Culture Collide: Music Without the Pretension (in Silver Lake!)


Wandering across Culture Collide’s multiple venues was like strolling through a farmer’s market. While the four-day music festival held this past weekend in Silver Lake attracted the expected post-grad tattoo aficionados and weary 40-something KCRW members, it also brought in young couples and hip parents bonding with their full-grown kids. The result was a diverse and compelling music festival that somehow didn’t reek of Silver Lake’s typical pretention.

On Friday night, the Echo, Echoplex, and TAIX hosted indie heavyweights Zola Jesus, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and the Big Pink. None of these acts are known for being innocent or easily accessible, but zealous audiences and the small, intimate venues transformed the performers into easygoing crowd-pleasers.

Wearing no shoes and a beige cape-dress, Zola Jesus was accompanied at the Echo by a standing drummer and a synth player who bore an uncanny resemblance to Laura Palmer’s dad in Twin Peaks. Though somber and serious at times – including a superb minimalist version of “Lightstick” — her performance was lightened by cheerful banter and oddball stage antics like curling up in a ball on the floor and singing into audience members’ faces.

Across the street, Unknown Mortal Orchestra played a raucous set in TAIX’s Champagne Room, benefitting from the restaurant’s moose lodge ambiance. Crystal chandeliers and faded, extravagantly detailed ‘70s carpeting felt oddly appropriate for the band’s psychedelic indie funk-rock aesthetic. But it was Big Pink’s performance at Echoplex that was the evening’s standout. The British electric rock duo that has enjoyed much commercial success in the UK put on noisy and eclectic live set that was, by far, the most energetic performance of the evening. Mixing guitar theatrics with loud synths and drums, the band sounded like a cross between Depeche Mode and the Ramones. Frontman Robbie Furze sang at the top of his lungs. The fact that he was almost always out of tune made it all the more endearing – a punk-style karaoke session.

Between sets, the Echo played ‘50s diner rock & roll that helped set the mood for the evening. Despite Zola’s brooding moments and the Big Pink’s heavy noise influence, Culture Collide remained lively, light-hearted, and PG-rated.   

[Photo by Andrew Cho]

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