Echo Park Rising overheats but overcomes on first of its three-day free-for-all

Chhom Nimol of Dengue Fever at Echo Park Rising (Photo by Monique Hernandez)
Chhom Nimol of Dengue Fever at Echo Park Rising (Photo by Monique Hernandez)

It wasn’t the day the music died, but Friday at Echo Park Rising was the day it fainted for a while from the heat.

As the free neighborhood festival burst to life for the first of a three-day run, problems with PA silenced the main stage for over two hours, pushing late sets from Open Mike Eagle, Man or Astro-Man? and Dengue Fever back an hour (curfew was extended) and completely sabotaging the set from experimental psych-rockers Fever the Ghost. Overheated amplifiers appeared to be the problem, leaving Fever the Ghost to soldier through their set as a stage-sound-and-monitors-only affair, all but ignoring temperatures in the mid-90s.

||| Gallery by Monique Hernandez

Elsewhere in Echo Park, amplification was not an issue, as bands rocked loud and proud. Here is the Friday diary of an Echo Park wanderer:

Honey Child at Echo Park Rising (Photo by Bronson)

Honey Child at Echo Park Rising (Photo by Bronson)

4:25 p.m. — Playing directly into the blistering afternoon sun, Honey Child kicks off the festival on the main stage. Today they should have been called Honey Baked Child. The all-female vocal ensemble is anchored by the heavenly voice of Claire McKeown, who is of fair complexion and got a little red before the set was over. Still, the singer holds up better than her 1950 Wurlitzer, which she has named Constanze (for Mozart’s wife). The keyboard overheated and McKeown did the final two songs of the set with a ukulele. Main-stage chamber pop, slightly singed.

5 p.m. — At the Echo, aka the Land That Air Conditioning Forgot, Mind Meld blazes through a set of technically sharp psych-rock — certainly not the first onslaught of psych heard today, but the tightest. The grooves were huge as people paraded to the water cooler.

5:20 p.m. — Is Phoebe Bridgers old enough to drive yet? Oh, she is? She doesn’t look it, and she sounds far beyond her years. She performs her Ryan Adams-produced single “Killer,” and it’s true what Adams said about her, that she “could make a jar of sand sound like ‘Blood on the Tracks.’” She does the chills-inducing tune “Ask Me To.” She jokes about her penchant for writing sad songs before singing one in which she lamented “Jesus Christ I’m sad all the time.” She does a song penned by Marshall Vore (of Olin and the Moon, who followed her onstage), who drummed for her. She does a “saddened version” of a song by the punk band in which she plays, Sloppy Jane. “Thanks for coming,” she tells the crowd in the mercifully cool Echoplex. “I don’t know if it was me or the air conditioning.” Response: It was her.

5:35 p.m. — Kera Armendariz of Kera & the Lesbians douses herself with water on the main stage. It’s the only possible way to try to put a damper on her and it doesn’t work.

6:20 p.m. — A restless crowd at the main stage awaits Fever the Ghost, who were scheduled to start at 5:40. They have been known to take a long time to set up, but as the crowd would find out later, it wasn’t them.

7:05 p.m. — Backed by a three-piece band and a DJ, Deqn Sue does a lively set on the SESAC stage in the Taix Champagne Room. She can belt, and emote, and her hard-to-categorize funk-soul-pop has some in-your-face themes. The highlights were both from her EP “Snack” — “Glass” and the song “Bloody Monster,” which she explains was inspired by rooming with somebody who “turned out to be a closeted racist.”

Psychic Jiu-Jitsu plays at the Krusin Skate Shop during Echo Park Rising

Psychic Jiu-Jitsu plays at the Krusin Skate Shop during Echo Park Rising

7:35 p.m. — In the tiny Krusin Skate Shop on Glendale Boulevard, Psychic Jiu-Jitsu blasts through a long set of psych-rock (long, as in all their songs should be 3 minutes shorter) while kids do tricks on the sidewalk out front. Shredding everywhere.

7:55 p.m. — A very hungry carnivore discovers all the food booths near the main stage are vegan.

8:05 p.m. — Dark Waves — aka Nick Long, a very photogenic man with a couple of great songs — plays guitar and sings to backing tracks on the SESAC stage. Somebody get this guy some bandmates.

8:20 p.m. — Chicken enchilada.

8:35 p.m. — SWIMM continues to be one of the best emerging bands around, and the sound (and climate) was perfect for their psychedelia-tinged alt-rock in the Echoplex. “Everybody sounds like U2 or the Cure,” somebody complained upon hearing them for the first time, and I say it’s OK to aspire to something as big as U2 and not settle for nicking ’60s garage-rock, putting your music out on cassettes and playing to the same crowd every month. Although I have a lot of cassettes and some are good.

9:05 p.m. — Text messages indicate that the main stage is back up and running, and that Open Mike Eagle is on, and Busdriver is guesting. This is all very good, because everybody should hear Open Mike Eagle.

9:15 p.m. — I can’t find Lot 1 Cafe’s set times in the Echo Park Rising booklet, but thankfully I printed them out beforehand. The Herms make it well worth the three-block hike up Sunset — they roar through a killer set of fuzzy, blurry garage-rock. Somehow, it inspired thirst, and the new side patio at Lot 1 was turned out to be fine place to quench that.

The Blank Tapes at Echo Park Rising (Photo by Bronson)

The Blank Tapes at Echo Park Rising (Photo by Bronson)

9:35 p.m. — Across the street at the Lost Knight (RIP Barragan’s), the Blank Tapes sound as trippy as ever — and that’s trippy without sloppy. Their new album is “Geodesic Dome Piece,” and it finds Matt Adams and crew careening from psych-pop nuggets to stoner slugfests, and in these cozy confines the music damned near gave you a contact high.

9:50 p.m. — Gateway Drugs, who all but stole the show at last year’s Echo Park Rising, wind up their set at the Echoplex with drummer-singer Gabriel Niles shirtless and pounding away. Big, dense, delicious.

10:05 p.m. — While en route to the main stage, I find there is a garage-rock band playing in every storefront.

10:25 p.m. — Singer Chhom Nimol and Dengue Fever sound like the headliners they are, and the crowd sways and bumps to the band’s distinct mix of Cambodian pop, psych-rock and Afro rhythms. Having just released their strongest album yet, “The Deepest Lake,” Dengue Fever races through a set of tunes sung in both Nimol’s native Khmer and English, highlighted by David Ralicke’s brass and songs in which Nimol and Zac Holtzman trade vocals. Like if X were from a faraway land. Here, among the screams and grunts and groans and angst of Echo Park Rising, was where you found the smiles.

11:35 p.m. — No Parents, and not a parent in sight. Not much oxygen, either. Until tomorrow, Echo Park Rising.

Gallery by Monique Hernandez; other photos by Bronson