Coconut Spaceship Stokes The Independent Fire With Lunar Bloom Festival
LOS ANGELES, CA- The indie music scene is important. So important. In fact, I’d say that its relevance in the grand scope of things means more to culture and the direction of the future of the arts than any millions a corporate machine could throw at it.
What makes the indie music scene so relevant? The community. You know the idiom, “It takes a village to raise a child”. The child is music, and the village is the indie music scene. Without the members of the community banding together to celebrate and encourage each other, I’m pretty sure that music, in some sense, would die a little death.
With covid restrictions easing up a little in Los Angeles (knock on wood that Omicron won’t throw another wrench into future plans), machines like Live Nation and Goldenvoice started to schedule shows at their numerous venues. The independent artist community artist also started to take the initiative and organize live music events at willing venues.
On November 13th, 2021, Coconut Spaceship, an independent record label based out of Los Angeles, decided to take the ambitious initiative to organize and curate a music festival on the east side of China Town. Working in tandem with Niantic Media and sponsored by Planet LA Records and Mossecat Recording, the mini-fest was hosted by Oracle Tavern, offered two stages, and a number of local acts who were looking for the chance to perform in front of a crowd after over a year relegated to Tik-Tok live streams or Instagram Lives.
I was excited to attend the event as there were a handful of acts on the line-up that I was particularly fond of, or whose music I was particularly drawn to when I did my Spotify deep dive. As it was my birthday, I decided to take it a little easy and not work up a sweat running back and forth from stage to stage trying to photography all of the 25 scheduled acts. I think I did a pretty good job with my lineup.
When I arrived at the festival, I arrived in time to catch the first act I had on my list: Kate Faust. I decided to check out Kate Faust’s set because I enjoyed what I heard on Spotify. When I heard the first track listed on her Spotify page, “In Bloom”, I was immediately drawn to her powerful voice, which was both confidently firm yet breathy. Couched in a hypnotic synth melody, “In Bloom” definitely piqued my curiosity. Another song that I particularly liked was “It Can Be Spring”, a song that she released earlier this year. She really flexes her vocal chops on that song and its instrumentation is also beautifully arranged with just her playing the keyboard and accompanied by a small string ensemble.
As this was my first time catching her perform live, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I had seen some video clips online of her performing with a small backing band (drums and guitar), but in this instant, she took the stage solo with just her keyboard. I actually preferred seeing her perform for the first time like this. It really let me appreciate how much real-life control she has over her voice and demonstrated how talented of a musician she was. It was not like she had a thumping bassline or a loud drum fill to hide behind. Plus, the “stripped down” nature of the music allowed for some real passion of hers to come through as she sang her lyrics.
The next act on my list was someone whose music that I’ve grown particularly fond of this past year: Kat Hamilton. There aren’t many artists who I feel genuinely wear their hearts on the sleeves and in their music, but Kat is one of them. She may joke and flash smiles between songs, but when she’s singing about something personal to her, I feel like I turn into an empath and start feeling those same emotions.
I’ve got more to say about Kat, but I think I need to save it for another post. I caught her show at the Hotel Cafe at the end of October, and I still have some thoughts on that performance that I haven’t gotten around to publishing yet, but hopefully, Kat can forgive me for the delay. Sometimes life just gets in the way… I’m sure she can understand. You can too if you listen to her music.
I stayed in the Writer’s Room & Oasis, ordered a cider, and stuck around to enjoy a chill acoustic session with James Ghareeb. I was drawn to his music because the timbre of his voice reminded Dermot Kennedy. His song “Jane” (released in 2021) kind of has that Dermot breakbeat that makes James’ folk aesthetic tip-toe closer into the pop-realm.
Like Kat Before him, James’ performance focused on the emotions layered into the songs he sings. His singing was effortless and earthy, and I found his vulnerability accentuated whenever his voice delicately flipped into his falsetto. Sometimes almost into a whisper.
I would have loved to hear him work some full voice power into his songs just to bring an element of dynamism into the performance, but perhaps this wasn’t necessarily the stage nor the setting to do so. I’m interested he keep an eye out for new music from him to hear how his sound develops.
I don’t know how I ended up clicking on it, but at some point this year, I listened to Lucy Clearwater‘s “Show Me” and I fell in love with that song. I fell in love with the songwriting. That chorus with its guitar lick had me feeling some H.E.R. feels, and I was digging it.
What I found intriguing about Lucy’s music as I went down her rabbit hole was that “Show Me” seemed like the anomaly in her repertoire. I got some of the “Show Me” vibes from her song “Adore”, but for the most part, most of her released music I listened to was leaned more folk than R&B. I stuck around the Writer’s Room stage to check out Lucy’s performance with the hope she’d perform “Show Me”. She did. Man, I love that song. I also love Lucy’s voice. Her alto register is resonant and full and she can effortlessly flip into her head voice which makes all of her transitions just lovely to listen to.
She ended her set by inviting another musician on stage, Jason Sibit-Okumu, and they performed a couple of duets. Since I’m relatively new to her music, I’m not sure whether this is a new or established project, but they did a lovely job rounding out her acoustic set.
Since I was already making myself comfortable in the Writer’s Room at Lunar Bloom, I decided to get another cider as I had planned on checking out the next act set to take the stage: Fox Violet. Fox Violet is a melodic rock group fronted by Thea Juliette. While the member of the band may rotate, Thea remains the steady constant. I had the pleasure of working with Fox Violet a couple of years ago when I had them perform at my Madame Siam showcase, and I was excited to see Thea perform again.
