Seasons, Thundercat, Dumbfounded, Kris Mars, Family of the Year, Hanni el Khatib and Mia Doi Todd
Abbot Kinney Festival
Better than . . . Sunset Junction.
After all of the Sunset Junction drama this summer, it turns out that for a fun outdoor hipster music event you have to come out west. Venice Beach's Abbot Kinney festival fit the bill, and the proof was in Sunday's stellar roster. Although small, the lineup was a strong one.
Sunday started out gloomy and gray only to bust out all sunshiny. When the sun came out folks produced cigarettes and headed for the beer gardens.
Family of the Year mined the happier parts of backwoods soul with their infectious charm and energy. The crowd dug it. Hippy girls in designer beach dresses, soft-bearded bike riding bros, over-cautious yuppie parents and boardwalk bums piled in front of the little stage all the way back to the feather-earing and glass jewelry booths. The five piece makes a fiesty, grimy country ruckus good for backyard parties. Bassist Brent Freaney and keyboardist Christina Schroeter almost took each other out on the little stage, after a breakdown so intense Freaney's long locks broke free from their hair tie.
Swahili Blonde's patchouli-tinged pop brought ass-wiggling beats to the main stage in the early afternoon, making even the buzzed bear garden crowd bust into dance party mode. At the dublab stage and beer garden by the Brig, the dancing and schmoozing started early and never stopped.
At the petit Andalusia stage off of Abbot Kinney, Dumfounded's hard rap made the skater kids in baseball hats and skinny jeans gather in close. By song two, the Korean-American battle rapper who's government name is Johnathan Park had all hands in the pot smokey air. His band cut deep into the hard beats and shreddy riffs sending babies and strollers scattering away. (Note: we at the Weekly are big fans, and you can look for more Dumbfoundead coverage in the near future.)
Kris Mars served his KCRW-ish rap-lite while accompanied by just a turntablist and background singer. Mars' words are thoughtful and his grooves are rooted in an encyclopedic appreciation of classic soul. His warnings to Jay-Z and Kayne to watch out for their thrones might not be too threatening, but its a ballsy premonition by a talented guy coming up from the 'burbs.
Thundercat played the best set of the afternoon. Having done stints with Suicidal Tendencies, Erykah Badu and Flying Lotus, he's got a new band. His thoughtfully complex re-engineering of hip hop, whiplash-jazz and blue-light soul could be a game changer. Thanks to his impossibly good basswork and capably solid band, Bruner seemed to be channeling Stanley Clarke and Lemmy simultaneously, with everyone from westside moms to b-boys screaming at him for more.
Swooning chicks with bangs and Ray-Bans hugged tight around the stage for Hanni El Khatib, who blew in from the east side. He smashed up the stage with his bad boy attitude and flinging, greaser hair. He's got a radio hit these days, and he played it loud for all the ladies in the crowd.
Seasons, from Highland Park, also made a great showing with their shimmering lo-fi pop. Mia Doi Todd – impressively consistent – stirred her loyal fans as the sunshine turned orange and then pink.
For all the pumping up and local self-boostery of the festival's promotions, most the bands and DJs that played are still from the arty pockets of L.A.'s east side – Seasons hail from Highland Park, Thundercat's from the south side, Kris Mars is from the 'burbs, and Family of the Year, Hanni el Khatib and Mia Doi Todd reside in Silver Lake. For a myriad of reasons, “best side” beach cities still aren't making the best bands.
Personal Bias: I live in Venice, and rode my bike there.
Random Notebook dump: They'll need to widen the street next year.
More photos below.