Way Over Yonder 2014: The Perfect Summer Send-Off
Another endless heatwave in Los Angeles gets a grand finale by the sea
Way Over Yonder 2014
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, California
There’s fewer better ways to spend the last waning days of summer than at the beach, and this weekend’s Way Over Yonder festival (organized by the Newport Folk Festival) on the Santa Monica Pier was the perfect send-off to a seemingly endless season. Mellow folk music and a cool breeze made for what was easily one of the most pleasant weekend festivals of the year. Forget the stress of rowdy crowds and long lines—Way Over Yonder capitalized on its oceanside location and small scale to become the chillest fest of all.
Friday and Saturday’s respective headliners, Silver Lake’s own hyperactive harmonizers Local Natives and ’70s soft-rock legend Jackson Browne, each drew in their own demographic; young hipsters for the former and older folk diehards for the latter. The lineup of alternative country acts introduced all the neophytes in the audience to talented musicians like Lucinda Williams, The Wild Reeds, Linda Perhacs, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and more.
The fest took place on two stages, the outdoor Pier Stage and the Carousel Stage—which was tucked into a cramped corner of the pier’s Looff Hippodrome building. Smaller acts steamed up the tiny space as people crowded in to get an earful of raucous, foot-stomping folk in an intimate setting. The guy-girl duo of Little Hurricane from San Diego was one highlight of the indoor stage; the dirty blues simplicity of a drum and guitar mixed with howling vocals was a thrill, especially under the twirling lights of the carousel.
Moses Sumney was one of the weekend’s stand-out performers, not just for the fact that his music is distinctly less folksy. The LA native is the master of the looping pedal, creating entire symphonies with nothing but his mouth, beatboxing and clapping up a choir of beats, with his soulful voice hopping and skipping from high to low like freeform jazz. For such a young talent he was charmingly modest on stage, addressing the audience like he was talking to some classmates—totally genuine and not afraid to show his nervous excitement about playing his music for such a large audience.
Local Natives played a shimmering set of songs from their last album, 2013’s gorgeous Hummingbird, and 2010’s debut Gorilla Manor; sadly no new, unheard material came forth, but there was the exciting promise that the band is currently in the studio working on their next album, and a surprise duet with Sumney, covering Little Dragon’s “After the Rain.” The sweeping vocal harmonies of Taylor Rice, Ryan Hahn and Kelcey Ayer, mixed with frenetic layers of percussion, were underscored by the rapid flickering of lights and ocean breezes, creating a sonic experience to get truly swept up in.
Jackson Browne was no doubt the elder statesmen of the festival, his music a clear inspiration to everyone else on the bill. The mellifluous sound of a slide guitar melted into the night air while people swayed, drinking wine on hay bales. The familiar fingerpicked chords of “These Days” (which Browne wrote and Nico popularized) couldn’t be hampered by the jumbling of the song’s lyrics, which Browne himself laughed off.
Way Over Yonder was a weekend of music that everyone could enjoy, country fans or not; the relaxed atmosphere and prime location on the water was an instant draw for people with young kids and older attendees who wouldn’t normally be enticed by an outdoor concert. It goes to show that in LA, no one can resist the siren song of good music, good food, and a gorgeous ocean view. FL