The inaugural year of a new music festival is almost always a magical experience. The first Bedrocktoberfest, which took place Oct. 5, was no exception — literally or figuratively.
The festival, which derived its name from the Bedrock recording studio near Silver Lake, where the event took place (in the parking lot), was also a celebration of the annual German Oktoberfest. An eclectic lineup of established musicians performed on the main stage for more than seven hours. Meanwhile, a second stage boasted a steady lineup of performing magicians.
Los Angeles indie band Vanaprasta opened the musical festivities on the main stage. The band, led by the smooth clean vocals of Steven Wilkin, played an hour-long set of classic jam band music. The band is about as local as you can get, having honed their skills as a regular house band at the nearby Satellite (formerly Spaceland) nightclub.
While the band played a compelling set, the crowd that arrived early on was more transfixed with the beverage and food side of the festival.
Most of the early crowd had purchased the VIP tickets for $50. The VIP pass included unlimited drinks and food in the VIP section. Becks beer offered five kinds of designer brews, while the standard American brews were also on offer. Hornitos organized a tequila bar. The third and final bar offered up the new Kinky vodka. The high end vodka came in three flavors.
Meanwhile, a mini buffet of gourmet foods was offered up by the Tuning Fork. The Studio City eatery describes itself as a “Rock and Roll: Gastropub.” While the drinks were being offered from the moment the festival opened, amazingly all three bars were still pouring free drinks seven hours later, near the close of the festival.
For those purchasing the $30 general admission tickets, there was a separate fully stocked bar and several gourmet food trucks to keep them well fed. Even the general admission tickets came with one free drink, adding to the festive feel of the local gathering, comprised of a colorful and diverse audience.
The magician stage, tucked in an old loading dock of the former factory, which now houses Bedrock recording studios, was lined with an array of pinball machines all set to free play. A series of comical magicians kept the crowd entertained during each set change on the main stage.
The second musical act of the day featured musician Twin Shadow & Wynn in a DJ set. George Lewis Jr. (Twin Shadow's real name) is an incredibly talented musician who migrated from Puerto Rico to Florida. He has been playing the festival circuit the last few years and has been compared to the legendary Prince in both substance and style. Unfortunately, no one got to witness his immense musical talent at the Bedrocktoberfest, but they did get to hear him perform an interesting DJ mix of 1980s remixed classics.
The music took another right turn with the next performance by Liam Finn and his band. If his name sounds familiar to older pop music fans, it's because of his musical pedigree as the son of one of New Zealand's most successful pop stars, Neil Finn. Neil Finn along with his brother Tim were responsible for a string of hit songs in various bands in the 1980s, including Split Enz and Crowded House.
Liam Finn has taken his New Zealand pop roots into jam bad territory, playing a screaming guitar in the midst of the melodic background created by his brilliant backup band. The result is a haunting musical odyssey sometimes moving in an almost classical direction, while at other times diverting into free form jazz oriented jam rock.
By the time famed rapper Rza (of Wu Tang Clan fame) made it onto the stage with his impressive backup band, about 9 p.m., the crowd was finally able to begin weening themselves from the open bar and swarmed about the stage. The large band appeared onstage in an almost visible waif of herbal smoke too pungent not to notice. As the band began to play a funky and infectious groove, Rza sauntered onto the stage, also looking a bit glazed.
The full band added a whole new dimension to Rza's thoughtful lyrics (usually only accompanied by a DJ and some backup rappers). Sounding more like a soul group in the vain of Sly and the Family Stone, Rza led the band in a funky set that captured the attention of the mostly hammered crowd. Between the songs, Rza would chat up the crowd, offering song anecdotes, advice (such as don't give up on your dreams) and rousing attempts to pump up the crowd.
The larger-than-life performer seemed to be in lockstep with many in the crowd, in a full tilt party mode. At one point, after fading off into the backstage area, the famed rapper re-emerged flanked by two sexy clad dancers, who sprayed the crowd with bottles of champagne, as he launched into the classic “Drink, Smoke and F-ck!” Later, Rza exclaimed rhetorically, “Do you wanna get faded with me?” Then he took a swig from a vodka bottle and passed it into the crowd.
As the evening wore on, the festival began to feel less and less like a concert and more like a private house party — to everyone’s delight. Even without the card tricks, it truly was a magical night in this little working class enclave of west Los Angeles, where people really know how to throw a party.
— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.