Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Two Turntables and a Microphone" in Downtown LA: L.A. Weekly's Detour Music Festival

Last night Chrissy and I attended LA Weekly's 1st Annual Detour Music Festival in downtown L.A. Headliners Beck, Queens of the Stone Age and Basement Jaxx were accompanied by 15 other Myspace-favorite acts including OH! NO! OH! MY!, Blonde Redhead, !!!, The Like, Of Montreal and DJ sets by Kid Millionaire, VHS or Beta and Shepard Fairey (Complete lineup here).

I'm a fan of the musical medley you get from multi-billing festival lineups, but recent outings to Coachella, Weenie Roast, Acoustic Christmas etc have become a labyrith of stringent security don'ts, mainstream sponsorship booths, overpriced beer gardens and way too many people. Maybe because this was the first annual concert with a smaller turnout or the lineup just attracted a more mellow crowd, but everything about Detour (from easy & close-by $5 parking, short &/or no lines, friendly security peeps who let you stand on street signs and the like to get a better view) was relaxed and about the music-- just what good concerts are supposed to be like.

Saran Wrap Car and Glowing Seahorse Art Installations

Yes, there's still the lineup of booths, but alongside the questionably religious act of recruiting concert-goers--the Kabbalah Center; with a sign on their booth offering a free red Kabbalah string "just for signing up now!"--there were also non-run-of-the-mill booths hawking cool, non-concert related clothing such as $10 Indian silk dresses and skate/street label Royal Cheapskates as well as a booth highlighting the pro-tree planting charity, TreePeople (which received a portion of the proceeds from the concert.) You could also feed yourself between sets without spending the equivalent of a concert ticket (which was a very reasonable $35); affordable food stall choices included $3 pad thai, $4 fried artichoke hearts and $2 for delicious custard puffs from Beard Papa.

The festival started at 2pm, but we didn't get there until 7pm; just in time to catch Basement Jaxx's frenetically-happy set, eat a Beard Papa Cream Puff and find a good spot for Beck. His 1hr set was a condensed version of his show at the Wiltern which I saw a couple months ago (complete with the puppets, dancing bears and dinner party set up), but with loud and clear acoustics, a grand entrance with Loser transitioning into back-to-back songs covering his entire discography, new songs from his new album, The Information, a long encore and a 'Snakes on a Tour Bus' short featuring his puppet alter-egos, I thought this show was tighter and more energetic than his Wiltern show.

Although we were only a couple blocks from Skid Row, with two outdoor stages flanking City Hall, another DJ stage inside an old church, art installations displayed outside the courtyard of the CalTrans Building and the Downtown LA skyline providing a twinkling backdrop to the concert venue, it was really cool to be able to enjoy a picturesque and bustling Downtown during night-time.

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