Two weeks ago, I ventured into downtown Los Angeles for one really awesome street festival. Sept. 30 was the date of the Fourth Annual Grand Avenue Festival. The festival website says: "Discover Downtown LA for the best in arts and culture!" Festival highlights included a free performance by the LA Philharmonic inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall, free admission and guided tours at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), "A Taste of Downtown" featuring food from downtown's finest restaurants, Dance performances at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, Musical performances at the LA Public Library and many, many more. Practically everything was free (except for parking and food), the weather was perfect and did I mention that the festival was free?
Since it was on a Sunday, I still had church in the morning. After mass, I ran home for a quick change of clothes and it was off to downtown. I parked in the Wells Fargo building for only $5 and walked the two blocks up Grand Avenue to the festival.
Looking up Grand Avenue. The distinctive architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (left) and MOCA (right) flank the street. Barriers were set up to direct traffic to other streets.
Just in case I didn't know where to go, there were helpful signs along Grand Avenue.
One of the first attractions along the Avenue was the "Sky Mobile" from the Natural History Museum.
I never actually went inside which was a shame since there was never a long line. Perhaps it would have been more popular if it was painted like Optimus Prime and transformed into a giant robot.
A festival is always a good opportunity to promote your product via wrapped vehicles...
...even the LA Public Library knows a well-placed promotional minivan can bring awareness. Actually, I think this was used by the library's staff of bounty hunters trying to collect outstanding late fees from unsuspecting festival goers.
The "Street Stage" was the first performing space I encountered and I stopped to listen to the upbeat sounds of "Brasil Brasil."
It was now after 12:30pm and I was getting hungry since I normally skip breakfast on Sundays. All the better reason to gorge myself with loads of street festival food!!! Okay, maybe that's not really a smart plan, but one reason I love street festivals is the food. A quick look at participants of "A Taste of LA" meant that a decision was going to be difficult: Ciudad, Kendall's Brasserie, Pinot Grill, Warung Cafe and more. However, only one restaurant was offering a BBQ Brisket Sandwich, so I got in line for the Spring Street Smokehouse. I never turn down an opportunity to try a brisket sandwich.
Prices were reasonable. In fact, the Festival mandated that no item could be priced over $6 in order to help keep the food offerings accessible.
Behold the magnificence of the BBQ Brisket Sandwich! It did not disappoint. Mmmmmmm! I spotted a couple other items I wanted to try later in the day, so I knew I'd revisit the food stands. After washing down the sandwich with a Diet Coke, I decided to grab a ticket to one of the afternoon performances in the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Admission was free to the Disney Concert Hall, but you had to pick up a ticket to insure that you'd get a seat. I actually missed the two performances by the LA Philharmonic, but was intrigued by a group called "Upground" that was performing at 2pm. The program described the group: "From East LA, the players of Upground are musically sophisticated beyond their tender years, serving up a funky blend of ska, jazz, reggae and cumbia." I wasn't quite sure what I'd be getting into as beyond their tender years can be a euphemism for something like, um, I don't know, maybe young and un-polished. But it was free and inside an air conditioned concert hall. Since the afternoon was starting to get hot, I figured I'd give it a try.
I still had over an hour before the concert, so I walked over to the Music Center Plaza to see what was going on over there.
There were several stations of arts and crafts for the kids. The foam toys station was one of the most popular.
The Futa Toro West African Dance Ensemble was just finishing up their set in the Plaza. They looked and sounded really wonderful. I wish I was able to catch more of their performance. There was a quick set change as another act was about to go onstage.
Sakai Flamenco was the next group to perform and they were amazing, captivating and wonderful! It made me think about taking flamenco dance lessons. At least for just a few minutes, until I realized how clumsy I am. Having coordination and a sense of rhythm seem to be important to flamenco dancing.
A photographer gets low for a good angle on the flamenco dancers.
What goes through the heads of these performers while onstage?
Imaginary dancer conversations:
"Let's see them do this move on Dancing with the Stars."
"Oh, you know I love it when you talk like that and kick your right leg."
"I tell you, I can dance better than Wayne Newton or that race car driver."
Although I may jest about it, the performers of Sakai Flamenco were extremely talented and a true joy to watch! It was getting hot under the sun with temps in the mid to high 80s, which made me appreciate these dances even more. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the entire performance as I had to get back across to the Disney Concert Hall for the Upground performance at 2pm.
Alas, there are no pictures of Upground as there were several announcements of "No photography allowed" during the performance. I guess the Concert Hall doesn't want free publicity. And I was disappointed as I love the interior and architecture of the Disney Concert Hall and was hoping to take pictures. But let me tell you: Upground totally rocks! These East LA performers were definitely "sophisticated beyond their tender years". I think they are about college-age and their fusion of ska, reggae and jazz is AMAZING. I highly recommend checking them out. I'm a new fan and will be looking for another area performance soon. In fact, they almost feel like a natural to perform at Disneyland, say on the Tomorrowland Terrace, or perhaps at DCA--since they are native Angelenos and all.
Okay, I'll be back later with more photos from the festival, including pictures from the Garden Tour at the Disney Concert Hall, the fountain in honor of Lillian Disney, and dancers at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.