The third and final day of Culture Collide had a slew of artists from around the globe descend on Echo Park for what was by far the biggest day of the festival, with nearly fifty performances in nearly twelve hours, spread out over five stages in various venues in the area.
As with the first two days, things got to a slow start as concertgoers trickled in, most venues not seeing what would be constituted a “crowd” until a few hours into the festival. Artists did not seem deterred. L.A.’s Kiven played an early afternoon set of hard radio rock on the World Stage to an audience of little more than twenty, while at the Church, Korean folk singer Big Phony played admittedly “all sad” songs to a congregation of perhaps a dozen. Adeptly finger-picking his nylon strings while invoking lost chances, lost relationships, and fictional sisters, Big Phony’s hilariously self-deprecating banter was a touching counterpoint to such wistful lyrical content and yearning plucky chords reminiscent of Nico’s “These Days”.
While most venues had a revolving roster of musicians from far-flung places, the Echo hosted The Aussie BBQ–ten Australian acts in nine hours and meat pies for sale to boot–styles ranging from synth-pop to stoner surf, the final performance being one-man band Sampology, who at first glance might be mistaken for a DJ, but has no use for turntables. Instead depending on loops, samples, and a vivid digital projection that interacts with and responds to his performance, Sampology builds complex layers blending electronic and analog noise by keeping an ongoing loop. One of his songs starts with clapping his hands into the microphone, and then grows and grows as with equal measure he hits electronic pads and hand percussion, bouncing back and forth between the mic and his laptop.
Taix had a Dutch-themed happy hour between four and six with food and three-dollar tallboys. Performances by Go Back to the Zoo, Taymir, and the synthy two-piece Monokino were lively and energetic, keeping the audience dancing or at least nodding in rhythm as they munched on cheese and Dutch waffles.
Performers like Sampology and Monokino are perfect reminders of the technological aspect of world independent music trends, and how technology shapes music. Culture Collide can be seen as a summit on that matter. Laptops, electronic drum pads, and canned accompaniment was a common theme throughout the festival, but at the same time is not different than what independent music has always been about: doing much with little. With digital technology becoming more and more obtainable and user friendly, it is easier to bring a laptop than a band. Organ-grinding Guadalajara three-piece the Oaths turned the small room at Taix into a loungey dance club with invisible soloists performing alongside them in the form of a glowing Apple logo. This isn’t to say it’s a bad thing–the Oaths brought a happy thudding groove to the tightly packed crowed–but it certainly says something about what’s possible in music, and questions what is ideal.
The World Stage headliner Clap Your Hands Say Yeah played to a relatively large but loose crowd, playing past favorites like “Satan Said Dance” along with newer material from the recently-released “Only Run.” It was a far more chill setting than during the Cloud Nothings set the day before, one major difference being the bleed of sound coming from the back door of the Champagne Room, a stone’s throw from the World Stage, where Canada’s Pup were delivering a blistering performance of hardcore punk, their screaming cover of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” competing with CYHSY’s cool grooves and Alec Ounsworth’s naturally mumbling vocal delivery, which unless you were right up against the front of the stage was more than slightly distracting.
From the World Stage, much of the CYHSY crowd migrated to the Church for an unexpectedly sublime performance of Columbia-based Quantic, which brought a true world-feel to the festival, in a much earthier sense than prevailing electronic presences. To the samba, bossa nova, and cumbia influences that make up Quantic, the packed church congregation was dancing in their seats and in the aisles and wings for a full hour of pure joy in music form. With horns, flute, a wealth of hand percussion, entrancing guitar licks, accordion, Quantic complimented the acoustics of the Church better than most of the larger ensembles to have played it over the past couple days, possibly because of a diminished reliance on electronics. Calling and answering lyrics and literally bouncing their way through midtempo Latin styles, the talented group showcased perfect emotional chemistry as they communed with the sea of smiles clapping and dancing along.
Given that Culture Collide is only five years old, it is possible that the low turnouts are a result of the low profile of the festival. It could also simply be a product of music saturation, both in Los Angeles and within the festival itself, where the choices on the dense schedule are both mysterious and overwhelming. Even the organizers recommend bouncing from one venue to the next, sampling a buffet of what could be “your next favorite band.” Still, it would be nice to see a higher turnout taking an interest in world independent music for what was already a ridiculously low price of thirty dollars at the outset, although wristbands were selling for only ten starting Friday, making it easily the cheapest festival anyone could hope to attend. Hopefully in future years it stays that way.