Monday, October 8, 2012


Zola Jesus
Zola Jesus performs at The Echo during night 2 of Culture Collide.
photo by picksysticks

by Jeff Pegg

The evening of Friday, October 5, 2012 was night two of FILTER Magazine’s Culture Collide third annual music festival. This night ended with itching at the wristband that had to stay on another two days, along with ears still ringing from a second consecutive night performance of the insane sounds of The Balconies. Tonight they were at Taix, the night before at The Echo. The Balconies are the new addiction. This band is definitely the gem discovered at this year's festival, a sort of black onyx gem forged from brimstone to be exact.

Magic Wands
Dexy Valentine of Magic Wands
The Balconies were the end of the evening. Stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway was the beginning of the evening, causing the missed performance of Penny Hewson (Australia) at Echo Park United Methodist Church, and therefore, skipped the church this night.

Instead, the evening started with Magic Wands (USA) at Taix Champagne Room along with a tall can of Tiger beer. It finally felt like the weekend had started. Lead singer and guitar, Dexy Valentine, looked like a witch draped in black beneath a big brimmed peaked hat. It was not a costume, but rather just her style, a casual witch with a guitar from her trusty broom closet. She sings as if she is chanting a ghostly spell, deep, hollow, filled with vapors of chilling breaths. Her guitar floated chords like a swirling mist in the wind, yet splintering sharp like needles at times. The live performance of Magic Wands is not as electronic as their recorded music, but rather more deep forest in the dead of night bewitching echo with subtle electro. Their set needed more smoke, trees, and a smiling pentagram. Nevertheless, no need for real magic wands, for their music itself conjurors a deep energy within.        

Mr. Little Jeans' Monica Birkenes
Mr. Little Jeans
Monica Birkenes of Mr. Little Jeans perfoms at Taix during Culture Collide.
photos by picksysticks
Another tall can of Tiger while waiting between sets, then next up on the same stage was Mr Little Jeans (Norway). Interestingly, lead singer Monica Birkenes is not a man, nor is munchkin little, and to bottom it off, was not wearing jeans. That was a realization inner laugh that gave her instant charming character. This is another band with a performance that does not have the dance music sound of their recorded tracks. The songs have a steady fast tempo, but Birkenes' vocals sound like an intimate acoustic session sped up to a dance beat rhythm. It is different, but has a struggle to it. The songs conjure an image of a tiny yellow rowboat persistent to survive and row beyond a continual barrage of foaming high and low ocean waves. Her vocals rise, smoothly dip, and have splashes of abruptness. Oddly, this metaphor was instilled before reading the biography about Birkenes growing up in a seaside town where her father built catamarans. It seems that the childhood sounds of her ocean has immersed into her music. Her vocals navigating the surging oceans of emotions.

School of Seven Bells
School of Seven Bells perform on day 2 of Culture Collide at the Echoplex.
photo by picksysticks
Back on dry land and into the 80's was next with School of Seven Bells (USA) at the wine cellar, catacomb cave chilled atmosphere of Echoplex. Down the steps below. It was like a sudden time warp with lead vocalist Alejandra Deheza having the look of a young free spirited Winona Ryder bringing to life a Patrick Nagel artwork set to a techno disco soundtrack. Her thick black mushroom bowl hair flared center frame on stage with her chalk white features reflecting the vibrant violets and pastel blue canvas of lights strobing about her form. 

Zola Jesus
It was remnant sound and light waves of Studio 54 captured in this cavern for a brief set, before dissipating into the darkness of the present. School of Seven Bells, a fashion piece bringing to life a rendition of culture past.

Next, it was up the stairs out of the depths of the earth and into the starlight stratosphere of Zola Jesus (USA) at The Echo. Her halo blonde golden hair flowing over a soft white tunic adorning her body in an atmosphere of swirling stars gave her the look and tranquil presence of an angel spreading out her delicate wings for all to miracle. 

The celestial vocals of this Nika Roza Danilova feel as though she is calming and yet exiting us with her stories of the heavens, like a messenger on the mound with a sermon that will lead us into the light. Then the audience hits a surprise when the backing instruments of classical instruments harmonized with electronic beats suddenly speeds to a feverish fervor. Her voice continues to outstretch, but the beat feels too fast to accommodate, and seem to inch closer into overwhelming her, like a steamroller slowly creeping up from behind. It is as thought the rising wave of steady fast beats is inevitably going to drown her out and wash away her vocal glow. The instrument disciples need to slow down and follow the path of Zola Jesus, and not be get over anxious to reach the heavens before her. Then it was again to see the second consecutive night performance to get another addicting fix of The Balconies!

the Balconies
The Balconies ended night 2 of Culture Collide at Taix.
photo by picksysticks
 Also see:
Culture Collide: Day 1