We traveled beyond Eastsiderland to Pasadena on Saturday to take in some some of the best and brightest musical acts from Echo Park and Silver Lake at the city’s annual toast to independent music. Make Music Pasadena featured over 100 artists on over 30 stages performing throughout the day. From singer/songwriters to rock quintets, some of the most buzzed about musicians made a showing that declared the Eastside home to one of the most fruitful music scenes not only in Southern California, but the country.
The Silver Lake trio Superhumanoids has had a steady diet of touring already this year. In preparation for the release of their album Exhibitionists on June 11, they have been making the rounds with fellow Silver Lake band, Local Natives. Perhaps this and the intense heat on Saturday had taken their toll. For all that Superhumanoids lacked in showmanship, they certainly made up for, however, in the stoic, sharp delivery of their music.
With a diligent sound check, the trio made sure that without question they would deliver a stellar set. And indeed, their set exploded like a rocket for a sonic trip that was one of the most emotionally enveloping of the day. The dream/ synth-pop act has the uncanny ability to capture music that is both danceable and enigmatically alluring. It is pop music with an underbelly. Their delivery of “Geri” best portrays the band’s machinations of ‘80s synth and today’s pop. A musical cocktail of idealized ‘80s excesses, the last rarefied shreds of Regan-era innocence, and modern verve.
Guitarist and co-vocalist Cameron Parkins worked a delicate love affair with the mic. His vocal style was at once chilling and magnetic. As a whole, I wanted more from Superhumanoids on stage. Their music – and particularly Sarah Chernoff’s voice – so captured me that I was yearning for more interaction from group. Often there was a lull between songs as we waited for many of the sound effects and synths to gear up, a break from the flow that had just been generated by the heat of the last song. Parkins offered the much of the band’s showmanship both in his fancy footwork, and in striking up a rapport with Max St. John on keys, that allowed the two to feed off one another.
Over in laid back Memorial Park is where I found singer/songwriter Simone White serenading concert goers from the humble amphitheater stage. In great contrast to the many electro pop or indie rock acts that dotted the stages of Make Music Pasadena, White was stark and often let the silence speak for her as much as the actual notes of her music. The way her articulated cadence let the silence dance in those beautiful moments in between accentuated the knowing, cautionary quality in her voice. Accompanied by keys and drums, White played most of her set on an acoustic guitar to best let the emotion of her voice shine through, although she did switch things up in the end on electric guitar. With a steely gaze into the sun, White’s virtuosity was on display as she also shared songs in Spanish and Italian – the latter a song she picked up from her last European tour.
Featured in our latest Listening Station, White revels in Echo Park’s fantastic artist community which has helped her find bandmates and lift her music to its current state. “It feels like a collective,” she said of the neighborhood after her set Saturday. That collective is how she happened upon her current keyboardist.
You can also catch Simone White at an upcoming show on June 11 as she takes to the loft at Origami Vinyl for a set.
The New Limb
The New Limb was one of my must-sees going into the day. Having caught the Indie-Folksters’ shows around town over the last year at The Bootleg and the like, I knew what they were about, although I wondered what a larger venue like Colorado Boulevard would bring. Vocalist Joey Chavez’s command of the stage was formidable, and he delivered a passionate vocal display. The band unleashed much of their new material along with their distinct covers, like that of Usher’s “Climax”, on which Chavez’s voice unearthed new falsetto levels on the vocal register. What the band does supremely well, showcased on yesterday’s rendition of “Blood Lust”, is simmer a feeling of suspense, letting it build and ultimately boil over in a dynamic eruption at each chorus.
The Peach Kings
The Peach Kings keep it simple. The duo of Paige Wood and Steven Trezevant Dies relied on the depth and shrewdness of their late’ 60s, riff-heavy rock to bowl over the crowd. Having played few live shows recently, the band also broke out some newer material for the Pasadena crowd. The twosome certainly did manage to put on a thrilling show on the festival’s main stage. Dies played a wandering (yet emphatic) guitar – literally. Dies, stumbled and twisted around the whole stage, propelled by just the sheer force of his guitar playing; at one point, the force, literally shot-putting his sunglasses clear across the stage. With sweat pouring down his face, the Silver Lake native was inspired. The magic of his Jimi Hendrix-tinged licks leaping from his guitar.
Their definitive “Thieves & Kings” set a precedent for their star-turning set. Overall the duo prescribes to a late ‘60s aesthetic – certainly their sound, but Wood’s own performance shtick as well, and it works. She dressed her mic stand in flowers and donned a matching crown doing her best to channel a Woodstock-meets-Hell’s Angels aesthetic as she ruled over the stage in heeled black boots. This weaving of hard and soft between Dies’ riffs and Wood’s vocals makes for a glorious sonic dichotomy, and eyeful on stage. Their interplay is reminiscent of the alternating gritty and ethereal exchanges of Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice.
Marni Epstein is a freelance writer and music journalist who has also worked in both the film and digital media industries.
- Arts, Crafts & Music Instruction. The Eastside Guide