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Seven years ago a group of visionaries launched an event which continues to shape the musical landscape of Los Angeles and even the world. In a very special venue in a forgotten corner of LA, they crafted a unique sound.

Low End Theory continues to be one of LA’s best kept secrets, and this week we are offering a special inside glimpse into the thoughts of its all-star cast.

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So what is Low End Theory? Where is it going? Why the Airliner? …let’s find out

Where did the name come from?

According to the founders, there were many ideas for a name, but Low End Theory was the only one they could all agree on. And yes, it is named after the Tribe Called Quest album.

Yes, but what does it mean?

Low End Theory is really about: Los Angeles, “continuing the tradition of being free with music”, and to “help artists express themselves and find a broader audience…” – Daddy Kev (Founder/DJ/Sound Engineer)

What about Flying Lotus?

“Flying lotus is the gateway drug: people find Flying Lotus and they dig deeper, then they find low end theory”

Why so much bass?

“Bass is the closest thing to emotion, it’s how we feel music” – The Gaslamp Killer (DJ/Producer)

What about lyrics? MCs?

“Almost useless…just be a really good instrument…as long as I keep the cadence, my job is done” – Nocando (MC)

And those trippy visuals?

“I really have to listen to the music to come up with the images…and then I put strobes on everything…it’s a beautiful artifact that has to be destroyed” – StrangeLoop (VJ) image

The event has grown a lot lately, perhaps beyond the airliner, how do you deal with the buzz?

“We’re staying at the airliner…the magic that we do, it lives in that room…The rainbow ends at the airliner. That’s where we live and die” – Daddy Kev

What makes LA so special to you? 

“The depth of the talent base” – Daddy Kev

“Friendly Competition” – The Gaslamp Killer

What is the future sound of LA?

“Melting away of the divisions between things…the genre thing is gonna be a thing of the past” -DJ Nobody (DJ)

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(from left to right) Gaslamp Killer, D Styles, Nobody, Nocando, Daddy Kev, Strangeloop

These quotes came from a panel at USC that took place in early October 2013. Much of the discussion covered underground music in LA and the stark contrast of the music featured at Low End Theory against what is currently in the popular mainstream. There was much speculation about an upcoming explosion of bass music across the county, citing summer releases like Kanye West’s Yeezus and the changing trends in popular EDM. Gaslamp Killer’s statement really captures the essence of the artistic integrity and vision presented during this discussion:

“We’re just trying to find the perfect beat”

Keep Listening.

John

 

The Background: Last weekend, hipsters from every nook and cranny in LA gathered to check out the up-and-coming sounds of the modern scene. Over 120 bands were scheduled for this iconic annual festival of music and youth culture, which ran for two days (and well into both nights). Listen On was there covering the music on Saturday. What follows is a bit of a play-by-play covering of what we liked best:

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We promised these demonstrators we’d post this pic. As nightcrawlers of Echo Park, we agree!

The Layout: Think south by southwest SoCal style. The never ending bar crawl. Here you will discover the meeting point between the maximum loudness of a punk band and the strength of your alcohol tolerance.

Pricing/accomidations: Food trucks!! (we love em) Pricey booze (friends, byob!) Bean bag chill lounge outside The Echo (live DJs included) There was even a parade: image

Lineup: Yoya @ Taix Lounge Champagne Room image As a USC music grad I had to make my first stop with an old cardinal and gold favorite, Yoya. I wasn’t able to grab a quote from Alex, but I will say they sounded amazing last weekend! Yoya just started touring the west coast.

The Ktown Oddity @ The Echo image

This was not my first encounter with the Ktown Oddity, but needless to say when we walked in on this beat-blasting wolf mask-clad rapper I got excited. I really dug that the Oddity was equal parts DJ and MC. His beats were noticeably progressive, but still belonged to that iconic hip hop sound thanks to the samples he chose. I especially appreciated his sense of humor. At one point he spit every president from Washington to Obama over a beat. Dope image

I was lucky enough to run into the Oddity on the street after his set (this happened a few times during the festival w/ friends and artists alike-possibly my favorite feature of the event) In our 2 minute interview I managed to distill his impression of Echo Park Rising:

“Community reigns supreme.”

