'The Ranch' Rocks The Santa Monica Mountains
Instead of thousands of people trekking to and from the desert, there were hundreds bussed to and from a secluded 20-acre Woodland Hills ranch high above the Santa Monica Mountains.
Concertgoers really didn’t know what to expect when they boarded a school bus from the Warner Center in Woodland Hills.
Allison Swift, 25, from Hollywood said she’s never heard of the festival before. Swift was there to support her friend’s band The Diamond Lights, whom she describes as gritty, southern and “bred in the canyons of LA.”
Word of mouth was also the reason Cristin McGwinn, 27, from Santa Monica, was excited to attend. She researched the music lineups on the internet where she discovered LA-based bands Mansions on the Moon and Kisses.
Surrounded only by dirt and mountain brush with the stars overhead, this mini-indie music festival with DJ sets, poker tournaments and food trucks had the feel of a saloon and a club mixed into one.
Audience members danced and bobbed their heads while horses meandered in a small stable next to the main stage, which featured several bluegrass inspired rock sets, notably Jefferitittis Nile, The Record Company and The Dustbowl Revival.
Also featured were ethereal shoegaze bands like Mansions on the Moon, providing a relaxed coffee-house atmosphere for the crowd. Their set included a guest appearance by Malaysian artist Zee Avi on the soulful tune “Concrete Wall.”
On the far end of The Ranch were the DJ sets. To get there concert-goers had to pass a slew of tents and overnight campers ready for their next morning Bloody Mary. The stage, accessible only through one dark trail, featured locals Dan Wilcox (from KCRW fame), Neo Fresco, Tropicool and Goodnight Keaton among others. The Bixel Boys provided the hype with hip-hop infused house and electro-music, while laser beams illuminated the dancers below.
This party on the mountaintops was both dream-project and philanthropy.
In association with L.A. concert venues The Mint and Central Social Aid and Pleasure Club, proceeds from The Ranch went to Ranchkids.org which provides underprivileged youth outdoor experiences in ranching and agriculture.
“We fell in love with the place, and thought it would be great to have a fundraiser here,” Matt Ushkow, one of the festival’s co-founders, said. Ushkow, 28, took time from running around the complex, fixing broken power cords and shuttling concert-goers, for an interview. He is also a talent buyer for The Mint and Central Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
In looking for which musical acts to book, Ushkow said he “wanted local bands that reflected the local environment.” Ushkow, and a small group of friends, helped plan and market the event along with Ranchkids.org founder CJ Macdonald. Though it’s been a tiring night, he hopes that they can make The Ranch an ongoing event.
When comparing The Ranch to Coachella, Ushkow said, “This is not a festival as much as a big day and overnight party.”