By DAN MACINTOSH
All My Friends is the new festival venture from Hard Summer creator Gary Richards, and with its eclectic mix of rap, R and B and EDM, it carries on where last year’s Hard Summer event left off. Once again, Richards got the musical mix just right – especially for those that prefer their EDM in slightly smaller doses.
The second day’s most anticipated performance was M.I.A.’s headlining slot, especially since it precedes the upcoming Sept. 28 release of Matangi/ Maya / M.I.A., a documentary detailing the artist’s fascinating life. M.I.A. took the stage at 9 P.M. shrouded by beautiful yellow curtains and accompanied by a female DJ and three female dancers. M.I.A., wearing a colorful outfit, brought an exotic, world music vibe to this downtown outdoor stage, which felt perfectly at home here in this Los Angeles ethnic melting pot.
The set’s highpoint was her performance of “Boyz,” where she invited female audience members to join in and dance with her as she sang about, well, boys. The low point, however, arrived right at the place where M.I.A.’s performance should have peaked. She tried (multiple times) to end her set with “Paper Planes,” her best-known song. This fantastic single, smartly built upon a sample from The Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” was started, stopped, started again over and over because M.I.A. kept complaining about the sound in her monitor – even though everything sounded great out in the audience. She called out her sound person by name, which must have been embarrassing to the poor soul. One walked away from this set thinking, ‘Wow, that was awkward.’
M.I.A. was preceded by an extremely enjoyable Armand Van Helden set. His performance time was expanded, presumably, because rapper Yo Gotti was an unexplained no-show. With tracks like “Bonkers,” Van Helden had the audience dancing from the get-go with modified disco grooves. Fans weren’t dancing just to look cool, but with a sincere sense of celebration. Unlike Phlegmatic Dogs (worst-named act of the day) and Golf Clap (best name), which relied upon cliché EDM sonic elements, Van Helden exhibited an obvious love for, and expertise in dance music, which explains the audience’s spontaneous physical response.
Jubilee also distinguished herself with a mix that incorporated various island musical elements, which included Reggaeton and reggae. Although she drew a small crowd to her early 5 P.M. set, a sparse and loyal group loved every minute of it. Elsewhere, Ravyn Lenae arrived with a three-piece band, and filled the air with welcome, organic R and B. Sheck Wes’s preceding set showcased the East Coast rapper’s energetic style. He certainly got his exercise in running back and forth across the stage.
With its three stages shadowed by downtown buildings, this wasn’t the most beatific concert setting. Parks with soft grass for sitting and standing are always better. Sonically, though, Gary Richards knows how to create a winning festival formula, which makes this one friend to always follow.