A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts

Ryan Fuller and Rob Danson of Fort King, at The Echo

Ryan Fuller and Rob Danson of Fort King, at The Echo

Part VI: Echo Park Rising, Sunday

Upon waking on Sunday morning, the second day of the Echo Park Rising Festival, I was badly in need of loud music, comfort food and a cozy spot to curl into a fetal position. Preferably all at once. I had a strange dream during the night. There was a paranoid and delusional crack head who had left a cryptic message on my friend’s cell phone, threatening to come by the house and quite possibly do us bodily harm. In a dazed panic, we discussed various options (call the police, take a posse back to the house, not go home that night and stay elsewhere, etc.), while standing in a drunken crowd that included a throng of KXLU DJs on the sidewalk outside the Lot 1 Cafe in the middle of the night. As the fog began to clear from my sleep-deprived brain, I realized it was not a dream. After an hour of strategizing our next move, we actually listened to the message and determined that he was not a serious threat after all. As it happened, our sleep was only disturbed by the usual roving dogs and ghetto birds. At a friend’s suggestion (thank you, Rob Danson), I grabbed my stuff, scrambled back to Lot 1 and found the safe haven, satisfying brunch and healing music I was looking for.

Spencer Livingston

(Lot 1, 12:00 pm) Well, this was pleasant. What I thought was going to be a relaxing breakfast turned into a relaxing breakfast and the start of Day 2 of Echo Park Rising. Spencer Livingston is a rootsy and articulate singer songwriter, and he was in the back room with his acoustic guitar and warm, easy-going manner, sounding just wonderful. His solo debut, Grow, came out back in July.

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Holes and Hearts

(Lot 1, 1:00 pm) In the midst of my breakfast, Holes and Hearts started their set, and I entered into a lovely daydream, regaining my equilibrium with a wholesome breakfast and copious amounts of caffeine. As I learn now, they’re a duo of two brothers based out of Las Vegas, Riley and Casey Macek. I recall a familiar New Order song, and then vaguely heard them say they would be performing a cover from a Silver Lake band. What followed was VERY familiar — Airborne’s “Changing.” Totally surreal. And that’s how my day began.

The Wild Reeds

Next up was The Echo, as I wanted to catch Fort King’s set. But before them, yet another happy accident — The Wild Reeds. They’re a country-folk quintet that centers around three rather hypnotic ladies who sing beautiful harmonies and play various instruments such as acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonium. I might have wandered downstairs to the Echoplex to see what was going on down there, but I was completely transfixed. Since 2010, they’ve independently released two albums, Songs for the Morning, Afternoon and Evening and Even When the Strong Winds Blow. Upcoming shows include a San Francisco date on October 25 and it looks like they have a (FREE) Monday night residency at The Satellite in December. Have a listen and support this marvelous band.

Fort King

I first happened upon Fort King via guitarist/vocalist (and soundtrack composer) Rob Danson, who was previously in a band I’d written about here in musings, Death to Anders. Rob’s a huge supporter of the local scene, and a profile of his various exploits is certainly forthcoming. Fort King also features guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Ryan Fuller, Jef Hogan on bass, Charlie Woodburn on drums and Kaitlin Wolfberg on violin (who plays for something like five different bands in the area, including Seasons and the Rough Church musical collective). Together they create musical magic — a kind of psychedelic indie folk and soulful country blues jam. I was lucky to see them twice on this trip — here at The Echo, and also the night before I left for Costa Mesa, at a hippie enclave called Echo Country Outpost, which they were so well suited for, they should really be the house band (and maybe they are; I don’t know). More on that evening in part IX (yes sorry, you’ll have to wait). I’ll just say that as great as this band is when jamming live with their warm alt-country vibe, where they truly shine (for me, anyway) is on their gentler songs, such as this stripped-down version of “Woe to the Man.” Nearly two months later, I don’t have a clear memory of what other songs they played in this afternoon set, but this one stands out clearly.