Indeed, it does

Moses Sumney @ Taix Lounge Champagne Room image

When I saw Moses booked on Saturday I knew we had to see him. Moses killed it of course, once again bringing the entire room into the palm of his hand for the duration of his set. By the end most of the crowd was seated, transfixed. image

I actually waited in line with all the other fan girls in hopes he would remember us from The Bootleg-he did, and offered us another knockout quote about the vibe at the festival:

“At first I thought I wasn’t hip enough to play here…but I’ve been really inspired to see people excited about the music rather than trying to be part of ‘the scene.'”

Kan Wakan @ The Echoplex image This was one of those sets where you kept noticing folks in the crowd turn to the hipster on their left and ask: “Who are these guys again?” image I mean this in the best sense. Kan Wakan impressed and amazed with a truly epic set, accompanied by a pro level video projection that took it to the next level.

Jeffertitti’s Nile @ Lollipop Records image My favorite for the night, these guys absolutely killed it. I must be a masochist to have tunneled in and clung on in that tiny, sweat-soaked record shop, but it was fucking worth it.

I’m fascinated by this whole burger records conglomerate, with their cassette tapes and their blaring surf-punk. It seems like, in LA at least, they have today’s rock scene down to a science.

The Retrospective: It’s easy to spend too much money on music festivals, and these days the most popular youth gatherings are becoming little more than glorified theme parks, with the billboard/edm mag’s top 100 strewn about like carnival attractions. This makes the millions but it can’t be compared to the strength and energy of community-driven events like Echo Park Rising. image There’s something about free festivals that can bring together a special mixture of individuals, artists, and fans- a chemical solution for the perfect harmony of art and sociality.

I hope this one stays free, and not just because I’m broke.

Keep listening John

Concert culture. What a weird combination of concepts. It seems like we could break down most concerts to an entertainment business, and culture to the organic result of the gathering of people. I would be the first to put a foot down in the argument against corporate interests in live music, but it’s a slightly larger step forward to suggest that the kind of patternistic human behavior we sometimes call ‘culture’ could rise up out of such a congregation. Then we have cities like LA, Miami, and Austin. Cities that have so much going on with live music that a cultural experience is an essentially unavoidable side-effect of the concertgoer’s experience.

In these places, venues seem to literally bleed out from between the apartment blocks and office megastructures. Every bar has found some clever way to cram a stage into the corner; every strip mall, from Little Tokyo to the Beverly Center, features some kind of convertible performance space; even the beaches and highways could become an improvised setting for artistic performance (See: Imperial Stars-”Traffic Jam 101”). In this cultural conversation the best events occur when profit isn’t involved. Between the months of July and September in Santa Monica, the intrepid music lover can find one such example. For the past 28 years the dedicated staff at the Santa Monica Pier have put together the Twilight Concert Series, a summer-long festival featuring popular artists of all different styles and backgrounds. The shows are free to anyone who can navigate the labyrinth of vendors crowding the Pier. Attendance fluctuates depending on who gets booked for a given week, but for a larger act like Best Coast you can bet those sea-soaked planks and the beach below are going to be crowded! The atmosphere is light and family-oriented. Since the concert takes place outdoors in a public space alcohol consumption is not permitted, which lends to a more kid friendly vibe.

Still, prepare to crowd in when the music starts. The artists bring plenty of energy to the stage and the production value is consistently enjoyable. If nothing else, the beauty of the sunset over the ocean accompanied by live music and a crowd of happy Angelinos is more than enough to make this free show a must-see for any summer concert fanatic.

Keep Listening

-John

Echo Park may be the worst best place to see shows in LA. Yet tucked away amidst the sweat-stained dives whose only flavor seems to be seediness, the un-suspecting concertgoer may be so lucky as to stumble upon a venue like the Bootleg Theatre.

