My first order of business at Culture Collide Festival this year was to chat with the lovely trio from Sleep Thieves, whose music has been haunting me in the best way possible. They had set up in The Church, a stage located in the Methodist Church of Echo Park, and from there we looped around looking for a quiet spot to talk away from any active stages, until we ended up right back where we started. There is no room for quiet here, and to presume otherwise was offensively naïve (we did end up having a fascinating talk about giving creativity room to breathe and digital music and such and it’s coming next week).
Culture Collide Festival returned to Echo Park for a fifth year with some exciting off-screen developments. The festival split with Filter Magazine and handled the breakup by having crazy weekends in both San Fran and NYC. So for the first time this year, Culture Collide Festival toured to San Francisco and New York, taking its international line-up with it.
Meanwhile, the scene at Taix French Restaurant, the festival’s central hub, still felt as much like home as ever to Culture Collide regulars this past weekend. Its cozy corridors and closely-situated satellite venues filled with band members, press, and Echo Park locals merrily sampling stages alongside one another, making for delightful and often unexpected discovery adventures.
Let’s take a stroll through the highlights:
Long before you saw them, you heard them. South Korea’s From the Airport are a dynamic two-man show whose sound could be heard on the opposite side of the building. Part funk, part rap and nearly all digital, they directed the emotional flow of the room from two keyboards, a pair of mixers, a laptop and a guitar, which had presumably left no room for much of anything else in their luggage. With projected static washing over them and the Culture Collide logo behind them, Milo and Zee kept everything else on stage simple, save, of course, for the sunglasses. Their set included the song that brought the recognition, 2012’s “Colors”, and ended with “Flying Walls,” a single which is about to be released.
Down the street at Lot 1 Café, The Kokoro offered the breathy female vocals of Lee Triffon and keytar player Adi Feher interspersed with bursts of EDM, a tribal and futuristic mashup complete with geometric jewelry over abstract animal print leotards (with the latter reminiscent of last year’s femme fatale Louise Kahn of Terry Poison’s outfit… Tel Aviv seems to be deep into a spandex phase).
At the beginning of Echo Park locals’ Rainbow Jackson’s set at the Taix Champagne Room on Saturday (“we’re from right down the fucking street!”), there were sixteen people in the room who were not on stage, counting their sound guy. They rocked until the latecomers wandered in as though it made no difference, and by the time “Nightcrawler” took over the room, they had everyone hooked.
Listening to Sleep Thieves is akin to being lost in an enchanted forest at night. The Dublin-based three-piece produces layers upon layers of self-recorded sound which feels as though it expands to surround the listener. Vocalist and synthesizer player Sorcha Brennan stands before a gathering in the Lot 1 Café, her voice as melodic and sad live as on the recording as she sings “City of Hearts,” while behind her Keith Byrne and Wayne Fahy play and produce the music to match using synths, mixers and a drum pad.
“I felt that I was half alive/I counted twenty-four, twenty-five/I wanted/I wanted not to be lonely but still alone.” She dances lost in the moment, swaying trance-like among the echoes and reverberations, looking up at an envisioned sky, beckoning us to join her. She steps off the stage and dances facing it, like a member of the audience, taking it all in.
A seemingly keen ability to swing between tough and sweetly naïve is only part of what makes TKAY Maidza a force. With a sharp tongue and a two-year career under her belt, the eighteen-year-old rapper has been described as a second coming of Azelia Banks, and her song “U-Huh” had everybody’s attention during her set for Saturday’s Australian BBQ line-up at the Echo. With hip-length hair and black muffin top platform sneakers, the stage was hers. She didn’t just rap to the beat, she embodied it. Her every movement anticipated it, and it invigorated her. Before her last song, she smiled out at the crowd. “Shout out to everyone dancing up here in the front!”
Once the last primal scream was issued from the stage, it felt only fitting close the book on 2014’s Culture Collide and begin processing what had just happened.
Other highlights of the weekend include The Delta Riggs, Clap Your Hands Say Year, and Nina Personn, among others. Stay tuned, more on them to come…
Words by Bojana Sandic
Photography by David Reeve