Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips
Monday night, a bevy of talented musicians joined together to honor Brian Wilson at the Fonda Theatre in an effort to raise money for the charity Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. This has become a yearly tradition sponsored by Jameson Irish whiskey, having previously honored the likes of The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, and George Harrison.
Brian Fest showcased talent both on their way up to the top as well as long-established acts. As the show grew longer, the names got bigger. Some of the early performers were handed a more difficult task of covering some of the more obscure covers from Wilson’s illustrious career.
Brooklyn indie band Lucius did a solid job of covering Wilson’s 1995 track “Till I Die” early in the proceedings. Devendra Banhart brought it on “Meant for You” and “Vegetables,” dressed as a carrot. After M. Ward had slight trouble with “Don’t Talk Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” Silver Lake rockers Local Natives put an impressive spin to “Let Him Run Wild” before getting the crowd moving with their version of the Beach Boys classic “I Get Around.”
Al Jardine and Brian Wilson
After The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers cancelled a few days before the event, Kesha stepped in as a late replacement. Her rendition of “California Girls” was a perfect fit as she made one of few appearances in recent months. Boz Scaggs brought the house down with “Sail On Sailor,” not quite one of the Beach Boys’ bigger hits, but received extremely well by the crowd nonetheless. The guitar solo Scaggs produced on this track was exquisite.
The crowd was a wide demographic. There were those that had grown up with the Beach Boys sprinkled throughout, as well as the generation who had been passed down the Beach Boys by that generation who grew up with them. Singing along to hits from the Beach Boys is a national pastime that rivals baseball.
Founding Beach Boys member Al Jardine came out for a handful of songs, the highlight being when he was joined by new era surfer rocker Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast for “Don’t Worry Baby.” It was a magnificent pairing that nails home what Cosentino said, the Beach Boys were a major influence on her band’s sound.
The Flaming Lips delivered a funky version of the hit “Good Vibrations,” preceded by a large balloon that said “We love you Brian.” After coming in the wrong key on “Little Bird,” Norah Jones quickly righted things, delivering a beautiful rendition. After doing “God Only Knows,” Jones got an awesome happy birthday song from the backup vocalists who handled the backup harmonies for the evening.
Finally, Brian Wilson himself hit the stage for “Surfer Girl,” joined by Norah Jones and Boz Scaggs. Wilson sat behind the keyboard that was setup for him and his unique vocals could not be mistaken. The entire night’s performers then joined on stage for Beach Boys hits “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “Barbara Ann.”
Brian Fest was an excellently organized event that honored one of rock ‘n’ roll’s true icons. Jameson has done a great job at making The Best Fest one of the more anticipated annual concerts in L.A., and with no shortage of music icons to honor, don’t expect that to change for years to come.
Words: Mark E. Ortega
Photography: Farah Sosa
Al Jardine and Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast
Jade Castrinos, formerly of Edward Sharpe and Magnetic Zeros
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