Jay Babcock, 35, is the Diaghilev of the L.A. underground, an impresario of the avant-garde. A fourth-generation Californian with a B.A. in political science from UCLA, since the fall of 2002 he has managed, alongside his business partner Laris Kreslins, the practically impossible task of keeping Arthur, a free bimonthly 60,000-circulation national magazine of vanguard music and cultural observation, afloat. Babcock, who is an occasional contributor to L.A. Weekly, has lately been expanding his reach. In association with Spaceland Productions, the Atwater resident produced ArthurFest at Barnsdall Art Park. For two days, 4,500 hippies, bohos and punks of all ages lined up for 42 weird American, be-your-art bands headlined by Sonic Youth, Cat Power, and the vanguard’s queen mother, Yoko Ono.
And in late February, he did it again, with ArthurBall, “two days of new-mind music, film and words” at venues in Echo Park, featuring cult-worthies like guitar legend Moris Tepper and Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. He’s even started a weekly “(New) Echo Park Social(ist) and Pleasure Club” every Thursday evening at the Little Joy in baja Sunset, dedicated to improving the social life of L.A.’s urban intelligentsia one club night at a time.
In his spare milliseconds, he’s writing a documentary about the Diggers, the late-’60s San Francisco–based life-theater political coven that took as its principle the pursuit of pure freedom, which is now in production. With so much new-jack cred, how come Arthur’s on paper rather than on a computer screen? “Because paper is better than screen — it’s bigger, it lasts longer, it’s portable, it doesn’t require energy to view.” Why does he do the festivals and club nights? “To share what we’ve found.”