The Open Borders music and art festival has been a highlight of the summer culture in the valley. An old Borders bookstore after it went out of business could have easily become a vacant building subject to vandalism and decomposure even in such a beautiful area. But instead, the space has been thoroughly transformed into a treat for everyone to experience full of art galleries and music performances and all around good times. This past weekend is the second to last of the summer and Friday night drew in a lively crowd for three great musical performances.
First up of the night was local Los Angeles rock outfit Y Luv. Yes, that is the correct spelling even though spell check seems to disagree. After a false alarm sound check, the guys dispersed and then returned to the stage to bring us their own taste of what rock and roll means to them.
As they walked on, the mics picked up their cavernous footsteps, eerily echoing the fate of what this old building could’ve been. But the slightly creepy feeling didn’t last once the music started. it was nothing but fun emitting from those speakers. There’s something inherently happy about their sound and also something familiar. It’s as if their playing your favorite song from a few years ago. But yet it isn’t. It’s totally new. Combining traditional rock elements of catchy hooks, guitar riffs and pulsing synth lines, they weave together songs that are as refreshing as they are dance worthy.
The standout moment of their set was the combination of “Feel Sound” and “Nothing Matters” that really broke through and had lots of power in the deep bass and guitar jams. it also gave the guys a chance to show off their unparalleled dance moves.
The audience seemed to be a little too polite and waited for an explicit invitation to stand closer to the stage. That’s the one downside to having chairs in the performance space; everyone becomes suddenly shy. But once they asked the crowd to move forward for the last two songs, we happily obliged and joined in the party.
Open Borders has transformed the old retail space into an overwhelming adventure of the eyes as well as the ears. So unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to watch fellow Californian band Polaris at Noon, but their brightly colored music added another layer to walking through the various art exhibits. It was the perfect soundtrack to accompany the plethora of sights from Daniel Johnston’s oddball genius to serene nature photographs of Ansel Adams. It even helped to dissuade my weird desire to climb up a back room ladder to the roof. The fact that it was a locked trapdoor helped too.
By the time Brooklyn-based Bear Hands made their way to the stage, the audience had been fully warmed up (and filled up by the full service bar where the bookstore cafe used to be.) The band sure had a doting friend in the audience, bringing them shots of whiskey on two separate occasions.
Even though they’re from New York, they’d fit in perfectly with the skaters and surfers of Venice Beach in their worn out baseball caps and cutoff shorts. Their music is laid-back chillout music to a T. With heavy reverb laid on the guitars to make them sound as if they leaked out of the 60’s, the set was full of songs to kick back to. With an emphasis on rhythm with the standing drum and tambourine/maraca combo, the songs were impossible not to at least sway to. The crowd grew in size and also closer to the stage. Playing old favorites such as “What a Drag,” they even threw in a new song, which sadly, I didn’t catch the name of. Even after a few shots of whiskey, they played with the finesse of those doing what they love best.
The Open Borders festival comes to an end next weekend. I sincerely hope that they will continue this event next summer and maybe even before that. It was a milestone that will never be forgotten by anyone who came out once, twice or practically every night. May the borders never close.