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Sofar Sounds ~ private acoustic showcase

I then politely excused myself and raced over to a complete stranger’s lovely home in Echo Park, letting myself in through the gate and up the steps to their backyard deck where Hélène Renaut, The Happy Hollows, Sun Rai and Warships were setting up for their special acoustic show hosted by Sofar Sounds. A brief word about Sofar. They’re a very cool organization that “curates secret, intimate gigs in living rooms around the world.” Living rooms — and backyard decks. I can’t really say it better than they do themselves, so here’s the rest of their mission statement: “We spotlight emerging artists by introducing them to connectors and new fans through a unique and magical concert experience that is then shared and streamed to music lovers around the world. Sofar produces live musical performances in dozens of cities around the world and thousands of performers have passed through our doors. We are passionate supporters of musicians and the magical nature of live performance.” Check out their YouTube channel to see videos from past performances. Sign up for their mailing list so you can attend shows in your area, and follow their exploits on Facebook.

Hélène Renaut

Hélène Renaut is this incredibly sweet and gentle singer and acoustic guitarist with a tender, pretty voice. She was delicately accompanied by some soft percussion and was quite lovely. Her charming French-flavored British folk, during a particularly daydreamy moment, was hilariously punctuated by the sound of one of those ubiquitous helicopters flying overhead. Perfect.

The Happy Hollows

Ah yes, what can I say about The Happy Hollows? They are what brought me to this backyard Echo Park oasis, for the chance to see a rare acoustic performance by this hell-raising and spirit-conjuring tribe — one of my Eastside favorites. I mean really, how could I pass up the opportunity to see Sarah Negahdari actually seated while she sang and played? Well, as much as this rock ‘n’ roll whirling dervish can ever truly be “seated.” Playing with bassist Charlie Mahoney and guitarist Matt Fry, Sarah kicked her way through a brief but mind-blowing 4-song set that featured tracks from their new album, Amethyst. When I have a proper computer again (that mean not the little Netbook I’m typing on now), I’ll upload the video. For now, the songs on the new album are quite melodic, less grungy garage and more pretty pop than their prior outings, but still nice. On the recording at least, it does feel shall I say more well behaved, and I’ll admit to missing the crazed banshee wailings and guitar shredding. However, Miss Sarah proved in this little acoustic set that the wild woman is most certainly “still in there.” Thank god for that! They’re now officially touring the new album, so definitely check them out if you can. Locally, they’re at the impossibly small Lilypad in Cambridge on October 13.

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Sun Rai

This guy was incredibly cool. Australian and now Los Angeles-based soundscape creator Sun Rai was up next with his one-man-band. Taking from soul, pop, jazz and hip-hop flavored samples, Rai Thistlethwayte was previously a member of the band Thirsty Merc before setting out on his own. He was fascinating to watch and left everyone impressed and mesmerized. Check out a studio thing below and again, I’ll have some video up… eventually.


Having heard of them but never having the opportunity to witness them in person, I was excited to see Warships in this cozy setting. Their sound is catchy, funky and very danceable. They can definitely get a serious groove going. I’d call it a darker, denser pop. They just released their debut EP Shadows back in February, and were mentioned by Kevin Bronson over at Buzz Bands LA as “one to watch” this year. Follow them on Facebook to keep up with their doings.

After a lovely chat with the incredibly charming Happy Hollows kids, I raced off for a great end to a deeply satisfying day — a long and delightful dinner with a dear friend. In a relaxed, sleepy and ultimately defenseless state, I pulled up to the tiny house at around 2:30 a.m. and opened the ramshackle wooden gate to find a middle-aged Mexican man who spoke no English sitting on the front steps. With a considerable amount of fear and trepidation —

“Um, can I help you?”

“(long Spanish sentence I didn’t understand one word of)”

As it turns out, his name was Toro, he was “a friend” and was there “watching over things” until I returned. Watching over things from outside the house, standing sentry like some surreal unarmed foot soldier who had just stepped out of a Jim Jarmusch film. Still unsure if friend or foe, I hastened past him to the door, muttering how I’d get right back to him (which he probably didn’t understand anyway). The screen door was locked, my friend fast asleep inside. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon how one looks at it, the lock was not an issue, since the screen was torn and I easily reached inside and unbolted it. Safely inside, I closed and locked all possible doors. By this time, none of this seemed particularly out of the ordinary.

Coming up next: Tuesday night at Boardner’s in Hollywood and Los Globos in Echo Park, with George Glass, Malcolm Sosa’s new band, 123Death, Seamus Simpson’s Midnight Cities and Eli Reyes’ and Noah Green’s The Pretty Flowers.

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