The second day of Substance Fest drew in even more of a crowd, and by the time Black Marble took the main stage inside the theater, there was a black sea of attendees as far as the eye could see. Upstairs featured dreamy post-punk acts including HTRK, Lust For Youth, Black Marble and more, while downstairs was like a secret electro-goth dance party with electronic artists like Void Vision, Psyche and Kontravoid.
John Maus took the stage just before midnight and sang over his backtrack, leaving him free of instruments. It would have been nice to see more band members on stage, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind as they sang and danced along to catchy songs like “Teenage Witch” and “Bennington (2007).” A highlight of the night was watching John Maus go hog wild and just run back and forth across the length of the stage while performing the bleak but upbeat “Pets.” The light show was utterly transfixing, with green lasers rising up and down into the crowd while a sea of fog rolled over everyone. Popular songs like “Cop Killer” had everyone taking their phones out for an Insta story.
Black Marble, just coming off their new release Bigger Than Life played to possibly one of their largest crowds, and took the opportunity to play several new songs including “One Eye Open” and “Grey Eyeliner.” This was probably one of the softer sets of the night, but their set had everyone swaying along to the beat. The crowd up front to the right was super friendly, offering high fives, bumps and striking up a conversation. Their sound was a much-needed break from the fury and flashing that was A Place to Bury Strangers.
Wrecked guitars, pounding drums, strobe lights – Brooklyn, NY trio A Place to Bury Strangers’ performance had it all. Oliver Ackermann and Dion Lunadon took turns thrusting their guitars to an upward spin and letting them splat right on the stage. Lunadon performed the rest of the set on a guitar that was broken off just before the strings. The fury of their sound was felt in the audience as a portable strobe light flashed at the audience in complete darkness, causing everyone to squint at the band. It was akin to looking at a car crash – tough to look at, but harder to look away. Songs like “Never Coming Back” crescendoed into a heavy fury with drummer Lia Simone Braswell driving the hard-hitting beat. It was absolutely glorious.
Swedish Duo Lust for Youth’s early set had several highlights, including a guest appearance from Tamaryn for one song and an incredibly drunk young man casually making his way inside the photo pit to hype up the crowd while spilling half his drink. Dreamy, ’80s inspired songs like “New Boys” and “Insignificant” had everyone dancing along.
Boy Harsher played into the wee hours of the night, ending the entire Substance Fest with an hour-long dance party. Meanwhile, Odonis Odonis was playing what sounded like the soundtrack to the end of the world downstairs to an intimate but enthusiastic crowd.
Additional highlights included a strong and dreamy start with the post-punk electronic duo, HTRK, who are fresh off the release of their latest releases Over the Rainbow and Venus in Leo. Crack Cloud’s post-punk dance party complete with sultry sax downstairs between John Maus and Black Marble was another highlight. Ritual Howls played to a packed crowd downstairs with dreamy pink and blue lights gleaming at the audience to go with their heavy set.
Despite huge crowds for Saturday’s acts and fumbling around in complete darkness and fog inside the main theater, Substance Fest left a lasting impression. The fest promised a two-day festival that would “transform the historic Los Angeles Theatre into a tightly curated sonic oasis featuring some of the very best electronic, post-punk and darkwave acts around,” and they certainly accomplished that from setting the mood at the venue to the crowd that it brought in and the virtually seamless performances, minus a failed backtrack or two. This was the first installation of Substance Fest brought to us by Spaceland Presents and Restless Nights, and one can only hope the fest will continue their mission next year.
Photo Credit Raymond Flotat