LOS ANGELES — “How is our sound still working?” Cut Copy frontman Dan Whitford joked after a brief downpour interrupted the Aussie trio’s ’80s-inspired synth-pop set Saturday during the Air & Style festival at Exposition Park, near the USC campus.
The rain sent many scurrying toward any available shelter. Luckily, most festival-goers did not let cold weather and precipitation keep them from an explosive experience at the festival, which combined electronic music acts with extreme sporting competitions and demonstrations.
The energy increased with the talented displays of skateboarding and snowboarding, featuring some of the best athletes from around the globe. Meticulous scheduling paid off. Young people had opportunities to enjoy the music performances, best-trick competitions and an assortment of food tents with minimal tradeoffs at the two-day event.
Aside from the casual arrival of Olympian and multi-gold medal winner (and festival curator) Shaun White, the event’s biggest draw was the musical lineup. It surprised with sonic diversity and hidden gems, most notably exemplified by Cut Copy and Virginia rapper D.R.A.M.
Their differences hardly mattered as each artist used a unique style to command their respective audiences. DJ Zedd headlined on Saturday and French rockers Phoenix closed out the festival on Sunday. Other performed included Cashmere Cat, Wet, Mura Masa, Gucci Mane, Washed Out and Tinache.
While many festival-goers flocked to the Winter Stage to watch Zedd on Saturday, the hidden gem of the evening was the undeniable charm of Big Baby D.R.A.M at the Summer Stage. Through irresistibly soulful vocals and natural flair, D.R.A.M. filled both an emotional sweet spot and the itch for a good time.
His jolly display proved a worthwhile tradeoff for a prime seat across the park, filling in the space in between bangers with raucous chants of “If you love your momma say yeah!” The mutual affection between D.R.A.M. and the melting pot of ravers, skateboarders and snowboarders was intoxicating.
Cut Copy frontman Dan Whitford’s graceful stage presence, killer dance moves and affinity toward retro dance-pop exuberance made the need to interact with the crowd almost unnecessary. His band had festival-goers moving from beginning to end. The set featured a blend of cuts from their latest album, Haiku From Zero and tracks from the group’s debut album, In Ghost Colours. Whitford and co. ignited a dance party for the next hour, turning a stormy and chilly evening into a sweaty communion.
Zedd stuck to the tried-and-true method of playing the chorus from a universally loved song and escalating the tension before dropping into concussive four-on-the-floor beats. Hearing Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” rendered in this way might seem redundant or straight up offensive, but seeing how the pit exploded with every shattering downbeat spotlighted where the vitality of Air & Style stemmed.
While the silent majority certainly made the most noise during Zedd’s set, the diversity of music and sports fans made for a complementary hodgepodge of attendees. Elitism and social stigmas went out the window as everyone from graffiti painters and hip-hop fans to skate punks and ravers gathered under the banner of “forgetting about tomorrow.”
The festival’s real catch was its amalgamation of varying cultures—or was it the profuse amounts of Boxed Water cartons lying around? Either way, the air was electric in spite of unfortunate weather. From snowy halfpipes to concrete jungles and railings, skaters and snowboarders melded harmoniously with music lovers. With its marriage between adrenaline-fueled drop-ins, flips and tricks in alternating stages with musical performances ranging from punk, rap, neo-soul and synth-pop, Air & Style delivered a unique experience few festivals could hope of providing.