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Silver Lake Jubilee: Taking back the 'hood, one indie band at a time

May 21, 2010 |  8:53 am


With a bill that includes the intricate atmospheres of indie rockers Foreign Born and harmonizing pros the Living Sisters, this weekend's Silver Lake Jubilee is certainly launching with a strong local presence, boasting 30 artists spread over two days.  

It could have been, perhaps, even bigger.

"We wanted to have ultimate control over what kind of bands are playing," said Marcus Rodriguez, a member of the Silver Lake Jubilee's music advisory board. "There were three or four people who contacted us, and said they could bring such-and-such people if such-and-such band was featured. That’s not what we’re trying to do. That can be the failure of a festival in its infancy. I don’t want us to lose the reins. This is for the community, by the community."

The initial aims of the outdoor street festival are much smaller than the Silver Lake's August event Sunset Junction, which turns 30 this year and has survived some recent tense moments with local businesses and residents over how the fest has cordoned off streets. With the help of Origami Vinyl's head Neil Schield, Spaceland's Mitchell Frank and Buzzbands blogger Kevin Bronson, the Jubilee has booked a local-centric lineup that does away with the Junction's more mainstream fare -- as well as its $20 entry fee. The cost to get into the Jubilee is $5.

Keeping admission fees low was a goal from the start. It was helped by the fact that every band appearing on one of the Jubilee's three stages is doing so for free. Schield took the lead on booking acts, leaning, he said, on Spaceland's Frank as a "security blanket." 

"It’s an art community festival, and it’s about giving back to the community," Schield said. "That was attractive. As much as I love the Sunset Junction, it’s stepped away from some of the local things it was founded upon. It brings in bigger bands from out of town, and this is going back to what Sunset Junction used to be."

SILVER_LAKE_JUBILEEGetting the Jubilee off the ground was helped by having one of its organizers, in Charles Renn, be a member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council's Arts & Culture committee. Executive director Jack Martinez comes from the event planning world, communications director Linh Ho has helped organize jazz festivals and Rodriguez works with Associated Students Inc., bringing bands and events to Cal State Los Angeles.

Jubilee organizers formed the Los Angeles Arts & Athletics Alliance, a fund-raising entity, to host the Jubilee. Among the charitable benefices of the Jubilee will be writing/tutoring group 826LA and the Los Angeles Free Clinic. 

Organizers are generously expecting about 20,000 people to attend. An assortment of food trucks, as well as arts, literary and children's activities are planned, but there's no denying that music will be the main draw. 

"We wanted to keep our band choices organic, and we didn’t want to be accountable to any PR or industry professionals who may come in and jade, skew or direct the Jubilee in a certain direction," Rodriguez said. "Artists are doing this for free, and for no other reason than we’re building with, for and around them."

Jubilee organizers will be betting on fans coming out to see bands that regularly play in the area (Full disclosure: Jubilee act Death Kit features Times staffers Jessica Gelt and August Brown, the latter a regular Pop & Hiss contributor). 

Highlights abound, but some of the can't-miss acts, in addition to Foreign Born and the Living Sisters, include '60s-leaning pop foursome the Like, lush, orchestrated pop act Walking Sleep, rock eccentrics So Many Wizards, singer/songwriter Nico Stai and the Latin-influenced power pop of Wait.Think.Fast.

The Like are playing the Jubilee in the midst of trying to draw a crowd to its residency at the Echo. Lead singer Elizabeth "Z" Berg said the band was approached by Jubilee organizers after a recent downtown gig.

Recalled Berg, "The girl came up to me at the Smell, and she was basically like, 'I've heard about you, and I came to see if you were any good. You are.' Then they said they'd really love for us to be a part of it. For me, that meant a lot.They came to see us, and we were being asked to be a part of a neighborhood and a community." 

How or if the Jubilee's lineup of local acts will affect the Sunset Junction is not yet clear. Sunset Junction head Michael McKinley declined to comment on the Silver Lake Jubilee, saying only he was never approached about the event while it was in its planning stages. 

McKinley said he expects to have a lineup for the Junction released in the next two or three weeks. Artists booked for the 2010 event, which is set for Aug. 21-22, include retro-soul acts Mayer Hawthorne and Fitz and the Tantrums, as well as veteran artists from the R&B field including the Ohio Players, the Whispers and Meshell Ndegeocello. Synth-pop band Shiny Toy Guns are also on the bill, as are a number of DJs --  Splyce, Dexterous and Eric Neutron, among others.

Asked if the Junction would avoid a heavy local rock influence to distinguish itself from the Jubilee, McKinley again declined to comment, saying only the bookings would be diverse. McKinley is still working with Spaceland Productions in securing bands ("We're working with them, and it's fine," McKinely said), and in recent years has brought in nationally known headliners. Last year, for instance, Conor Oberst and Built to Spill performed, and acts that appeared in 2007 and 2008 included Ben Harper, Broken Social Scene and the Cold War Kids. 

Renn said the goal for the Jubilee is not to compete with the Junction.

"We didn’t want to bring in music groups who don’t know anything about Silver Lake, or have never lived here, or aren’t familiar with the music scene," Renn said. "We didn’t want carnival rides or anything. To me, carnival rides are not Silver Lake. Chaka Khan is not Silver Lake. That’s how we’re trying to differ our event. We’re the alternative."

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Becky Stark, Eleni Mandell and Inara George, the Living Sisters. Credit: Lauren Dukoff

Silver Lake Jubilee puts a green spin on gathering for music, food, arts 

Silver Lake Jubilee

Where: Myra Avenue between Fountain Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, Silver Lake

When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Price: $5. Children 10 and younger, seniors 60 and older, free

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