Women Making Moves: Music and Mezcal at YOLA DÍA Lykke Li Brings Women To The Forefront With New Music Festival
Additional text by Derrick K. Lee, Esq.
LOS ANGELES, CA- Sun beating down, beats thumping across the grassy lawn, tajin rims clinking together. Sunday, August 18th was our type of summer party in Downtown LA. First-time fest YOLA DÍA brought the power to LA State Historic Park, with a stacked lineup of artists ranging from Courtney Love to Megan Thee Stallion, to Lykke Li. The afternoon was an experiment in the summertime magnetism of female artistry and a whole lot of mezcal.
Hosted by the Yola Mezcal brand (owned in part by Lykke Li) with philanthropic partner PLUS1, YOLA DÍA set out to create the ultimate concert cocktail—mixing one-part indie, one-part electro, one-part hip hop, one-part rock n roll…you get the idea. The final garnish? A good dose of social justice sprinkled on top. All those musical flavors made for a bit of a muddled lineup, but there was no denying that thing came out strong for the price, and that’s all you can ask for in Los Angeles.
Sunday also featured specialty drinks served up alongside food vendors and an art installation auctioned off to benefit the ACLU- all part of a vision to bring together local female talents and ask fest-goers to engage in civic responsibility. PLUS1 helped collect $1 from every ticket to go towards fundraising goals of access, equality & dignity, and the crowds were graced with a mid-day speech from Dolores Huerta, the American labor leader, and civil rights activist.
At 89 years old, Ms. Huerta is still an inspiring voice of action. She reminded (or educated) the masses at YOLA DÍA the importance of the census, pointing out that every counted person could bring in up to $2,000 for a community in need. She also emphasized the importance of being a compassionate and inclusive community. “We’re talking about love and unity,” she proclaimed, which drew cheers from the crowd. She finished her short speech encouraging women to step up to the plate and take power, and started a vigorous call of “Who’s got the power?” and a booming response of the United Farm Workers chant “Si Se Puede!”, which literally translated means, “Yes, it can be done.”
Refinery29 and others reported the fest would be completely staffed by women, from security to bartenders, so—while there were lots of talented women on hand—we have to admit the fest did fall a little short of this ambitious promise. We chalked the presence of male bartenders up to staffing issues, and happily sipped our “Water Water” mezcal cocktail and headed back to the two stages for what we really came for: some seriously good music…
Lia Ices’ voice cut through the dry heat and kept things cool while fest-goers trickled into the Chinatown-adjacent venue. She took on the tough opening slot with poise, hitting clear and haunting high notes that drifted across the park.
Perched on the Main Stage, she looked every bit the part of an indie songstress, seated at her piano in a mock neck dress (someone tell us where she got it, please). The echo of the large stage and the barely budding crowd actually played to Lia’s strengths, letting her mimic the hollow reverb on her big hits, “Love is Won” and “Little Marriage.” As an understated (and perhaps underappreciated) start to the day, she proved that less can definitely be more, when the vocals are there.
Over at the Second Stage, energy burst out of the speakers and into the view of the crowd. Empress Of brought the bubbly, bounding out onto the stage with matching organza outfits for Lorely Rodriguez and her supporting stage-mate Erin Fein (Psychic Twin). Important to note: these looks were thanks to Rodriguez’s own mother, whose handle—of course—is @latinaknowles.
Empress Of embodied everything that YOLA DÍA is about: Rodriguez is a first-gen Honduran American, raised in LA. Her EP “Systems” featured 4 bilingual tracks, and she has been bringing dreamy, high energy synth-pop to the scene since she first emerged in 2012.
As soon as she bounced on stage, she brought the crowd up off of the hot grass, acting as a magnet across the fest, building a swaying crowd at her bare feet. Sincere and infectious in her energy, Empress delivered dynamic vocals and tantalizing interaction with the instruments and audience. We all soaked up the sugary sweetness of the set, dancing along to big hits like “When I’m With Him” and “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed,” and singing back the words to “Love for Me.” From where we were dancing, the rallying cry of “Woman is a Word” felt like the beating heart of YOLA DÍA being pumped out to us, via synth.
Kelsey Lu’s music has always had a sensual flare. The first time I saw her perform back in 2016, dressed conservatively in a ruffled turtleneck, wearing a coat with tails, her dreamy, R&B infused chamber pop really set me into a dream-like state. With her performance on YOLA DÍA’s main stage, I noticed how she has seemingly grown into her own skin.
Wearing a fierce, sparkling blue blazer shirtless and white-whisp adorned matching shorts, the visual component of her performance matched the sensuality of her music. She performed an extremely soulful set, lush with jazz sonics and the classical elements she grew up with, and as the sun reflected off the sparkles on her outfit, I could feel that sensuality with every bow of her instrument.
Her music has always been an eclectic mash-up of styles. Some may consider it eccentric. That eccentricity was also personified on stage when poured a large bag of Lay’s potato chips all over her body and proceeded to roll around on them while proclaiming, “I love Lay’s so fucking much.” It was a humorous- and shocking- moment that further revealed the “give no f*cks” fearlessness that she’s grown into.
