Tag Archives: Iceage

LIVE: 13 Torches For A Burn, Los Globos, Los Angeles, CA

By Gabriel Mathews

What better way to wrap up my stint as an Angeleno than a two-­day Danish punk festival in an old church in the neighborhood I have the most ties to? This event, a grammatically dubbed 13 Torches for a Burn, was to be a once-­in-­a-­lifetime type of thing, an “Only in LA” type of thing, something I’d inevitably regret missing. And for only twenty bucks, there was no way I was turning it down. Danish label Posh Isolation had come together with The Church on York, as well as sponsors at Part Time Punks and E. 7th Street Punx to put on the show every Iceage fan has ever dreamed of—let’s get this whole crazy inbred Copenhagen scene to perform together, in one place, at one time, for a reasonable price. Let’s give the Americans what they want, so long as they’re in that desolate capital of cross­bred culture that is Los Angeles. It was such an excellent idea that my best friend and this show’s CGC flew out from New York basically just for it.

And then, as it had to, LA happened. We were all set to go into Day 1 at the Church, grabbing beers at a nearby bar when an acquaintance also attending drove past the window, saw us, and shouted, “CANCELED! SEE YOU TOMORROW AT LOS GLOBOS!” Upon investigation, we learned that, as we should have expected, the Church’s pretty­-much-­illegal doings had caught up to them (this kind of venue can’t exist in this kind of city) and the fire marshall had decided 13 Torches was a good time to crack down. The well-connected folks at the Church, though, had hit up their friends over at Los Globos and secured the club’s two upstairs rooms for an all­nighter the following evening. So what we had on our hands was the same show, all in one go, in a red-vinyl-and­-mirrors vampire den as opposed to the gloriously reverby rafters of an old Mexican worship­ house.

In an odd way, Los Globos seemed equally-­if­-differently appropriate to host this lineup. Iceage, Lower, Sexdrome, Lust For Youth, Puce Mary and the rest of the Posh Isolation crew only make sense in a few places, and the terrifyingly dark, low-­ceilinged Los Globos is one of them. When CGC and I showed up promptly at 5:00, we were blinded by the black, stultifying atmosphere of the place. That Sejr then immediately took the stage felt inevitable. With Iceage bassist Jakob Tvilling Pless on guitar, Iceage drummer Dan Kjær Nielsen, Communions’ guitarist on bass, and a dude from Redflesh screaming, Sejr set the bar high for cross­band pollination. Their black metal stylings were especially notable for not actually deviating much from the Iceage template aside from the extreme voice shredding of Redflesh guy and the unceasingly breakneck pace. Their quick set was an excellently evil way to start the evening.

Opening the smaller room was Deeplands, the first in a string of electronic acts that just failed to hold my attention the way the guitar bands in the other room were doing. Over the course of the night, we dropped into the small room for a few seconds of Age Coin and Croatian Amor, but nothing was interesting enough to make the heat bearable.

(Oh, that’s right, LA is really hot this time of year. Especially in crowded rooms full of sweaty punks who, as we soon discovered, were not allowed to leave the space for eight hours. I can’t say I’ve experienced a very different culture in Portland or anywhere else, but strict no-­ins-­and-­outs policies are a really Medieval form of torture. What is the venue gaining by holding their audiences captive? I suppose I felt an interesting sense of community build with this crowd of misfits in black, a feeling that can only come from being stuck in a room with the same group of people over the course of several hours, one reminiscent of high school grad night or a very long flight. And while we thought we were going to starve, it turns out Los Globos makes a serviceable-­if-­overpriced chicken sandwich. But, seriously, guys, this shit is not cool.)

Marching Church ended up being one of my favorite things to happen over the course of the night. True to the incestual nature of the scene, Marching Church featured members of Lower, Hand of Dust, Puce Mary, and, most importantly, Iceage frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt. Upon climbing onstage Rønnenfelt donned a silk dressing gown and proceeded to channel some rock­-god hybrid of Iggy Pop and Nick Cave for one of the least Iceage-­like performances I’ve ever seen. In his main band, Rønnenfelt tends to stalk the stage menacingly, one hand clenched behind his back. Marching Church apparently gives him an outlet for his more romantic tendencies, as he sang weepy love songs reminiscent of twisted 80s power ballads, made tear­-streak gestures down his face, and stretched his voice painfully into some high notes you’d never hear on an Iceage song. The result was transfixing, as Rønnenfelt sang about secret loves at the dark end of the street with a whole different kind of conviction than I’m used to seeing from him. He should wear that robe more often.

