Culture Collide 2012 Festival Review

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By Ace Ubas

Filter Magazine’s Culture Collide has been going on since 2010 and its mission is simple: bring together artists from all over the country to bring their perspective on music in one place for a four-day music festival. This year, they’ve got a musical melting pot that includes acts from the UK, Sweden, Iceland, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Israel, The Neatherlands, and even Estonia. It’s a great opportunity for fans of music to discover something new that exists all throughout the world.

Voxhaul Broadcast (USA)

Los Angeles natives Voxhaul Broadcast opened up the stage located in the Taix Champagne Room on Friday night. Mostly everyone in the room was already familiar with them, evidenced by their singing along to the lyrics and dancing around to their mix of garage rock and classic rock and roll. Right from the start of their set opening with “Turn the Knife,” exuberant frontman/guitarist David Dennis commanded the stage by bouncing around the stage and occasionally screaming notes with a classic 80s style falsetto. Voxhaul Broadcast is a band that is well-known to the local music scene and they showed why while proving that they’re ready for a bigger stage. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of having never seen them live before. Shame on me.

Immanu El (Sweden)

As a huge fan of the post-rock genre, it was great to see a post-rock band from Europe make their way State-side. Sweden’s Immanu El was one of the bands I was excited to see most and they definitely did not disappoint. Despite technical issues before their set, they managed to overcome them with a solid set at the Taix Front Lounge. Led by brothers Claes and Per Strangberg, Immanu El presented beautiful Explosions in the Sky-esque reverb-heavy guitars with soothing vocals that are reminiscent of Jonsi from Sigur Ros. The juxtaposition between aggressive instrumentation with the soft vocals create a wonderful and layered soundscape that surely stirred all kinds of pleasing emotions.

Sudden Weather Change (Iceland)

Having had the pleasure of seeing two of Iceland’s top acts this year in Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Ros, I learned two things: Iceland is a country that needs to be mined and excavated of its music scene and you can never go wrong seeing a band from Iceland. After walking over to The Echo, I took a chance at seeing Sudden Weather Change – and I was glad I did. The quartet delivered a blistering set full of psychedelic/noise rock tunes akin to early Sonic Youth and Pavement. While the hooks aren’t as stark as you would expect them to be, they still delivered some nasty guitar riffs with a stout and tight rhythm section that seemed to energize the crowd. Embarking on a brief West Coast tour after Culture Collide, don’t be surprised to see Sudden Weather Change as one of the bands to watch out for next year.”

Royal Teeth (USA)

Little is known about New Orleans quintet Royal Teeth other than the fact that they’ve played festivals such as CMJ and SXSW in the past, so they’re no stranger to that circuit. Lead vocalist Gary Larsen and Nora Patterson charmed the crowd with their southern hospitality, inviting the crowd to repeat certain lines in the songs or provided vocal harmonies. Their infectious pop tunes are definitely radio-ready and won’t be surprising to see some of their songs gain some kind of mainstream success (TV commercials, TV shows, etc.). Their songs are filled with catchy synth melodies and other than the drummer, two other members provide percussion that give greater depth to their rhythm. At one point during the last song, Larsen jumped into the crowd with a floor tom and started pounding on it much to the crowds approval. It doesn’t take much for Royal Teeth to have a high likeability.
(photo credit: Holly Crawford)

School of Seven Bells (USA)

School of Seven Bells was easily one of the bigger name acts for the night so seeing them only play for half an hour was certainly a disappointment. But that didn’t mean their set did as well, making most of their time limit by playing six of their best songs in their catalog. They opened with the hypnotic “Windstorm,” however, Alejandra Deheza’s vocals seemed lost in the mix and was barely audible. But that improved with “The Night,” an atmospheric number that summarized what SVIIB are all about: electronic-tinged shoegaze rock that creates an ethereal experience. Electronic elements are stronger on songs such as “Scavenger” and “White Wind,” causing the crowd to dance with electronic percussion and sampled vocals. “Low Times” was easily the best song of their set and also their most haunting as Deheza’s vocals and guitarist Benjamin Curtis’ guitar riffs have the ability to engulf your body and cause chills, especially when the word ‘predator’ was spelled out. They ended their short set with fan-favorite “Half Asleep,” a song with beats are even more pulsating live than on record. Think M83 but with Portishead’s trip-hop style sprinkled in there. Once again, they never fail to put on one hell of a show.
(photo credit: Holly Crawford)

Zola Jesus (USA)

Zola Jesus was another of the bigger names playing on Friday night, playing a longer set than most of the bands that have played. During their set, Zola Jesus’ Nika Rosa Danilova announced that it was going to be her last show as an Los Angeles resident. There’s no doubt that the local arts community will miss her presence, but she made sure she left with a lasting impression. What makes her shows very impressive is how she moves along to her own music, never standing still and always going from one stage to the other, and making her performance that more dynamic. Opening with “Avalanche” and “Hikikomori,” Danilova displayed her immensely powerful voice backed by tribal-esque percussion and a violin that added a dramatic and classical aspect to her set. The piano-driven “Lightsick” was a perfect example on how Zola Jesus can be so mesmerizing and captivating with a simple arrangement and repetition of the chorus. It was a great example of how her goth/dream pop sound fused perfectly with hip-hop inspired beats and blips. While she doesn’t do much chatting with the crowd in between songs, she still manages to incorporate them in her performance by jumping into the crowd and dancing with the surrounding fans during “Seekir.” There’s no reason for banter or dialogue with Zola Jesus; the interaction between the crowd and performer is there with the music and her body language. She’s even stated in interviews that she likes to be in the crowd rather than talk to them. Now that’s a genuine performer.

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