Free Spirits and Free Fun
Musical acts from near and far headline an action-packed Abbot Kinney Festival
By Bliss Bowen
Abbot Kinney Boulevard’s cache of cool draws fashionistas, foodies, flaunters and gawkers from around the corner and around the globe.
On Sunday they’ll be coming in droves, when a mile-long stretch of the boulevard closes to cars for the 32nd annual Abbot Kinney Festival — the Westside’s biggest annual street party.
Once again there will be three beer gardens, dozens of food trucks and booths, and art, culinary and fashion vendors aplenty, with live music and DJs on three stages plus the family-friendly KidsQuad. But instead of a spoken-word stage, Spritzr and HUSHconcerts have teamed to host a headphones-enabled silent disco (called the Love Lounge) along the boulevard at Santa Clara Avenue.
It’s all being accomplished with the help of approximately 150 volunteers, says Abbot Kinney Festival Association chairperson Donna Humphrey.
“We work on the event year-round,” she says. “We open vendor registration in December, but things start to really get going in January.”
Humphrey estimates that 100,000 to 120,000 people attend each year.
“The whole aim for the fest is to raise money for youth, community and arts grants” given out by the Abbot Kinney Festival Association, explains Matt Ellis, who once again curated the Andalusia “Locals” Stage. The festival is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s biggest annual fundraiser. (Those wishing to make a donation can do so at abbotkinney.org/donate-1/.)
A Springsteen- and Petty-admiring Australia native who moved to Venice 11 years ago and has since become an active champion of its musical community, Ellis considered last year’s post-festival feedback (“nothing but positive”) when coordinating the Andalusia “Locals” lineup.
“Everyone loves getting local bands down on the strip,” he says. This year he’s “trying to make it even more comfortable” for artists and the audience; details hadn’t yet been confirmed at press time, but he was in the process of lining up furnishings and Astroturf “so it’s more of a constant hang.”
Silent Partner will get things off to a rocking start, followed by indie-rock foursome Potential Suitors and the duo Bambi + Felix — aka vocalist/guitarist/beatboxer Bambi Morse and drummer/backup vocalist Jessamyn Violet, who will be playing their first show in three years.
Wise-ass rock ‘n’ roller Paul Chesne will play a set of his own and also join Ellis during his set; the two will introduce “They Don’t Make ’Em Like They Used To,” a witty single they plan to release in October.
The Andalusia lineup will be rounded out by eclectic local troubadour Tom Freund and buzz-generating free spirit Kat Myers and the Buzzards; Townhouse/Del Monte Speakeasy regular DJ Bright Moments will be spinning between sets.
“I know Tom Freund is working on a big band for the afternoon,” Ellis says. “There are bound to be surprises and collaborations.”
Mista Cookie Jar, Kristin Cook, kid trio Moose, 29 Live, and the Superbroke Brass, Tin & Strings Marching Band are all scheduled to return to the KidsQuad stage Sunday. They will be joined by Colombian children’s singer-songwriter Sylvie Simhon, Nathalia, and Muppets-loving, Parents Choice Award-winning “Ear Snacks” podcast hosts Andrew & Polly.
Over on the Palms Stage at the Brig, DJs will be spinning throughout the day.
The Broadway Stage will be jumping with hip-hop and rock from conscientious rapper Crown & the M.O.B. (“Message of the Blues”), Fiction Plane frontman/bassist and app developer (Vyclone, Weev) Joe Sumner, crowd-pleasing hipster trio the Federal Empire, Sure Sure, HOV and 93.
The articulate Sumner, who just participated in the Hulu-sponsored “8 Days a Week” release show and Beatles lovefest at the El Rey, recently opened some European dates for his dad: Sting.
The Federal Empire are likely to wrap their engaging “gang vocal” harmonies around their “American Dream” (“I wanna burger with fries, supersize my bacon/ A big apple pie, yeah, as much as I can take and/ Never gonna stop until I have it all/ … I want what I want not what I need/ Even if it kills me I’ll be free”). The weed-celebrating, satiric anthem manages to tap into both the national mood and Venice’s laid-back spirit.
Obviously the festival is a celebration of community by and for locals, but just as clearly it’s intended to promote Venice to outside visitors.
“My idea and my job with the Locals Stage is to showcase what true local talent we have going on in Venice here right now,” Ellis says. “I just hope it kind of opens up doors for these local acts, for the new and existing residents of Venice and beyond, and helps get their names out there.”
The 32nd annual Abbot Kinney Festival presents live music and DJs on three stages (plus the KidsQuad family stage) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, along Abbot Kinney Boulevard between Main Street and Venice Boulevard. Free admission. Visit abbotkinney.org for more info.