Red Bull Music Academy have somewhat of a knack for throwing a good party. In fact, their festivals that take place worldwide go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to showcasing some of the world's freshest artists in some of the most unique and majestic venues around.
This year, Red Bull quite literally took over Los Angeles for an entire month to hold one of their most ambitious editions to date. No space was too weird, no artist too niche and no idea too small for any event.
There were talks, exhibitions, raves and concerts and although we didn't hit them all, we managed to attend some of the most mind-blowing gigs of the year to bring you the best performances from the RBMA Festival 2017.
Dām Funk presents Glydezone Live
Since its conception, Red Bull Radio has always maintained a very high standard of programming. There are regular shows on rotation from the likes of Leisure System, Nina Las Vegas, Ellijah & Skilliam, N.A.A.F.I and Mixpak, all bringing the freshest and most contemporary takes on electronic music. One of our favourite selectors on the station is Dâm Funk and his show, Glydezone, always delivers a hearty batch of the smoothest funk, soul and hip-hop, straight to listeners around the world.
Of course, with it being the RBMA festival, it was time for the Funk to do something a little different. For the first time ever there was a live broadcast on Red Bull Radio with Gyldezone being the show to take the reigns. We headed to the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Centre in LA's historic Leimert Park for a live panel talk with some very special guests.
Matt Martians from Odd Future and The Internet, Dom Kennedy and Leon Sylvers III, the legendary producer of acts like Shalamar and The Whispers all joined Dâm Funk for a discussion about their favourite tracks, inspirations and what they're feeling right now. As far as live talks go, it was pretty special listening to masters of their respective crafts talk about their influences and checking it back provides just as much joy.
Catch it here.
Open Beta: Outside Insight Electric Shadows
One of Los Angeles’ latest and most promising custom-built event spaces OPEN BETA opened its doors to Red Bull for a dystopian and apocalyptically profound showcase on Thursday October 12.
Following a narrow chain link fence towards the entrance of the venue, guests were greeted by silent and intimidating actors wearing blacked-out military garb - tasked with ushering attendees into a “scanning area” which would bombard you with fog and strobes before entrance to lot was permitted.
Inside, the eclectic grouping of performances included the homespun pop of Sneaks, Amnesia Scanner’s fit-inducing electronics and the gyrating sounds of Bad Gyal’s dancehall madness. Of the many luminously vanguard performances that night, the sonic serving from Tennessee-born artist Yves Tumor was an unforgettable display of emotional frustration and violent passion.
Chained to a stage which was surrounded by the audience on all sides, Yves Tumor broke into a blaring performance of harsh-noise, toiling vocals and blinding visuals. Breaking from his constraints and ripping through the crowd, Yves Tumor had no issue in getting physical with anyone who stood in his path during this remarkable performance. This was the type of show that left you both pensive and happily disturbed.
Flying Lotus in 3D + Thundercat
Arguably, the jewel in the festival's crown, this performance should have been remembered on the merit of the unbelievable experience it offered up attendees but unfortunately, it will be looked back on with a sour taste in the mouth.
Flying Lotus' misplaced, inappropriate and inconsiderate comments once his performance ended surrounding the allegations made against Gaslamp Killer became the main talking point after the event. We can't write about the night without setting the scene, which is a shame, but here we can focus on the thing everyone paid money to go and see, the music.
The show was arguably the most visually profound spectacle of the entire festival and that's largely down to its location. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood sign, Thundercat and FlyLo performed on a stage in the middle of Hollywood Forever Cemetery where Tinsel Town's biggest stars are laid to rest.
Backed onto the Paramount Studios lot, the outdoor area was reminiscent of a jazz festival and all ages were present. One half was picnic blankets and seated guests and the BYOB aspect was a curiously welcome addition. There were as many people knocking back Bud Lights as there were people sitting with homemade tables drinking red wine accompanied by selections of cured meats.
Picture the scene, the sun is setting with its shimmer bouncing off the gravestones and palm trees while everyone is sat listening to Thundercat's gorgeous riffs ooze out of the soundsystem. Sounds magical right? It was.
Hannibal Buress opened before the Cat with an eyebrow raising stand up routine that documented the start of popular hip hop tracks and the lack of lighting on the stage. After a brilliant rendition of his hit album 'Drunk', Thundercat left the stage to make way for the master of ceremonies.
Flying Lotus, of course, has always been one to take things to a new dimension with both his music and his visuals and his brand new 3D live show was no gimmick, in fact, it was nothing short of extraordinary.
The screen informed everyone to put their glasses on and everything came straight to life. Violent violins screeched and we were thrusted straight into FlyLo's journey through the unknown. He performed on a plinth that looked like a wild a cross between an atomic bomb exploding and some sort of mutant octopus. Standard practice.
The musical backdrop was as ever, quintessential FlyLo. Jazzy and funky yet psychedelic and beautifully twisted and as spaceships zoomed before your eyes, it became evident that this would be an assault on the senses we'd never really had before.
3D at gigs has been done before but not this well. It was a brilliantly put together experience and when you're not dazzled by the LED screen you quickly remember you're in a cemetery, a space that's steeped in history and essentially a celebration of life that's come before us.
RBMA Festival's most insane and magical date. It's just a shame it can't be remembered for the magic.
Ryoji Ikeda: A [For 100 Cars]
Deemed “the world's largest synth orchestra”, renowned japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda payed proper tribute to Los Angeles’ car culture with a stunning experimental composition titled ‘A [for 100 cars]’. The performance, which took place in a parking lot right outside of the famous Walt Disney Music Hall, enlisted the help of 100 automobile owners with miniature synths hooked up to their car stereos.
A biting rumble from the cars’ revving engines marked the start of the 25-minute performance before each driver began to turn the knobs of their synths at instructed intervals. With no rhythm, melody or direction, each soundsystem belted out various octaves of A in a cacophonous and often unaligned manner. Without earplugs, this performance took on a painful undertone. Regardless, the depth of thinking and originality behind the piece made it a breathtaking experience for those in attendance.
Arca Presents a Night With Alejandro
Amongst all the experimental performances taking place over the duration of the festival, Alejanrdo Ghersi’s (aka Arca) had the most magnetic. Los Angeles came out in force to see the artist’s unpredictable and intimate showcase at OPEN BETA. Upon arrival, the same daunting military personnel from the Yves Tumor show ushered the audience into the venue in a staggered and lined out fashion.
Once getting past the intense fake security, a man with mirrored squares lining his face and body stood on a platform display for all to see. The contrast between these characters added to the far-fetched and winsome appeal of the curated atmosphere that was put together by proven creative director Taran Allen.
The night took on many different shapes as Ghersi expelled graceful emotions into his microphone and changed his revealing outfits to match his musical output. Donning his signature contorted stilts and performing gymnastics on steady rings set up above stage, the show itself involved perfectly unpredictable movement and behaviour.
Between his writhing on the floor of the transparent stage and his ventures into the crowd to embrace awe-inspired onlookers, Arca’s rendition of tracks such as ‘Reverie’ and ‘Desafio’ had the audience completely shook. Ghersi’s raw sentiment, fluid movements, sultry voice and mind-melting production make for a wholly unique show that resulted in a word that left the lips of most everyone in attendance…”amazing.”
Funster is Mixmag's Digital Editor, follow him on Twitter
Cameron Holbrook is Mixmag's US Editorial Intern, follow him on Twitter