Every year, artists from all over the world trek to Los Angeles’s music mecca Echo Park for Filter Magazine’s Culture Collide festival. This year’s lineup promised quite the mix with Australia’s Miami Horror, Denmark’s The Ravonettes and Germany’s King Khan and the Shrines and many more taking up the larger part of the bill. With musicians gracing eight different stages between six separate venues, including Echo Park United Methodist Church, Saturday proved to be quite a diverse experience. Exploring the stages allowed concert-goers to enjoy a wide array of musical acts, venues, and languages from various countries. Versatility certainly set the tone for the weekend.
Taix French Restaurant served as the hub for the festival. Attendees could pick up wristbands, grab a taco or two, get coiffed at the New Amsterdam barber tent, sip on some Red Bull and alternate between its three stages: Front Lounge, Champagne Room and the World Stage outside behind the restaurant.
As the sun set over Echo Park, Mumiy Troll (literal translation “the mummies’ troll”) from east Pacific Russia took to the stage with palpable fury. Their upbeat tunes were fun to move to and the fact that their lyrics alternated between English and Russian kept things interesting. Their new-wavey pop rock style was effortlessly danceable and lively. Though a light crowd peppered in and out, the Trolls delivered quite an entertaining set that would please just about anyone. For the last song, singer Ilya Lagutenko ‘s high kicks and jumps all while making the silliest cheer faces were just icing on the quirky cake. The keyboardist donned a polar bear headpiece which added even more silliness and whimsy to the mix. Their lighthearted approach was effortlessly fitting at Culture Collide, a festival bringing characters of all shapes, sizes and nations together.
Inside the Taix Champagne Room next door, The Deer Tracks, from Sweden, subsequently took over. Singer Elin Lindfors’s snow-white hair and blood red lips made it hard to look away as she whaled and whined over the electronic beats. Their twinkly music became more intense with every bump and slam of the free-standing drums. Employing the likes of keyboards, melodica, xylophone, cymbals and theramin created a unique orchestra between the small group. It was ambitious for them to mix so many instruments, but somehow it worked. The receptive crowd herded toward the sweet, romantic sounds, uninhibited. Lindfor’s versatility with instruments was equally matched by her expansive vocal range. At times, she howled over the electronic buzzes, and other parts of the set were calmed by her smooth, classic voice on the level of Billie Holiday. Deer Tracks’ set was utterly dreamy and mystical.
Meanwhile, Echo Park locals NO brought a large following outside at the World Stage. Their music has commonly been compared to The National due to its slow melodies, deep, heavy bass lines and dry vocals. Accompanied by a light twangy guitar, the singer’s low voice captivated onlookers and they nodded their heads with approval. Putting it simply, listening to their music live felt like floating on a cloud. Light taps of the tambourine provided an anticipatory effect, building toward the lighter, airy parts of their songs. The singer encouraged the crowd to sing along to the intro of their last song “Hold On” because, as he so eloquently put it, “I want to teach you.” This was indeed a learning experience.
Back inside the Chamgpagne Room, Vicente Gayo changed the game completely. Their fast and loud electro-punk rock slapped audience members in the face with raw energy. This was the kind of music that made people’s bones vibrate with every kick of the drums. Odd as it may have sounded, their best imaginary comparison was a rough classic rock sound like a Mexican Wolfmother with an electro flair comparable to The Rapture. Though the crowd filled out with mostly male fans, a few women held their own rocking out in the pit. The frontman proved to be rather multitalented as he not only switched between Spanish and English, but also between a myriad of instruments from guitar to the keys. Gayo’s spicy attitude added the perfect fiery flavor to heat up the night.
The party continued back at the World Stage as King Khan and the Shrines erupted a blazing dance session. The eight-piece band clad in silver and grey brought back that fun, silly vibe to Taix’s backyard. At face value, their capes, sequins and ridiculous dance moves led people to believe that they were a band straight out of The Wedding Singer‘s casting rejections; but their flare was a decoy. With a swift start breaking straight into “Outta Harm’s Way,” it quickly became apparent that they had so much to bring to the table-– their music was fun, dancy and universally likeable. The horns brought just the right amount of funk to get the crowd shaking, and their groovy dance moves were all too entertaining. Bringing the soul of James Brown, King Khan blended a new genre into the rather eclectic mix that Culture Collide provided.
The big ticket item of the night was undoubtedly Rhye’s performance at The Church. If waiting in a two (or more) hour line that wrapped around the block sounded like a good way to spend the night, then folks subscribing to that notion were most likely standing there twiddling their thumbs and people watching, all while hoping to catch a glimpse of the sweet melodic poetry that Rhye produces. Truthfully, with all of the band’s appearances this year, time was better spent exploring other parts of the festival, especially the magic that simultaneously transpired down the street below The Echo.
Just a few blocks from the hub of it all was the other major player in the gam-– Red Bull Sound Select. Yes, Red Bull called Echoplex home for the weekend. It housed strong acts such as multiple appearances of Miami Horror, Gliss, Heliotropes, The Ravonettes, Mystery Skulls and more, making this venue a choice place to set up camp in the latter of each evening. Toward the close of Saturday’s festivities, power alternative rock female group Heliotropes brought a lot of passion to the stage. Singer and guitarist Jessica Numsuwankijkul sounded like an Asian Courtney Love while here vocal counterpart Amber Myers swung about, slapping her tambourine like there was no tomorrow. Indeed, they had the right energy to keep the night moving. They brought a fuzzy psych rock edge that was exactly what the crowd needed. People rose to their feet, and the room filled out quickly. Numsuwankijkul’s joke of the night was that each song was “about taking a bath with Gwyneth Paltrow.” This mention got one last good laugh from onlookers as the ladies polished off their set. The frontwoman wailed on her guitar, channeling her inner fem Hendrix and keeping the grunge alive.
From new wave to punk and funk, Filter’s Culture Collide festival was the perfect intermingling of music that spans the vast spectrum of genres. Witnessing various foreign artists perform reinforced the concept that good music can be found anywhere. What a better way to explore all of it than to have it brought to Los Angeles’ front door, and all in one weekend? Here’s hoping that next year’s event can hold a candle to 2013’s legacy.