The Indigo Festival The Observatory 1/31/15
The night before Super Bowl Sunday, the Observatory in Santa Ana was home to the Indigo Music Festival, which hosted a line up so diverse and head scratching, that to call it eclectic would be an enormous understatement. Originally planned for a two-day extravaganza, the event was quietly cut short by a day, and several key artists such as Converge, Rocket From the Crypt and others dropped off the bill. Headliners included the progenitors of alternative stoner metal/drone/doom, the Melvins, with Deafheaven and Blonde Redhead performing hour sets before them. Despite the festival's low turn out, fans in attendance still got an afternoon and evening of live music was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. The crowd was barely beginning to arrive a few hours after the doors to the venue opened` way too early at 2 p.m., but as the hours passed more and more people slowly began to stream in. In the Constellation room, various, indie, synth pop, experimental, new wave and emo rock bands played, with a set time list that was 40 minutes behind schedule. Luckily, the main stage was on time by the minute, which made things a little better, for those who cared. With this in mind, we decided to offer our list of mentionable performers.
Most Stoner Friendly Bands: The Melvins, Ancestors The Melvins were the headliners of the festival, but from the size of the crowd you would think it was 1 in the afternoon not 1 a.m., around the time the band was on stage. For all it was worth however, those in attendance were head banging (some of them at least). The Melvins, led by Buzz Osborne, aka King Buzzo, along with bassist Jared Warren, and drummers Dale Crover and Coady Willis, delivered an astonishingly thunderous, and crushing set. Fans witnessed a group whose music has spanned a three decades and well over 20 studio albums.
Seven hours earlier in the Constellation room, LA's atmospheric doom metal band Ancestors awed fans with an ambient, primeval power on stage quality that mixed hints of experimental music, drone metal, mad drums and lingering guitar passages to create a very dazed and soothing yet eerie vibe. Pot smoke clouded the room, and even drummer Daniel Puliot took time between songs to drag heavy puffs from an herbal vape pen. Ancestor's music is dreamy, spacey, heavy and ethereal, and many in the crowd were zoned out during, and after the bands 40-minute set.
Most Out of Place Mosh Pit: Deafheaven Northern CA prog rock/ raw black metal hybrid band Deafheaven took the stage just after 11:00 p.m. and had a few die-hard fans up front. The anticipation was unrelenting. Their intro was soothing acoustic and classical sounding but the build up was released and in an instant the smashing force of blast beats razor sharp guitar buzzing and a very poor quality of sound. Add in unintelligible and height pitched tortured screams for vocals. Deafheaven are definitely talented when it comes to evoking the spirit of lo-fi Norwegian black metal, particularly, bands like Burzum, and Ulver. However, the band's musicians on stage felt stoic, and there was hardly any head banging, which made everything seem a bit off, even unnatural. Aside from the fact that this was the only 'black metal' band on the bill, Deafheaven's musical assault did manage to cause a fraction of mayhem in the pit, when several drunken fans failed to form a circle pit, with little or no reaction from the crowd.
Most Punk Rock: Mike Watt As bassist of veteran San Pedro punk band the Minutemen, Mike Watt performed with his trio of musicians, to present a musical cocktail of '60s psychedelic and '80s hardcore punk. Watt mixed the sounds of D.O.A., the Doors and even a bit of Elvis, and there was no guitar only drums, vocals and an organ. Although the energy of the performance was at a level high, folks on the floor moved and bopped around but again, failed to incite a full-fledged circle pit.
Most Unique Performance: Deerhoof San Francisco area rock band Deerhoof stole the show with the unique approach that got the crowd pumped. Lead singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki's on stage flair and excitement added to the show, and her kinetic energy truly brought the music to life. With a career that began in the '90s, and includes well over a dozen studio albums, this eccentric band starts with a foundation of punk and hard rock, and fuses everything from ambient jazz and folk, to blues and psychedelic to create a wild, exciting sound.
Most Mellow/Romantic Set: Blonde Redhead By the time this three piece from New York City took the main stage around 10 p.m., the room was as packed as it was going to get. With a very lush, intimate sound, the indie rock band had couples on the floor embracing and swaying back and forth to the mellow, soothing rhythms and sultry percussion.
Darkest Energy: Youth Code Although most of the artists in the Constellation Room were very pop oriented, and definitely not aggressive or metal, LA duo Youth Code switched things up, and performed a very sinister, yet sexy sounding, aggrotech form of Industrial that got speakers bumping and might have, in other circumstances got a pit moving. This was like rave music mixed with death metal. With very abrasive and harsh vocals, this pair might have easily been an opening act for Ministry, Combichrist, NIN or even Fear Factory.
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Best Local Band: Kiev From the looks of how full the Constellation Room, indie rock band Kiev certainly has a strong following. Borrowing from bands like Jamiriquai, Blind Melon, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jack Johnson, The Steve Miller Band, Sublime and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiev's music brings in illustrious mix of horns, keyboards and other electronic instruments to create walls of sound that are layered with rock, pop, funk, emo and avant garde music. Fans were swaying back and forth to the band's set, which lasted just over half hour.