The Unmitigated Joy of Nothing Fest: Kudos to the good people at Nothing Mag. For the third year (having taken a break for obvious reasons last year), they’ve hosted a mini festival that delves into the alt and indie worlds while blurring genre divides. The bill for Nothing Fest III showcases a tremendous mix of buzz and buzz-worthy. It’s a fantastic opportunity to check out bands you’ve been meaning to for a while, and also discover new things. And on Saturday at the frankly magnificent Garden Amp venue in Garden Grove, the show was a top-to-bottom success.

We couldn’t get there for the 1 p.m. start, though we fully believe that the early bands were as great as the Nothing Mag social media tells us. We arrived in time to catch the last couple of songs by Redlands quartet Hoity-Toity. Holy shit, what an intro to the band and indeed the festival. These women play riotous, infectious and fucking awesome punk rock with an unabashed pop edge that balances beautifully with a take no prisoners approach. We will be back for more.

Apollo Bebop played a very cool, chill bled of indie rock, hip-hop and funk on the main stage, Mexican Slum Rats got their crowd moving with a lively yet droning, Dinosaur Jr-ish approach to punk, and Niña‘s indie-soul-pop sounded super-cool.

Cuffed Up (Brett Callwood)

L.A.’s Cuffed Up was another highlight of the festival though. With male/female duel vocals and a set of subtly epic tunes, there’s a Pixies-meets-Sonic Youth quality to their self-described “sad punk.” Gloriously quirky, brilliantly catchy and ultimately superb.

Satchy and Web impressed on smaller stages, and the appropriately named Sad Park blasted though a set of frustrated, melancholic emo punk (“I don’t feel the way I should,” crooned vocalist Graham Steele. “Why can’t I be good?”).

60 Juno brought some shoegaze, and the Grinns have a sound that appears to be inspired by British indie darlings such as the Kaiser Chiefs. Both were great.

Lealani, however, was a revelation. Alone on the Treehouse stage, she danced like a dervish and performed a set that can’t be defined using traditional genre conventions. Vocally, there are parallels with Bjork. She also shares a proclivity for the experimental with the Icelandic artist. There are touches of 8-bit in there, lyrical elements of Shel Silverstein in songs about being a “kid computah” and “killer bees.” But we’re only scratching the surface and hope to do a feature with her in the future. Lealani is doing this music thing her own way, with her own rules. And she’s awesome.

WHOKILLEDXIX (Brett Callwood)

WHOKILLEDXIX blasted through a short but lively set of hip-hop-infused hyperpunk, the High Curbs nearly caused the stage to come down thanks to their manic punk sending the crowd into a frenzy, and Kent Osborne‘s rap-punk was a pleasant surprise. The very buzzy Goth Babe is officially the headliner, thanks to Griff Washburn’s blossoming status in the alt music scene and a string of hits. He and his band disappointed nobody.

Nobody did — every act was worthy of further exploration. But honestly, we left the event with the names Hoity-Toity, Cuffed Up, and Lealani in our heads.


Goth Babe (Brett Callwood)

The Unmitigated Joy of Nothing Fest

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