There’s something charming about the character of this particular black box. The weeknight crowd is your typical artee­st-wannabe mishmash of hipsters and older hipsters, sort of a ‘best and brightest’ of Silverlake regulars (more to come about the community up here in the hills in the following weeks). One quality that really sets the Bootleg apart is that even when everyone is packed shoulder to free-trade hemp-clad shoulder, the climate at the stage manages to stay fresh and cool. This feat of ventilation alone makes for one of my favourite venues in LA, if not of all time.

The bar is decorated with old concert posters that show off the venue’s eclactic lineage of top acts. The menu is actually fairly priced, and features a mixed drink which drew my curiosity and immediately won my heart: the dirty ashtray. Not to be confused with the cocktail drink, the dirty ashtray is a tall can of tecate mixed with lime, hot sauce, and some spice. Another blogger on Robots for Hire puts it best- these puppies go down like a liquid taco truck.

We really dig the sound at the bootleg. Like most places in the area there isn’t much else to say other than that it’s way, way too loud. Still, under the strain of a four, five or even six piece rock band the system holds its own with some remarkable sustain and low frequency support. The mixing at this venue can be inconsistent but is generally of quality and adapts well to fit the show.

One cool thing that’s happening right now is the Monday night Market. The Bootleg has extra space with a room large enough to host a small bazaar of vendors even during a packed concert event. I had the opportunity to speak with one merchant about the market and how it compared to her experience at the downtown artwalk.

Her biggest complaints had to do with the high cost of visibility and overcrowding, problems which ultimately drove her to seek out a new space at the bootleg. Apparently an artist or vendor could pay two to four times the cost of the bootleg for an out-of-the-way spot that would not receive the kind of attention someone like her had paid good money to expect. This is a big problem for the future growth of the artwalk, especially in the light of negative events like the LAPD raid/subsequent shutdown that happened this summer.

I would recommend the bootleg, especially if you’re seeking a more intimate look at a newly discovered band. Sometimes, the best way to really make up your mind about new music is to experience the artist’s interpretation of their ideas in a live setting.

Keep listening

John

Tallboy!

What does the average Los Angelite look for in a nightclub? It seems like a new one opens every weekend, flooding us with options. Obviously we must be careful in our selection process, lest we be tricked into wasting a night and a lot of money on a lame scene. A lot of really cool spots are opening up downtown and the energy is starting to follow. In this time of change it’s the most interesting to see how older, more ‘seasoned’ venues in the hollywood/silverlake area are going to respond to this demographic shift.

When you first walk in to the Echo, one of Echo Park’s most known and established venues, you might catch yourself wondering what the hell everyone was thinking when they wrote it up as a must-see in the LA concert scene. The stench of rotten beer hits you square in the face before you’ve even entered the bar, and as soon as the front door swings open that sledgehammer of a sound system says hello with a nice kick in the teeth.

The beer selection is limited but cheap. One of the venue’s quirky strengths is the large, open counter that allows an easy flow of patrons to and from the bar. I also appreciated the well-stocked selection of limes and other tasty condiments. There is a little seating inside but most people crowd in front of the stage beneath the monolithic loudspeakers hanging from the ceiling.

A disco ball adds to an above-average lighting array which seemed to respond to a few of the cues in the performance-an unusual and enjoyable touch to what would otherwise be a classic dive. Like many of my favorite bars that feature live music, the Echo boasts a well-furnished outdoor patio where people can escape the hectic noise of the bar to flirt and have a smoke.

My biggest issue with the Echo was also my favorite touch: the sound system. There is no other way to describe audio at the Echo than it’s simply too fucking loud. The system boasts powerful lows and punchy mids along with high end detail that doesn’t blare or bite like so many JBL in-house systems in bars around the city. I was impressed by how well it handled the veritable punishment dished out by the bands.

Although I have always heard of the Echo treated as a live music venue, I think the system and the space could handle a larger EDM crowd if the occasion were to arise. Generally I think they do a good job of bringing energy and fun into a run-down historic venue, but if the Echo doesn’t get a facelift it may have trouble competing with the developing, classier scene downtown.

Keep listening

John