As summer came to a close, two yearly music festivals fill the streets of Los Angles, but due to higher ticket prices, attendance at this year’s [email protected] Yeah Fest and Sunset Junction may have taken a hit.
“I’m here, where in the hell are you?” a tall, lanky male yells into his cell phone while he leans against a faded blue Econoline van, with a license plate that reads “destroyer.” The van scurries with life inside as friends celebrate this year’s festivities with cheap wine and cigarettes. As people crawl in and out of the “destroyer,” the lot quickly fills as others arrive, ready for the three-day music festival known as the [email protected] Yeah Fest.
In its third year, the [email protected] Yeah Fest transformed Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park, Calif. into a block party, as hundreds filled the streets waiting to see the more than 50 bands, local comedians and art exhibits, from Aug, 18 to 20.
The festival hosted a number of bands that fall under the radar of the mainstream music scene. Acts such as 400 Blows, Erase Errata, Foreign Born and Black Fag, a Black Flag cover band with a flamboyant lead singer, shared the stage with headlining acts Circle Jerks, Giant Drag and Dead Meadow.
Like with other street music festivals, performers where slotted into half-hour sets throughout three different venues; The Echo, Sea Level Records and The Jensen Recreation Center.
All three venues were within walking distance from each other, allowing spectators the ease of travel and ample time to finish whatever substance they were pulling out of their boot along the way.
Sea Level Records held host to local artists who showcased their labors of love. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while most of the works presented great talent, others only presented a price tag worthy of so.
Local acts like The Silversun Pickups and Darker My Love kept the crowds at The Echo wanting an encore as well as another drink. As Envy, a band touring from Japan, ripped through a brutal but beautiful set, the local hardcore fan base stood shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed, showing the boys from Japan how cool L.A. is. The coup de grace came Friday night as Keith Morris of Circle Jerks reminded many why they had a Mohawk in high school. On Sunday night, shoe glazers Dead Meadow brought the thunder and overuse of the smoke machine.
“Hey when is Blood Meridian going on?” someone asks the master of ceremonies, Sean Carlson, mastermind behind the [email protected] Yeah Fest. The twenty-something Carlson has single handedly organized and promoted the [email protected] Yeah Fest all three years and is perhaps one of the only promoters in town still doing it for the love of the music.
Ticket prices were higher this year then previous due to bands being flown in to perform. This time around they sold for $20 a day or $55 for the weekend. The first year the fest was free, and there was a $6 fee for the second. The price hike did not stop a steady stream of attendance, but numbers were down from last year. As the ageless formula proves true, hipsters and money do not mix well.
Regardless of ticket prices and low attendance the [email protected] Yeah Fest will continue to lure and unite underground music lovers against the more corporate music festivals, such as Coachella, where $6 bottles of water and bad tan lines go hand in hand.
A week later and a few blocks across town, the annual Sunset Junction Street Fair took place on Aug, 26 and 27 showcasing The Cramps, uncouth door attendants, high ticket prices and the crowd’s favorite, a naked guy.
With more than 20 years in operation, the Sunset Junction Street Fair in Silverlake hosted three massive stages, dozens of street vendors, more than 40 bands and artists performing on a strip of Sunset Blvd. The two day festival brings entertainment and enjoyment to thousands, but due to a strictly enforced entrance fee, this year’s event gave the appearance of a heartless corporate event, as oppose to a community street fair.
As a group of young rockabilly girls walked toward a main entrance, adjacent to an El Pollo Loco on Sunset Blvd., they are stopped and asked for the $15 entrance fee. The girls look a bit confused and ask the attendant, “Isn’t it donation only?” only to get a monotone reply, “not this year.”
As the girls stand back and brainstorm, others make a mad dash through the El Pollo Loco next to the entrance, only to be stopped at the other end by staff and asked to see their wrist bands only to get pointed back to an exit.
As compared to previous years where a simple buck would cover the entrance fee, this year’s $12 before sunset, $15 after, left many stuck at the gate.
In previous years, entrance to the street fair only required a minimal donation to help aid the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, the event’s organizer, and 501(c) 3 that uses the proceeds from the event to fund various programs throughout Silverlake, Los Feliz and Echo Park, according to their Web site.
Normally an event this massive would have to apply for permits from the city of Los Angeles for the live music, vendors and street closure. Due to the non-profit nature of the event, the city has waived the fees in the past, because of this reason the street fair would have to charge a donation only entrance fee.
Last year, when the fair was still donation based, many who attended felt they were strong-armed into paying the “suggested” $10 entrance fee according to the LA Weekly.
Regardless of high entrance fees, many still braved the 90 degrees plus heat and sometimes close to impossible parking prospect.
As in past years, the junction hosted a solid line-up of great bands and performers including Sonic Youth, X, The Walkmen and The New York Dolls. This year’s headliners included Redd Kross, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hank Williams III and The Cramps.
As crowds eagerly wait for the headliners, children and nervous parents ride squeaky carnival rides worked, by creepy attendants, while others dance in the street to tunes provided by an old ice cream truck converted into a portable DJ sound system as leather covered “daddies” stroll by.
Vendors lined along the entire stretch of Sunset Blvd. sold everything from bacon wrapped hotdogs to questionable glass tubes as jewelry, at what seemed a flea market set to a great soundtrack.
Storefronts along the route hosted sales, live music and the occasionally promotional item such as free energy drinks or t-shirts.
As the sun set, the carnival rides lit up, the poor souls who had one-too-many, buried their head in their laps as the headliners took to the stage. On Saturday night, Redd Kross’ glam/pop-rock sound was met by a large and roaring crowd, marking the band’s return to the stage after a short hiatus.
Sunday night welcomed the grandson of country legend Hank Williams, Hank Williams III, and his band Assjack, whose fast and furious country tunes left many waving their empty Jack Daniels bottles in the air.
The night came to a close with pycho-billy pioneers The Cramps. As front man Lux Interior donned a wig and pulled a wine bottle out of his pants, guitarist Poison Ivy wailed away as the crowd trashed below.
Shortly after The Cramps’ set, the festival was shut down by police due to what was believed to be a naked individual running around the street, just another normal night in Silverlake.
As for the glory of its previous editions, this year’s street fair was knocked down a few notches due mainly to the higher entrance fee. Although $15 many not sound like an arm and a leg to some, to a family of four (with perhaps a fixed income) the price might have sent some families packing and many with the feeling that the community spirit was sucked out of the community fair.