On a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon in quiet Claremont, CA, dinosaurs, bollywood beats and some of the best carne asada tacos in the Inland Empire took over a small liberal arts institution called Pitzer College. Day One of Kohoutek Music and Arts Festival – marked by impeccable performances from The Sweet Nothin’s, Raheem Cohen, The Knowmads and LYNX – was an affair in its own right, but Day Two brought a whole new level of debauchery. A bouncy house magically appeared on the festival grounds and the alcohol and California grown medication were readily flowing. Rumors of a celebrity appearance spread like wildfire and by the time the sun began to dip below its apex, the excitement in the crowd was palpable.
Late Saturday afternoon, spirits were high as Austin native Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known by the name Shakey Graves, took the stage. Equipped with only a guitar and his voice, Shakey Graves elicited instant adoration from everyone present. How could he not, with his endearing Texas twang and fast-paced finger-picking? The golden late-afternoon sunlight cascaded down as the crowd got up and danced with wild abandon to Shakey Graves’ lighthearted yet perfectly humble set. There’s something so wholeheartedly pleasing about the simplicity of a man and his guitar, singing of long journeys, love, and the more mundane aspects of life. Even after breaking a string in the middle of his set, Shakey Graves was adorably bashful as he attempted to call up songs from his repertoire that didn’t require the broken string. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of his performance was his genuine gratitude for the enthusiasm present in the audience, which he expressed several times throughout his set. Shakey Graves’ music is the ideal soundtrack for cross-country road trips and desert bonfires, and also, it seems, for Saturday afternoons at Kohoutek. If you missed out on this one, or simply want to relive his performance, his album Roll The Bones is available for free download on his Bandcamp. LA beat stalwart was next and the few hip hop heads present at the festival soon crawled out of their holes.
Ever since last April’s My Hollow Drum takeover at Low End Theory (FlyLo and Erykah Badu were special guests), Co. Fee has been a staple of the LA beat scene. The Easy Listening EP was one 2011’s seminal releases and the young Diamond Bar resident has set the scene on fire with his mixture of club and boom bap. After a few sound issues, Co. Fee took the Kohoutek stage with only a laptop and his trusty M-Audio Trigger Finger. Over the next 45 minutes, he ran flawlessly through originals off Easy Listening, remixes, and a track off of an upcoming project with Ohio MC Note. The first half of the set was marked by mellow hip hop instrumentals, before he shouted out that he was “switching things up” and brought out the more club-oriented beats. Kohoutek was Co. Fee’s first college festival and he loved the good vibes and energy emanating from the crowd. “Gypsy Skirt,” “Spark Plug” and a remix of Clipse’s “Wamp Wamp” were the highlights of the set. I won’t get into it too much, but in between Co.fee and headliner The Juan Maclean, a member of the band Tornado Rider who calls himself The Sneth Goblin climbed a 30 foot tree wielding a cello.
After a short intermission, the man, the legend, The Juan Maclean took the stage. Unfortunately, John Maclean was only slated for a DJ set (the live ensemble is one of the most impressive acts I’ve ever witnessed), but his vinyl selections were nothing short of astounding. The disco stylings of DFA Records were readily apparent and Maclean effortlessly mixed between bouncy, kick-driven house tracks and euphoric vocal disco. No obnoxious piano crescendos or synth stabs, no inflatable sea animals, just good old dance music. As he noted on his Twitter on Saturday night, Maclean was probably twice as old as the majority of the crowd, but despite the generation gap, Kohoutek was engrossed and getting down to every single minute of his set. While Friday night’s headliner, Vetiver, soothed the crowd into relaxing lather, Maclean got the crowd up and moving for the entirety of his set.
After Maclean ended, the crowd headed to an assortment of after parties. New jersey dubstepper Space Jesus played nearby, but the happy house vibes of Maclean’s vinyl still reverberated throughout the grounds. A melancholy vibe took over the departing students as the realization hit that Kohoutek wouldn’t be coming around for another 364 days. There were too many highlights to count, though, and the melancholy quickly dissipated into the revelry of the remaining hours of the night. Kohoutek 2012 has come and gone, but performances from LYNX, Shakey Graves and The Juan Maclean will stick in the minds of attendees for years to come. Find photos from the night after the jump courtesy of Madeline Feig and Juliana Bernstein.
The Young Rapscallions
The Juan Maclean