Mayhem at Abbot Kinney Festival

At 9:20 p.m., almost three hours after Abbot Kinney Festival closed, a shooting occurred on Abbot Kinney and San Juan, killing one man and hospitalizing a woman. As of late Sunday night, no further information was available.

Organizers for the Abbot Kinney Festival make the claim that nearly 150,000 attend this annual street fair. That figure just might be accurate.

It took almost 40 minutes to find parking, and even then, the spot cost $10 and was an eight minute hike to the festivities. Inside the roped-off stretch of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, hordes of people sporting oversized sunglasses and miniscule dogs (yes, sometimes tucked into large shoulder bags) milled between rows of vendors hawking everything from handmade jewelry to Barack Obama t-shirts to mass produced clothing guaranteed to be out of style next summer and a few paintings thrown in for good measure. With 350 booths, the scene on Abbot Kinney was more swap meet than festival, albeit a swap meet without the piles of discounted tube socks and bootlegged DVDs.

Mayhem at Abbot Kinney Festival

Photograph by Shannon Cottrell. Click image for slideshow.

There was lots of music to be heard but the near-constant state of human gridlock on Abbot Kinney made it difficult to catch most of the artists’ abbreviated performances. L.A.-based singer-songwriter Steve Reynolds, whose work has been heard on "Grey’s Anatomy," performed on the Hotel Cafe stage backed by local band Pedestrian. Fellow Grey’s alum Cary Brothers joined him on stage for a number. Over at the Air Conditioned Supper Club stage, Irwin’s Conspiracy, the venue’s Wednesday night resident, played drums and theremin against sampled melodies, meanwhile a bevy of talented gospel artists sang in front of Second Community Baptist Church. The music highlight of the day, though, was War Tapes. The band, whose dramatic style is at least partially derived from Venice’s best known rock spawn, The Doors, prompted even the long-haired skater tykes to rush towards the stage. The sound was as loud and brooding as a good Cure record and singer Neil Popkin appeared quite comfortable flailing on the edge of the stage before dropping to the ground for a few minutes of writhing. Although War Tapes played for less than 20 minutes, the concert was worth it for fans like Maya Sanchez, who traveled from San Bernardino to see the band.

Over in the family area, there were a few tiny tot rides, a handful of arts and crafts booths, a small petting zoo and more music. For the adults, there were block-long lines for the beer garden and local watering holes like The Brig.

It was also a festival filled with buzzwords. Abbot Kinney’s newest feature, “Connected, Green Lifestyle Area” featured DJs, art and a food court that, according to the press material, featured “sustainable menu items” and was “curated” by Top Chef finalist Chris Jacobsen. That all translated to burritos with a sore lack of lard oozing through the wrappers.

Overall, it was as though the Abbot Kinney District Association was trying too hard to put forth the eclectic, laid back facade of Venice and in the process lost some of the naive joy of street fairs. It may not be cool, but sometimes it’s just fun to ride rickety Ferris wheels and watch kids try desperately to win goldfish that will die right after they are named. Abbot Kinney Festival had none of that.

Words by Liz Ohanesian

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