Sunstock Solar Festival: Power problems sap energy before an electric finish

Robert DeLong at the Sunstock Solar Festival (Photo by Andie Mills)
Robert DeLong at the Sunstock Solar Festival (Photo by Andie Mills)

The sun was out Saturday afternoon for the Sunstock Solar Festival. Unfortunately, so was some of the power.

Outside of, say, a hailstorm that would have rained fury on the downtown L.A. parking lot where the fest set up shop, it was the worst thing that could have happened to an event billing itself as a “100% solar-powered festival.” The solar truck that Sunstock rented to power the main stage was inoperable.

By the time replacement power had arrived, sets from the first four bands on the main stage — YIP YOPS, SWIMM, the Fuzzy Crystals and Wild Cub — had been canceled. Moreover, power on the second stage, which got juice from a solar truck belonging to the host band and festival founders Trapdoor Social, cut out several times during sets by Freedom Fry and Wildling. The truck was not the culprit there; instead, a balky cable was to blame.

||| Photos by Andie Mills

“Thank you for your patience,” Trapdoor Social’s Skylar Funk said, addressing the crowd before Run River North’s electric set. “I put my heart out to all the bands that couldn’t play because of our technical difficulties. To thank you we’d like to buy you a round on the house.”

A free drink ticket wasn’t the only reason fans at the lightly attended, second-year festival maintained a good attitude. For a reasonable ticket price of $25 (or less, if you factor in discounts), they were supporting not only the music but clean-energy initiatives.

And the music delivered: Run River North arrived with sense of humor intact — “my name is Steve Aoki and this is my side project,” Alex Hwang joked — and roared through songs from their two full-lengths. Electronic whiz Robert DeLong, his face-painting posse present and dabbing attendees in colorful acrylics, teased songs from his album-in-the-works and ended his set, appropriately and explosively, with “Global Concepts.” And Ra Ra Riot finished the night with a set that had fans dancing on the lot.

The interrupted sets by Freedom Fry and Wildling had some “Kumbaya” moments: During their outage, Freedom Fry’s Bruce and Marie Driscoll sat on the edge of the stage for two songs done as an acoustic duet; the power was back on for their new single “Party Down.” Wildling survived multiple interruptions and also encouraged the crowd to come in close to hear them harmonize (beautifully) unplugged.

And then there was the second-stage set from hosts Trapdoor Social, who put aside the festival distractions in search of some badly needed catharsis. It ended with the song “Fine on My Own,” which the L.A. band wrote two years ago in collaboration with a high school band from Colorado. For this live rendition, Trapdoor was joined by the South Pasadena High School band, who, during Funk’s opening saxophone solo, marched out from backstage to encircle the crowd. Fans got a “sound sandwich” of rock band with brass, woodwind and drums. It was a good moment for a group of do-gooders on a day many things went badly.