Marching Church’s frontman took the mic for Hand Of Dust, who injected some much­ appreciated melodicism into the proceedings. They basically played some straight­ forward hard rock, but the chugging guitar followed a musical thread most of these bands opted not to pick up on. I would say keep an eye on this one, but Posh Isolation bands have such a habit of breaking up (Notably, Iceage/Sexdrome/Lust For Youth project Vår are no more after one critically­-lauded album) that I don’t know if it’s worth it.

Speaking of bands playing breaking up and playing their last shows ever, Sexdrome came across as the evening’s last­-gasp saviors. The super tall guy in the turtleneck and chains who’d been making bouncy electro earlier as Croatian Amor and whose name is Loke Rahbek and who actually runs Posh Isolation and who would take the stage a third time later as Lust For Youth stepped up, took off all his shirts, and adopted a permanent scowl so exaggerated as to be humorous. He then proceeded to lead his band through an incredibly badass set of straight-­up hardcore with a black metal edge so sharp it could saw bones. Sexdrome have a reputation for being a more violent Iceage, who have a reputation for leaving people bloody at most of their shows. While I didn’t see any blood, it wasn’t for lack of effort on Rahbek’s part. He hurled himself into the crowd, wrapped himself in the mic cord, grabbed at anyone near him, got my CGC in a headlock. This was incendiary stuff that seemed to make the lights black out all on its own (For future reference, moshing in the dark is a scary but amazing thing to do). It’s a shame Sexdrome will no longer be around, and I’m thrilled to have seen the end of it.

One of two small­ room acts I feel compelled to write about is Puce Mary, aka Frederikke Hoffmeier, a gorgeous Nordic woman who makes some of the most excruciating music I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. While I could only stand to be in the room for a total of about three minutes (the heat played a big part here), I was thoroughly impressed by the noises Hoffmeier was creating, which were sort of reminiscent of the three minutes I’ve ever been able to listen to of Pharmakon, but louder. She also wins best band name of the night by a landslide.

Back in the big room, the energy felt depleted. We’d already been locked in Los Globos for about six hours and it seemed unlikely that anyone would recover the fury they’d spent on Sexdrome. Luckily for us all, a little band called Communions were setting up. To see them, in their oh­-so­-Danish haircuts and 80s schoolboy outfits, these four really really young men looked like mini-­Iceage, and having never heard them before, CGC and I expected that’s what they’d be musically as well. Instead we got a vital injection of some of the most impressive guitar pop I’ve heard in a long time. These guys had to be like sixteen years old (with the exception of their sort of scary drummer, who was maybe nineteen) but they’ve clearly spent most of those years ingesting every single bit of excellent songwriting there is to be had in this world and practicing their guitars all the while. Seriously, think of any little songwriting trick in the book—the well­-timed drum fill, the perfect key change, the two­bar breakdown—Communions pulled it off perfectly. Their two guitarists are wizards, sometimes reminding me of a much less boring Martin Courtney/Matt Mondanile hydra. The singer, who looked even younger than the rest of them, had a beautiful Danish choirboy thing going on, hitting high notes but somehow still bellowing all the while. I should also note that it was during Communions’ set that I finally realized all these bands had brought one drum kit and maybe two basses and two guitars to share between them. I though that was awesome—if one thing was clear about the Copenhagen crew, it’s that they really all care about each other, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Waiting for the next act to go on, the drunk girl who’d been lying on the floor giggling came over and plopped herself down next to me. “Whenza next bandgo on?” “Um, soon, I think.” “Who is it?” “Lower.” “What kinda musicdthey make?” “… punk, I guess?” “Are we gonna dance?!” “I don’t know, I guess we’ll see.” She then flew off as fast as she’s arrived, only to return a minute later. “My friend says theydonwanus to dance. Are we gonna dance anyway?”

