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Eagle Rock Music Fest celebrates 15 years with culture-clash lineup

October 04, 2013|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
  • Teri Gender Bender of Bosnian Rainbows, who will headline the annual Eagle Rock Music Festival
Teri Gender Bender of Bosnian Rainbows, who will headline the annual Eagle… (Bosnian Rainbows )

With the boulder bearing the image of an eagle in flight lording over it, the annual Eagle Rock Music Festival celebrates 15 years on Saturday by taking over the neighborhood's business district. Featuring multiple stages, the day-long party will echo through the hills of Northeast Los Angeles with experimental electronic and ambient music, Americana, rock, global bass, jazz, blues and punk, as well as food and family-centered action.

It's an impressive and adventurous roster, featuring artists Bosnian Rainbows, Poolside, Boardwalk, Nguzunguzu, Dub Club and a few dozen others, and presents evidence of the vibrant music community that has blossomed in the area. 

Over the span of the festival's life, Eagle Rock and its sister neighborhoods Highland Park and Atwater Village have become independent music havens, home to labels including Friends of Friends, Innovative Leisure, Stones Throw, Now-Again, Alpha Pup, Brainfeeder and others. Studios and indie biz offices dot corners, and no fewer than four fantastic record stores sell choice, expertly curated music. 

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Perhaps most important for the area's long-term prospects, the proceeds from the festival will help fund the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, a nonprofit space near the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado that programs art camps, after-school classes, workshops -- one on the xylophone begins on Oct. 14 (!) -- and concerts. Its mission is to ensure that the area remains an arts hub for generations to come. 

The space has long been utilized by taste-making promoters FYF for innovative gigs and represents the area's dominant population with evenings of Latin American-focused music. Friday night, for example, the center will host the monthly "Noches de Trova," which features Mexican and Latin American singer-songwriters drawing on bolero, ranchera, country, jazz, folk and blues music.

Saturday's music festival roster is all over the place. Those looking for heavy rhythm should note Nguzunguzu, whose tracks are typified by tribal, polyglot beats and psychedelic washes of synthetics. The smoother-grooved duo Poolside celebrates the more casual aspects of dance music, a team "inspired by California, mezcal, dancing, good food and friends." The beguiling duo Boardwalk, which has an excellent new album out on Stones Throw, promises to be a highlight.

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The biggest influx of fans will no doubt arrive for Bosnian Rainbows, though. The group was formed by At the Drive In and Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and his devoted followers are legion. Born as Rodriguez-Lopez went on hiatus from the Mars Volta, the Rainbows features the shockingly charismatic lead singer Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes.

A children's stage will host, among others, the uniquely Angleno work of the Bob Baker Marionettes. An experimental stage will be headlined by the modern dance troupe/music ensemble String Theory. The global bass stage should have tummies rumbling with the wild cumbia/new wave group El Conjunto Nueva Ola. The weekly Boyle Heights global bass party Subsuelo will connect the dots among the beat-based subgenres.

Taken as a whole, the roster should offer a fascinating glimpse at the Eastside culture clash that is Eagle Rock and Northeast Los Angeles. 


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