Culture Collide 2014 Takes The LA Hipster Around the World in 3 Days
The Los Angeles music scene has been hell bent in years past on showcasing local music and the result has been big buzz around some Echo Park bands with a lot of the same indie sounds and a lot of the same super-tight skinny jeans, grandpa sweaters, black-rimmed glasses and indifferent stares. Despite its setting at the center of hip in LA and the distinct lack of marketing this year, Culture Collide featured a crowd and music that pulled away from that focus and threw those few souls in LA who actually cared to explore into an entire world of cultures and genres, and some of the best bands of 2014.
To be fair, its lack of crowds was a refreshing take on a festival, one where I wasn’t getting elbowed in the face just to get a look at a band and one where it seemed fashion was less the focus and the music itself was the most important thing to people.
Coming down to Echo Park, you’d never suspect a music festival was even taking place: it’s quieter than usual with overcrowded brunch places oozing with groups of bed-head twenty-somethings dressed in their vintage best. But slip into the Echo and you’ve found a new breed of hipster has landed just for the weekend: the shaggy-haired Australians have perfected the look of even tighter ripped skinny jeans (if that were possible), suave black motorcycle boots and boater hats. They cared less about their indifferent looks and more about supporting every musician that crossed the stage and the spectrum of those musicians was remarkable.
Phebe Starr with her orange hair, huge pixie eyes and bright blue lipstick took the stage early on Saturday and though the crowd was small, she knows how to light up the place with some incredibly jazzy synth pop sounds and as she so aptly puts it, “The early bird gets the meat pie”.
The Delta Riggs played twice throughout the weekend, but they really hit their stride late night on Saturday (this may or may not have come from the plethora of Tiger beer that was available throughout the day). It somehow felt like I’d entered a seedy London bar in the mid -1970s to hear their intriguing brand of punk rock and see frontman Elliott Hammond slosh his beer at the crowd, throw the empty can at us and then mid-song get his t-shirt nearly pulled off by an overzealous fan. It’s hard not to love a band that serves up an open love for Tim Armstrong of Rancid, the style of the Sex Pistols and their own unique form of genre-jumping that's pulled off with an altogether amazing and graceful sense of ease.
The Aussies weren’t done, though. Tkay Maidza, a 18-year-old with a confidence, lyrics and sense of rhythm that can only be compared to the likes of Missy Elliott and M.I.A. had the crowd at The Echo dancing and yelling for more. Any artist who’s a self-proclaimed dino-jammer and lumpy space princess is perfection in my books.
Culture Collide didn’t just showcase Australia either. There were bands from Israel and Jordan, like Autostrad, whose Arabic indie music featured some definite international influences from Cuban to traditional Mediterranean sounds. Happy hour in the Dutch Impact room at Taix French Restaurant on Saturday featured a distinctly British Beatles-esque revival with the likes of the Dutch band Taymir and the English Pete Molinari.
If you were more into spending the sunny weekend outside, you could grab a vape, tattoo and sunglasses from Ploom at the outdoor World Stage, which seemed to be the quietest part of the festival, but filled up later in the night with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The set was everything you’d want from an American indie set from the plethora of hip swinging to the drummer’s mid-set smoke.
In its fifth year and recently spread from LA to New York and San Francisco, I was surprised at how small Culture Collide felt and yet somehow not all that blown away that it has remained undersized compared to the likes of CMJ, FYF or Outside Lands. Culture Collide, started by Filter Magazine co-founder Alan Miller, aims to do what other music festivals haven’t: create an “international, multicultural melting pot of music, culinary, and the art of travel.” By hosting talks about music and technology and international spirits as well as bringing together a multitude of lesser known international artists, Culture Collide aims to actually educate music lovers, not just ask you to throw on your coolest hippie headband and fringe boots and instagram your way through bands you'll never remember. Here’s hoping a few more of you passionate music folk hear the call and check out this growing festival in years to come!
All photos courtesy of Firdaus Dawood.