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GUIDES: One of the Hot Indie Band Discoveries From LA’s Local Festival, Echo Park Rising

Wrapup: LA Fest Yields New Music Finds Across The Board

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Chris Cogswell and his remarkable voice – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Echo Park Rising is more than just a little musical festival in one corner of Los Angeles. The 6-year-old event has come to be one of the major economic drivers of the area.

From the music perspective, EPR should be a place where music executives, agents and scouts walk around and talk to the musicians. Maybe that doesn’t happen any more in this DIY world, where musicians have to do their own promo, raise their own money to record and tour and grow their own fan base.

Instead, we find great bands playing to small audiences, small bands getting an opportunity to get on the bigger stages of Echo Park, and headliners commanding the late night slots at the Echoplex, The Echo and the Liberty Lot, located behind the great Taix Restaurant.

Liz Garo looks out over the crowds her event draws in Echo Park - Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

Liz Garo looks out over the crowds her event draws in Echo Park – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

The Power Behind EPR

The powerhouse behind the fest is Liz Garo, who runs the show, booking bands into venues and keeping things running smoothly. And props go to SpaceLand, which basically donates its Echo and Echoplex to the festival in a revolving door of talented acts.

In its sixth year, the 2016 show brought Friday headliner Chicano Batman, Saturday punkers The Weirdos, and Meatbodies, which closed out Echoplex Sunday night.

Crowd favorites: Globelamp, Hammered Satin, Wasi, Lexie Rose and Froth.  These performers couldn’t be much further apart in genres, but they each have the own special appeal.

But every few years there’s one band that grabs the attention of industry people and concert-goers alike and this year it was the three-piece indie band, GUIDES.

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GUIDES Rock – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

‘A Blend of Sonic Youth and The Smiths’

GUIDES appeared quietly onstage — under the radar — with an early gig at the Echoplex. This group of three: Vocalist and guitarist Chris Cogswell, Jayson Larson on drums and Be Hussey on bass and guitar, may have taken the stage quietly, but that’s where their low profile ended.

GUIDES’ sound is big and commanding. The band’s poise makes it appealing to a broad range of indie fans.

They’ve performed only a handful of gigs, but their uniquely upbeat shoegaze-style music catches the casual concert-goer off guard as presented as a three-piece band, their sound is much fuller.  GUIDES is a blend of Sonic Youth, Sad Lovers and Giants and The Smiths all rolled into one.

Be Hussey of GUIDES - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Be Hussey of GUIDES – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cogswell is clearly a star, with an alternative voice like that of any of the big new wave punk indie bands of the 1980s like Morissey. Larson’s drumming ranks up with some of the powerful hard rock drummers and he leaves little air up there. The basslines of Hussey keep everything together and all together, it’s an amazing unique yet familiar sound. Check them out on Soundcloud.

“Abstract Head” plays up Cogswells howling and unique tones, “Long Face” highlights the physical drumming of Larson and Hussey shows his diverse talents on bass with “Midas Eye.” The song “Pictures on Pictures” is simply unforgettable.

GUIDES’ Soundcloud page has the EP which can also be purchased on iTunes.

It’s bands like GUIDES that make you glad you came to a festival with more than 300 acts, because when you catch a star, you want to hang on for the ride.

Reunited Band Film School Gives Lessons at The Echo; GUIDES Leads The Way

Greg Bertens - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Greg Bertens, founder of Film School – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Newly Reunited ‘Beggars’ Lineup Maps Its Future

By DONNA BALANCIA – It may be Film School, but there’s a lot of history in this band’s curriculum.

In the heyday of the burgeoning shoegaze era of the early 2000s, Film School was making the rounds and building a reputation as an entertaining and talented group.

Was their kinder gentler Sonic Youth-sounding genre so popular?  Not yet, and what happens when something is a little ahead of its time?  It’s misunderstood, taken for granted, or largely ignored.

Film School - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Film School – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

But judging from the turnout at the Echo Friday night, it’s apparent Film School left an indellible impression on lovers of great shoegaze and may be reaping the rewards now in its newly announced reunion. The original “Beggars” lineup of Film School made its mark in the Northern California scene and as the shoegaze-alternative genre proliferated, the band’s influence on the niche was seen as undeniable.

Film School took a long break, but came together two years ago for a one-off performance and now, the band has actually put together an EP called June, and is talking a full album and touring.  Following an amazing show at the Echo last Friday, Greg Bertens appeared enthusiastic about getting back in the groove.  He told California Rocker there was one thing that was being requested more than anything.

“They ask us to tour more,” Bertens said. “We’re working on it, and now that we have an EP coming out, we will be touring more.”

Bertens is up to his familiar talented tricks as the front man for the ethereal group, which has its many fans but never got through to the mainstream.  Maybe this time around as the population is a little more accustomed to the genre and understands that this type of alternative music isn’t just some atonal mishmash.

GUIDES Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

GUIDES Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The band performed cuts off its new EP, June, and played some familiar tunes from the past and seems like there is plenty more to come from Film School in its newly revived form.

The booking for the night at the Echo was spot on with popular band United Ghosts, which is a hit with the local crowd in particular.

The bright star of the night was GUIDES, an up-and-comer from Los Angeles, consisting of Angelenos: Chris Cogswell (vocals / guitar) Jayson Larson (drums), Be Hussey (bass / guitar) and with additional contributions on its records by Luke Ehret (guitar) and Margot Paige (background vocals).

The band will be appreciated by those who love New Order and Peter Hook and the Light, who in friendlier days together were Joy Division.  And we can only hope GUIDES has no such dischord; if they stay on their current track, the band will make the breakthrough.

Cogswell’s haunting voice is like that of an alternative angel, somewhat similar in style to Morrissey, but with a humble and undeniable American flair.  Together with the very big beat play of drummer Larson, and bass and guitar lines of veteran Hussey, the band is modern combination of alternative’s biggest and brightest: Gang of Four, The Clash and The Smiths.

Make the trip across town if you must. One day you will say that you knew GUIDES way back when.

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