Even though the sun was hiding behind a veil of clouds at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Saturday, it didn’t hinder the bright and lively atmosphere of the Indie West Fest at all. (Tip: you can still get sunburned on overcast days, so still bring sunscreen.) With over 30 bands performing on six stages, there was never an uneventful moment.
11:15 am - Popchips Stage: Mad Planet
The six stages were sprawled out across the fairgrounds and at first were not labeled, making it a guess-and-check process to determine which stage was which. First up for the day on the Popchips stage on the far end of the grounds and nestled between two old buildings were electronic-rock band (and recent Deli Artist of the Month winner) Mad Planet.
Dressed in all white as the yin to the black-clad guys’ yang, bassist/vocalist Cooper Gillespie guided the crowd through the maze of sound they were creating. Her seductive alto rivals that of Bat For Lashes and floats gently on top of the simultaneously dark and twinkling synth and bass lines and rhythms provided by drummer Greg Gordon. Besides a set full of their original work, they played a haunting cover of Placebo’s “Black-Eyed.” It was an awesome way to kick off the day.
12:15am - Popchips Stage: The Tender Box
Right after Mad Planet finished up and conversed with fans, the guys from The Tender Box began setting up. As per usual at most festivals, in between sets the crowd clears out completely and then comes flocking back when the music begins again.
Drawing on traditional rock song composition, it could be easy for them to fall into the trap of predictability, but they’re too slick for that. Right as you think you know how the song will go, they throw a jam session right in the middle of it. They’re an intriguing live act and it only takes a few minutes of watching to sense their love and passion for what they do. And the best part is that they were willing to share that with everyone present.
3:00pm - Sailor Jerry Stage: The Growlers
It’s after 3pm now. The Growlers were supposed to be on fifteen minutes ago, but when Gram Rabbit’s set went over time, everything got pushed back a bit. The crowd, which congregated on the grass by the palm trees to wait, began creeping closer and closer to the stage sensing the beginning of the show and the end of the sound check.
Four of the band members were on stage and seemed fully ready to begin playing when practically out of nowhere, vocalist Brooks Nielson bounds onstage, barefoot and smoking a cigarette like the beanie wearing renegade he is. “I thought the show was gonna start without me,” he exclaimed. Happily back in their native California, playing so close to the beach was only apropos to their vintage reverb-soaked rock goth jams that would make the 1960’s beam with pride. Nielson played Mr. Charisma, talking up the crowd and dancing with himself and helping himself to anyone’s drinks lying on or around the stage. The crowd ate up everything they threw to us for not one person near that stage remained stationary. Everyone was swaying and dancing and singing along. Even the weather was sad to see their set end as it began to rain as the crowd and band alike begged for just one more song. But as they had already run over their allotted time, they had to bid adieu for now leaving everyone excited for what will come in the future. - Taylor Lampela