The best thing about Sunday’s Toyota-sponsored finale of the inaugural Culture Collide festival is what it wasn’t — it wasn’t a hassle, it wasn’t chaotic, it wasn’t a cluster … well, you know.
With two stages outdoors (one at Reservoir and Alvarado streets and one in Taix’s parking lot) and another inside steamy Echo Park United Methodist Church, the multinational, Filter-curated lineup wasn’t an eye-dazzler by any means. But the collection of up-and-coming and niche bands gave attendees energetic performances — and a lot for their money, since it was free. There was a bit of grousing about $7 beers and under-publicized set time changes (several fans I know were disappointed to have missed White Lies’ set); overall, though it was downright cozy, even neighborhood-y.
Attendance was good, but it was by no means packed, unless you count the late sets from Fran Healy and Sea Wolf in the church sanctuary. A lot of fans were enthusiastic, feeling as if this first-year event was their own little secret.
Here’s my highlight reel:
☛ The set from Israeli garage-rock trio Monotonix was unhinged. They set up in front of the main stage, crowd level, and lead singer/madman Ali Shalev was into the crowd a minute into the first song. He mugged, he rode shoulders, he grabbed a fan’s hot dog and shoved it down drummer Haggai Fershtman’s mouth, he dumped a drink on the drummer, he screamed and roared, he climbed a nearby tree and exited via his drummer’s shoulders, he mooned the crowd. All in good fun.
☛ Travis frontman Fran Healy is not only a fantastic songwriter but one of the most charming men alive. His steamy acoustic set in the church, which mixed songs from his Scottish band with material from his new solo disc “Wreckorder,” was beautiful and funny. A banter-filled banner moment.
☛ Cass McCombs, abetted by two members of Darker My Love, put on a sterling display of pop on the second stage, his quartet especially hitting the sweet spot on songs from last year’s “Catacombs.”
☛ Amusement Parks on Fire delivered a sharp, bombastic 30 minutes of popgazing that sounded nothing like their muddy set at the Echo two nights before.
☛ Jenny & Johnny played a late-arriving (by 40 minutes) set of energetic and winsome Americana to a crowd populated by a whole lot of Jenny fans who warmly welcomed the songstress back (more or less) to her old neighborhood.
☛ For the second time in three nights, U.K.’s the Boxer Rebellion showed they have the chops to be a much bigger band. Churning, catchy Britpop, dashing stage presence, natural-feeling connection with their young audience — they’re a radio single away from being the goods, at least on the larger radar.
☛ Also good: Sara Lov, the Tender Box, Phantogram.
☛ Failed to hold my interest: Tokyo Police Club, who have the energy but not the songs to carry a main-stage set; and White Lies, who have the energy and the songs but whose songs sound like someone else’s.