Tarfest, a visual, rock n roll feast

Over the weekend the La Brea Tar Pits played host to the annual “Tarfest,” a gathering of artists and musicians that provided visitors with a unique, outdoor experience.

A relatively small festival nestled between the Page Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art (LACMA), booths and exhibits were set up in a circular fashion along pathways, allowing attendees and staff alike to skirt to and fro, as the music stage took its place just in front of the parking lot, leaving a wide space of grass for hula-hooping, dancing, watching, chatting, eating and other activities.

The sound of indie rock, blues, wisp-like melodies, live paintings ( ranging from birds to skulls), poetry, writing, art-selling, business inquiries and drinking, would have made you think otherwise of the festival‘s name. Natalie Ruiz, another attendee said it was “A celebration [of] LA and [its] development of art, culture, and history.”

The festival was definitely full of those things, with booths from the Natural History Museum, the Japan Foundation and various painters and artists. The live painters, consisting of Devngosha, Nicola Verlato and Greg “Craola” Simkins, added a blend of nature, whimsy and fascination to the festival, painting on large canvases with audiences watching them progress. One painting by Devngosha, consisted of a human skull with warm, vivid colors, contrasting the morbid nature of the skull itself. Quite bone-colored with darker hues where shadows would be, the skull was quite the sight, as the artist explained it “represents the opposite of death - the colors in it represent beauty on the inside, enjoying life [and] the ephemeral beauty of being alive.” Quipping humorously he added “[But] somebody might look at it and be like ‘Oh it’s a skull. It represents death.’”

As the festival went on, attendees were out and about as booth operators and staff worked behind the scenes. In charge of a silent art auction, gallery curator Merry Karnowsky noted festival goers enjoying the atmosphere, with many of them painting jars, delighting adults and children alike, and making origami, with younger children learning of Japan‘s culture and heritage, courtesy of the Orchard Supply Co. and the Japan Foundation respectively. Attendees drank both adult and all-age beverages (all within legal constraints), and food was readily available, as various cuisine food trucks and free water and cookies tended to any hungry visitors.

Businesses strived for a moment to get their name out, and brands, locales and promises were appended to conversations and services. Next to the stage, radio station 88.5 KCSN, as well as sound techs and band assistants ducked and weaved before, during and after the show, maintaining the live music performances.

Audience members as well as photographers lined the festival, some hanging in front of the stage, dancing or moving body parts (from fingers and feet, to hips), or snapping photos of the festivities all around. As musicians took the stage, music blared from the sound equipment, truly adding everyone’s ears to the fray.

Various bands performed such as “Tapioca and the Flea,” “DWNTWN” and “The Moth and the Flame.” Taking the stage during the midday, Tapioca and the Flea played their songs “Take It Slow” and “Mellotron.” Musicians Sam, Ronnie and Matt, (vocals and guitar, guitar and drums, respectively) when asked what inspired them, responded with “The love of creating. We’ve all been creators since we were little - not only just music, but art [too].”

After Tapioca and the Flea’s set ended, DWNTWN took the stage, playing just before the evening, allowing their songs to be energetically danced to, as well as embraced on a slower, intimate level. DWNTWN played their songs “’Til Tomorrow,” and “Stood Me Up,” two pieces that complimented Tarfest’s atmosphere with layered soundscapes and catchy tunes. In relation to the various art and styles presented throughout the festival, when asked on what their inspiration was, musicians Jamie Leffler (vocals), Robert Cepeda (guitar and vocals), Chris Sanchez (Keys) and Dan Vanchieri (Drums) said “Anything can be inspiring. It could be a beautiful day, or a song you like. Or just one line in a song. - We all draw from all the different things we like. At the end of the day, it [all] feels like us.” The reception was also something of interest, with Leffler saying “Whatever floats your boat, you got your space here! It’s a very welcoming and inviting event.”

The evening arrived, with a few booths and writers leaving or preparing to leave. The day wasn’t quite over, as The Moth and the Flame began their set, playing with a sound akin to blues and classic rock, letting notes land with strong bravado. The drinks continued, and while the cookies and drinks were little, the people continued on. Attendees left. Music kept playing, and artists stayed for exhibits and gatherings.

At the edge of the festival, away from the encirclement, attendee and artist “537” described Tarfest as “A living, breathing, art exhibit - in the park.” Booths from various entities, artists, musicians and attendees of many backgrounds came and went. Above all the diverse and varied, Tarfest truly was a living, breathing art exhibit. In the park.