For this performance, Thea performed without the full backing of a band but was accompanied by a guitarist whose name escapes me at the moment. The energy level of the room got kicked up a notch as we went from mellow folkish acts to a stripped-down alt-rock intensity. The Writer’s Room had been battling the ambient noise coming from the acts performing on the main stage, but when Fox Violet started performing, and the distorted guitars pulsed through the speakers, I knew the sound from the Writer’s Room would give the main stage sound a run for its money.
It’s always fun to see a big band sound stripped down to its bones, but I really can’t wait to get a chance to Thea and company rock that 5-piece sound that I remember when I get a chance.
I next ventured out of the Writer’s Room back to the main stage to check out V Torres (Veronica Torres). Though I wasn’t too familiar with V Torres’ music, I decided to take a flier on her performance because a friend of mine had actually done an interview piece with her for Our South Bay Magazine a couple of years back… and I’d like to think my friends have good taste 😉
There was a certain charm to her set. Her roots/classic rock aesthetic had a jam band charisma, and that lent the performance a loose and carefree vibe. V Torres really looked to be in her element, gleefully playing off of her guitarist Kiran Lingman, and really emitting a sense of confidence that emanated into the crowd. Fun set all around.
Another artist who piqued my curiosity was Astrina. This indie-pop artist’s electronic music repertoire on Spotify is pretty solid. Solid production that’s highlighted by lots of electronic sonic layers and pulsing, yet never overbearing, percussive elements. Her “wall of synch sound” is tempered by her steady and firm vocals. Her most recent single, “My Fate Unknown” is a particularly good example of this dichotomy, with its dark and brooding moods and her almost reassuring vocals even though the doubt is laid out in the lyrics.
Manning the bass, and accompanied by a synth player and guitarist, Astrina performed a solid set. I did, however, feel like that room wasn’t best suited for her sound. I personally think a song like “Big Dreams”, which she performed great by the way, should be turned up to 11 with that bass note that reverberates during the chorus in the recording shaking the walls of whatever room it’s being played in. If anything, I’m keen on seeing Astrina performing in a venue more suited for her music. Hopefully soon
One of the acts that I was particularly hyped to see perform live was the band Boy Deluxe. “Tru Murra” and Hope Simpson reorganized their musical focus in late 2019 and started fresh by taking on the Boy Deluxe moniker. The pandemic may have stalled some of their music plans, but after teasing fans with a slew of singles throughout 2020, they dropped two EPs (Risen and I Woke Up Like This Again) this year which contained mostly new music that they hadn’t already previously released.
Including the tracks on the 2 EPs, Boy Deluxe has about 15 recordings on streaming platforms. I think their current repertoire does a really great job of showing off all of the different musical facets that Boy Deluxe has to offer. Tru does a fantastic job consistently producing all of the music; infusing the synth-laden instrumentals with a brooding ominousness while allowing Hope’s vocals to really shine on each track. That dark aesthetic is a strong hallmark of Boy Deluxe’s music.
Touching on Hope’s vocals, I found myself listening to her in awe when I heard their song “Ashes”. There was a softer, delicate side in her voice that I hadn’t previously noticed before, and I loved it.
That being said, I freaking love seeing them perform live because when they perform some of their bangers, you’re bound to work up a sweat. Songs like “Bait” (their first official Boy Deluxe single) and “Sliver Sliver”, with their propulsive rhythmic tracks, well get you bouncing your head to the beat. Watching Hope get possessed on stage as she sings and dances to the music, especially during “Bait”, makes you want to want to get on stage and get possessed with her. It’s that adrenaline-inducing energy that makes Boy Deluxe such a joy to watch live each and every time.
Coconut Spaceship is the record label of Little Galaxies, a band founded in Venice Beach by Jeanna Fournier and Amir Eshraghi. back in 2013. I’d been following the band for a while on Instagram, but I had yet to catch them performing live. Jeanna and Amir actually pulled double duty at this festival as are also members of the band The Cabbys, who played earlier in the day. Jeanna actually pulled triple duty as I also saw her running around the festival grounds handling hosting and videographer duties.
Little Galaxies describe their music as “cosmic sounds”. One their latest album, One with the Waking Sea- which was released earlier this year- those cosmic sounds are an amalgam of psychedelia, rock, and pop. This is my personal opinion… and I could be totally smoking crack here… but when I listened to their album, I kind of got a Sting circa “Englishman in New York” vibes.
After reading about the inspiration for the album, I felt privileged watching Little Galaxies perform as a full ensemble with Jeanna in fine performer form. Despite all that she’s been through with regards to physical and speech therapy to recover from her injuries, you would have never guessed that she had been through so much.
I was particularly intrigued by the undeniably smooth quality of Jeanna’s voice. I feel like the tone of her voice rests in some unfamiliar-to-me range that lies right on the cusp of her head and chest voice. I’m not sure if that makes much sense, but to me, it hits a really sweet spot of comfort. Even when her band is playing a kinetic instrumental passage, her voice seems to instantly infuse a serene calm, regardless of what she’s singing.
After Little Galaxies finished their set, I decided to head home. The hour+ commute home beckoned. I wish I could have stuck around a little longer, because the community that had gathered for this event had such a positive energy. I got to meet new people, and see old friends. Dancing with random strangers seemed to be the thing. Smiles were abound. Live music was in the air.
All of these people came out to celebrate and partake in this indepdent music community, and massive kudos are in order for Coconut Spaceship, its partners and sponsors, for proving that with a little bit of gumption and effort, beutiful things can happen when you do it yourself. Hopeffully, that spirit becomes contagious and more groups take the initiative to build something from the ground up and keep that independent first stoked.
Follow Coconut Spaceship on Instagram.