It turned out to be a relevant question. Lower were the big surprise of the night, for me, but not necessarily in a good way. After the skull­crushing force of their debut EP Walk On Heads, I was expecting another slaughterhouse. But the moshing for the set was limited to a handful of diehards who tried very earnestly to make music this slow work for slamming. The first sign of trouble was when pudgy frontman Adrian Toubro took the stage in an unbuttoned shirt and a bucket hat (“He’s easily the least glamorous person here,” said CGC). Lower then hit us with all new material, excluding their one semi­hit “Craver,” and it was kind of weird. While I basically enjoyed the music, which sounds like Walk On Heads filtered through both Unknown Pleasures and Power, Corruption, and Lies, it was Toubro’s stage presence that really threw me off. The bucket hat was only phase one of his borrowing from another Manchester icon, Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, as he spent the whole set strutting stupidly around stage and making silly hand gestures. It almost felt like a bad hip hop performance thrown into the middle of a very white, very Danish punk fest. It also didn’t help that Toubro accompanied his literal finger­ wagging with a lot of lyrical remonstration as well. The snatches I could pick out generally seemed to be berating the fashion­-oriented and image-0-centric among us in really obvious, inelegant ways. Lower’s debut full-­length Seek Warmer Climes comes out next month and I don’t know if I’m excited anymore.

The other small­room band I feel compelled to mention is Girlseeker, which featured members of Sexdrome and Lower playing goofy synth/guitar jams with titles like “Lonesome and Handsome.” Maybe it was the heat, and maybe it was eight hours of very posh isolation, but I found myself bombarded by some of the most hysterically difficult music I’ve ever heard. Most of the set seemed to be everyone soloing at once over a synthetic beat, but this effect might have been created simply because the guitar and the keyboards were all made to sound almost identical. In my delirium, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Iceage, of course, are no laughing matter. The last time I saw them, at Filter Magazine’s Culture Collide®, their set was cut woefully short by some sort of problem with guitarist Johan Surballe Wieth’s pedalboard. This set was to be that one’s redemption, in my eyes. Plus, they were really the reason everyone was here, if we’re being honest. Iceage are about ten times bigger than any of the other bands in the lineup, and they know it. They were also capping off one of the most intense concert experiences I imagine most of this audience had ever been to, with only Lust For Youth playing after them, and you’d imagine this would hold them to some level of rigor and crowd­-pleasing.

But, no, Iceage are beholden to no one. Taking the stage, they launched into one new song after another. This isn’t a bad thing—the new songs show an evolving band, playing around with slower tempos, longer songs, and a fun Spaghetti Western/cow­punk feel. You’re Nothing was a bit step up from New Brigade, and these songs indicate that whatever comes next will continue the same trajectory. Plus, these songs were not unfriendly to moshing, and everyone went about as hard as they’d gone for Sexdrome, with Elias Bender Rønnenfelt carrying over some of the rock­god energy from his Marching Church set into a less-evil-but-no-less-violent-than-usual Iceage performance. The problem, though, with these songs is that there were only four of them. Towards the end of the final song, the guitar seemed to stop. The rest of the band finished the song, and everyone promptly left the stage. At Culture Collide when the guitar crapped out, there was at least some attempt to fix it, a few false re­starts, and a half­-apology from Rønnenfelt. No such luck this time, which is okay, I guess, but this time they were headlining the fest that was supposed to be representing the scene of which they are kings. You’d hope they’d sort of acknowledge that kind of thing and think of themselves as ambassadors.

That said, the four songs we got were incredible, and after the set I found myself tearing my sweat­-drenched shirt to pieces, downing an abandoned piña colada, and storming out of the venue, so it must have been a good time.

Though it wasn’t perfect, things like 13 Torches for a Burn are a huge check in the cons column of leaving LA. There’s something about this city, like most big cities, that makes entirely unique events possible. While my “only in LA” remark above was somewhat tongue-­in-­cheek, It’s also true that this would never have happened in Portland, where I’m from, or in Seattle, where I’m headed. LA is what allowed me to see Bon Iver in a cemetery at sunrise after being blessed by Buddhist monks and staying up all night watching Bottle Rocket and Planet Earth. LA allowed me to see Dirty Projectors perform the unperformable Getty Address, with a 10-­piece ensemble, with the LA Philharmonic opening, at the Disney Concert Hall. Something about this town attracts a degree of specialness, it ups the ante. Even a deeply flawed event like Culture Collide had positives that I can’t imagine happening elsewhere—other cities don’t have the clout or the outsized ambition to bring over a hundred bands from around the world to once stretch of road. I’m thrilled that 13 Torches, my final LA show, was such an LA show.

