Moon Block Party Pomona Fairplex 10/18/2014
The ethos of Phil Pirrone's Moon Block Party music festival is that it is "like a block party on the moon." This third annual event was thrown at the Pomona Fairplex, last Saturday, by Pirrone and his collective of artists and musicians. The event's website encouraged attendees to come dressed in "astronaut gear" or in an "alien 'costume,'" but while no one seemed to take the encouragement literally, plenty of colorful concertgoers turned up for this terrific festival.
The program for the one-day music festival consisted of 22 acts, performing on three stages; clothing, art, and food vendors; and a costume contest. The sets of the multitudinous bands lasted from a half hour to just over an hour -- the headlining bands' sets were the longest. Throughout the day, there were typically two performances occurring at any given time, and none of the set times were completely identical; so, upon the completion of one band's performance, its audience would collectively shuffle across the fairground of the horse-racing track / field and see what they had been missing at one of the other two stages.
In addition to accommodating performances by all 19 bands and 2 DJs (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was supposed to be the 20th band, but allegedly cancelled the night before the festival due to a medical condition of drummer Leah Shapiro), the brief set times allowed audiences to experience a great deal of variety. That being said, much of the material played within each band's set, and / or by most of the bands, in general, had a similar vibe. This was either by design or emblematic of the styles of the artists within Pirrone's collective. Specifically, many of the bands employed heavy use of reverb and flange effects and sounded, overall, like they were the children of Hüsker Dü and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The biggest standout from this sound was the music of the Arabic band Tinariwen, which won a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2012.
Despite the, more or less, marginal degrees of variation separating the sounds of many of the other performers, the energy and sound quality of each of the bands was most satisfactory. The headlining bands from the Moon Stage, the Block Stage, and the Party Stage (respectively: Spoon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Metz) enthralled their respective fanbases, but, again, every band's set demonstrated great energy.
As for the crowd, there were several costumed festival-goers, as per the contest, but apart from that, the slightly modest turnout provided a very colorful cross-section of uniforms, which made it difficult to get a lock on the scene. There were tripping hippies, greased rockabilly types, and combat boot-wearing girls in pigtails and pink halter-tops, and while the scents of marijuana and patchouli mingled with those of beer and cigarettes, an atmosphere of tolerance prevailed. Moreover, the vibe was reminiscent of the first Lollapalooza, wherein the idea was that the performers, prior to (and upon completion of) their sets, would simply blend into the crowd to mingle and enjoy the scene and music without distinguishing themselves from festival guests.
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This may not be what a block party on the Moon would actually be like [something tells me that such a festival would more likely feature music like that of Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Trent Reznor, and a dash of Mr. Bungle], and though there was nothing uniquely revolutionary about the event or many of the performers (with the aforementioned standout of Tinariwen), the festival provided a strong showcase of talent and drew a very cool sampling of diverse guests. It is rewarding to know that Pirrone and his Moon Block gang has been continuing the tradition of the Moon Block Party as well as founding various other festivals, such as Desert Daze, Beyond the Witching Hour, and Moon Block SF. Hopefully the programming at the collective's various events will maintain the down to earth feel, even as it attempts to transport music lovers beyond the planet's atmosphere.