The inaugural Venice Wave Fest showcases 25 independent artists all over the sonic map
By Stephanie Case
When a trio of Angelenos set out to throw their own music festival — this Saturday’s inaugural Venice Wave Fest — they decided to venture outside the mainstream.
Instead of booking big-name headliners, they picked lesser-known musicians a few shades from stardom — or, as organizer Walt Thompson calls them, the “not-too-famous.”
“There are so many good artists out there that are being overlooked,” says Thompson, who joined forces with his son, DJ Trey Thompson, and former record executive John Ferguson to bring the day-to-night indie music event to life.
“These are artists that are buzzing. They’re the ones grinding away at local clubs, the ones that are about to take off,” he says.
To find their emerging talent, Thompson and his team reached out to record labels and scoured the internet. When they posted a public ad on SonicBids, an online gig-booking site, more than 5,000 submissions poured in from music makers across the globe — as far off as Brazil, China and England, and as homegrown as the 310 area code.
One of the 25 standouts was Leven Kali, a Santa Monica-based singer and producer whose buoyant hip-hop beats might be as catchy as Kendrick Lamar’s.
Another was Man Made Time, a young L.A. duo who craft airy, angelic synthpop that’s candy to your ears.
Lea Beiley, a folk songstress from Torrance, earned a spot on the lineup for her raw, original songs — and her stripped-down covers of Top 40 hits made famous by Beyoncé, Halsey and Calvin Harris.
Noirre, a 19-year-old alt-pop artist from Sacramento, was picked for his sun-soaked grooves that could set the score for a perfect day at the beach.
Each artist has made waves in their own local circles and amassed fans online, but on Saturday all 25 acts will join forces to rock the same stage.
“It’ll be cool to hang out and connect with a bunch of other independent artists who are also grinding to make this dream a reality,” says Nate Huss, frontman of IAMWE, another group on the rise who nabbed a spot at the festival.
In 2012, Huss was playing acoustic guitar in Arizona coffeehouses six nights a week when he caught wind of a band in need of a vocalist. They eventually joined forces as IAMWE and toured their heartfelt pop songs across the state, garnering masses of passionate local fans.
“Every show is like hanging out with a lot of your best friends,” says Huss. “From the drop of the first beat, they’re singing every lyric.”
But performing in front of tens of thousands of new faces at Venice Beach — many of whom have never heard their music — presents an exciting challenge, one every performer at the festival will need to conquer.
“It’s an opportunity for us to rip our hearts out of our chest and leave it on the stage, and hope that people get [our music] and vibe on it,” Huss says.
From 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., each musical act will get roughly 20 minutes to do just that: lay their music on the line for the Windward Plaza crowds, hoping to catch their ears and convert curious passersby into fans.
Those who listen in will be treated to an eclectic grab bag of sounds: sultry R&B, Afro-Cuban jazz, rock ‘n’ soul, effervescent dance music. Throughout the nine-and-a-half-hours of music, there’s something for everyone to connect with — and, according to Thompson, that’s the point.
“Music is universal, and it should be free for anybody to come and enjoy it,” he says.
Venice Wave Fest runs from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Windward Plaza, where Windward Avenue meets the Venice Boardwalk, Venice. Admission is free. Visit venicewavefest.com for more info.