HiFi Rockfest 2015 Early Coverage

True Rivals

Although the punk scene in Los Angeles is alive and well, there is a severe drought when it comes to local punk rock festivals. The HiFi Rockfest is throwing its hat into the ring in what appears to be a pretty easy battle for the best fest in the SoCal area. With excellent local supporting acts to draw from like True Rivals, Dirty Filthy Mugs and Luicidal and heavyweights like Street Dogs, Naked Raygun and Dead Kennedys showing their support in just its first year, this fledgling fest  may already be near the top of the pack. In its inaugural year, the event was held at Harry Bridges Memorial Park in Long Beach in the shadow of the Queen Mary after a slight venue change. To get the inside scoop, we sent our local Staffers down to the beach to see what they could see and report back with all the deets. Check out AnarchoPunk’s full write up on the early acts below!

The waning days of September in the San Fernando Valley are, more often than not, pretty oppressive. As Fall starts to creep in, the heat in the dusty concrete valley only intensifies. It’s as if it were giving the middle finger to Autumn with one hand, the other one stubbornly grasping onto Summer pleading for it to stay a few weeks longer so that they may continue their lurid assault on the denizens of this fair city. So, even without the prospects of a brand spankin’ new music festival to check out, I was game for a trip to the coast just to beat the heat. Without so much as a second thought, I threw my trusty notepad and a blanket into my backpack (or is it bookbag?), hopped into the family truckster and headed south on the 405 to LBC. Since I’m getting rather long in the tooth, I decided to go for the first half and catch the supporting acts. Younger, lesser known bands are a little more my thang anyway, plus I could still be home in time for the The Wheel of Fortune!

The Two Tens

Carmeggedon didn’t really do anything to cut traffic down through the Sepulveda pass, so the blame really needs to be placed at the feet of CalTrans for me missing the opening act. But, just because I couldn’t be there on time doesn’t mean this twosome shouldn’t get some recognition. This splendid garage punk act from LA is probably a little more Dead Weather than Dead Kennedys, but I will admit when I got out of the car and heard them, it got me moving a bit more briskly across the parking lot in a futile attempt to catch the last few songs of their set. Unfortunately, my knees have seen one too many circle pits and have long since refused to follow my instruction so, about all I could muster was a jubilant saunter. I mostly only got to enjoy the echoey remnants of the hollow, tinny guitar riffs and lo-fi vocals bouncing off of the pines that framed the pavement corridor leading to the venue. As I approached the security check, doppler took effect, at which point I could at least understand the simple, raw lyrics provided by guitarist Adam Bones while getting my pat down (the terrorists won!). Drummer Rikki Styxx must’ve been hammering the skins pretty hard because I could feel it from the park entrance which was a couple hundred yards away from the stage. I wish I could’ve caught more but just as I entered the park proper, they were wrapping up their final song. If you like The Ramones or the White Stripes, you should probably give these guys a listen.

During the intermission, I decided to grab a spot in the shade and take a lay of the land before the next act. I found a tree near the beer tent and tossed my blanket down on the immaculately manicured lawn. After staking my claim, I took a stroll around the grounds to get a sit-rep. There were plenty of food truck truck options, the obligatory merch tents and even a roped off VIP lounge area with white, leather couches that was wedged between stage right and the edge of Queensway Bay. Even at this early hour, there was every imaginable flavor of punker already there enjoying the festivities, OGs, Gutter Punks, Hooligans, Rudies, Skater Kids. There was even a couple with a three year old girl that was jamming the fuck out to the (exceptionally good) house music between acts that posted up right in front of me. It feels good to be amongs what they refer to in my neighborhood as, mi gente. The next band was starting their sound check so I headed back to my little plot for the show!

Downtown Brown

I want to take a second to personally thank whoever booked this funky four piece from Motor City. I was mildly familiar with them before but wasn’t completely sold on the funk/punk fusion so I never got much further than listening to a few tracks. After seeing them live, I can say that they were probably the most underrated band on the card. At the time they took the stage there still wasn’t much of a crowd as it was still a bit before noon but lead vocalist, Neebo didn’t let that hinder his hijinks. In between his singing and spastic improvised “Whaa-chow”s he kept imploring the ambling audience to dance, shouting “Why aren’t you fuckers skankin’?” Every once in awhile the veteran act would come to a dead stop in the middle of a song and the frontman would have these Ferris Bueller-esque asides with the congregation about random shit like mean YouTube commenters. Then right on the cue word, Ron would start slapping the bass again and the drums would kick back in without missing a beat. It fit seamlessly and hilariously into each song. The entire set was extremely quirky but still managed to send a message through not so thinly veiled criticisms on modern society. The two songs that spotlighted this most were “Terminator 2 Was Right”, which was a cautionary tale about technology taking over our lives and “Orange Girl”,  about….well…materialistic orange girls. The absolute highlight though had to be the cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” sang in falsetto for most of the song until finally breaking down into a faster, more suitable pace for the last chorus. Being a funk offshoot, there were expectedly more than one velvety smooth sax solos and as I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to punk, the more saxophone the better! To quote one of the better colloquialisms from back home, I was as happy as a pig in shit.

