Jubilee Music & Arts Festival: Day 2
The Jubilee’s second day got off to a smoother start than day one (check out our Day 1 review HERE and our special interview exclusives HERE), with gates actually opening on time. Here’s our recap of day two!
HOTT MT, whose name is an acronym for Hour Of The Time Majesty 12, opened day two at 3 pm on the Hoover Stage. Their stage setup had some aquariumlike touches, with a lot of mermaid sheen, and gold balloons that *would’ve* spelled HOTT MT, had the O and a T not already flown away. Since it was so early in the day, they had to play to a pretty small audience and the lack of energy somewhat hindered the enjoyability of their set. Singer Ashi Dala did manage to seem like she was floating during the breathy “Peachy Mermaid,” but they just couldn’t overcome the small size of the crowd. During their last song, soon-to-be-released groover, “Baby Ghost,” Dala climbed to the top of the scaffolding surrounding the stage and released the rest of the balloons into the afternoon sky.
The sun was shining brightly through the open bay door behind the Myra stage when Western Lows started playing, acting like a kind of reverse spotlight that sometimes made the band tough to see. They too had to play to a small crowd, but they managed it better than HOTT MT. They had to restart their first song when their drummer dropped his mallets, but they recovered, playing songs with guitar lines that were reminiscent of the Cure. Their songs are nice and moody, but the lack of crowd and weird lighting almost made their set feel more like watching band practice.
We know the first rule of Beat Club, but their set on the Sunset stage will make us talk about them anyway. Bassist Joe Pancoast had some serious bass face going on during their opening instrumental jam, but he was the driving force behind their funky dance rock set. They really came alive during “Something Better,” a radio-ready song with a great chorus that really came through live and had organist/guitarist/vocalist Jeff Kite hitting some falsetto highs. Unfortunately, they too fell victim to the curse of the Sunset stage, and they had to kill some time when Pancoast’s bass cut out. They have a knack for catchy choruses, getting Passion Pit-y on the energetic “Faces,” which had Kite and guitarist Anthony Polcino trading off on vocals. A wave of guitar noise started their closer, “Relax!,” which got all post-punky and energetic, before hitting some electro interludes. They were a highlight, the first great set of day two.
Great White Buffalo
Great White Buffalo were the first band to get the Hoover stage really movin’ on day two, with the crowd inside dancing to their hard-rocking power pop. Lead guitarist Steven Johnson played some great classic rock leads on “Sinking In.” They provided some of the best pure hard rock moments of the Jubilee with drummer rich Carrillo really getting down during their songs. The multi-part “Burn” began with some organ-like guitar effects that sounded even crazier with the Hoover stage’s echoey acoustics. By the time it was done, singer/guitarist Graham Brockmiller had hit some awesome passionate vocals.
It’s hard to believe that No have only been together for a year-and-a-half ‘cause they already sound like a band at the peak of their powers. The Echo Park-based Jubilee vets shone on the Sunset stage. The gents wore some dapper getups despite the late-afternoon heat, and got their sizable crowd excited, opening with a powerful version of “Another Life.” Their songs are anthemic, reaching U2-like heights of rock ecstasy. They don’t sound like U2, but they’re that good. They played some great new songs, during which singer Bradley Carter put his arm around bassist Sean Stentz, truly making them feel like a band of brothers. They have a new album coming out soon, and it’s something that we’re definitely looking forward to.
The Bad Things
We were looking forward to the Bad Things based on their first single, “Caught Inside,” but apparently they were a last minute scratch, and didn’t show up.
Tapioca And The Flea
The curiously named Tapioca And The Flea played a strong set inside the Myra stage’s warehouse. Lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist/mastermind Samuel Jacob-Lopez, dressed all in black, looked like a tough street kid but crooned like an angel. The band has some fine melodies in their ‘80s-influenced psychedelic chillwave. Had it been darker inside, they could’ve soundtracked some really romantic moments. Kids in the know were dancing and throwing their hands up in the air, even when they covered a song older than their audience, Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face.” They’ve made a (curious) name for themselves partially through their remixes of some big name artists, but original songs like “Mellotron” sound like the soundtrack to the world’s coolest underwater dance.
Dwntwn were a band that defied expectations. They dressed like they’d play some Jake Bugg-style ‘60s folk rock, but instead, the LA three-piece were purveyors of excellent dreamy synth pop. Singer Jamie Leffler is a captivating frontwoman, with an otherworldly quality that drove the photographers in front of the Sunset stage crazy. Guitarist/keyboardist Robert Cepeda got some ominous bass notes of death out of his synth at the beginning of “Move Me,” before ending it with some Spoon-esque piano bits. Cepeda and Leffler have a sweet “are they or aren’t they” dynamic onstage that goes well with their songs of heartbreak and romance. They ended with the very danceable “Transition,” and were another highlight of the Jubilee.
We were really looking forward to Cayucas based on their great song “Cayucos,” and they delivered on the Sunset stage. The crowd was big, even in the beer garden, to catch their songs that have Paul Simon-esque tropical feel with bits of surf rock. Their rhythms were infectious, and songs like “East Coast Girl” had everyone bobbing their head. You know how sometimes people have their back turned when a band’s playing, or their face buried in a phone? Even *those* people were nodding along, a good indication of how groovy Cayucas were. “Ayawa ‘kya” had some nice funky bass, fitting for a band whose songs deal extensively with island imagery.
