Jubilee Music & Arts Festival: Day 1
Formerly the Silver Lake Jubilee, the newly rebranded Jubilee Music & Arts Festival dug into some new environs this year. Now located six miles Southeast in LA’s Arts District, just a stone’s throw away from the historic core of Downtown Los Angeles, this year’s Jubilee had a much different feel than years past. Although its exact location shuffled a bit during its three Silver Lake years, the Jubilee was always a street festival. Part of its charm was taking in bands on outdoor stages that were feet from people’s houses, or inside bars. This year, the entire festival took place in an abandoned industrial complex, with only one outdoor stage. The venue may have changed, but, as always, the music is what’s most important. Here are highlights from day one.
The Jubilee kicked off a day earlier than usual, but it was still an hour late. Gates were scheduled to open at 3:00 pm, but at 3:45, volunteers could still be seen setting up from outside the locked gates. We were finally let in a hair shy of 4:00 pm, which meant we missed out on getting to catch some of LA’s Thee Rain Cats.
In a nod to its past, the Jubilee continued to name their stages after the streets they used to be on, and Jubilee vets Moses Campbell kicked things off at the main outdoor stage, the Sunset Stage. Unfortunately, due to their timeslot of 4pm on a Friday, they didn’t start off with much of a crowd, but the fans who were there got quite a treat. The band, especially frontman Sean Solomon, really breathe a lot of life into their ‘90s-influenced alt-rock gems like “Cold.” Bassist Pascal Stevenson put so much energy into keeping the rhythm that he broke a string, but it didn’t phase the band. They closed their set with a new song, “She Has A Heart.” Solomon ditched his guitar for that one, and used his freedom to climb the rafters on the side of the stage like a man possessed, setting a literal and figurative high point for other bands to try to match.
One good thing about the Jubilee’s new digs were that the stages were a few seconds’ walk away from each other. The Myra Stage was inside of an abandoned warehouse adjacent to the Sunset Stage, with bands playing on a platform elevated above an old loading dock. We caught the end of THEblack&THEwhite in the Myra building, and their lush dancefloor love anthem “Future” sounded great. Singer Julio Tavarez hit some high notes with his vocals during a song that would have provided a fine cinematic soundtrack.
The Myra stage was running late, so Torches didn’t start until 5:20pm, almost a half hour after they were scheduled to. Like a lot of Friday’s bands, Torches didn’t have a huge crowd to feed off of, but they still delivered. The LA outfit’s rhythm section was tight, with drummer and co-creative force Eric Fabbro singing along to Azad Cheikosman’s vocals on songs that boasted epic bridges. Augmented by a violinist, they drew a reaction from the small crowd that echoed well inside the Myra Stage’s warehouse locale. Their crowd had grown by the time they finished, though, and they were pumping their fists during a powerful rendition of “Out Of The Desert.”
LA’s Cherry Glazerr have a nice song in their moody Giant Drag-esque single, “Bloody Bandaid,” but a closer inspection of the lyrics reveals a little too much childlike precociousness. Live, some of their worst tendencies tend to come out. “Cat Sitting In My Room” had some crunchier guitar moments than it does on record, but Sophia’s vocals tended to be caterwaulingly all over the place.
Yellow Red Sparks
Yellow Red Sparks were the first band we caught at the Hoover stage, yet another ancient warehouse on the Jubilee grounds. The Hoover’s stage was huge, and felt like it threatened to swallow the self-described “cinematic folk” three-piece, but singer Joshua Hanson’s songs kept them afloat. “My Machine Gun” bounced along well and had a solo breakdown by upright bassist Sara Lynn Nishikawa. Their songs had a warm, lived-in feel that was enhanced by the acoustics in the room. “It’s like a cave in here!” remarked Hanson, referring the Hoover’s crazy, uninsulated echo. “Buy Me Honey” had an intimate, country-ish feel that worked well. They were another high point of the fest.
Wardell were up next in the Myra stage, which by 6:15pm was starting to feel darker and more club-like. Yes, Wardell are Steven Spielberg’s kids, but don’t hold it against them, they’re actually really talented, with a fun jangly vintage-pop vibe. Singer Sasha Spielberg was bouncing in anticipation during the intro to “Call It What You Want,” which found her hitting some angelic high notes. The band bills itself as Sasha and her guitarist brother Theo, but live, they were a five-piece, augmented by drums, bass, and an electric pianist who bobbed his head along in time. Theo and the bassist faced off to start “Opossum,” where Sasha’s voice was reminiscent of She and Him’s Zooey Deschanel.
We stepped right out of the Myra warehouse to catch Pangea next on the Sunset stage. We’ve seen the bubblegum surf punk Burger Records boyz before, and this was the best we’ve seen them. They opened with “No Feelin’,” and right off the bat, Pangea just looked like a bunch of scumbags, but in a really sloppily cool way that matched the dusty industrial backdrop well. “My Heart” had a cool Rolling Stones-y feel, and new song “Badillac” was a bit less frantic, but had the kids in the Hawaiian shirts moshing. The setting sun provided a nice bit of drama as the boyz showed off their romantic side with a surprisingly tender cover of the Motown classic “Be My Baby,” where singer William Keegan sounded like he was sweetly in love. They haven’t grown up too much, though, as they almost immediately followed it up with a supertight “Too Drunk To Cum,” which had touches of surf and hardcore punk. During their set, kids slamdanced, Keegan’s voice hit some shreddy notes, and a lot of fun was had.
