It may not have earned a mention yesterday, however, the makeup of the crowd bears worth mentioning. As noted yesterday, Adult Swim has made its name as a haven for odd folk, both through its programming and marketing. At the show it becomes clear that this has worked effectively as any normally dressed attendee will be bombarded with swarms of people in “Legalize Ranch” and “Rick and Morty” shirts, and that’s to say nothing of the hundreds of attendees that came in costumes of Pickle Rick and various other references to the channel’s programming. Yet as weird as it may have been, at the very least those confident enough to get weird certainly seemed to be enjoying the show.
The second day of the festival had a much more intense focus on aggression, while yesterday mostly focused on trippy, acid-induced music, with the notable exceptions of High on Fire and Mastodon. Today featured hardcore outfit Code Orange, Metal standouts Power Trip and multiple aggressive hip-hop acts that more than set the tone for the day. Kicking off the run of high-intensity acts was Power Trip, who delivered a high octane set chock full of crowd-pleasing tracks like “Nightmare Logic” and “Soul Sacrifice” that called to mind memories of their excellent tour with Sheer Mag. While it was fairly early in the day, the crowd that was there showed their stripes with numerous rowdy mosh pits, providing that even the costumed weirdos of Adult Swim fest were capable of throwing down when it really counted.
If people were having a tough time keeping pace with the madness that Power Trip provided then Code Orange wasn’t going to offer much of a reprieve. While their style was definitively less “metal” than that of Power Trip, their hardcore punk bend made it more likely for a mosh pit to break out at any minute. And break out it did, time and time again as the furious breakdowns of “Forever” and “Bleeding in the Blur” continued to pummel the eardrums of the rabid audience. Code Orange also took advantage of the captive audience to play some newer cuts off of their three-song EP The Hurt Will Go On, which were all met with raucous applause. Despite being a pretty early set time it turned out to be one of the more energetic sets of the night, proving that with the right audience a hardcore band will always bring down the house.
After a long hiatus period featuring comedy acts by Jon from “Delocated” and Jen Friedman, $uicideBoy$ unfortunately canceled their set at the Calico stage leaving a noticeable gap in the schedule.
After the long empty period (which they filled with a brand new cartoon “12 oz. Mouse”) Kamaiyah took over at the Tabby stage. Though before her set, audience members were distracted by what appeared to be a rocket launch that commandeered the night sky for a few minutes. Once she stepped on though she commanded the attention of the festival with her classic west coast vibes and well-choreographed dance routines. She played a number of standout tracks over her 40 minute set including “Out the Bottle” and “How Does it Feel” and conducted herself with a confidence that well exceeded her amount of time in the game. Outside of Code Orange, she by far had the best crowd engagement of the show and was able to start a number of call and response bits before launching into new material. Her new material was a g-funk laden track called “G-Thang” that is sure to gain a ton of fans and make big waves in hip-hop when it ends up dropping.
After her set wrapped up there was a brief intermission to set up on the same stage before the crowd happily welcomed Big Freedia who was coming in hot off her much acclaimed 3rd Ward Bounce. The song “Rent” would turn into a centerpiece of her set but most notable of all was her excellence as a performer. At this point in the festival, absolutely no one had matched her energy, she turned the crowd into more of a ravenous cheering section than a traditional concert audience, and they clung to her every word as she hurled herself about the stage delivering just the hits. Between songs she confidently regaled the audience with myriad stories about making the album and her gratefulness for the success of her latest record. Yet the highlights remained her boundless, infectious energy that made her one of the most engaging acts of the night.
Now onto the strangest moment of the night, if not the whole show. Between the various strange cartoons and the out of field acts, there was a high bar to clear. However, nothing would top the Musical Ricksperience. A musical number focused on the hit show “Rick and Morty,” the show was a live rendition of some of the shows biggest hits as played by the Hollywood Chamber orchestra. First, they launched into the opening but between each track, they would play fan favorite portions of the cartoon, though many found themselves briefly distracted by Don Hertzfeldt’s “Rejected Cartoons” being projected on the warehouse nearby. All in all, it felt like it would be more like the Hollywood Bowl where a live orchestra conducts a show, and in some respects it was, but the amount of music present in the show was rather unlike a film. Though overall it was a fun experience and was certainly comical seeing no less than two thousand people gathered to watch a live orchestrated cartoon. After the first episode played, Chaos Chaos joined the orchestra for a second performance, which was more of them singing with Rick and Morty playing in the background, which, while more in line with a fest, definitely garnered fewer laughs than the previous iteration of the performance. After Chaos Chaos finished up, John Roberts (Linda of “Bob’s Burgers”) and Brandon Johnson (Mr. Goldenrod of “Rick and Morty”) came onstage to sing a song about Scary Terry, which was met with loud cheers and rapturous laughter from the crowd before the set closed up.
As the oddity of the night subsided, the phenomenal Neko Case took the opposite stage. It was admittedly a bit of a surprise to see her this high on the lineup, though, given her impeccable track record of albums and her recent, highly acclaimed release Hell On, it was only a matter of time. Her staging was one of the more unique setups of the night, containing what looked to be giant styrofoam boulders dangling from the rigging above the stage. She mostly played material from her latest record, including “Hell-On” and the location appropriate “Curse of the I-5 Corridor,” though more popular tracks “I Wish I Was the Moon” and “Atomic Number” also made appearances in the setlist. The crowd seemed to give her decent support, though it was hard not to notice that many of them were likely hanging on to get to the final act of the night, Run the Jewels. But it’s hard to imagine that her excellent set didn’t snag her at least a few new fans.
Wisely closing out the show was Run the Jewels, a group that not only has run with Adult Swim since day one but are also known for their electric live shows. After having played Los Angeles most recently to a half empty, half dead Staples Center before Lorde took the stage, they were out for redemption, and good lord did they find it. The set, which consisted of smash hits “Blockbuster Night Part II” and “Don’t Get Captured” among others, absolutely blew the crowd apart, and “Call Ticketron” had the most exceptional crowd participation of the evening. Where Mastodon had difficulty keeping attendees from leaving after Flying Lotus wrapped up, RTJ showed no such issues. The dynamic duo of Killer Mike and El-P kept the audience captive right up until the closing moments of their set, which should be noted, went until midnight on a Sunday in Los Angeles, a city notorious for having people leave events early simply to avoid traffic. In any case, they proved themselves to be the most exciting act of the night, and perfectly capable of carrying the headlining spot of a mid-level festival with nary an issue.
Yesterday it was mentioned that this festival is doing it right in a lot of places where new festivals are doing it wrong. In essence, this feels like the next true wave of festivals, an experience far more focused on a brand identity than a massive outreach. As more and more major festivals seek to become commercial tentpoles, events like the Adult Swim festival and Camp Flog Gnaw show the increasing viability of both a more curated show and a show with a greater focus on fan experiences over a purely high profile set of artists. With this show, it finally feels like the future is here.
Photo Credit: Owen Ela