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Tarfest Music And Arts Festival Showcases Local Talent

Jared Servantez |
September 27, 2011 | 1:55 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


L.A. band Saint Motel performs at Tarfest in Hancock Park (Photo by Jared Servantez)
L.A. band Saint Motel performs at Tarfest in Hancock Park (Photo by Jared Servantez)
The La Brea Tar Pits were home to a livelier crowd than usual on Sunday afternoon, as the nonprofit arts organization Launch LA hosted a free music and arts festival at the park. 

Tarfest, as the event was called, brought together five Los Angeles bands, several art installations, vendors and even a few food trucks to the grassy park near the tar pits and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

The sun broke through the clouds in the early afternoon to provide a beautiful setting for the day’s festivities as the diverse crowd – ranging from hipster to family man – made their way past the tar pits and museums into the middle of the park, where a small outdoor stage was placed. 

The San Fernando Valley-based four-piece Infantree kicked off the festival with their unique brand of indie rock inspired by blues and folk. 

From there, A House for Lions took over with their hazy, dreamy, laid-back summertime pop that provided a perfect soundtrack for a bright and sunny day in the park. 

Obi Best continued with the hazy summertime vibe, adding in some electronic elements with synths aplenty that got the crowd swaying and bobbing under the afternoon sun. 

The local quintet Everest was next to take the stage, and their vast experience – they’ve opened for acts such as My Morning Jacket and Neil Young – definitely showed. They tore through a powerful set full of fuzzed-out riffs and rolling crescendos that pumped some adrenaline back into the audience. 

Closing out the festival with an early evening set that coincided with the setting sun was Saint Motel, who provided many of the day’s highlights throughout their superb performance. The grand scale of their set was hinted at during sound check, when the epic orchestral theme from Jurassic Park was cued up by the DJ for between-set music. 

Saint Motel seemed as if they could have easily owned a much bigger stage, playing with a fuzzy arena rock feel that sounded like Muse met up with the White Stripes and the Cold War Kids for a garage jam session. Although the sound setup at the outdoor stage was not the best, their crushing walls of sound and harmonized vocals still cut through and had many people in the crowd dancing the hardest they had all day. 

The band seemed like rock stars already, playing to the crowd perfectly and engaging in some witty banter inspired by the festival’s setting between songs. “That was for the mammoths. This next one is for the sabertooths,”quipped the lead singer A.J. Jackson. 

The audience enjoyed their set so much that by the end they were screaming for more, bringing the band out for one last song and inspiring yet another joke from Jackson to kick off the encore: “Why not? You only live once…unless you’re suspended in tar.”

Throughout the entire festival, four artists from a group known as the L.A. Art Machine painted live on giant canvasses off to the left of the stage. Crowds gathered to watch them in the middle of their work, which ranged from graffiti-inspired street art to sharp and angular postmodern art. 

Children also had an opportunity to create their own works of art at tents set up by LACMA, although many seemed to prefer simply rolling down the park’s grass hills. 

In addition to Sunday’s music festival, Tarfest also includes an open art exhibition at the Korean Cultural Center on Wilshire Boulevard curated by Nancy Meyer of LACMA. The exhibition began on Sept. 16 and will continue until Sept. 29 with works of art on display by 21 local artists. 

The festival’s founder, Launch LA Director James Panozzo, said that he initially started Tarfest in 2002 with the desire to promote local up-and-coming artists, and he continues to hold onto that idea now. 

“Nine years ago I was an aspiring artist and I had a lot of friends who were aspiring artists,” Panozzo said.  “I had close relationships with the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce and a lot of businesses and institutions in the neighborhood. I thought it would be great to have a program for emerging artists to have their work seen and heard in what I feel is the cultural core of the city.”

Panozzo’s idea of giving back to an artistic community that remains vibrant and active paid off with this year’s version of Tarfest, a definite success that was a lively and enjoyable celebration of the local art scene in Los Angeles. 


Reach reporter Jared Servantez here or follow him on Twitter.

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