White Fence, Nosaj Thing, Starfucker
Better than: Your college roommate's reggae band.
College music festivals aren't always compelling. They often book a bunch of acts popular with students that don't add up to a coherent bill. The fest put on by my alma matter had Drake follow Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. But USC's KXSC Fest, held Saturday night on the campus, managed to put together a lineup that worked well.
After a bevy of openers, (Gothic Tropic, Fiore, Trmrs), L.A. psych-rockers White Fence played to a thousand kids or so. Some of their recordings — “Mr. Adams, “The Love Between” — are fun to listen to in a spacey, pining sort of mood, but live they lost some of their essential weirdness; less flower-power bizarreness than by-the-book indie rock. They were competent; people sort of danced. But at least some of us wished it were White Denim instead.
By the time Nosaj Thing took the stage the crowd had more than doubled. A skinny, demure guy, he appeared and wordlessly started dropping his ambient beats. It was nice to see an Alpha Pup artist represented, the local label that houses a ton of interesting musicians and is closely associated with Brainfeeder. You could hear some of that “beat” influence in in Nosaj Thing's tracks, but the vibe was closer to hip-hop than electro. The
“Pursuit of Happiness” sample in “Aquarium” caused many a joint to be sparked and the orchestral choir loops on “Lords” had everyone swaying serenely.
After Nosaj Thing the night got a bit weird. While
Brainfeeder Dublab DJs spun for the crowd, I wandered around the hallway housing the artist's greenrooms. It was pretty dead, and seemed that most of the bands had split immediately after their sets. Then a door popped open and a guy I thought I recognized from Starfucker music videos beckoned to me. I followed him into a room where the entire band and their entourage was drinking and blasting music. Singer Josh Hodges invited me to play a drinking variation of Liar's Dice with the group , who had been generously supplied with booze by the fest. At one point I looked up and saw Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin, chilling at the table.
It seems that McLovin is a huge Starfucker fan — he danced like a mad man through the hour plus set. The whole place did, really. Starfucker's music might not change your life, but it's damn fun to dance to. By then Founders Park was overflowing with kids, and people were jumping on to stage as fast as security could pull them off.
At one point the band stopped the show for a moment and Hodges said, “Hey cops, for future reference, we don't think it's necessary to arrest people for stage diving.” The park exploded in applause and the band launched into a jam-tastic rendition of their single “Julius.” They closed out the show by covering “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and smashing their keyboards to pieces.
Personal Bias: I think KXSC is a uniquely good college radio station.
The Crowd: USC students, surprisingly few of them “fratting out.”
Random Notebook Dump: Openers Gothic Tropic discussed the politics of early American presidents in their greenroom for over an hour.
Correction: The original version of this review incorrectly stated that Starfucker was provided alcohol by festival organizers.