LA music heads converged on the Eastside Saturday night to help Highland Park PR firm Force Field celebrate its 10th anniversary. The show, a counterpart to an East Coast NYC blow out, blossomed in to a mini festival, lasting in excess of seven hours on two stages, with a collection of nine disparate acts.
The first few hours saw sets alternating from the upstairs Echo, to the downstairs Echoplex, with the final four performances taking place below. Nedelle Torrisi broke the ice shortly after the unenviable set time of 6pm. The crowd was minimal, but her voice rang pure on songs ranging from ballads to soul, heartbreak to lust. She even offered up relationship advice via her “Advice from Paradise” hotline, which doubles as the title of her 2015 release.
Jimmy Whispers, fresh off the plane from his native Chicago, channeled surreal comedic energy in his fearless solo set. Backed by primitive prerecorded tracks, what initially felt like an awkward lounge lizard act soon became earnest and endearing, even when he outro’d one number with Ace of Base’s “The Sign.” Seriously. After stripping down in to a dress, he crowd surfed in an audience that was merely 30 deep. Climbing back on stage, he smashed a dormant drum kit cymbal with his microphone, begging “Lord, save my soul!” It remains unclear exactly what was going on, but Andy Kaufman would have likely been proud of Jimmy.
Meanwhile, Terry Malts played a straightforward, hard-edged punk set that birthed a mini mosh pit. Papercuts incorporated a violin to its dreamy sound, but unfortunately the drowned out vocals from bookish front man Jason Robert Quever gave way to less remarkable moments of boat shoegaze. Dent May must have arrived to Echo Park via Delorean, as his songs were distinctly drawn from the 50s, 60s and 70s. An occasional synth reminded attendees of later decades, including the instrument’s more recent reemergence. Doo-wop, marionette front man dance moves and angular bass lines all played in to the schizophrenic set. It was a retro buffet, but well played. One section of “Born Too Late” sounded stolen from The Bends.
Sonny and the Sunsets broke out maracas during their memorable “Check Out”. Similar to Dent May, the band’s sound was tight and clean, fueled by strong vibes of decades past.
La Sera’s relatively tame, Ryan Adams-produced recent release Music For Listening To Music To belied their live ethos. Short bangers were packed to the gills with flurries of punches. This sonic shadowboxing contained a barrage of guitar shredding, certain to make DRA proud. There were semi-pauses for country-infused lighter numbers, but by the end of the set, Katy Goodman was strangling her guitar down in the pit, husband Todd Wisenbaker doing the same on stage.
Colorful stage lights came alive for the goth fuzz rock of Wax Idols. Triumphant end jams were surprising to those expecting darker turns towards the macabre. Front woman Heather Fortune played a seldom seen twelve-string electric guitar that rang fully throughout their set. The call and response vocals and slow build of “Goodbye Baby” finally broke open and achieved a unique swagger.
By the time the most aptly named Lightning Bolt started the final set, it was just around midnight. Six hours down the rabbit hole is a long ways, no matter how compelling performances have been. Thus Bolt’s absolute sledgehammer between the eyes appearance that jolted the faithful as if by chemical ingestion, was welcome. The duo toed a line that could have easily gone awry. But it didn’t. Both melodic and deafening, the set was artful rage. They played as if they were chasing down the imminent time change, and somehow it felt like they almost caught up with the lost hour.
Drummer Brian Chippendale wore a rubber mask with a built in microphone. His distorted vocals were sparse but effective, at times warping into digital loops. His drumming was mesmerizing and scary. Think Danny Carey, Bane, and cocaine. Of many, the night’s truest highlight came after Lightning Bolt exited. The fans down in front began to rhythmically pound the stage, echoing the sounds just put down by the band. In no time, it evolved in to a full-on coherent drum circle beat. Although it is not known if an encore was actually planned, the pounding summoned Chippendale back out. Instead of mounting the kit, he knelt behind it and submitted to the communal moment, he too beating the shit out of the stage. In the wee and waning hours, it was a moment of live music at its absolute primal best.
(Photo Credit: Owen Ela)