Keeping track of Red Bull's various forays into music can be confusing. There's a label, a bunch of recording studios (including one in Santa Monica), an internet radio network, a “world traveling series of music workshops and festivals” called Red Bull Music Academy, and whatever the hell Red Bull Sound Select is supposed to be. (A concert promotion division? An artist development platform? A music curation service? We did an entire article on it a couple years ago and I still don't fully understand it.)
But! Confusing though they may be, Red Bull's various music efforts are also frequently awesome. For the past several years, Sound Select has put on a monthlong “festival” — really more of a concert series — called 30 Days in L.A., which has included events such as a DJ takeover of Madame Tussauds and a secret show by Nicki Minaj at the Teragram Ballroom. Its Music Academy program has nurtured such up-and-coming talents as Tokimonsta, Anenon and Les Butcherettes' Teri Gender Bender. And until quite recently, it gave L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss his own show on Red Bull Radio. So keep doing what you're doing, Red Bull, even if the rest of us don't always understand it.
For several years, one of the energy drink brand's flagship events has been the Red Bull Music Academy Festival, a sorta more highbrow version of 30 Days in L.A., specializing in ambitious one-off performances with cool and cutting-edge artists — Solange doing a choreographed show at New York's Guggenheim Museum, for example, or Anohni premiering a series of short films for her upcoming tour. After several successful years in New York, as well as staging events in Paris, Berlin, Sydney and elsewhere around the globe, Red Bull Music Academy comes to L.A. for the first time in October, and the slate of events announced so far sounds pretty damn amazing.
There will be a world-premiere performance by art-rock goddess St. Vincent; special one-night tribute events dedicated to the music of Alice Coltrane, pioneering L.A. hip-hop crew Uncle Jamm's Army and classic Japanese videogame soundtrack composers; a temporary warehouse space called Open Beta that will host underground dance parties featuring the likes of Sophie, Arca, Jlin and Silent Servant; and a one-day, three-stage mini-festival, Todo Es Metal, dedicated to Mexican and Latinx extreme-metal bands, many of whom will be making their L.A. debuts. Then there's perhaps the festival's craziest offering: a performance by the “world's largest synth orchestra” by Japanese sound installation artist Ryoji Ikeda, featuring 100 high-powered car stereos in a low-frequency drone-off the likes of which could probably only happen in L.A.
The RBMA Festival also will feature discussions with Alice Bag, Ice-T, filmmakers Edgar Wright and Floria Sigismondi, producer Sylvia Massy, and expert mastering engineers Benjamin Tierney (J. Dilla, Flying Lotus) and Bernie Grundman (Thriller, Purple Rain). Oh, and a Bollywood night co-presented by local Islamic music diaspora experts Discostan and featuring Bollywood's legendary “disco king,” Bappi Lahiri. And a club night with Afro-Latinx party crew Rail Up. And … oh, just go to the website and drink it all in.
The Red Bull Music Academy Festival will run Oct. 6-29 at various locations all over Los Angeles. Tickets go on sale one week from today, Tuesday, Aug. 22, at la.redbullmusicacademy.com.