The multimedia artist Doug Aitken, who envisioned the Artist's Museum Happening at MOCA on Saturday night, had a singular mission: to describe and then harness the energy of the West, for one fleeting evening.
The trio of musicians who performed as the evening's central entertainment scraped at the spirit of this ineffable and wild territory: Devendra Banhart, filling in the role of scruffy bohemian; Beck, the sun-kissed folkie who's drawn inspiration from trashy strip-malls; and the Brazilian former exile and Tropicalismo poet, Caetano Veloso.
Before the musical interlude, the mood in the tent set up outside the museum was already sparking. Yet, it was also curiously mellow, a California combination if there ever was one. Bejeweled diners picked at their delicate heirloom lettuce salads underneath white sculptures designed by Silver Lake architect Barbara Bestor. With black draping covering the walls, the room was dark and softly lit. Wherever the eye roamed, the contradictions of this particular slice of Los Angeles could be caught in the complex interchange between the nipped-and-tucked patrons of the arts, and the networking gypsy artists who need them.
On a stage in the center of the room, Banhart was the first musician to perform, playing "At the Hop" from his 2004 album, "Nino Rojo." Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and cleanly shaved, Banhart relied on his vibrato to color in the song's child-like rhymes. It was an openhearted start, effectively setting the mood for Beck's and Veloso's wistful music.