ECHO PARK RISING 2011
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
I am not one of the individuals who remember the Sunset Junction as a small community gathering of Silver Lake locals. I know Sunset Junction as a gathering of inebriated individuals from all over Southern California looking to enjoy some music and overpriced churros in the hot summer sun. It had been a few years since I participated in the all day bash, and I was very much looking forward to the 2011 edition. USELESS KEYS, The Stripminers, Vanaprasta, Helmet, Melvins and the Butthole Surfers all in one day – how could you not brave triple digit heat for those acts? For those outside of Southern California, Sunset Junction failed to obtain a permit from the city of Los Angeles (which was not the city being cruel as much as Sunset Junction really fucked a lot of things up) and was subsequently canceled. As soon as Sunset Junction ceased to have a pulse, various artists began to book shows in and around down. With some dubbing the event as Echo Park Rising (a name I am using despite only seeing one show in Echo Park), my man Jeff and I decided to see just how many shows we could hit over the course of one day.
Sunset Junction Live From Dangerbird Records
Located in Sunset Junction, Dangerbird Records is home to such acts as Silversun Pickups and Beady Eye. While I have driven past their Sunset Blvd headquarters on numerous occasions, I have never had an opportunity to stop in for a visit. They have a pretty sweet setup, as the stage overlooks what is basically a back yard with various trees (aka shade), some street art and a basketball hoop. We made it to the free show (with donations requested and gladly handed over to the wonderful non-profit known as The Pablove Foundation) comprised of some of the up and coming local artist who were originally scheduled to perform at Sunset Junction.
Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the mix of styles while never truly having their own sound but I lost interest quick in Chasing Kings. Did they meow a song? I think they meowed the lyrics to a song, I don’t really remember as I ended up hanging in the shade somewhere between the trash can and those endless supply of funky supplement drinks that tasted like diet skittles.
Not knowing anything about these guys, they win the prize as the only new act to win me over all day. I am a sucker for that rock meets folk with a bit of La Honda psychedelica thrown in for good measure sound. The Fling fly the rock meets folks with a bit of La Honda psychedelica flag high and proud. Well written songs with solid licks and great melodies. With new material to release later in the year, the band debuted some new material, including the song below. I will no doubt be seeking these guys out again.
I really want to like Vanaprasta, probably because in the next 18 months everyone will like Vanaprasta. The band had elements I really liked. The energy level (especially the guy who was using the palm tree as a percussion instrument during the first song) in the group was high. Some of the musical passages intrigued my ear. I think the one thing that killed it for me was the vocals. They sounded so much like Kings of Leon that it ruined anything good they can do While the familiarity will help them in the end it made me rush back to a bench in the shade versus diving deeper into the set. Perhaps the group would be more enjoyable inside a club versus playing outside at 3pm. One positive note is that Kevin Bacon and his brother showed up for the set and seemed to enjoy it. If you know Vanaprasta (or Jeff and I) you are now one degree away from Kevin Bacon.
It usually takes something rather special for this Nor Cal West Side boy to hit the Silver Lake/Echo Park section of Los Angeles. Typically those special reasons are Record Store Day, Joseph Arthur or USELESS KEYS. Till someone proves me wrong, I will proclaim USELESS KEYS as the best local band in Los Angeles today. The group used their set not only to wrap up a brief tour of the South West, but as a chance to rock a lot of material assumed to be featured on their upcoming full length release . “Static Friend” “Kamikaze” and “Sea Bells” and songs unfamiliar to me hypnotized the crowd. The four-piece made sure to mix in the material found on their four song debut EP. “Arizona State Highway” was an appropriate call given the concrete baking from the oppressive sun overhead. There is no doubt that “White Noise” is a natural set closer, so when the band began to strum to chords I knew our time at Dangerbird Records was coming to a close. Another great set from USELESS KEYS, till next time gentlemen.