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LIVE: Filter Magazine’s Culture Collide Festival, Echo Park, Los Angeles, CA

By Gabriel Mathews

Author’s note: In keeping with the spirit of the events being described, I will include all sponsor references available to me.

FILTER Magazine’s Culture Collide® was not at all what I was expecting it to be. Billed as a three day weekend of music, panels, and heavily sponsored events, featuring largely unheard of bands from all over the world, spread out around Echo Park, and all this for the low price of thirty bones, I was anticipating a melting pot of LA’s musicall-inclined citizens, swarming the few blocks of Sunset Boulevard along which the festival was spread. I was expecting a packed house at every show, I was expecting people to be unbelievably stoked about the headliners and helplessly intrigued by the littler acts from Israel, Latvia, Costa Rica and beyond. What I got instead was one of the more bizarre festival experiences of my life. Here follows my account.

Thursday

I met up with my designated Concert Attending Companion (hereon referred to as CAC) on Thursday night outside the Echo at 7:00 PM. Nothing was slated to start at the venue until 8:00, but we were under the impression that there would have been so many $30 wristbands sold that getting into a tiny venue like the Echo to see buzzbands like The Men and Iceage would require a lot of line-camping. Imagine our surprise when we were handed cards that read “CONVERSE® RUBBER TRACKS presents ICEAGE THE MEN GRMLN PLASTIC PLATES MIAMI HORROR – FREE – 21+” Free? What about the wristbands? Did they actually just sell so few they had to make this show—featuring two of the most buzzed about rock bands of the past couple years—free? The empty streets of Echo Park (and the ease with which we had found parking) seemed to indicate that this was the case. As did the complete lack of a line. And the fact that doors didn’t open until 7:30 and the dude at the door hardly knew what we were talking about when asking where to get our FMCC wristbands. So after we figured it out on our own, finding time on our hands, we popped over to Stories Books for somewhere to hang out.

Weird Moment #2 of the night came when we found the young Danes of Iceage gathered around a table in Stories drinking tea. They scare me, so I didn’t attempt any conversation. After finding neither of the books I’ve been looking for for months at Stories (where is Powell’s when you need it?), we headed down two doors to Origami Vinyl where psych-pop band Light Thieves were playing an un-FMCC affiliated in-store and where the greasy New Yorkers of The Men were perusing the dollar bins (Weird Moment #3). I said to guitarist Nick Chiericozzi that I was stoked for the show. He nodded.

We went back to the Converse® Rubber Tracks Stage at the Echo, musing at the bizarreness of the empty room. CAC opined that maybe folks would be showing up in a bit, after GRMLN‘s set. Said set ended up being entirely unmemorable—three days later, the only thing I can say about GRMLN’s music is that the vocal processing their frontman used was kind of fun. The Men were up next (“Welcome to the Converse stage by Converse,” said bassist Ben Greenberg by way of introduction) and they played a pretty standard Men set, which is to say that I recognized maybe two songs out of nine. Part of the issue was that I never really got into their newest album, this year’s New Moon, but the Men are so prolific that the chances of any of the setlist aside from rockin’ opener “I Saw Here Face” being songs from that album that I just didn’t recognize are pretty slim. The Men are a fun band, though, with a lot of energy, no matter what they’re playing. All three members of the front line—Chiericozzi, Greenberg, and guitarist Mark Perro—share vocal duties, and their various apings of various styles come off as more than just mimicry because they’re actually really good at writing songs. Oddly enough, even when they rocked out real hard on some punkier tracks, no one in the audience was really moving. At all (WM #4). Plus there were still only like 20 people in the crowd. The bald dude in the glasses and bucket hat next to me seemed to be enjoying himself, but no one else seemed to stoked on the set until Chiericozzi started singing Open Your Heart highlight “Candy,” which was definitely improved by new member Kevin Faulkner’s pedal steel.

