On a warm sunny day in Downtown Los Angeles the LA Weekly held a festival all it’s own to usher in the fall. Bearing the title “LA Weekly Detour Festival,” an outstanding lineup of quality alternative music showed up to rock the unlikely location. In comparison to Indio’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, which is a long journey to reach even for LA residents, Detour was a well-executed day of fun not requiring camping or hotels.The day started with pop-rock outfit Everybody Else on the City Hall East Stage. Lead singer/guitar player Carrick Moore Gerety carried the band with soft pleasant vocals, while bass player Austin Williams dropped chunky basslines. Drummer Mikey McCormack’s addition of keyboards on “In Memoriam” helped spice things up a bit, but overall this was the least exciting part of the day.
On the far more compelling side, Wired All Wrong (a joint project between former members of God Lives Underwater and sElf, Jeff Turzo and Matt Mahaffey respectively) generated bombastic energy on the Second Street Stage. The group made the best possible use of a neo-electro-industrial rock last seen commonly in the mid-nineties. The band made a small effective gimmick out of dressing as if coming directly to the show from a science lab â€šÃ„Ã¬ Matt Mahaffey bounced and sang opener “15 Minutes” in a full lab coat and carrying a fake beaker of yellow liquid.
Mahaffey joked it was the, “first time leaving our research facility.” Wired All Wrong also cleverly included a foursome of ponytailed, lab-coat-wearing girls with thick-rimmed glasses that divided their time between investigating fake figures on clipboards and singing backup vocals.
The girls’ presence was a nice touch, providing both eye candy and helping to brighten WAW’s sound just a smidge on boogie-inducing tracks such as “You’re Freaking Me Out Girl.” Hopefully a gimmick they’ll continue to play with, that combined with the glitchy beats and infectious riffs might be enough to spark a resurgence of the lost style.
At the apex of the midday sun Of Montreal took the stage sporting an elaborate series of costumes, wigs and umbrellas. The group marched under their umbrellas like toy soldiers from the Nutcracker. Lead singer/guitar player Kevin Barnes shared a healthy chug of wine before opening with the funky upbeat tune “So Begins Our Alabee.”
Kevin led Of Montreal through spirited renditions of material mostly from either Satanic Panic in the Attic or last year’s The Sunlandic Twins as well as a few tracks from next year’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer. Strongest amidst the playlist were the alterna-pop of “Forecast Fascist Future,” the crawling-fuzz bass of “Oslo in the Summertime” and the surf-pop-rock of “Disconnect the Dots.”
A considerably large crowd had gathered for the band’s performance (no small feat for such an early timeslot). Barnes’ flamboyant stage attire â€šÃ„Ã¬ either a frilly red shirt with a green miniskirt, or a pair of jean-short hotpants â€šÃ„Ã¬ along with the band’s peppy brand of indie rock, drew much enthusiasm from the fans. It was a performance foreshadowing bigger things to come for the band. They have a unique sense of style and a doggedly original approach to music. Whether through electronics, straight-ahead rock or dance-party funk what stands out are the innovative and catchy songs. All of which are memorable and infectious in the best possible way. “The Party’s Crashing Us” closed off the impressive set with its neo-electro-disco melody as Barnes’ sang, “I only feel alright when the VU’s flashing / bomb’s going off in my head / I want to grab you / want to scream at you no icing me down / the party’s crashing us now.”
On the opposite end of the festival, Blackalicious were already midway through their set. Primary MC Gift of Gab stood predominantly still, but rhymed with such finesse, the crowd was enraptured. From the “la di da / da di da ” sing-along of “Deception,” to the “Freeze / Stand still / Move!” command of “Your Move,” it was hard not to boogie, even with the afternoon sun bearing down. Gift of Gab kept the pace fresh by varying tactics through the duration. He engaged in a in a tempo-juggling, manic freestyle rap with the group’s keyboardist at one point, while leading separate halves of the crowd in chants of “Party over here / fuck y’all over there!” to see which side was the loudest.