There was a debate to head back to the west side after USELESS KEYS, but that would have been about 2.5 hours in a car for three hours at home? So Jeff and I decided to head down Sunset to Amoeba Records in Hollywood to check out The Growlers. Originally scheduled to perform at the Junction on Sunday, I suppose you take a gig where you can get one right? I had literally looked up The Growlers on YouTube earlier in the day to see if it was worth the trek I enjoyed the spooky Scooby-Doo flavored surf rock thing that The Growlers had going and figured why not make the trip. We made it just as the band wrapped their first song. Standing in the Diamond Head/Ani DiFranco/Dio section of the store, I noticed myself more excited for the air conditioning instead of the music. Once my body cooled, I realized I really didn’t like the music. I take that back, the music while nothing amazing was fine. It was vocalist Brooks Nielson that ruined it for me. He felt as if he did not want to be there, proclaimed that he never comes to Amoeba because he has no money and one must assume he was not just drinking java from that coffee mug. I ended up looking at vinyl for the final 1/3rd of their set ending up with albums by Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts and TV on the Radio.
Photo by Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Man can’t survive on music alone, which is why Jeff and I hit up Big Wangs in Hollywood for dinner and what we assumed would be baseball and pre-season NFL action. While we got the NFL action, we were also treated to UFC 134. Neither of us are fans of UFC, but with cold drinks and pizza tater tots it ended up being a sweet spot to not only recharge our batteries but kill a few hours. Not knowing really anything about UFC, it was a blast to watch this Anderson Silva guy just destroy Yushin Okami. Where other fights I saw featured fighters lunging upon their opponents as soon as they were down on the mat, Silva played cat and mouse with Okami. It was pretty bad ass; I think I finally see the appeal of UFC.
The final leg of our Echo Park Rising 2011 experience was a trip to the Echoplex. Here is where I admit that I have never stepped foot into this venue (of the Echo for that matter) and now I must wonder why as it’s a great place. I spent basically the entire set of 400 Blows towards the back section. Its clear 400 Blows don’t take themselves seriously as I don’t believe a band could be that bad without knowing they are bad. Instead I spent my time playing Words With Friends with fellow journalist/Concert Confessions supporter Adrian Garro. Sure, he was 15 feet away from me, but as we posted to our Facebook wall, Words With Friends is much more entertaining than 400 Blows.
On June 28th 1996 a local radio station in the Bay Area hit up my local Blockbuster Music and gave out free tickets to the Reverend Horton Heat/Toadies/Butthole Surfers gig that night at the Greek Theatre. I was not allowed to attend concerts at this time in my life, especially concerts across the Bay in Berkeley with people my parents didn’t know. So I did what any 17 year old kid would do and told my parents to fuck off and went anyways. As it turns out it was one of the better choices I made as my parents fined me $25 and then started letting me go to shows. For fifteen years I have been trying to see the band again. There was no way in hell I would allow a permit issue to keep me from rocking out with the Butthole Surfers.
The band hit the stage around 11:30pm as front man Gibby Haynes questioned the crowd to see how many had tickets for Sunset Junction. With many hands raised high, Haynes shared his disappointment with the cancellation (Butthole Surfers were set to headline the main stage) before blasting into “100 Million People Were Dead.”
With the bands core members all in their mid-50’s, the four piece rocked Echo Park hard for 90 minutes. What shocked me was the fact that most of the set was that much of the material performed was from the bands mid 80’s material. I didn’t think we would hear anything from Psychic…Powerless…Another Man’s Sac, but there they were rocking “Negro Observer” and “Gary Floyd.” Other classics like “BBQ Pope” “I Saw An Xray of a Girl Passing Gas” and “Bong Song” pleased the hardcore Butthole fans.
While I can’t claim to own the entire Butthole collection, I would say my favorite release by the San Antonio noise rockers is 1993’s “Independent Worm Saloon.” The band blessed the Echoplex with a lot of material from this release including “Goofy’s Concern” “Some Dispute Over T-Shirt Sales” and “Edgar.”
I know on their last tour, the band refused to play their one mainstream hit “Pepper” so I was not expecting to hear it on this particular evening. The band however shocked me and many more as they snuck it into a medley along with “Lady Sniff.” However that was the only material performed from the entire Electricladyland record.
All in all, the Butthole Surfers were the perfect way to end a great day of show hopping. I am grateful I got the chance to see the legends live and in person once again. As far as Echo Park Rising, I think there may very well be something here. Various shows around local venues for a weekend, it could be SXSW for downtown adjacent. I know I had a blast running around and would be down for another round next year.