Back on the small stage, the producer/DJ Sophie played a set, while casually smoking a cigarette, that included a handful of songs that she has produced. “1, 2, 3, Days Up”, “Sunscreen”, “Reason Why”, among others.
Even though it was an early afternoon set, I was actually anticipating- perhaps unrealistically- that one of her collaborators would join her on stage as a special surprise. After, a lot of her collaborators are Los Angeles based. Alas, this didn’t happen. The absence of special guests notwithstanding, Sophie’s set had the crowd dancing in the summer sun
CupcakKe missed her flight from Chicago into Los Angeles and arrived at the YOLA DÍA festival grounds after her original 4 pm set time had passed, but that didn’t stop her from taking the stage anyways to give the YOLA DÍA attendees a little sumthin’ sumthin’.
Whoever thinks you can’t win over a crowd with five minutes, I give you CupcakKe and her famously raunchy performance of her hit “Deepthroat”. After apologizing for only being able to perform one song, she lit the place up with her filthy lyrics and undeniable smile. She even flashed a tit for her fans.
Clearly, her fans wanted more as they cheered uncontrolalbly after she stepped off the stage, and there’s no doubt that she would have kept that insane energy up for a full set had she been able to.
It wouldn’t be a Hot Girl Summer if LA wasn’t graced with the presence of Meg herself. On the Main Stage, Megan was given an earlier evening slot that maybe didn’t quite give her the sexy sunset setting she deserved, but it did let us see all the ass shaking that we came for.
Meg’s knees delivered on their almost mythic reputation, taking her up, down, around, and all over the stage in her brief but memorable set. She brought the kind of presence that you’d expect out of a seasoned hip hop pro, so you’d be forgiven for having to blink away the shock from realizing she’s still just 24.
From booty to bars, Megan was an absolute (and very explicit) delight. The set was a masterclass in living up to the cultural hype that can eat up new rap acts… but only while it lasted. Like several other of the day’s artists, Megan’s time on stage was over shockingly quickly. In the end, “Freak Nasty” is what we—her loyal local Hotties who were 4 mezcal drinks deep—demanded…and you already know she delivered!
Courtney Love hasn’t performed live for a few years, and her fans came out in droves to see their queen back on the stage. At YOLA DÍA, Love’s faithful would not only be treated to a selection of Hole’s biggest hits (“Asking For It,” “Miss World,” “Doll Parts,” and “Malibu”), but also some pretty special covers.
The first cover was of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” which Cortney had previously recorded. The second cover, which concluded her set, was a bit of a shocker.
Anyone who grew up in the 90s already knows that Courtney Love was a big fan of Echo & The Bunnymen. In fact … if I recall correctly … she imitated Echo & The Bunnymen’s frontman’ Ian McCulloch’s stage mannerisms for her own performance. She and her band finished their set with Echo & The Bunnymen’s seminal hit “The Killing Moon”. It was a solid cover, although I thought it was a bit of a heavy song to end a set that was pretty light-hearted overall.
As the sun was making its descent into the west, YOLA DÍA had the melodic tunes of Cat Power accompany the gorgeous dimming of the western skyline. With the rock and roll, booty shaking and dance music that preceded her, Cat Power’s set was a nice respite that allowed attendees to lay back on the grass and take in the moment and unwind ahead of what was sure to Lykke Li’s fierce, uptempo performance.
Chan Marshall delivered a pleasantly moody performance, performing a set that included a handful of covers (Nico’s “These Day” was particularly blissful) and a selection from her much-heralded 2018 Wanderer.
As the sky morphed from hues of fluorescent purples and pinks to the black of night, Cat Power lulled us into a mellow state of mind. As I wandered the festival grounds, I saw multiple couples lying together in the grass, allowing Chan to lull them into a state of ease with her subtle vocals.
All the energy of YOLA DÍA seemed to build up to the final set from headliner Lykke Li, who helped put together the festival herself. She took her time coming on to let everyone in the LA Historic Park grounds gather around the Main Stage and have the skies get truly dark. The place felt properly crowded for the first time all day, and nightfall gave us the sultry, edgy vibe that Lykke’s set demanded.
Dressed in all red latex, the Swedish artist let her body spasm with every verse so that all eyes remained on her. Every single Lykke song is emotive and feels personal in the most feminine way, making her a perfect headliner for the day’s theme.
A choice few instantly took us right back to whatever tragic, romantic pining we were doing in 2008 (probably in Facebook statuses written in the 3rd person). One of the set’s true highlights was the epic “No Rest for the Wicked,” which let Lykke and the crowd join voices to create a much fuller sound compared to her signature preciously high vocals.
The tracks did burn a little slower than fest-goers may have expected after coming off such high energy acts as SOPHIE, CupcakKe, and Meg Thee Stallion, but luckily Lykke’s captivating stage presence and moody visuals lulled us into a “so sad, so sexy” trance that carried us through the rest of a perfect night.