Arthurball | 2.26.06

Day two of the festival covered a wide variety of musical styles, among them were a couple of side projects featuring such familiar faces as Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and PJ Harvey, who was filling the bass role for the band Moris Teper.

 

 

The Echo/Ex Plex, Los Angeles 

A two-day, indoor/outdoor 42-artist music festival held at a local park in the heart of Los Angeles last fall turned out to be quite a stepping stone for the folks at Arthur magazine. The inaugural event, dubbed ArthurFest, was a huge success that brought a wide range of arts, film, and music to the community and opened doors to help create this year’s follow up: ArthurBall.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend day one of the festival, which brought in such acts as acclaimed harpist/singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom and Unknown Instructors, featuring ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt. Day two of the festival covered a wide variety of musical styles, among them were a couple of side projects featuring such familiar faces as Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and PJ Harvey, who was filling the bass role for the band Moris Teper.

As I walked into the Echo to see what would be my first act of the night, I found a jam-style trio called Earthless onstage, hammering away at mostly instrumental tunes that seemed never-ending. Expecting to hear some in-between-song banter or maybe even a short introduction of the band, I watched song after song as they blended into each other flawlessly. Not being a fan of the jam band scene, I actually enjoyed watching the musicianship of these three guys onstage and didn’t write it off as just mindless jamming.

Next up was another trio, consisting of singer/guitarist Moris Teper, his drummer, and a familiar face behind the bass, Polly Jean Harvey. This turned out to be the biggest surprise of the night. As the band was setting up, the soundman thought he’d pay tribute to the legendary rock goddess by pumping out one of her latest tunes over the PA system, a stunt that went unnoticed by even Miss Harvey herself. As they broke into their set, all eyes seemed to be on Harvey as the low, fuzz-distortion of her bass filled the modestly sized room. Teper himself was quite entertaining as he hopped around stage franticly, switching back and forth between an electric and acoustic guitar, almost tumbling into the drum set a few times. His admiration for their fill-in bassist was obvious as he cast an occasional smile her way mid-riff and paused between songs to introduce her. Some of the songs were a bit sloppy and Harvey often found herself trying to make sense out of what Teper was playing, but all with a smile on her face.

As Moris Teper’s set winded down, the crowd began to make its way out of the Echo and down to the Ex Plex (a new, covered patio–like venue located in the same building as the Echo), where the female-fronted Lavender Diamond was onstage. At first glance, I thought there was an entire wedding ceremony underway, but it was just Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark and her peace-love actionist band performing their folk sing-a-longs. Dressed in a white, hippie-like gown with flowers in her hair, Stark’s high-pitched voice kept the crowd entranced with songs of peace, love, and hope, and quite a bit of storytelling in between songs. I was amazed at how Stark’s quiet speaking voice was so much less distinctive then her singing voice. Her storytelling was cute and comical, drawing many laughs from the crowd.

Considering how still and quiet the room was, it was hard to believe that Josh Homme would be taking the stage next with his side project, the 5:15ers. The crowd stuck around patiently to see the Queens of the Stone Age frontman’s first ever appearance with his new collaboration. With samples and drum machines backing Homme and his longtime compatriot, Chris Goss, the duo ripped through a set of almost industrial-style rock songs accompanied by an occasional acoustic number. Among the crowd were many QOTSA fans, if not just Homme fans, who had come to see what the 5:15ers were all about. Although not quite QOTSA, the fans still seemed to take pleasure in listening to what the frontman had been creating in his spare time, all in such an intimate gathering.

Overall, ArthurBall was a success. Although it lacked big-name acts, it brought a variety of different musical artists and tastes together, helping to further develop a new underground culture in Los Angeles. Hopefully they’ll decide to continue the tradition next year.

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