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Arts and Entertainment

L.A.'s First Red Bull Music Academy Fest Will Showcase The City's Musical Identity Over 28 Days

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When Adam Shore and his Red Bull Music Academy team first organized the Todo Es Metal show, which will bring Mexican metal bands and L.A.-based, Latinx-led metal bands together for one show, they decided on a 7 p.m. start time and 600-ticket capacity. The tickets sold out quickly, prompting the team to expand the list to 1400. Pretty soon, Shore’s email inbox was overflowing with emails from other local bands who wanted to participate. The 7 p.m. start time was moved up to 2 p.m. and the show added eight more bands.

“The underground metal crowd is one of the most dedicated, coolest, excited, and passionate audiences I’ve ever worked with,” Shore told LAist, who had previously booked countless metal shows in Los Angeles. “And it’s primarily young and latinx.” Todo Es Metal will now transform the Los Angeles Theater into a day-long festival for the underground hispanic metal community in Los Angeles. For some of the Mexican bands on the lineup, this show offers a rare opportunity to perform in L.A.—visa difficulties and pricey plane tickets are a drain in resources for underground bands.

Todo Es Metal is one of 23 events happening across Los Angeles as a part of the first L.A.-based Red Bull Music Academy Festival. The money and power behind the brand is unleashing an event series that spans the city’s geography with the exuberance of out-of-towners hoping to visit Santa Monica and Disneyland in one day. Luckily, RBMA has a whole month on its hands, so festival-goers have time to explore.

Exploration will be the driving force of the festival: the month kicks off with the Rail Up: Mundial party featuring sounds from the African and Latin American diaspora. From there, it’s off to St. Vincent’s neon hyperreality of her new album MASSEDUCTION, via a concert on the New York Street in Paramount Pictures’ backlot (St. Vincent recently premiered a new music video for "Los Ageless", and her single this summer was "New York", so a fake version of a New York street in L.A. is very appropriate).

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Dam-Funk will present Red Bull Radio’s first-ever live mix over in Leimert Park. Flying Lotus and Thundercat will transform Hollywood Forever Cemetery into a psychedelic beat-trip. Ryoji Ikeda will present “the world’s largest synth orchestra” downtown and Bappi Lahiri will bring his Bollywood disco to El Cid. Meanwhile, Ice-T brings the festival to Inglewood and producer Sylvia Massy takes it into the recording studios of West Hollywood.

Los Angeles is the playground for Red Bull Music Academy’s musical investigation, and the festival finds its joy and identity in the cracks of L.A.’s popular music identity. The RBMA Festival asks you to meet it at its level—that is, a level of fervid obsession and devout belief in the transcendent power of discovering a sound for the first time.

While this is the first official RBMA Festival in Los Angeles, the city is not unfamiliar with the brand’s musical impact. The 30 Days in L.A. series of the past couple years brought up-and-coming artists with built-in fan bases to Los Angeles for concerts with shockingly low ticket prices. Red Bull Radio has a studio in L.A. as well, where Dam-Funk usually records his show away from the public eye.

Corporate brand identities are an interesting beast and ubiquitous element of our late-capitalist era, but few have developed a legitimate empire of education and obsession to the degree of Red Bull Music Academy. The Music Academy was originally founded in Berlin in 1998. “The idea was to get people from different musical and cultural backgrounds together and bring them together to be musically creative together,” RBMA founder Many Ameri told LAist. The festival eventually started touring around the globe— aspiring electronic and experimental musicians could find themselves assembled in Sao Paolo or Tokyo or Capetown to learn from industry legends and dive into the local music scene. The Academy has seen now-iconic musicians walk through its ranks (notably L.A.’s Flying Lotus and Tokimonsta) and has remained committed to its vision of molding a global exchange of musical knowledge.

Fundamentally, though, the Academy is inward-facing. Shows happen in the cities in which the Academy takes place, but it primarily focuses on curating a challenging and enriching experience for the dozens of musicians and producers it selects for each iteration. Enter: the Red Bull Music Academy Festival. The festival has taken place primarily in New York City, and it’s been telling New York stories (about the city’s music, its labels, its parties). Red Bull has hosted a festival in Paris as well, and this year saw the festival jump to Sao Paolo and Tokyo along with Los Angeles. Ameri sees these festivals as a chance for cities “to connect music with their own history and understand how it relates to music around the globe and has been shaped over generations.”

L.A. had always been on the horizon for the festival, but the city’s recent growth in cultural ubiquity made the possible inevitable. “I just hope we can be part of the conversation of growing Los Angeles,” said Shore. “It’s obvious it’s happening. We feel it.” For Ameri, Los Angeles represents an “idea of people with different cultures, identities, dreams, hopes, living in one place.” He added, how, in L.A., “frustrations and dreams live so close to each other. We are tapping into this bubble and idea of utopia.”

It also creates a feeling of a story that will never stop being told. When organizing the Los Angeles events, Shore described a sentiment where “[t]here’s always more places to go and more things to do and more places to explore.” He wants the festival to transcend the barriers that many Angelenos put up on a daily basis; that is, the barrier between neighborhoods. “We want people to explore their own city.”

As fundamental as the events are, Shore notes they’re only a fraction of what the RBMA Festival will bring to Los Angeles. “With every event that we’re doing, we’re creating hours of radio on Red Bull Radio and adding more context to these stories through our editorial channels like the RBMA Daily.”

A Los Angeles music festival also would not be complete without several cinematic moments. RBMA has a history of hosting long-form conversation series with filmmakers and their relationship to music—from Aronofsky to Herzog to Noé—and this festival will see Edgar Wright at the Vista Theater in Los Feliz, where the director will discuss the role music has played in his own work. With this year’s Baby Driver, Wright solidified an already strong reputation as a musical director. “It took me the first scene of Baby Driver to realize how amazing Edgar Wright was going to be for this conversation,” said Shore. “I’ve seen lots of music concerts and films but I’ve never seen someone use them as ingeniously as in Baby Driver. You can tell is how much a music fan [Wright] is. He seems like someone who is in the audience with you.”

To get an idea of what the festival will bring, take a look at this interview between St. Vincent and director Willo Perron as they discuss bringing the Los Ageless music video to life:

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The festival starts tonight. For information and tickets to events, check out the festival website here.