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A Detour in need of a route

Beck's set is strong but not the sole attraction at a downtown festival that has potential but lacks variety.

October 09, 2006|Rich Kane | Special to The Times

You couldn't help thinking Saturday during the inaugural Detour Festival of all the other pop music fests whose shadows it lands in: It's a less pushy-shovey Sunset Junction Street Fair with bigger bands; it's a San Diego Street Scene when it was still held in the Gaslamp Quarter, only without the wandering drag queens and stilt walkers; it's Austin's Sixth Street on any weekend night, minus the frat boys throwing up every 50 feet; it's Coachella without the heatstroke and the Bataan Death March hikes to the stages.

Indeed, it was almost too much like Coachella, since most of Detour's headliners (Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, Basement Jaxx, Blonde Redhead and the Like, among them) are veterans of that yearly desert extravaganza. The bill was a little too familiar, a little too comfortable, pretty much eliminating the potential of discovering new favorite bands.

Still, you could do a lot worse than Beck, who was by far Detour's main attraction, mixing older hits with cuts off his new disc, "The Information," all played to a clever video background of look-alike puppets that mouthed every sung lyric.

There was some terrific orchestrated pop from Georgia indie darlings Of Montreal; L.A.'s Everybody Else laid down some sugar-soaked power riffs (the band could make bank doing a Cheap Trick tribute show, if it so desired; singer Carrick Moore Gerety is a dead-on Robin Zander, and who doesn't love a great "Woo-hoo-hoo!" chorus?); Redd Kross was excellent, as if it's ever been anything less; and Basement Jaxx got severely goosed up by the gut-punch guest vocals of Queen BellRay, Lisa Kekaula.

Barely tolerable, though, were the deathly dull Blonde Redhead and the Mike Patton-led Peeping Tom (you can still call him "the Faith No More guy"), last seen in an Internet video ragging on Wolfmother for being too retro -- "What year are we in?" Patton asks incredulously.

So what did Patton do at Detour? Popped onstage -- after being introduced as "a musical genius," and not ironically, either -- in a white suit and wiggled off a D-grade P-Funk impersonation; the fog machines followed (seriously -- fog machines!) a few numbers later. What year are we in indeed?

Detour's creators -- promoter Goldenvoice and the LA Weekly -- will need to figure out what they want their baby to be when it grows up. Sure, there were the obligatory vendor booths (henna tattoos are mysteriously still hot), but never enough portable toilets, ATMs or food stands (the crowded queues for those essentials disappeared only when Beck began his set).

Fortunately, at least for those smart enough to have arrived at Detour early, the downtown traffic migraine never materialized. That plus the general smoothness of the nine-hour affair and a strong turnout of about 15,000 people were good omens for future fests. It's easy to imagine Detour expanding to a full weekend in not too many years.

Still, as good as Detour was, future fests hopefully will be more sonically diverse. Blackalicious, the token hip-hop act, simply wasn't enough. And in this hugely Latino city, how could this event end up with just one Latino artist, Tijuana's terrific Nortec Collective? (It would've been nice to see Kinky, which played the Grand Avenue Festival just two blocks over.)

Besides Beck, Detour's other high point wasn't a band but a venue, as DJs took over the former St. Vibiana's Cathedral. Now an arts center, it was a sight to see Hollywood turntablists Steve Aoki and Blake Miller -- known together as Weird Science -- spinning behind eight leggy ladies who writhed in nun habits on what had once been an altar. While that was going on, couples were spotted lip-locking in the church's old confessional stalls and downing cups of beer. At that moment, Detour -- and Catholicism, for that matter -- were never more entertaining.

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