True Rivals

Next up, True Rivals who were the first pure punk act of the day. These guys are one of my new favorite groups so I was uber-excited to see them live for the first time. I don’t know how it’s possible that I’d gone this long without catching a live show of theirs, but it sadly was. The boys did not disappoint. I go to a bunch of different kinds of punk shows here in the City of Angels but it’s mostly genres that I’ve been getting into more recently, the dark and crusty stuff, or flag burning militant shit, ya know? I’ve been neglecting my roots. I had forgotten the feeling you get from a high energy, sprightly, old school, punk rock show. I had forgotten that the pit could be a place for bouncing around peacefully and watching the talented artists perform their craft and that it wasn’t just a battledome where you struggle for survival, dodging spiked shoulders and elbows at every turn. I forgot about the spry guitarist (lookin’ at you here, Trevor) careening around like a madman, jumping off of speakers and plowing into fellow bandmates. This is feel good punk! Although it wasn’t “Valley Hot”, it was still in the low 90’s right as the sun was at it’s apex and there wasn’t much of a breeze up near the stage, but the quartet’s energy never dropped, thirty minutes, non-stop. The dual vocals of Kevin and Derik fed off of each other perfectly throughout the set and they killed the harmonies on “Right Behind” the track that gets the most playtime on my TR playlist. Nate stayed cool as a cucumber sitting in the recessed, shady portion of the platform, you know, just smashing the kit. The set was comprised of gems from their debut LP The Revenant with “White Collar Crime” getting the throng frothed up the most. Great set, great band. Like Derik said, “You just leave there feeling better.” I’m so thankful to be reminded that there’s more than just a dirty, gritty, cynical, political side to punk. I will be putting the merch I picked up to good use on my newest project! Thanks boys!

Year of the Dragon

Another SoCal product, this political hardcore five piece took the stage with alacrity and a definite purpose. I love hardworking bands that just come ready to work, lunch packed. The “A Wilhelm Scream work ethic”, if you will. While the music may have more metal and funk influences, the lyrics were 100% anger and angst punk, probably best compared to System of a Down or Tool. The songs were longer and a bit more meandering than true punk songs but that didn’t keep it from being a fantastic performance. The entire set was furious and the pace was frenetic, but between sets the lead singer, Dirty Walt would tell stories that settled things down a little and opened them up to the audience a little more. The best one was about his first girlfriend dragging him, against his will to his first punk rock show. Dead Kennedys/DOA/SIN at Longshoremen’s Memorial Hall in Wilmington, California back in ‘82. This show would end up putting its mark on the history of the punk rock scene, more for the events at the end of the show than for the talent that performed on the stage. The police, in full riot gear showed up and proceeded to gas the concert goers in an effort to battle the scourge that was punk rock music. Their rude arrival was not welcome and caused what amounted to a riot with multiple accounts of police brutality against the kids at the show. History lesson over. He continued, “As we left the show, I looked at her and said I’m in love!”. She replied “What? No, it’s way too early!” to which he retorted, “No, bitch! I’m talking about Punk Rock!” This guy is a total badass.

Dirty Filthy Mugs

This quintet also hails from Los Angeles, but their sound could just as easily have been bred on the streets of Boston. It’s drunken, brutal, hard as fuck hooligan street punk. I grew up on Social Distortion and Bad Religion but this is the music I was bred for. The only kind of music that can get you hyped up enough to voluntarily jump into the whirling violent abyss that is a pit at a street punk show, knowing full well that you can’t afford ObamaCare. When it comes to street punk, I’m from the camp that if the singer isn’t spitting all over the audience, the vocals aren’t aggressive enough. Lead singer Matt Wedgley looked to be a pretty angry vocalist. Only one way to find out for sure if he’s “spit legit” though, so I grabbed a beer and started my trek towards the stage. The horde had finally started to fill in a little although they were still mingling, tentatively back away from the action at the various tents so, my approach was unimpeded. I walked straight up to the guardrail which separated the riff raff from the crowd and took my position. Not long after I settled in, the furry frontman started slowly easing his way towards the apron where I was standing. I white knuckled the warm metal rail, locked eyes with him as he kept moving my way and started indignantly parroting what lyrics I could remember from earlier in the song right back at him. He came down even closer, off of the stage, at this point and knelt on top of the sound monitors a foot away maybe and screamed right back, directly in my face. Yup, sufficient enough spittle. It’s a beautiful thing! These guys were not even a blip on my radar and after their live show, I’m off to pay my penance on their website. They are the real deal, gang. Don’t wait to be blown away like I was.

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