Arts journal Arthur launches its first-ever music festival this weekend
(Sun.-Mon.) at Barnsdall Park. The venue is fitting: ArthurFest’s guiding
aesthetic is way earthy/arty/hippie/ psychedelic — in keeping with childhood
memories of the many mime, tumbling, magic and pottery workshops we took up
on Barnsdall hill in the sweaty ’70s. (And oh! the puppet shows!) You might
even say ArthurFest dwells in a psychic dimension where the spirit of early
’90s indie rock makes peace with its hippie stoner parents.
In short, a pot habit will serve the festgoer well.
The hippie vibe is not only evident in the music — it’s also a structural thing:
A number of the bands on the bill are known as “collectives” (see blurbs). In
the words of Arthur editor/festival curator (and L.A. Weekly contributor)
Jay Babcock, “These bands are groups working together toward a common goal.
They are small collectives. And in this, their form, function, and content are
instructive — and progressive. In an increasingly atomized Krew Kut Klan cubicle
world of alienating bottom-line drudgery, the small collective chasing the muse
is the real alternative.”
You’re blowing our minds.
The Olivia Tremor Control The once and future Olivia Tremor Control — long dissolved, recently reunited, more beloved than anyone probably knows — are, to my mind, the main attraction at ArthurFest. Their 1996 debut LP, Music From The Unrealized Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle, is noble, romantic, pure pop/psychedelia for the home 4-tracking generation, which means it’s got the best of McCartney and Beefheart (and none of the worst), which means it’s crackerjack. OTC were the best thing to come out of the Elephant 6 musical collective (Apples In Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, et al.), and their often primitive production belies truly ace songcraft. And unlike most psychedelia described as “dream-like,” OTC’s music actually replicates the intuitive but specific logic of a hot afternoon couch-drowse-mind-movie. No drugs required. (Kate Sullivan)
Sleater-Kinney S-K’s latest, The Woods, marks the emergence of Carrie Brownstein as one of the most energetic stage prowlers and underrated guitarists in whatever-rock that exists today: Her fuck-it-all guitar solos on “Let’s Call It Love,” “Entertain,” “Steep Air” and others are a distinctly new trend for the band, blasting them directly into rock’s upper echelons. Of course, it takes two to make things go right: Tucker/Brownstein’s heart-shredding harmonizing on songs like “Jumpers” is simply impossible to beat. Yes, this is freedom rock, and yes, you should turn it up. (Scott Thill)
Cat Power Sonic Youth good-buddy Chan Marshall spread herself around somewhat after Cat Power’s hyperactively acclaimed last release, You Are Free: a little street-smart rapping for Handsome Boy Modeling School here, a benefit for Middle East peace there. But she’s yet to unleash her follow-up, which reportedly, depending on whom you ask, is being assembled with the help of some storied blues and Americana lifers down in her native South. Couple that with the fact that Marshall has a rep for serious performance anxiety and/or drama and you have a recipe for a memorable show, whether Marshall commands the stage or collapses on it. (S.T.)
Sunn O))) This ought to be a good/nasty set. Sunn’s last two companion albums, White 1 and White 2, gave monstrous birth to six songs of bottom-heavy trance metal spanning more than 120 minutes, which is a shitload of sludge to wade through. Who knows how it will all end up? Consider also that Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, the architects behind Sunn, have made it known that the chief aim of their rare live set is to destabilize your bowels. (See also: Pole.) Literally. Whether they can actually do it amid L.A.’s white noise has yet to be seen, but it should be interesting as hell to watch them try. (Bring Depends.) (S.T.)
Comets on Fire/Six Organs of Admittance Anyone here from Eureka? Didn’t think so — which is probably why you didn’t know that the NoCal burg is an unofficial petri dish for the avant-rawk set. The list of experi-metalheads hailing from Eureka is impressive enough with Mr. Bungle and Faith No More grads Mike Patton and Trey Spruance on it. But after the release of last year’s freakout masterpiece Blue Cathedral, Eureka can start clearing sidewalk space for Comets on Fire’s guitar heroes Ethan Miller and Ben Chasny — whose own band, Six Organs of Admittance, is also on board Arthur’s noise-rock gravy train. Both bands specialize in the bombastic, spastic type of sonic exploration that marked the production of their homeboys Patton and Spruance, so there must be something in the water. Or maybe it’s just the weed. (S.T.)
Vetiver The future-folkies of Vetiver have a pretty good collective going. Although the group itself is the spawn of vocalist Andy Cabic, it nevertheless houses one super-talented Syd Barrett in guitarist Devendra Banhart; one mitten-made mogul in Alissa Anderson; and one multimedia artist in Jim Gaylord. Oh yeah, and they all play instruments — and quite a few at that. Vetiver performances can sometimes feel more like old-school happenings, sans body paint. Their earnest, experimental mashups of psychedelia, blues, Americana, chamber music and much more are intoxicating, so being able to watch them collide in real time is one of ArthurFest’s more gratifying gifts. And, given that Vetiver and Banhart are touring on the strength of new releases (the Between EP and Cripple Crow full-length, to be exact), it wouldn’t be untoward to expect some new Banhart chillers to creep into the set. It’s a family affair, after all. (S.T.)
Pole Stefan Betke is Pole. From Germany. Makes no attempt to humanize his electronic/DJ exercises in bass theory — no “soul” singers here; none needed. With several discs out on Mute and other labels, Betke specializes in an avant-dub that’s recently swinging back to something that can make you move your feet, should you feel so inclined, though his real forte is in resounding super-I-mean-super-low-end tone-dancing that can just as easily move your bowels, if not used carefully. Extraordinary balancing act between the head and the body, is what it is. (John Payne)
Brad Laner A local hero who’ll possibly blow the entire esteemed lineup clear into the clouds. As a one-man band he’s a.k.a. Electric Company, but Laner’s mainly known as leader of the erstwhile (what does “erstwhile” mean, anyway?) noise-pop aggreg Medicine. Laner’s also a long-serving member of L.A.’s avant-progressive-electronic-avant-garbage underground, as a founder of the amazing Steaming Coils in the early ’80s as well as drummer for tribal punx Savage Republic. He’s got two pretty distinct and reconcilable sides, one of which reharmonizes/reorders classic pop sounds and thus vastly improves the form. The other concerns Laner’s ferociously gorgeous solo laptop blowouts, fearsome firestorms of DSP-corroded samples and pure electronics. (J.P.)
Sonic Youth Not so much representing youth rock anymore — not that they ever did, really — SY on golden pond have proved to be that supreme rarity, a band whose records have gotten better, deeper, far more resonant and obliquely beautiful. Thurston Moore, wifey Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo on a variety of chopped and channeled guitars and tri-toned basses, drummer Steve Shelley, and the band’s recent ace in the hole and big pumper-upper, the ubiquitous Jim O’Rourke on bass, synth, keyboards and ideas, have demonstrated at recent performances that some kind of incentive’s driving them tighter, heavier and more subtlely earth-shaking than at any time in their career. They’re peaking. (J.P.)