Echo Park Rising 2014: Making new friends and supporting old ones on a steamy Saturday



Echo Park Rising? Echo Park Raging is more like it.

Abiding the First Commandment of Los Angeles shows – “If you give it to them free, they will come” – Echo Park Rising surged again on Saturday, albeit a tad less frenzied than the previous night as news spread about the stabbing death on Sunset Boulevard late Friday.

It was a day you could see Babes, Strange Babes and Babies on Acid in the same building. It was a day Angelyne was spotted. (And who the hell let her off the Sunset Strip, anyway?) It was a day the sublime songcraft of artists like Leslie Stevens and Aaron Embry competed with the sublime-in-a-different way noise of dozens of garage bands. It was a day that if you wanted it loud – really loud – you hung at the IAM8BIT Gallery and tested your earplugs with bands like the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel, Obliterations and the Shrine, and then washed it all down some of the sponsor’s red-white-and-blue-labeled beer. It was a day you could hit the Methodist Church for Girlpool and A House for Lions, to strain your neck to see Tashaki Miyaki in Origami Vinyl’s loft, to brave the sweltering Echo patio to witness the the rootsy licks of Brian Whelan, to give up on trying to get into Little Joy, to get dizzy from the gallimaufry of styles (from Quintapenas to Doja Cat to Gavin Turek to Myron & E) on the Taix outdoor stage and to rest your weary legs while listening to a poetry reading with the thump-thump-thump of electronic music in the distance.

It was not a good day for long attention spans, but, then again, who commands it these days, or has enough songs to be interesting for more than 30 minutes? Two
bands made a case for themselves in the Echoplex. Situated way-too-early at 1 p.m. were Strange Babes, the L.A.-based quintet fronted by New Zealander Sam McCarthy and including two fellow Kiwis and two Angelenos. If you like guitar bands (and if you’re a regular here, you know we do), it is one man’s opinion that Strange Babes were the best guitar band at the festival. Theirs is a little bit West Coast pop-meets-big British rockers, with melodies that are more than an afterthought supported by swelling, harmonized guitars and keys. Oasis doing Teenage Fanclub, if you will.

Almost as compelling were the Moth & the Flame, whose art-rock is seasoned by Brandon Robbins’ throaty croon, serpentine arrangements and tasty bass and synth. Gothic Tropic’s afternoon turn on the Taix outdoor stage was similarly next-level. Cecilia Della Peruti’s bubblegum vocals belie the trio’s don’t-try-this-at-home chord changes.

Philadelphia transplants Cheers Elephant made a lot of new friends with their set at the Echo, and most of those new friends ended up shimmying to their hooky guitar pop. Plus, the drummer’s nickname is Animal, so there’s that.

Echo Park Rising boasted a lot of bands like surf-cum-garage rockers the Groms, who are fronted by twins Wrecks and B.G. Brixton, but they won bonus points at the IAM8BIT Gallery for toting a case of beer onstage and distributing the liquid relief to the steamy crowd. Which was good for washing down their fuzzed-out songs like “Blood” and “Howlin’.”

Oh, by the way, Habits still rules.

Feels, the post-Raw Geronimo quartet fronted by Laena Geronimo, get better and better every time we see them, as do those songs from Raw Geronimo’s 2013 album. They’re really too good to get lumped in with all the interchangeable neo-girl-groupers/pseudo-riot grrls on certain labels; can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Leading into a typically off-the-chain set at the Echoplex by Together Pangea was a buzzing set from Babies on Acid, fronted by Joel Jerome (nee Joel Morales, once of the great Dios). Fitting in with the retro-pop washing like a tsunami over L.A. right now, Babies on Acid’s songs have a maturity (with a dash of the songwriter’s keen irony) that are a cut above. Or maybe it was Morales’ svengali-like presence – in addition to making his own new music, he’s been working with a lot of young cohorts in a production capacity. Or both. Nonetheless, he sermonized a little bit: Enjoy the festival, hug one another, drink plenty of water and “smoke some stuff.”

Additional reporting by Britt Witt

Note: Please see our separate post on the Buzz Bands LA Stage in the Champagne Room at Taix

Photos: Top image of Together Pangea by Zane Roessell; Gallery 1 by Carl Pocket, courtesy of the Echo. Gallery 2 by Zane Roessell; Gallery 3 by Bronson; Gallery 4 by Joel Michalak