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This summer in Los Angeles, it seems that many of the local museums in the area have started throwing special concerts in conjunction with their exhibits. The Los Angeles Natural History Museum has thrown many great indie and rock events inside their walls these last few years. KCRW and Annenberg’s Space for Photography, however, have put together an event–in a special looking space–that is truly worth the partnership.
All photography by Pamela Lin
Called KCRW Live at Who Shot Rock & Roll, three different weekends throughout the summer feature special performances to coincide with one of the best collections of rock photography in recent memory. Set next to the Annenberg Space for Photography inside of a descending garden between several of Century City’s largest skyscrapers, a large stage sat beautifully framed between two buildings. This first event was to feature a DJ set by KCRW’s Jason Bentley and both an acoustic set and a DJ set by the endlessly prolific Moby.
For this free RSVP event, what looked like several thousand people stood eagerly in line waiting their chance to get in. $1 parking for the event was filled and closed by 6:30 p.m. before the proper performance even began. Once inside though, the luminous space was worth all the wait, especially at that price. A beautiful summer afternoon that could be described as warm, but in true L.A. fashion nowhere near hot, it was easy to be comfortable just about anywhere in the space. On the terrace above sat the Annenberg space and the event’s namesake Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit.
Inside lay a remarkable collection of some of the most eye-opening portraits and live photography in rock music history. The stellar gems displayed within were too many to take in fully amidst a packed crowd. Some highlights worth mentioning in brief included Jim Marshall’s famous Johnny Cash middle finger, Mark Seliger’s Kurt Cobain cover shot from the month he passed away, a gorgeous shot by Linda McCartney of Paul McCartney’s eyes seen only through a rearview mirror, Anton Cornijn’s shots that became the cover of U2’s The Joshua Tree and even a charming shot of James Brown through the lens of late actor Dennis Hopper. There’s really too much to name. The exhibit is fully worth seeing in person, especially for rare treats like a haunting shadowy picture of Queen’s Freddie Mercury from the early ’80s.
Outside, Moby had just begun what could be called a mostly acoustic set. Sitting, playing an acoustic guitar accompanied by Adrienne Woods on cello, Moby was backed up by three extremely competent female singers: Inyang Bassey, Mindy Jones and Julie Mintz. The quintet performed a variety of songs from largely the late ’90s/early 2000s portion of Moby’s career. Stripped of some of the excesses of Moby’s recent full band shows, these best cuts from his catalog warmly reverberated throughout the open air. “Extreme Ways” sounded lively even with only an acoustic guitar and “Porcelain” drifted as softly as you remember the cut did on record. After a faithful cover of “Me and Bobby McGee,” the group did another excellent cut from Moby’s Play, “South Side.” A playful rendition of “We Are All Made of Stars” came next and a heartfelt performance of Moby’s perhaps best-loved song, “Natural Blues” ended the first set proper. Moby explained to the crowd about how his band were going to do a fake encore, and then promptly wrapped up the first set with an acoustic–but still fully rocking–cover of “Whole Lotta Love.” The song’s histrionic bridge was replaced by a small portion of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”
After that, Moby returned to his DJ set roots and took to a mounted turntable at the rear of the stage. As accomplished as some of his songwriting has been over the years, he’s always been an exciting DJ. Blending the best of four-to-the-floor house music breaks and early ’90s techno rave-ups, for having such a diminutive stage presence with his live band, his DJ sets are commanded with the confidence and fearlessness the best names of the genre exhibit. Within about 20 minutes the large crowd closest to the stage was dancing more feverishly every moment as he guided the tempo through numerous mounting crescendos. As with any straight DJ/house music set, it’s hard to pick out different numbers from a set list standpoint, but the key here was that the second set’s pulse was infectious. As Moby continued layering in electro tracks, the crowd became progressively more enthused, and was thrilled to dance along.
All-in-all, this first event was an impressive day of free entertainment. Next week’s Who Shot Rock & Roll event features Portugal. The Man and will triple as the release party for KCRW’s recently announced T. Rex vs. KCRW Soundclash EP.
All photography by Pamela Lin