Red Bull Music Academy Festival to celebrate unsung heroes of L.A. music, with a roller disco (latimes) + Red Bull Music Academy Lecture Playlist


Randall Roberts

Randall RobertsContact Reporter

Perhaps it’s the juice that propels energy drink giant Red Bull’s marketing initiatives into such far-flung realms. In service of its brand, the Austrian conglomerate has underwritten lifestyle activities including cliff diving, air racing and surfing competitions, bridge tournaments, soapbox derbies and visual art projects.

The company also doles out millions each year to connect with musicians and music fans who down Red Bull’s concoctions in an attempt to extend their late-night revelry.

In October, some of that marketing money will support the first Los Angeles installment of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival, a month-long series of one-of-a-kind happenings to occur in venues across the area.

Like previous academy festivals in New York, Paris, Sâo Paulo, Brazil, and elsewhere, the 21 events, a combination of performances, interviews and dance parties, are curated to fit the locale.

Many are surprisingly below-the-radar or unexpectedly weird, especially considering a major corporation with ambitions beyond altruism is doing the underwriting. A symphony of cars? A discussion of video-game music? An evening that connects the metal scenes of Mexico and California? All of the above and more will be spread throughout the month.

“We really aimed to do a festival that was about Los Angeles, Los Angeles music, Los Angeles music culture, Los Angeles sounds and important moments in L.A. music history,” said Adam Shore, who oversees programming for the academy.

“Really tell the stories of music in L.A. — in L.A.”

Among the highlights: A conversation with influential East L.A. punk singer Alice Bag; a performance by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda called “A [for 100 cars],” in which 100 car stereos simultaneously emit the same musical note; a night called Todo es Metal, which showcases the vibrant underground metal scenes in Southern California and Mexico; a conversation with L.A. rapper and actor Ice T; and a celebration at a makeshift roller rink of Uncle Jamm’s Army, the 1970s funk and electro party that thrived in South L.A. at the beginning of the hip-hop revolution.

Although its programming covers many genres and trends, the festival is notably absent events that appeal to a more commercially minded pop audience. Those curious about Greg Kurstin’s production techniques will have to search elsewhere.

Shore, who has also worked in music and branding for the car company Scion, says that’s no accident, describing “a kind of editorial approach to working in music — to celebrate things in music whether it’s in the past or the present or the future that we think are really interesting and relevant, and that we want more people to know about.”

Hence the initiative’s “academy” descriptive.

Founded in Berlin in 1998, the Red Bull Music Academy was envisioned as a traveling learning center for budding electronic musicians. A kind of conservatory for beat producers, each year it sets up shop in a cosmopolitan locale and awards scholarships to a fraction of the applicants.

Attendees have access to professional studios outfitted with the newest gear and mentors to teach them how to use it. Artists maintain ownership of any music they create while there. Los Angeles producers including Flying Lotus and Tokimonsta attended the academy when they were starting out.

Over its 20 years, the academy has expanded to include a full-time radio station and sponsors events at established festivals around the world.

It’s also important, he adds, that the festival not focus on gigs that would otherwise happen in the area anyway. He and his team encourage performers to avoid “the sort of thing that that artist would normally do if they were playing, say, in San Diego or San Francisco.”

He cites as an example the Todo Es Metal, the mini-festival within the series organized by promoter Dan Dismal and his company Church of the Eighth Day.

“This is a show that’s bringing together Mexican metal bands and L.A. metal bands with Mexican roots and having them all play together, really, for the first time — this kind of underground death metal, black metal, goregrind and grindcore extreme metal festival.”

The most prominent musician on the bill, Annie Clark, is in the beginning stages of promoting her new album as St. Vincent, but her Red Bull show on Oct. 7 won’t be a rehearsal. Rather, the one-off performance will occur on the Paramount lot as a collaboration with the designer and director Willo Perron.

Given the city’s status as a studio hub, the series also features events dedicated to recording technology and the behind-the-board pros who put music to tape. Legendary mastering engineer Bernie Grundman will present a lecture based on his experiences working on classic albums by Prince, Carole King and Dr. Dre.

Studio engineer Sylvia Massey will return to the facility where she got her start, EastWest Studios (formerly United), to discuss her experiences.

“The idea was to set these happenings in venues that have historical meaning,” Shore said, adding that this year was particularly complicated in the wake of the Ghostship warehouse fire in San Francisco.

“We wind up having to talk about Ghostship every day,” Shore said, “and there are reverberations in New York City — and it’s totally understandable. We’re just doing parties for people to have fun and maybe learn something about music.”

And sure, there is some ulterior motive.

Adds Shore: “We’re trying to tell these stories, and the event is a really good way to galvanize people — and, the truth is, get press to talk about it.”

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