Beachwood Sparks embody spirit of 3rd New LA Folk Festival
Dustbowl Revival, Domingo Siete, Spindrift, Guy Blakeslee, Cowboy & Indian also on bill at Zorthian’s Ranch Saturday
By Bliss Bowen 08/02/2012
Founded as a means of supporting new folk music in greater Los Angeles, and to “celebrate the emergence of new folk-inspired music and local culture, throwbacks, roots, experiments with tradition and modern folklore,” the New LA Folk Festival’s inclusion of Beachwood Sparks in the roster for this Saturday’s event is fitting.
Returning to the scene after an almost decade-long hiatus with the widely applauded album “The Tarnished Gold,” Beachwood Sparks helped give rise to the wave of Flying Burrito Brothers-worshipping, psychedelic-leaning, hippie couture-wearing bands and fans that ultimately contributed to the festival’s creation.
Founded in 1998, Beachwood Sparks benefitted from an interest in alt-country that was then in vogue, and they were often named inheritors of Gram Parsons’ “cosmic American music” legacy. But rather than confine themselves to one particular corner of the playing field, they chose to pursue their own muse, whether that meant reworking Sade’s “By Your Side” with harmonica and pedal steel or stacking harmonies over shifting time signatures on 2002’s “Make the Cowboy Robots Cry.” In the process, they forged a hazy, dazy sound that mined LA’s late-’60s/early-’70s country-folk-rock history, yet was of their own time.
“The Tangled Gold” brings together their vintage influences, but it is more personal music. Its mix of melancholy confessionals and sunny melodies embodies the prototypical LA/Southern California sound, or at least one dreamy strand of it; the region and its music have always been a magnet for artists across the spectrum of genres who craft new forms out of disparate elements.
That spirit of open-minded experimentation will be alive Saturday throughout the artful yet rugged festival grounds at Zorthian’s ranch — itself a quirky testament to art as creative rather than commercial expression — where Beachwood Sparks will represent one way in which the area’s diverse folk community draws on the past while looking to the future.
KCRW presents New LA Folk Fest kickoff party with headliners Beachwood Sparks at the Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, 8:30 p.m. Friday. 3; $12-$15. Info: (213) 413-8200. Beachwood Sparks play the 3rd New LA Folk Festival at Zorthian Ranch, 3990 Fair Oaks Ave., Altadena, on Saturday; music runs from 1:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets: $25 general admission/$30 door/$50 VIP. Other acts on the bill include Dustbowl Revival, Domingo Siete, Guy Blakeslee, Restavrant, Gwendolyn, He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, Tom Brosseau, Leslie Stevens, Spindrift, Yellow Red Sparks, RT N the 44’s, Triple Chicken Foot, Ocha la Rocha, Cowboy & Indian, Oliwa & the Pleasure Circus. Ranch contact: (626) 797-3359. Info: lafolkfest.com, subpop.com/artists/beachwood_sparks.