Los Angeles is arguably the center of the music world, encasing within its expansive 500-plus square mile area a musical community that is just as expansive and varied as the city itself. From hip-hop, electronic, rock, pop, to any genre imaginable, Los Angeles has become a bastion for those artists wishing to establish themselves within the mythical traditions of Hollywood or carve out their own explorative path throughout the city’s sprawling streets and innumerable venues. So, it is all the more reason that Red Bull Music Academy Festival Los Angeles (RBMA LA) feels long overdue, as the spirit of the festival itself highlights some of the pioneering voices that made Los Angeles the musical landmark it is today, as well as the vision and voices that continue to actively shape Los Angeles’ ever-changing music scene. RBMA LA takes place over the month of October, and is less of a traditional music festival in that it comprises a series of separate shows happening throughout the city.
The 23 shows, while separate in time and space, do have one interweaving connection: each show either highlights a new and experimental voice in the realm of music or is an integral part of Los Angeles’ varied music history. For instance, where would Los Angeles be without hip-hop? West Coast hip-hop, and subsequently electro, was in large part a creation of the parties that came out of South and West Los Angeles thanks to promoters like Uncle Jamm’s Army that would inevitably pave the way for NWA, establishing Los Angeles as the epicenter of the hip-hop world. Or what about the infamous Los Angeles punk scene? The likes of which were in large part fronted by punk and feminist icon Alice Bag, and her band The Bags in 1977, playing small and sweaty makeshift venues throughout Los Angeles. At the time of their inception, these punk and hip-hop innovators could not conceive the monumental impact that their sound and vision would come to have on Los Angeles as a whole, but RBMA LA allows for the opportunity to relive this original spirit of musical innovation.
Yet RBMA LA is filled with not only showcases of Los Angeles’ varied musical past but showcases of how the city still sculpts new and emerging music scenes as well. Below, we picked the three shows that arguably serving as exemplars of Los Angeles’ continued grasp on the musical landscape.
No area of Los Angeles is surrounded with more mysticism and infamy than Hollywood and its monumental film industry, so it only makes sense that one of the most interesting events to come out of RBMA LA combines the sonic world with the world of the silver screen. Annie Clark, the visionary icon behind St. Vincent, will premiere her newest show “Fear The Future,” ahead of her recently announced album MASSEDUCTION as part of a special RBMA LA event. St. Vincent has steadily established herself as an exceptional voice in the modern rock landscape, combining emotive ballads, idyllic pop arrangements, and waves of experimental post-modern guitar solos that are unmatched in their ingenuity. “Fear The Future” will be unlike any other St. Vincent show however, taking place on the New York street backlot at Paramount Pictures Studios with visuals by Will Perron (the creative director behind Kanye West, The xx, Rihanna, and more). The show will merge the magic of film and music in never before seen ways in a venue quite like no other.
The folks over at Brainfeeder may have done more to shape Los Angeles’ hip-hop and electronic sound in the last decade than anyone else. The founder of Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus, has since its inception pushed the boundaries of experimental electronic beat making until the city could no longer hold it. Flying Lotus’ unique blend of glitchy lo-fi beats and funkadelic-inspired hip-hop would find its way out of Los Angeles through Adult Swim bumps until it became one of the prominent backing sounds of hip-hop as a whole, providing the backing production for Kendrick Lamar’s groundbreaking To Pimp a Butterfly. Thundercat also deserves equal credit in his role of bringing back the sounds of old into hip-hop through his now timeless blend of funk and jazz fusion traditions. The two longtime Brainfeeder collaborators will take the stage together for two nights at Hollywood’s historic Hollywood Forever Cemetery, with Flying Lotus presenting his mind-melting 3D show for the first time outside of a festival setting. And trust us, as we were personally there to witness the debut of his 3D show earlier this year at FYF, this is one experience that adds another dimension entirely to Flying Lotus’ already not to miss performance.
OPEN BETA (Oct. 12, 18, 24, 27)
OPEN BETA is equal measures live concert and concept art; it is possibly the future, the unification of experimental music and high-grade performance art. The series utilizes Los Angeles’ secretive underground warehouse scene to present a series of shows that are living, breathing, changing spaces for artists to inhabit. Taking place in an undisclosed warehouse in downtown Los Angeles that will be remodeled for each show to present an entirely new experience, the series presents a number of performers on the forefront of experimental music production. A couple of the noticeable standouts include live performances by SOPHIE and Arca, the two of which have spent the last couple years rewriting the rules of modern production. SOPHIE tackled the world of pop with extreme bouts of production matched with hyper-pitched vocals, in addition to producing for Madonna, Vince Staples, and Charli XCX. Meanwhile Arca saw himself reshaping the world of hip-hop, producing a good portion Kanye West’s Yeezus, before releasing his critically acclaimed self-titled debut album Arca. With Arca and SOPHIE presenting what very well may be two landmark performances during OPEN BETA, the series is poised to echo Los Angeles’ continued tradition of providing unconventional spaces for artists and fans alike to explore and experience newfound sounds.