Next up were Iceage. I saw these motherfuckers back in March and it was one of the greatest shows of my life. These four Danes are barely in their twenties, but they play their industrial-tinged punk like it’s life or death. Aside from furious frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, no one on stage moves. Ever. Including Rønnenfelt, no one smiles. Ever. Banter is limited to the announcement of song titles. So I thought I knew what to expect. I was a bit concerned (rightfully) when Rønnenfelt got on stage, mic in his one gloved hand, intoned “AWAKE,” and no one seemed to care. “Awake” is a fantastic song, and yet this crowd was just not having it. Second song “Everything Drifts,” though, found me and six or so other dudes slamming into each other a bit, which I guess was refreshing, if sort of low-key. What you want at an Iceage show is a devoted following of quasi-fascist punk rockers who scream along to every word. What we had here were about four of those, Bucket-Hat Dude, a middle-aged Asian lady, and a bunch of people drinking the sponsored Tiger® tallboys under the Converse®-poster-plastered walls and sort of nodding their heads.

WM #5 came when one of these tallboys, only half empty, struck Rønnenfelt in the face only a song-and-a-half-in. He seemed pretty much unphased but this is when everything started to go to shit. The band rolled through a few new tracks, including their just-out cover of Bahamutsi Drama Group’s “To The Comrades.” Somewhere along the line, guitarist John Surrballe Wieth’s guitar cut out, but he kicked something on his pedalboard and was back in action. No such luck when Jakob Tvilling Pless overdrove his backlined bass amp into submission. “Fuck. Something’s wrong. Give us five minutes and we will play the second half of the set.” They swapped to the other bass stack on stage, and started to mic it. They managed to rush through “You’re Nothing” and “You’re Blessed,” an excellent one-two-punch, started another new song, and then Wieth’s guitar cut out again. He kicked at his pedalboard, it came back on, they finished the song. Then up came the violently strummed opening chord of fan favorite “Ecstasy.” The guitar cut out again, and Rønnenfelt said “Fuck this.” He, Pless, and drumer Dan Kjær Nielsen began to walk of stage, but Wieth was not giving up so easily. With another kick, he started what initially seemed to be the Most Thrilling Comeback Ever. The rest of the band got back into position, and then out went the guitar again. “Fuck this, we’re done.” As the band stalked off the stage, crowd applauding, Rønnenfelt asked us, “Why the fuck are you clapping? This fucking sucks.” And that was the end of that. WM #6. While the set being cut short was a minor tragedy, Iceage were totally on point for the 20 minutes they actually managed to play, and I can’t say I was too upset, given the impossibly low energy of the crowd. I left the Converse® stage a little befuddled eager to see what new corporate glory awaited me tomorrow.

Friday

Friday at FMCC was actually kind of the reason I ended up going to Culture Collide, as I learned that it was the LA date on Fuck Buttons‘ North American tour and there was no way I was going to miss them. I arrived at the newly rechristened ASCAP We Create Music® stage at The Echo early enough to catch a tiny bit of Mujuice‘s electronic set. The Russian dance musician is apparently something of a star in Moscow, but his work felt pretty dated to me. I was tempted to yell something in Russian to him about his Daniel Johnston t-shirt, but I restrained myself and headed over to the (shockingly unsponsored) Front Lounge stage at TAIX, the crazy-huge French restaurant that was hosting two separate stages for the weekend. Apparently this is where everyone was hiding last night: TAIX was packed to the gills with cocktail-consuming thirty-somethings. I caught the last song of Mexican band Vicente Gayo‘s frenetic set and vowed to myself to catch their full set on Saturday. Other highlights of my pre-Fuck Buttons evening included thinking I heard a secret set by the xx coming from the Onitsuka Tiger® Champagne Room and finding instead Float Fall, a co-ed Belgian duo who sound more like the xx than the xx do anymore, and a few seconds of oddness from Polish band Brodka. Then there was a set by the incredibly entertaining Dutchmen of Birth Of Joy.

