Kohoutek Music and Arts Festival: Day One

Kohoutek Music & Arts Festival is a 39-year musical tradition at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Named after an anti-climactic, significantly over-hyped comet, Kohoutek was predicted in 1973 to display spectacular “outgassing” as it entered the inner Solar system. However, it fell short of expectations, failing to display the levels of light that were predicted. Somewhat predictably, at Pitzer College, this sequence of events made Kohoutek a particularly endearing concept, spurring the first ever Kohoutek Music & Arts festival in 1975. Check out our previous Kohoutek post for some of the most popular headliners from years past.

Fast forward to 2012: the Kohoutek tradition continued this past weekend, celebrating its 39th year, and drawing from a particularly eclectic selection of artists to create a lineup sure to please the wide variety of musical tastes at the Claremont Colleges. With headliners like Vetiver and The Juan Maclean, and appearances from talented performers hailing from the realms of jazz, hip-hop, bluegrass, electronica, and everything in between, Kohoutek 2012 was destined to be a success before the festival even began. Everything seemed to fall into place effortlessly; the weather was perfect, attendance was impressive, the vendors were unique and enjoyable, and the music was undeniably excellent. After the jump, we’ll attempt to give you an overview of some of the most enjoyable performances throughout the weekend, as well as photographic coverage of several of the performers. Check out some additional photos from the weekend here.

The inclusion of student bands is certainly one of the most unique parts of Kohoutek, but this year I was particularly amazed by the amount of raw talent coming out of the Pitzer student body. Friday’s lineup began with several performances by Pitzer student bands, including People People, Dr. Nudel, and The Sweet Nothin’s. Though each group brought a different vibe and musical style to the lineup, they all displayed an impressively polished stage presence. The Sweet Nothin’s, a group of five incredibly talented Pitzer students (and some of the most fantastic individuals I’ve ever met) put on a really exceptional show on Friday evening. After going on a little late due to some lineup delays, the group proceeded to absorb everyone present with their self-described “fusion of roots blues, boogie, punk, and everything in between.” Their animated, lighthearted performance got the festival-goers up and dancing. As they plowed through an excellent selection of both original songs and covers, The Sweet Nothin’s displayed their musical dexterity and passion for performance, to the delight of everyone in attendance. We can’t wait to see what’s next for these guys, because they certainly possess the skill and drive to take their group to the next level.

Directly following The Sweet Nothin’s, Silverlake rock/neo-soul group Raheem Cohen took the stage. Speaking of talented groups of kids, Raheem Cohen exemplifies the concept. Citing influences from the likes of Bob Marley, the Black Keys and Jimi Hendrix, Raheem Cohen combines the most enjoyable and varied aspects of a variety of genres into a vivacious, dynamic presence, something that is often absent in groups twice their age. Their music is an intriguing pairing of driving percussion and mellow guitar, mixed with funky keyboard and smoothly dramatic vocals. Three of the Raheem Cohen’s five members are brothers, and the familial quality of the group’s vibe really carries across during their performance. The lead singer and keyboardist, Miles Melendez, commanded the audience with goofy antics and pleasant charisma, occasionally bounding around the stage and splashing the crowd with water. Stream their Lunch-Box EP below.

Over the past several years, The KnowMads have shared the stage with the likes of Andre Nickatina, Macklemore and Zion I. They have outgrown their Roosevelt High School roots and developed into one of the most cerebral, albeit underappreciated, hip hop acts in the Northwest. Friday night, they brought their high-energy, blunted style of hip hop to the Kohoutek stage, much to the chagrin of school administrators and mothers alike. MC’s Pepe and Cheef ran through classics from their self-titled debut and its follow-up The Rooftop before settling into some new tracks off of the recently released The Knewbook. Hip hop doesn’t always translate well to the Kohoutek stage, but the crowd ate up Pepe’s enthusiasm, taking a break from the faux-hippie festivities that had dominated the day’s earlier sets. Pepe and Cheef closed out the set with an unsettling rendition of “River Runs Deep” off of 2010’s CupaTea. The KnowMads’ opening sets have been a staple of Seattle hip hop for years, and it was great to see them get their shine a larger stage.

The last performer of the night before Vetiver, Friday’s headliner, was the fantastic and awe-inspiring Bay Area singer/songwriter/producer/instrumentalist/beatboxer/ridiculously-awesome-human-being Lynx. I can state with a fair amount of certainty that I have never before seen an artist combine genres so effectively in a performance situation. Switching deftly back and forth between folksy mandolin, guitar and a single drum, sometimes over a backdrop of electronic tracks from her laptop, Lynx wrapped the entire crowd in her hypnotic set. It was an unpredictable and perhaps unlikely combination of sounds and styles, but the amalgamation was entirely effective. The audience danced and swayed through the instrumental portion of her set; however, it was the beat boxing that really made the performance. Toward the end of her set, Lynx shed the instruments in favor of her own vocal percussion. The crowd stared and nodded in awe as she displayed an astounding dexterity and range of sounds. As she finished her set, a hushed chorus of “I’m in love with her,” “I want to marry her,” and “Can I be her?” emanated from the audience. Sounds like a successful performance if I’ve ever heard one.

Check back tomorrow for our coverage of Kohoutek Day Two.

  1. John Wayne said:

    your writing is boring

  2. Fly Lo said:

    Really John? I thought it was a great analysis

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