Over the weekend, the coolest venue in the city hosted a brand new music festival, Future Sounds, featuring some of the most soulful up-and-coming acts. The Viaduct glowed, not only from the lights and projections but also from the dazzling event happening just below. Kensington Presents put the shindig together, featuring mostly local artists, with vendors and installations that kept the party going between sets.
Floyd Fuji was the first to take the stage in the afternoon, and he kicked off the fest with both feet. He laid out generous grooves, establishing funk and soul as key themes for the fest. Syd B was not far behind with her downtempo R&B style, aided by Floyd himself as he played in her backing band. Both artists collaborated on a song together called “Water Me,” about finding symbiosis with another person; though the song implies love, the musical energy they shared onstage still proves its point.
People began to trickle in for the next few hours, as attendees presumably were fighting traffic from the nearby Dodgers game to get to the far side of Chinatown. In early hours, lines for food and drink were reasonable, so people slowly began to drink kombucha-based cocktails and arepas. Lagunitas had set up a booth for festival-goers to splatter paint onto their logo, which, magically, never soaked in the colors. The conceptual art put up by Formerly Alien was entertaining to watch; attendees could sit in front of an iPhone and have their face projected onto an adjacent geometric sculpture of a face. There was also improvised poetry by Ars Poetica, a clothing vendor, and merch tables that offered more-than-reasonably priced festival totes and posters.
CAPYAC seemed to get the party started properly. Their electronic set felt like it would have done well in a cramped club, though no one would deny that they also sounded phenomenal at this open-air fest. In a moment between songs, I glanced up at the bridge and saw a man peering over the rail, down at us. When the train passed, people couldn’t help but crane their necks to see what was happening in this small nook at the edge of Los Angeles State Historic Park. Even passers-by felt the heart of the event.
One of my favorite moments at any festival is the sunset, creating dynamic ambiance for whichever lucky band happens to be onstage. In this case, it was soul heartthrob Stan Taylor. After seeing fans walking around in his merch (not being sold at Future Sounds, keep in mind), I knew he would be the one to watch, and he did not disappoint. His voice was effortless and his band was perfectly in sync, especially for their spicy cover of “Poison.”
At this point in the night, people were clamoring to stand atop the astroturf that jutted straight out from the stage; it was mostly gravel outside the fake grass, which is more dangerous for tired feet after drinking and dancing for a few hours. That didn’t dampen the enjoyment of Raquel Rodriguez’s set, as she brought the venue back to a sultry R&B experience. She pulled out all the stops, finding time to do covers of Chaka Kahn and Beyoncé, as well as to invite her predecessor Stan Taylor up to talk about and perform a little from their collaborative EP, Sunday’s Best.
The only outlier on the bill was the most powerful among them, Jesse Jo Stark. Her power was not only in her sound, though her deep rock style will reverberate in your chest. It was also not necessarily in her lyrics, though that depends somewhat upon how much you value sad stories; this she acknowledged, though it was her commanding stage presence that brought it home. “Can I play a slow one?” she asked us. When no one reacted, she demanded a “yes or no?” which elicited cheers. She was singing the next track, “Mystery,” directly to us: “You’re still a mystery to me.”
The Viaduct is one of the oldest thoroughfares in the city, with a long history, especially relative to LA’s short memory. It is practically a living venue, constantly changing moods as the sun sets and as the energy of the crowd grows. The Metro zipped by throughout the night, which was just another indication of the community we formed that night. We pay homage to the city when we celebrate in such a historic place, and it shouldn’t take a (hopefully annual!) music fest to remember. After a weekend like this one, with two mass shootings occurring within twenty-four hours, it is more imperative than ever that we remember to hold our friends tight, even if we’ve just met.
To find out when the next event at the Viaduct or another cool venue happens, follow Kensington Presents on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Words: Zoë Elaine
Photos: Hernan Sanchez