“This one’s for all the headbangers,” frontman Zach Yudin announced, before the band dug into a tune that did sound kinda stoner rocky, in a Cayucas way. They followed it up with “Bigfoot,” the title track from their new album, which gave them an “everything more laid back than everything else” vibe. After “Bigfoot,” though, the Sunset stage struck again, knocking out Ben (Zach’s twin brother) Yudin’s bass. During the downtime, Zach told the story behind the excellent “High School Lover,” and asked if he should contact the girl in question on Facebook. The girls in the audience said yeah and the guys said no, but everyone agreed that Cayucas were a lot of fun, and another highlight.
Calvin Love took full advantage of the Myra stage’s ambience, playing a set that rocked the indoor crowd. The jean-jacketed heartthrob made the ladies in attendance swoon with his sweet vocals and catchy guitar playing. Songs like “Waiting On You” sounded livelier and more organic, and thus more romantic than they do on his record, New Radar, and turned the Myra warehouse into a dance for the cool kids. His three-piece backup band, all cool clothes and slick moves, sounded great and provided fine support for the Edmonton, Alberta, native. They weren’t all romance, though, as Love and his band provided the Jubilee’s best dance club moments during hard-charging songs that even had his keyboardist dancing onstage.
The area in front of the Hoover stage was full when Fool’s Gold came on at 8:50pm. They boasted the Jubilee’s best guitar playing, as Lewis Pesacov threw down soulful licks and riffs left and right. The five-piece outfit was funky, with rhythms pounded out by drummer Garrett Ray and percussionist Salvador Placencia. Bassist/bilingual vocalist Luke Top sang mostly in English, on sunny jams that had the crowd moving. Sonically, they were one of the best sounding bands, moving through intricate jams with both tightness and fluidity. A kickdrum intro started off “The Dive,” a highlight of a set that had multi-instrumentalist Brad Caulkins switching from keyboard, to guitar, to some kind of shell-like shaker. Their backbone is rooted in African drumming and rhythms, but at times their guitar attack sounded almost like classic Three Dog Night. Top kept some precise bass lines while singing and flailing his bass in all manner of angles. These guys definitely played a fun set.
At the start of The Drums’ headlining set on Saturday, Jonny Pierce, singer of the Brooklyn-by-way of Florida band announced that it was their first show in eight months, and that they were glad to be back. They opened with “What You Were,” from their sophomore LP, Portmanto, and didn’t even have to try to build excitement. Hands in the crowd were thrusting skyward from the moment they started. There’s a Smiths influence on the Drums sound, and Pierce was particularly Morrissey-esque on the somber-yet-poppy “Best Friend.” “You were my best friend, then you died,” he sang, in a song that he explained was inspired by real events.
The crowd gave the boys a lot of love. Augmented by a bassist and a drummer, The Drums had the audience crowd-surfing. Some songs had programmed bass lines, but they sounded best when their touring bassist Myles Matheny was holding down the bottom end. The drums repeatedly mentioned how much they liked LA and its crowds, and it was obvious that they were sincere. Their set was a big mutual lovefest, with chants of “one more song, one more song!” starting as soon as they finished.
They did come out for an encore, playing one of their best songs, the tender “Down By The Water.” It was a high point of their set, with the second go-round of the chorus being sung entirely by the crowd. By the third chorus, a fan ran onstage and was rushed by security, as the couples in the audience held each other tightly, enjoying the moment, and the weekend that had been.
This year’s Jubilee was not entirely without hiccups — gates opened late, there weren’t any schedules printed out, the Sunset Stage seemingly had a Scooby-Doo villain hanging around sabotaging it with technical difficulties — but it was still fun. The new location gave each stage a different look. Sunset felt a bit too wide open at times, while Hoover’s low stage and natural light gave the sets there the feel of an arthouse performance piece, rather than a rock show. The Myra stage could’ve used some more lights, especially at night, which could’ve given it that extra push into club heaven. The total space was huge, but everything felt divided into small sections. Vendors and food trucks were in front, indoor stages pretty much in the middle, and the main stage in the back. Having a space to relax and sit down between bands (other than an old warehouse floor) would’ve been nice. A really cool bar, Villains Tavern, was directly across the street from the entrance, but wristbands were cut on the second day, and in-and-outs weren’t allowed, so it would’ve been a no-go.
While the streets of Silver Lake did provide some lovely, picturesque backdrops, it’s understandable that they’d want to avoid blocking city streets. Ticket prices increased for the third year in a row, to $50 for a two-day pass. That’s in the I’ll-have-to-think-about-it range now, especially for a fest whose bread and butter is exposing fans to emerging bands and vice-versa. If you only know Black Lips or the Drums, it’s a lot of money to shell out, hoping you’ll find something else to take a chance on. The Jubilee attracted a lot of repeat vendors, fans, and even bands, though, so they must be doing something right. The music’s always been the most important part of any festival, and Jubilee’s always delivered there. Fans will go up to band members after their sets and give props and get autographs. Bands will go watch other bands: HOTT MT was dancing to Fool’s Gold, seemingly everyone was watching the Drums. The Jubilee has always provided a great service to LA’s fans and bands, and, growing pains aside, we’re looking forward to next year, wherever it may be.