was an appropriate, if not forgettable, fit for the festival's hula-hooping, bleary-eyed attendees, the inclusion of hard rock outfit Venrez at 4 p.m. ended up being little more than a stylistically disruptive bathroom break for the crowd. Confused references to Howard Stern, Audioslave overheard throughout the set.
LATFTH - Look At This Fucking Ten-Year-Old Hipster
The shirtless, tripping mainstays of the boardwalk are too easily written off as spectacles. They're the ones who break the ice and get everyone dancing while you were standing in the back with your arms crossed.
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As a self-proclaimed "campaigner for the downfall of evil," the Ukulady deserves a spot in the "Good" section of this list. But as the festival's emcee, whose high-pitched sing-a-longs about imaginary boyfriends had even the kids in the crowd scratching their heads, the Ukulady is definitively bizarre.
This guy. At times loveable, at times irritating, we hereby dub this man the Venice Spring Fling mascot. Both may be off their marks, but you've got to commend them for trying.