The short walk between the the two indoor stages felt like a stroll in a Hollywood backlot, which was fitting for the cinematic dreampop that Incan Abraham brought to the Hoover stage. Keyboardist Giuliano “Giuls” Pizzulo got great whooshy atmospherics out of his custom synthesizer/computer rig, which floated on top of Andrew Clinco’s drumbeats that ranged from tropical, to Phil Collins-esque. As Teddy Cafaro was hitting lush high notes, seeing the crowd walk by the Hoover stage’s open doors really did feel like watching a movie with a really cool soundtrack. Closer “Springhouse” had members of the crowd dancing, and bassist Spencer Mandel reaching for the stars during its powerful climax.
Darkness was encroaching when Bleached took the Sunset stage at 8:30pm. Songs like “Looking For A Fight” showed off their toughness of their surfey janglepop. The Clavin sisters hit some sweet girl-group harmonies during their songs, and also had some fine instrumental chops. Jessica Clavin’s guitar solos were fun to watch while scenester kids stage dove. Singer Jennifer Clavin explained that she was borrowing the guitar she was using (hers had just been stolen), but they still rocked. “Dead Boy,” from their brand new record, Ride Your Heart, was hard-charging, with furious drumming by touring member Jonathan Safley, who was strong throughout their set. Closer “When I was Yours” started quietly, then settled into a nice groove before ending in a furious racket. The Clavins and touring bassist Micayla Grace formed a guitar army at the front of the stage, as even a dropped guitar pick couldn’t pluck Jennifer from the spotlight. When they were done, the full crowd was left to bask in the bright lights of the big city.
Singer-songwriter Mikhael Paskalev journeyed all the way from Alesund, Norway, to play a fine set in the Myra stage. He opened with “Jive Babe,” which had the crowd clapping along to its bouncy pop beat. He broke a string on his acoustic guitar, then grabbed an electric to continue his set. As the outside darkness made the indoor Myra stage feel like a rave, Paskalev’s accent came out during “Jailhouse Talk.” Chaos reigned during that number, as uplifting vocal harmonies were paired with sorrowful subject matter. Paskalev played a trumpet during the song, which he said was inspired by California’s “cool prisons.” Paskalev was one of the best showmen at the Jubilee, with lots of witty stage banter that engaged the audience. “Sayonara Saigon” had the crowd rapt in its tender balladry, before ending with a tribal drumming, tropical coda.
Trash Talk’s set can only be described as fuckin’ brutal. The Sacramento four-piece played a set so intense, that paramedics stood guard at the edge of the crowd just in case. Their songs were mostly under two-minutes, but still managed to touch on everything from old school metal to hardcore punk. Throat-shredder Lee Spielman spent much of their time in the crowd, screaming in the middle of huge circle pits as kids with deranged looks in their eyes slammed into each other. Bassist Spencer Pollard, all beard and bulging neck veins, screamed along, while guitarist Garrett Stevenson scowled in the corner with a cigarette in his mouth. By the time they were through, the crowd had their microphone, and had broken it, and one poor kid got his face and hands all scraped up, but was smiling like he felt out of this world.
Someone got the bright idea to put on some disco lights during Kitten’s electro-hard-rock set in the cavernous Myra stage building, making it feel like a club. Singer Chloe Chaidez was all over the stage, at times pounding on drums that reverberated through the packed warehouse. Chaidez is only 18, but is already a fierce frontwoman, leading her band through songs that were inspired by bands whose popularity peaked the decade before she was born. There’s a breathy ‘80s influence present in some of their tunes, but during the end of their set, they’d set aside all synthesizers and had gone into full on guitar rock mode. Chaidez’s youth in gymnastics came to the fore, as she did barefoot handstands, and ended their set atop a gigantic bass guitar amp.
Sadly, Black Lips’ headlining set at the Sunset Stage on Friday felt like it could’ve been great, but didn’t quite get there. Technical difficulties (which would continue at Sunset into day two) kept plaguing them, particularly guitarist/vocalist Ian St. Pe, who seemed to grow frustrated as the set wore on. Black Lips are still a great band, though, and the guys soldiered on as best they could. They were augmented by a horn section during “Family Tree,” which had guitarist/vocalist Cole Alexander rolling around on the floor. The guys had little pre-recorded clips of weird old movie dialogues play between songs, and put a spacey intro on “O Katrina.” The band threw toilet paper rolls into the crowd, which kept flying the whole time they were on, eventually giving Cole a toilet paper scarf and draping over the left side of the stage like a strandy white curtain. “Modern Art” got the best crowd reaction — the crowd formed a mosh pit, and even the security guards were doing the swim.
Black Lips played some new songs from the upcoming album that they’re working on, one a boogieish number with countryish leads, another with a hard-rockin’ fifties vibe. Sound techs were running around onstage trying to fix various things during their set, at one point completely switching out the head of Jared Swilley’s bass rig. “Welcome To Black Lips unplugged,” sighed St. Pe. “I guess we’re bad people, ‘cause God keeps messing with us.” He must not have been too upset, though, ‘cause a perfectly-timed train called the Surfliner did roll past on the train tracks directly behind the Sunset stage.
“Bad Kids” drew a huge reaction, as it seemed like the entire family of Burger Records bands at the Jubilee came onstage for a toilet paper-tossing party. At the end of their set, Swilley destroyed his bass guitar onstage, as if to vent the frustration of a set that didn’t go as smoothly as it could’ve. St. Pe played baseball with his guitar, swatting water bottles into the crowd.
The day’s somewhat sparse attendance lent some of the indoor sets an intimate feel, but the outdoor sets, particularly Black Lips, didn’t feel like quite the massive celebration that previous Jubilee headliners did, like Aloe Blacc did last year. How would day two fare? Stay tuned to find out in our coverage.
Check out all the festival photos HERE.