Chief Xcel manned the decks in the back, chiming in sporadically to punctuate certain phrases, but more importantly keeping the music lively and spontaneous enough to fair better than queued up samples or backing tracks. By the end, the crowd clamored for their favorite song, “Chemical Calisthenics,” and they got it, in all its lightning-fast phonetic glory.
The Blood Arm were up next at the Second Street Stage. Playing a distinctive early 70s brand of pop punk, lead singer Nathaniel Fregoso vaulted off the stage into the crowd during, “Do I Have Your Attention?” meandering about until pretending to collapse for a short time in the grass by the side of the stage. The band worked hard to win over the crowd, employing as much energy and stage presence as they could muster.
Further down the lot at the unlikely venue of St. Vibiana’s Church, the cooperative DJ duo of Steve Aoki and Blake Miller drew a sudden crowd under their moniker Weird Science.
With flyers boasting, “communion begins at 6 pm” littering the church, the duo seem determined to push the “church” metaphor into their performance. As the two DJs dropped an extra dance-y version of Bloc Party’s “Helicopter” into their mix, a gaggle of suspiciously young-looking girls dressed as nuns with sunglasses took center stage.
Directly next-door Blake Sennett and the Elected were taking the stage a little behind schedule. Starting with the somber country of “A Response to Greed,” Sennett sang softly, “I measure them all / all against you” accompanied by pedal steel slide guitar.
The band picked up the pace only slightly with their second song, the anthemic “Not Going Home.” With only minutes to spare, it was now time to head back to the City Hall East Stage for Basement Jaxx.
British left-field electronica act Basement Jaxx (Felix Buxton, Simon Ratcliffe) took the stage with a full band in tow. The band played a strong mix of material from many of their albums including “Good Luck” and “Right Here’s the Spot” from Kish Kash, “Romeo” and “Where’s Your Head At” from Rooty, “Take Me Back To Your House” and “Hey U” from their newest album Crazy Itch Radio and “Jump N’ Shout” and “Red Alert” from Remedy.
Felix Buxton stood behind a mountain of keyboard, adding brief backing vocals to various tunes while a slew of vocalists took turns singing.
The group’s latin-influenced dance music was a lively way to usher in the evening. The crowd enthusiastically shuffled and shook in a giant mass of energy. And although critical observations would have one thinking the more recent Basement Jaxx material is a step beneath their older work, the audience failed to make such a distinction. They responded with equal fervor to the songs from Crazy Itch Radio and Rooty.
On the opposite end, technical difficulties were delaying the start of Peeping Tom’s set. Bandleader Mike Patton stormed around the stage with a Stage Manager trying to properly route sound through an earpiece. Eventually, fixing the problem was abandoned in favor of starting the show. A short hooded figure took the stage and revealed himself to be Danny DeVito. DeVito introduced the band stating it was time for, “the genius of Mike Patton, Peeping Tom!”
Patton’s manic energy was in full form on this night. Quite possibly the biggest spot yet for the project on a tour or festival, Mike worked extra hard to keep the crowd revved up, often demanding, “Put your hands up” or “let’s see those middle fingers!” Bootleg-only available cover song “Desperate Situation” opened their performance with its joyous pulse and incendiary refrain, “Your love is gone / your love is gone / a desperate situation.” “Don’t Even Trip” was smooth and effortless, and “How U Feelin?” enraptured through rapid-fire wordplay.
Single “Mojo” brought just enough familiarity (and a solid rock foundation) to help connect with casual fans checking out the fuss, but the best numbers played in this performance were “Kill The DJ” and “Your Neighborhood Spaceman.” The trip-hop quasi-dub guitar combined with Patton’s siren-like wail of “play me!” on “Kill The DJ” was enough to incite onlookers to bob their head emphatically. On the other hand, Patton showed true skill in the soulful melodies of “Your Neighborhood Spaceman,” offsetting the blissful hooks with the snarling rap in the song’s chorus.
