Who to See at the Inaugural Low End Theory Festival
Photo by Valeria Cherchi
[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
For the last eight years, Low End Theory has reigned as L.A.'s best club for people who hate clubs. The sound system is seismic enough to cause craters. The bookings are eclectic and progressive. The narcotic atmosphere helps lighten the onerous entrance lines in front of the Airliner in Lincoln Heights each Wednesday.
Low End has thrived by constantly mutating yet staying wary of ephemeral trends. Anchored by the five resident DJs (Daddy Kev, Nobody, D-Styles, The Gaslamp Killer and my Shots Fired! podcast partner, Nocando), the Petri dish has cultivated gifted young artists of a unique cellular classification. Most lean toward beat music with crushing bass, but experimentation is encouraged and expected.
The inaugural Low End Theory Festival takes place June 14 and 15 at the Echo and Echoplex; fittingly, it runs the gamut from fusion jazz to turntablism, trap, underground hip-hop, ambient and soul.
Sold out for months, the bill testifies to the collapsed nature of genre divisions.
The abridged guide below highlights many of the 25-plus acts (plus secret guests) scheduled to smolder all weekend.
Invisibl Skratch Piklz
The venerable Bay Area turntable crew falls somewhere between magicians and the Miami Heat: a superpower assembled for dominance, with fleet techniques that baffle those attempting to understand their moves. D-Styles, Mix Master Mike, DJ Qbert and company inspired every legitimate hip-hop DJ of the last generation. They're jazz virtuosos disguised as scratch technicians.
Essential song: Any vintage DJ routine you can find on YouTube.
The soul-fusion grooves of Odd Future's Syd tha Kid and Matt Martians induce Nag Champa calm, like Erykah Badu for the based set. Their last album was called Feel Good - a simple declaration applied with the efficiency of a rolled joint and dimmed bedroom lights.
Essential song: "Dontcha"
One of the first stars to emerge from the Low End Theory constellation, Jason Chung splinters g-funk, classical music, turntablism and iridescent headphone beats into something wholly inscrutable. He's also low-key, one of the most influential producers in hip-hop, inspiring ethereal beat choices from Kid Cudi and Kendrick Lamar.
Essential song: "IOIO"
The beat-scene pioneer helped to forge the freeway linking instrumental hip-hop to dance music. He remains one of L.A.'s most dynamic and unpredictable performers, and its supreme connoisseur of Edwardian.
Essential song: The entire Live at Low End Theory album
A monthlong 2010 Low End Theory residency helped garner attention to the Anticon-signed, Chatsworth-raised cherub with the lusting falsetto. His most recent EP, Ocean Death, could be his best yet, blending raw emotional vulnerability with propulsive 4/4 grooves.
Essential song: "Lovely Bloodflow"
The Chino artist-skateboarder makes beats that alternately conjure images of flowers blooming, wind chimes twinkling and water rippling. It's calm but kinetic, and always gorgeous.
Essential song: "Arthur's Birds"
Best known as the production half of Postal Service, Jimmy Tamborello has quietly amassed one of the most diverse résumés in L.A. underground music - one that heavily impacted the last decade of glitch-hop and electro-pop.
Essential song: "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan"
Ras G: The dreadlocked, astral-minded, beat-scene answer to Sun Ra.
Samiyam: '90s boom-bap nail bomb beats, re-engineered to be dropped by destructive aerial drones.
Jonwayne: Stones Throw - signed sword swinger rivals Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt for the throne of best L.A. producer/rapper under 25.
Mono/Poly: Might be the most underrated great producer in a very crowded field.
Dibia$e: 8-Bit beat progenitor never met a sample he couldn't warp.
House Shoes: Detroit's hip-hop ambassador brings slaps, both figurative and literal.
Knxwledge: Few bring dust to digital as artfully.
Matthewdavid: A hip-hop hippie in the best way, effortlessly gliding from Daisy Age psychedelia to drone.
Astronautica: 2013's Replay Last Night possesses more replay value than almost anything released last year.
Special guests? Trust me.
Don't forget to check our constantly-updated Los Angeles Concert Calendar.
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