Heat, Good Vibes, and Intensely Great Music As Sound in Focus Concludes

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Never mind what the calendar says: in my book the summer officially ended this weekend with the final concert in the 2015 Sound in Focus series, produced by the Annenberg Foundation and KCRW at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. And summer was going out with a bang, with two blistering hot bands to go along with a blistering hot day. The only question: would we survive the sweltering weather to have enough energy to dance along with Other Lives, or would the Cold War Kids not be able to provide enough genuine coldness to keep us from melting in the courtyard? Thankfully, as the afternoon shifted to early evening, the temperatures dropped to a comfortable mid-70s, making for the perfect weather to enjoy the series finale.

Photos by Brenda Janairo
Photos by Brenda Janairo (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Perhaps Jason Bentley offered the proper musical sacrifice during his introductory DJ set to keep the temperatures mellow. Or maybe it was a secret invocation from Annenberg executive director Cinny Kennard during her remarks thanking everyone for coming. No matter how, by the time Oklahoma-natives Other Lives hit the stage things were comfortable enough that everyone was ready to get up & move around to the band’s distinctive grooves. Known for their non-traditional arrangements, Other Lives used a variety of instruments, including kettle drums, some kind of squeeze box, and dual violins (not to mention their stunning vocal harmonies), to create an unusual sonic mix that nicely suited the occasion. Tracks from their latest album, Rituals, including “Easy Way Out,” “2 Pyramids” and “English Summer” all lingered in the summer air like a subtle perfume, as did their intriguing Nirvana cover, “Something in the Way.”

Once they finished, the buzz began building for the night’s (and the series’) concluding set from Cold War Kids. To burn off some of the anticipatory energy, many like myself took a final lap around the lawns to catch up with a few friends, topped off with a visit to the food trucks to sustain me for the rest of the night (and, if you were to ask me, there is nothing more sustaining that banana pudding from the Pudding Truck!) And with a flash Cold War Kids began their show! In ten short years, CWK have become one of our local musical treasures, with five solid albums and innumerable EPs, plus a reputation for some of the best live shows around.

And this was in full evidence at the Annenberg courtyard, as lead singer Nathan Willett and his bandmates roared through a set that covered their entire career: from early favorites such as “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me Up to Dry,” to their latest single, “First,” from last year’s album, Hold My Home. Willett’s sonorous howls and the band’s throbbing, blues-flavored tunes were augmented with guest backing vocals and a mini string-section.

Powerful stuff, and after an encore that included a nod to John Lennon, they were done, and the season was done, with nothing left but great memories and hopeful wishes for next year. Of course the Annenberg Space for Photography is open year-round and well worth a visit anytime. And KCRW DJs will be appearing at next Saturday’s Chinatown event, as well as at the Santa Monica Pier Thursday nights through September 10. Wait a minute! Perhaps the summer isn’t over after all!!!