It can be easy to be unobservant of what is going on in other countries, especially in America where much of the world’s music, film, and other entertainment exports originate. In a stroke of Twilight Zone-esque genius Filter Magazine has turned the table on those odds and brought bands from all over the world to Los Angeles where they are taking part in the third annual Culture Collide Festival. As shops, restaurants, and a church surrounding Echo Park are transformed into music venues, Angelenos are getting the chance to soak up some culture and rock out internationally during this four day concert series.
As the ambient psychedelic sounds of electronic samples layer behind a single guitar saunter gracefully down Sunset Boulevard, Touchy Mob kicks off Culture Collide weekend at Origami Vinyl, drawing a small crowd of passer-bys into the narrow record store with their siren song. The Radiohead-esque electronics of singer/producer Ludwig complement the acoustic portion of his performance. Onlookers were amazed to find that the multi-instrumentalist was playing the lovely music they had been hearing all by his lonesome.
The four piece rock band from Singapore, Monster Cat, is Origami’s next act, and while some pedestrians proceed down the street to continue their day, many stay, and the audience soon spills into the street. Monster Cat performs a soft variety of indie rock with no special catch or novelty to set them apart from the pack. That’s not to say that they aren’t skilled musicians – in fact, they sound fantastic. Unfortunately there is nothing specifically special or standout about this band except for their lighting technician, who did a brilliant job with the visuals and kicked an “okay” show up to “pretty good” status.
While waiting for the next show, I have the privilege of speaking with three charming blonde gentlemen from the Netherlands. Through murky English, they tell stories about adventures in distant lands. They are kind, sincere, and devilishly handsome; everything Hanson wishes they were. It’s not until they take the stage that I realize they are Go Back to the Zoo, Origami’s final performing band. Their acoustic set is heartfelt and warming – everything you would expect from the a band with their demeanor.
The Echo Park Methodist Church is the next venue participating in Culture Collide and one of the strangest venues participating in the festival. Noticeably some of the quieter bands performed here, including USA locals Drug Cabin, whom have obvious country roots with smooth and mellow harmonies integrated into their well considered songs.
Back at the French Restaurant Taix, which serves as Culture Collide HQ, Sweden’s favorite three piece outfit Immanu El packs in the bar with their enticing range of indie rock, shoegaze, and, oh yes, post-rock. Although their chill performance is among the more ambient at Culture Collide, it is sonically very powerful.
I was excited to hear Italy’s Boxeur and the Coeur sound check over at the Echo. Even from outside the venue it was immediately obvious that their choice of electronic soundscapes would be a unique one. While their show did consist of a well balanced blend of synths, vocoding, and analogue midi with subtle glitches, the track-for-track mixing was disappointingly clunky. Good music, but the showmanship left something to be desired.
I’ve previously stated that modern audience simply cannot be entertained by watching a band play their instruments on stage without a visual component to a performance. I would like to retract that statement after witnessing one of the standout performances of the evening, given by The Balconies. This Canadian three piece sibling band tore down the house with the raw energy they gave off from every single song. The drummer pounds away like he is in his own universe. The guitarist wails away all across the stage with the confidence of Page. Their singer is a powder keg of kink and angst, emanating punk, hard rock, and even a little soft rock in which she brings out her feminine alter ego for a solo. Mark my words; 30 years from now, The Balconies will be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While many bands at the festival are relatively new, Blood Red Shoes count themselves amongst the veterans and it shows. Yet another band that can easily fill an empty room, this duo from Brighton, England plays some of the best UK alt. garage rock out there. Their songs make you want to dance and mosh at the same time with unprecedented energy and emotion. Although Blood Red Shoes does very closely resemble Arctic Monkeys in sound and style, they do it much better.
Closing Day 1 of the festival at Taix is Tribes, who should not be confused with the ’80s American rock band, Tribe, and have made a number of appearances in LA in recent years where they are presently recording their second album. This four piece plays a standout brand of indie rock in the over saturated rock n’ roll market. Their use of layered vocals, guitar harmonies, and phenomenal drumming really gives them a synergy which a lot of contemporary bands are lacking.
As day one of Filter’s Culture Collide comes to a climatic close, even the rockstars return home to rest up for the remainder of the festival. There three more full days of amazing international music left and after getting a taste of the talent, no one wants to be left behind because of a little jet lag. If you are reading this and still debating whether you want to fork out the $20 for a Culture Collide all access day pass, for the love of music and world peace, go do it now!