Thursday Night Was No Match for Day 1 Of Love You Down Fest Warpaint and The Reemergence of Gardens and Villa Highlight A Spectacular Evening Of Music
LOS ANGELES, CA- To kick off the week before Valentine’s Day, Los Angeles-based band SWIMM and musician/bassist Jennylee of Warpaint threw on the Love You Down Fest, a two-day music and arts extravaganza celebrating the local LA music and arts scene. The event was a sell-out as artists took over both stages at the Echo and Echoplex in Echo Park, providing an extremely intimate and exciting environment for fans, artists and friends alike.
With a lineup featuring some of LA’s best upcoming indie artists, the festival also served as the 15-year anniversary party for LA’s beloved indie rock band Warpaint. The event truly felt like a community, as the love in the room was felt entirely both nights.
We tried to cover all of the acts that were scheduled to perform, but we unfortunately missed a handful of time slots. Our apologies to those we missed.
In a line-up of mostly indie/alt rock acts, I was quite chuffed to catch Rugby Wild perform on the Echo Stage early on the first day of Love You Down. This L.A. transplant by way of New Jersey was pretty damn dope. Eschewing the radio trends of trap and the like, Rugby Wild had a style and sonic that had me feeling those jazzy hip hop vibes from my high school years circa 91-95. Plus, I could actually understand every lyric that he was spitting.
What I particularly enjoyed about Rugby Wild’s performance was the way he incorporated live instruments to enhance the some of the sample based loops that his DJ punched in. I’m a big fan of live horns, and he had a trumpet player accompany him on a handful of tracks. In my humble opinion, live instruments make everything better.
But Rugby Wild’s early performance didn’t really need any extra bells and whistles. His energy was positive and infectious and definitely set the perfect tone for the rest of the day.
The first act we were able to catch on the Echoplex stage was deafmute, the musical project of LA-based producer j.franxis. It was my first time see this act perform and I was pretty hypnotized. With the room drenched in a dark blue light, j.franxis’ synth sonics overwhelmed your senses. His casual vocals floated over the at times frenetic synth work that he was playing; perfect contrast in sonic elements that worked like a yin and yang.
Had I known that he had previously recorded music with Warpaint’s Emily Kokal (“Fortitude”), I would have anticipated her joining him on stage at some point during his performance. Needless to say, I was surprised when she joined him on stage to perform the same. j.franxis gave a few minutes of his set-time to Emily to [I think] let her debut a new song that she had been working on. I wish I could have found a clip of that song online to confirm the foregoing statement, so if anybody could confirm that for us that’d be great!
Oozelles packed the Echo with a bunch of unbridled energy and soncis during their Love You Down set. This 5 piece band is, per their Facebook bio, “[f]ormerly named Fake News. Members of Dante Vs Zombies, Sex Stains, Jail Weddings, Ivory Deville, Warpaint, Starlite Desperation, Neo Globs”. This collection of musicians gave those in attendance a joyous smattering of eclectic weirdness that got the adrenaline pulsing through your veins. Think Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle if Mr. Bungle had a few too many Redbulls. At least, that what my impression was.
The Oozelles frontman was particularly fun to watch perform. A unfurled ball of energy, he was constantly dancing amongst and between his jamming bandmates, giving the music even more of an unrestrained edge.
Aside from headlining both nights (with a different set list each night), all four of the artists in Warpaint took to the stage for their own special sets and solo appearances throughout the two-day event.
Jennylee headlined her own solo set Thursday night, featuring tense and moody beats, atmospheric sounds and her signature heavy bass lines. She was completely consumed by her music, as she would croon meditative phrases into the mic as her backing band played spacey, angsty tunes, such as “never.”
She repeatedly confessed her nerves, mentioning “Emily [Kokal]’s not here to talk to for me” with a laugh. As a visceral performer, she jumped around throughout her set and was constantly visibly moved by the music. She was a thrill to watch as she mesmerizingly sang originals like “boom boom,” where she sings, “It’s society, it’s a sign / If you see me, move my body / That’s a sign too.”
I had seen Goldensuns open for Swimm at the Moroccan Lounge in 2017, and their performance left a very favorable impression on me. With a year gone by, they have apparently left more favorable impressions on many new fans as they were one of the few non-headlining acts to actually have a contingent of fans … dare I say groupies … clamoring at the front of the stage to see them perform. Their fans were so ardent that they kinda nudged my out of my space to take photos.
But I can’t complain about any of that. What made an impression on me during this performance- the brothers’ musical connectivity notwithstanding- was how their fans were grooving and singing along to each and every song they played. Clearly, these gents know how to write memorable songs, and those songs are truly sticking with their fans.
It’s always nice to see and hear a band grow, and this trio of brothers are clearly growing in the right direction.
Indie rock and synthpop aficionados Gardens & Villa brought their love of folk and electronic music to the Echoplex stage. A California band with a heart for 80s analog electronica, their live performance is full with keys, drums, an electronic drum track, cool guitar lines and retro California-surf vocals. And let’s not forget the wooden flute! You don’t hear a sound like that in popular music these days!
Songs like “Orange Blossom,” featuring quirky head-bops and a cool 808 drum-pad sounding electronica, as well as the beloved “Black Hills,” tinged with twinkly bells and keys atop a steady drumbeat and grungy lead guitar line, kept their set dreamy, catchy and cool. The band hasn’t released any new material since 2015, and their tease of new material showed their love of 80s synth and electronics.
After an hour-long wait at the downstairs Echoplex stage, eager fans waiting patiently woke up from their daze as Warpaint took the stage by 11 p.m. for a full 90-minute set. The quartet’s Thursday night set was incredibly moody and atmospheric, as they delved into deeper hits: opener “Krimson” off their debut EP Exquisite Corpse, was an incredibly lush and meditative atmospheric hit, as the crowd shrieked in excitement; “So Good” and the infectious pop catcher “New Song” off 2016’s Heads Up both got the crowd moving. It wasn’t until later into their set where they dived into older hits, playing a special rendition of “Billie Holiday,” the biggest hit off their debut EP. The quartet’s folky, haunting rendition of the David Bowie song featured the band lined up at front, offering each of their whispery vocals and joining in on the meditative lullaby.
As the band went into “Beetles,” a personal favorite, the crowd went crazy. The buzzy vocals and easy drumbeats over a fun bass line, which features guitarist/vocalist Theresa Wayman at the helm, is an angsty hit from their first EP that emits all the confusion and angst that comes with being alive. “Where am I, why can’t I just get it together? / Fuck it, where’s my shit? / Oh my God I’m mad at it” Wayman sings. The crowd, ready and willing to shout out every last word, sang along with Wayman, “I wanna throw it out the window / I wanna throw it out the window,” with their fists in the air and wailing alongside each other. The song’s interesting song changes, spacey guitar riffs and mesmerizing guitar lines were absolutely stellar.
Before closing their set off with “Disco//very,” they also debuted their new song “Melting” for the first time live. The song, driven by a consistent underlying electronic drumbeat, Jennylee’s heavy bass line and Wayman on the synth, features lead vocalist Emily Kokal crooning, “I’m melting,” as she hits an electronic drum-like cymbal/gong in-between interludes.
Warpaint’s music is something that deserves to be experienced, and it’s truly inspiring to see a band fueled on pure emotive feeling, expression and atmosphere (something that has continued to set them apart in a heavily pop-centric, male-dominated industry) still kill it after 15 years. Kokal even expressed her amazement, saying that in an industry like this, 15 years is a long time and the band is grateful for each and every fan who has continued to support their music.