Air + Style, the Austrian based travelling snowboard and ski competition/ music festival made it’s first ever stop stateside at The Rose Bowl in Los Angeles this past weekend. The event came off like a karmic disaster for event organizers and attendees alike. Maybe it was the $6 bottles of water or $10 cups of Pabst Blue Ribbon which angered the festival gods enough to have Saturday nights’ headliner, Kendrick Lamar storm off half an hour before the scheduled end of his set, furious over the fact that the festival grade sound system sounded no louder than a car with a booming sound system that had it’s windows rolled up. Or maybe it was Saturday’s hour-long wait to get food, beverage or bladder relief that caused the sky to open up with a torrential downpour on Sunday’s audience of only a couple thousand people. Even though the table was set for Air + Style to be a one of a kind type of event that could thrill and entertain all ages of snow-sport and music enthusiasts, a few logistical and pricing mistakes made Air + Style a dud for everyone involved, including it’s majority owner, Shaun White.
The biggest mistake was having this event at the Rose Bowl. While the setting was picturesque and my soft spot for the home of UCLA Bruins football squad notwithstanding, having a music festival surrounded by affluent families in opulent estates insured that the influence of rich 1% ers would be heard louder and clearer than decibel level of the festival sound system. With all the doomed events that have taken place at Exposition Park and The L.A. Coliseum, let’s face it, the poor, socio-economically challenged people that live in South Central L.A. have little influence over the budgets of multi national corporations and promoters that choose to have their events there. That might’ve been the better choice, at least for the music portion this event.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The 13 and under crowd had an incredible time on Saturday with all the free activities, events and the incredible exhibition of acrobatics provided by the snowboard competitors that were marveled at by people of all ages. Given the clusterfuck around the festival line up on Saturday, the boarders and the incredible, man-made, 16 story ramp of manufactured snow took center stage. Snowboard competition winner, Yuki Kadono made history on Saturday by executing a massive, switch backside triple cork 1620 for the first time ever, which was by far, the highlight of Saturday’s festivities. Notable Saturday performances included Metz, Phantogram, Protugal. The Man. and one of the best sets I’ve seen the Black Lips play in quite some time.
On Sunday, the rain prevented the 30k people that attended Air + Style on Saturday from returning and day 2 was all about hardcore music lovers. The performances on Sunday were magical. It poured on us during Deap Vally, Cults and Surfer Blood, with just a mild sprinkle during the Flaming Lips and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s. Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips staged the type of performance we have come to expect from one of the most artistic and complete live bands in music. The light show, the costume clad rainbows, mushrooms and “the Sun” dripped light and artistry all over the crowd, along with the rain drops that pounded our heads and umbrellas. Alex Ebert aka Edward Sharpe recruited the audience to their set with a soft spoken confidence. Pointing to the man made snow and ramp that was directly across from the main stage, Ebert commented, “Look at this. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re controlling the weather. The weather is definitely getting back at us, though.” I’m relatively sure he was referring to a longer term, global payback than the innocuous rains that trickled down during their set. Then the sky cleared up and Sleigh Bells showed everyone how to get the crowd moving with a high energy, booming, bass-y performance that must’ve cut through the sounds of the storm and penetrated double paned glass windows of mansions that were quietly trying to watch the Hollywood jerk off fest known as the Academy Awards.
Air + Style swung for the fences and ended the weekend batting .500 with a sacrifice, run scoring, fly ball out. Ironically, I think the rain might’ve saved the festival from itself by driving out the huge crowd that overwhelmed the neighborhood on day one. I would give Air + Style a second chance if they came back to town next year. I think if they jacked up the ticket price by 10-20%, it would be less offensive than paying $6 for water and $20 for parking.
Words and Photos: Danny Baraz