These guys were shipped sraight in from 1969. Silk shirts, muttonchops, endless chorus on the frontman’s guitar, lyrics about “teenyboppers”, a goddamned organist, epic Keith Moon rolls at the end of every song. While it seemed like complete pastiche, and set a record for quite how behind-the-times many of these international bands felt, Birth Of Joy’s set was sort of a peak in terms of showmanship, as frontman and drummer simultaneously took of their shirts, frontman asked us if we were ready to rock and then leapt in the air, everyone pulled lots of rock faces, etc. It made me wonder if perhaps showmanship at these events is really reserved for tiny foreign bands. I had to presume that anyone FILTER would ship to LA must actually be a big-ish deal in their home country, and to break into the American market would probably be huge for them. Compared to the American acts I saw, the international bands definitely put way more effort into performing.

Case in point: Kid Karate, the Irish duo who opened for Fuck Buttons back at the ASCAP® stage. These guys couldn’t have been ripping off the White Stripes harder if they’d tried, but I guess I’m being slightly unfair. What they did was more of a modernization of the Stripes’ decidedly retro sound. Does that sound like a good thing? It wasn’t. The Samurai-bunned frontman leaned so heavily on his octave pedal to fill out their sound that I felt like I was perpetually stuck inside “Blue Orchid.” The bass and piano tracks that were pumped out of some pedal felt way too canned. Songs repeated their wordless hooks so often that I couldn’t wait for them to end. The drummer’s skull cap made me wonder what it was with the Irish and skullcaps. All that said, these dudes put on a fucking show. I never knew what a nice stage move high-knees while shredding would be, but it worked really well for Kid Karate, as did the five or six leaps on and off stage the frontman made in their final hurrah. As CAC said to me, this band was a fortuitous pick for FMCC, as they’ll probably be regulars on KROQ in a couple years.

Compared to Kid Karate, Fuck Buttons were a tame, tame set. Visually, that is. Sonically, there’s no one on par with this British duo currently working. My love for their thoroughly menacing, utterly incredible, intricate-as-fuck new album Slow Focus knows pretty much no bounds. It’s easily my most played album of the year. You can listen to that thing fifty times and find new elements every single time. The emotional response Fuck Buttons wring out of their electronic palette makes it hard for me to even consider them an electronic band. Also: that cover art is impeccable.

I’d seen Fuck Buttons twice before, and knew basically what their setup would look like. Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power facing each other at opposite ends of a table coated in cords, boxes, and a Speak-n-Spell, a floor tom at Power’s side for use during Street Horrrsing closer “Colors Move.” What I didn’t quite expect was how fucking loud this band could be in a small club setting like The Echo. I don’t know when my ears are going to stop ringing—any disappointment about the volume of My Bloody Valentine at FYF was erased as their English compatriots spent 70 minutes violating my eardrums. Fuck Buttons make noise music, but it’s more music than noise. It just happens to be made up of sounds you wouldn’t expect to find in music—they grate, they burn, they decimate. Power screams through his tiny Speak-n-Spell mic, Hung pushes piercing shrieks through a processed mic. Bucket hat dude was next to me again, blissing out. I realized that no matter what else happened this weekend, no matter the weirdness of the previous night’s events, no matter how much I ended up owing for the fender bender I’d just gotten in that afternoon, the sheer transcendence Fuck Buttons brought me to through sonic devastation erased it all. When they hit the 50 minute mark and started playing “Sentients,” I suddenly knew what was coming for the rest of the set, and I knew that it would be 20 minutes of glory, as “Sentients” faded into “The Red Wing” and they closed their set with the descending riff of “Hidden XS.” CAC and I walked out of the venue, discussing the fate of our hearing. As two fire trucks rushed by, we realized they weren’t loud at all. It had been a good night.

Saturday

CAC had other obligations Saturday night, so he passed his wristband off to an even better companion: my girlfriend. We arrived in time to catch Vicente Gayo‘s set in the Onitsuka Tiger® Champagne Room, which was pretty sweet. Based on the one song I’d seen on Thursday, I had them pegged as Mexico’s answer to Foals. Two floppy-haired songs in, Girlfriend said to me, “They’re like the Mexican Foals!” And While the comparison is super apt, these guys deserve more credit than that. They were relentlessly energetic, all four members shouting either in unison or call-and-response, the guitarists tapping like Eddie Van Halen himself, the drummer pounding his skins like he wanted to break them. They pretty much rocked, in short. Check them out if they ever come back north from the Distrito Federal.

