Substance Elevates The Festival Experience With Their Dark Offerings
LOS ANGELES, CA- Music festivals come in all shapes and sizes. When the huge multi-genre, 50K-plus in-attendance events wear thin, it’s always a pleasure to attend intimate, well-curated festivals… particularly when they are indoor affairs. Substance is one of those festivals.
In its third year, Substance calls itself “LA’s Dark Underground Festival”. They pride themselves in creating an immersive indoor experience that draws inspiration from “dark” genres of music including post-punk, dark wave, industrial, alternative and experimental. This year, they had performances by The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Chameleons, Kitten & The Hacker, and Youth Code top their bill over two days.
This was my first year attending the festivals, and I was duly impressed with how much the producers could fit into one venue. Held at the historic Los Angeles Theatre in Downtown LA, Substance utilized all 4 floors of the landmark theatre, with stages located on 3 of the floors, making it relatively quick and easy to get from one stage to another. As long as you know when your favorite acts were going to perform, it was just a brisk walk up or down a flight of stairs to catch the set.
The seated layout in the main theater was a nice bonus, as you could sip on your favorite cocktail … or partake in other mischievousness… kick back in a cushioned chair, and just kind of let the music envelope your senses. I noticed just as many people in the aisles dancing to the experimental techno that came from the stage as I did bodies in seats adorned with dark shades.
What I really loved about this festival was that they made a concerted effort to feature local favorites and up-and-coming talent on their bill. L.A. acts that I am particularly fond of like Sextile and Youth Code were featured on the mainstage and L.A. acts that I passionately feel should be garnering more attention like Patriarchy and Light Asylum had terrific outings on the other stages.
Substance also goes out of its way to recruit some exciting talents from overseas. We already mentioned The Jesus & Mary Chain, but Linea Aspera (UK) Kælan Mikla (Reykjavik) Absolute Body Control (Belgium) Schwefelgelb (Berlin) traveled to Los Angeles for this festival.
My “hitlist” of acts for Saturday got altered a little bit with some of the set times changing over the course of the day, but that didn’t take away from my experience at all. If anything, it gave me a chance to mingle with the scene and chat with more random folks as we waited for the music on at a stage to start.
As I floated from one conversation to the next, often complimenting some seriously cool gothic make-up, I realized that this was one of the friendliest gatherings of music aficionados that I had been around in a while. Don’t let their “dark” demeanor fool you, everyone (at least everyone around me) was a pleasure to be around. From the school teacher (who didn’t want her picture taken because she didn’t even want there to be a fraction of chance her students saw her dressed as she was) to the mortician (who had one hell of a sense of humor), I found myself enjoying the company just as much as the music that was featured.
I think another good thing about how this festival was organized was that it lasted only for two days; Friday and Saturday. With two packed evenings of hard-hitting music, I found it quite nice to have Sunday off to catch up on sleep, recuperate and reminisce about the experience. It’s much better than having to wake up early on Monday morning, with or without a hangover, head to work, and be sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen thinking how much fun was had not 12 hours earlier.
Substance had some underground afterparties at a private warehouse after each of the festival nights that went until the wee hours of the morning, but I opted to hit up the afterparty in my dreams. I had no regrets as all of the music that I took in during normie hours was enough to fill my soul with some really good “dark” musical goodness that will last me for a while… at least until next year.