The show ended with the one-two punch of “We’re Not Alone (Remix)” (the only less-than-stellar rendition for the band on this night) and the sinister seductiveness of “Sucker” (notoriously the song Norah Jones sings on the self-titled album). Mike Patton’s relentless experimentations are in stark contrast to this group. Just a year or two ago, he was heading up a stage at Coachella with some of his noisiest, most abrasive material that Fantomas has to offer, yet here he seemed just as comfortable. It’s good to see an artist as challenging as Patton back in the limelight. Patton questioned the crowd on whether they were going to check out Beck’s puppets, and shouted, “after this let’s all go run and check out some fucking puppets!”
In an alcove in the back of stage center a miniature puppet theater was set up for Beck’s performance. The multitudes in attendance screamed as the opening lines to Beck’s first huge hit “Loser” began. However, the band pantomiming these words was a gaggle of puppets controlled by puppeteers. Cameramen filmed the bouncing figures, which were piped instantly over a massive-projected backdrop. At just the moment the second chorus would begin, the real Beck and his band took the stage and jumped right into actually playing the classic 90s track.
Beck pulled out all the stops in this performance. A veritable Greatest Hits collection of songs greeted the eager fans. “E-Pro,” “Que Onda Guero?” and “Girl” from last year’s Guero as well as “Nausea,” “1000BPM” and “We Dance Alone” from this year’s The Information had Beck’s trademark mix of hip-hop, folk and electronica, playful enough to invoke dancing, yet still innovative enough to seem revolutionary.
Even though the newer material had a touch more futuristic beats and electronics (a la neo-underground hip-hop), the vintage material had patience and grace. The retro-soul of “Devil’s Haircut” and the re-imagined 80s rap of “Where It’s At” from 1994’s masterpiece Odelay was positively stirring. “Where It’s At” specifically played like a forgotten friend showing up for a sudden visit; it was a comforting and heart-warming feeling just to hear the opening keyboard notes.
The gears then shifted, as Beck’s band left their instruments and placed a makeshift dinner table in front of the mini puppet theater. The band toasted by clanging ornate wine glasses, and Beck strapped on an acoustic guitar for the somber folk of Sea Change’s “The Golden Age.” After a few moments, the song shifted into an acoustic jam on “Clap Hands,” where the band members used the tableware/glassware as percussion. Riding the medley, Beck even through in few choice bars of his classic “One Foot in the Grave” before shifting back into “Clap Hands.” Beck and co. then left the stage briefly before returning for their encore, allowing for a hilarious video to play above stage. The “puppet” Beck narrated a journey around the Detour Festival joking with fans in attendance about vintage gear and custom t-shirts. The video continued with another hysterical story: Snakes on a Bus. In homage to the recent Snakes on a Plane, Beck and his band were systematically bumped off by a group of giant puppet snakes that took over their tour bus. The fans loved every moment of it.
Last up was the straight-ahead stoner rock of Josh Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age. For a band that not too long ago had not only Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan amongst its ranks, but also Dave Grohl (and since parted ways with all 3), it makes one wonder whether the band has lost a bit of what made them so successful. The truth is, the band appears remarkably unscathed. Granted, the set was absent of tracks such as Oliveri’s “Six Shooter” and “Another Love Song,” or Lanegan’s stellar contributions to “Hangin’ Tree” and “God Is In the Radio,” however it didn’t really matter. The melodic singles (“In My Head,” “No One Knows”) carried the hooks, while the darker material (“Better Living Through Chemistry,” “Songs for the Deaf”) thrashed with gripping power.
Homme, guitarist/keyboard player Troy Van Leeuwen and drummer Joey Castillo bounded through the menacing ZZ Top cover “Burn the Witch” one moment, and the next delivering “I Never Came” with spirit and urgency. The band also has the distinction of arguably the best moment on the day. The few short minutes of Songs for the Deaf’s epic “Go With The Flow” were nothing short of inspiring; somehow the song is impossibly simple, yet uplifting like the best of U2’s material. Queens of the Stone Age had just the right amount of edge at the end of the evening to balance this day out properly. The LA Weekly did a fantastic job putting this Detour Festival together. Hopefully, it’ll be the first of many to come.