During Vicente Gayo’s set, my friend Dustin bumped into and joined us. A few songs in, he started frantically tapping my shoulder. “That guy who just walked by? That’s Moby!” Sure enough, it was. And much to my surprise, it was Bucket Hat Man from the past two nights! This was probably Weird Moment #27. After standing next to him for an awkwardly long time, we took a picture so we could make our Moby-obsessed friend jealous. So, yeah, that’s how I met Moby, I guess.

We went outside to the Ernie Ball® World Stage, past the New Amsterdam® straight-razor barber station (not kidding), the Aqua Hydrate® photo booth, and the lit up sign for the upcoming Levi’s® Rhye show at The Echo Park United Methodist Church. As far as I can tell, The Church was the only stage with no sponsor. Leave it to religion to stay out of corporate dealings, right? Funky monkeys King Khan & The Shrines came on just in time to distract me from my anti-corporate fervor, but their bizarrely short set (After Khan announced that they were done, the rest of the silver-caped band looked about as puzzled as we were) wasn’t long enough to distract me from the emptiness of the entire festival. “Where the fuck is everybody?” I asked for the fiftieth time. Then Girlfriend offered the brilliant insight that pretty much every venue we’d been to was 21 and up. This is what happens when you don’t invite the kids, FILTER. Take heed next year, and maybe you’ll actually be able to halfway sell out your incredibly cheap and ideally rad festival. As I gazed up into the sky, I noticed the FMCC logo emblazoned by a projector onto the CitiBank tower down the street. This was probably the weekend’s most iconic image. I mused for a while about how these completely over-the-top corporate sponsorships were sort of sucking the life out of the thing, life that could easily have been replaced by the addition of adolescent fervor. I thought that it was pretty fucked up that Iceage weren’t allowed to play to their key demographic at a free show, that those kids couldn’t get their ears torn up by Fuck Buttons, and that even at this lovely outdoor stage, the crowd for Liars was bizarrely old and square.

Liars set was a pretty excellent close to the weekend for me, and served well to distract my from my disenchantment. The last time I saw the band was over four years ago, right after the release of Sisterworld, which is probably only their third or fourth best record. One album later, that would be last year’s WIXIW (#2 in my mind), and they’re an entirely different band. Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill, and Julian Gross pretty much abandoned organic instruments for WIXIW, a marked change from only two records ago on their self-titled album, when Liars were most decidedly a guitar rock band. Their live set definitely reflected this change, opening with two almost guitarless tracks from career peak Drum’s Not Dead, the one-two percussion-heavy punch of “Let’s Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack” and “A Visit From Drum.” Following this intro, the bright-green-slicker sporting, Neanderthalesque Andrew led the band through a few new tracks, all of which followed the general WIXIW pattern of arpeggiators and sampler-based beats. We got that album’s highlights “WIXIW” and “No. 1 Against The Rush,” along with “Brats” and “Flood To Flood,” as well as Sisterworld‘s vicious “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant”. Somewhere in the middle of it all, a long-haired hippie girl who seemed to be on vast quantities of MDMA got up on stage not once but twice to dance along, grinningly, with the music. Initially I thought it was part of the show, but the security guys’ response indicated otherwise. Liars closed their set obligatorily with fan favorite “Plaster Casts Of Everything,” which is still one of the most awesome demonstrations of this band’s power as a three-piece rock outfit. Six albums into their career, Liars have proven that they can do whatever the fuck they want and do it well, our “What the fuck is going on?” neighbors be damned. Also: Andrew is a great performer, seeming simultaneously blitzed out of his mind and entirely in control of the proceedings. It might just be his imposing height.

At home, after the festival was all done and finished, my ears still ringing from Fuck Buttons, I spent some time with FILTER’s half-mag guide to try and figure out what was going on that whole time. A cover article on Moby (who apparently sat on some panel at some point over the weekend), a goofy interview with Liars about the hidden charms of LA, and a completely bizarre ode to School Of Seven Bells’ Ben Curtis’ cancer diagnosis later, I’m still not sure at all what FILTER Magazine’s Culture Collide is. But damn if I don’t want me some brand new Onitsuka Tigers to wear while drinking my New Amsterdam G&T and playing my Ernie Ball strung guitar. Or maybe I’ll go with Converse.

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