Author: Charlotte Umanoff
Every October, autumn announces its presence in Eagle Rock not with falling leaves or jack-o’-lanterns, but with the arrival of the Eagle Rock Music Festival (ERMF) on Colorado Boulevard. This year, however, Eagle Rockers — yes, that is the real term — must wait until spring for their annual dose of local music and unconventional acts.
According to President of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council David Greene, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock is postponing and revamping the event in response to the community’s desire for a more intimate, dynamic and locally-focused festival.
“The idea behind the relaunch is to take a breath and examine what the [festival] is, and where it’s going, to ensure that it has staying power for years to come,” Greene said via email.
The festival, produced by Center for the Arts Eagle Rock and presented by City Councilman José Huizar, showcases a wide variety of musical genres. Notable performers in the past include Aloe Blacc, Flying Lotus, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Rooney and more. But big names, Greene said, are not the point.
“Homegrown music festivals are rare these days, especially those that, one, have an eclectic mix of quality acts, and two, are not overly commercialized,” Greene said via email.
The festival’s most distinct asset, and the one that community members and organizers alike are working to keep, is its celebration of a diverse range of genres, from zydeco to jazz to sock puppet theater.
“Right now [the festival] hits multiple demographics,” Events Director for KOXY Radio Madison Rudd (junior) said. “I’d like for them to make sure that that continues, so they’re organizing the lineup so that it appeals to a really wide range of people.”
KOXY Radio is a regular sponsor of the event and Occidental student bands like Campus Security have performed in the past.
Rudd, who volunteered at the festival last year and worked at Center for the Arts Eagle Rock over the summer, sees the festival as an integral part of Eagle Rock’s identity.
“It’s the biggest display of community that I think I’ve seen in Eagle Rock,” Rudd said.
The festival, which now boasts attendance numbers of around 75,000 people, will return in the spring with potential new developments such as “Locals” stages, a spotlight on the area’s culinary scene and expanded opportunities for local artists to display their work, according to Center for the Arts Eagle Rock’s Events Director and festival helmsman Brian Martinez.
“We are actively bringing the festival back to its local roots,” Martinez said via email. “With a spring launch, we can really focus on local talent and what that means to the festival.”
Throughout the fall, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock and City Council District 14 will conduct community meetings for input and collaboration, according to Martinez. The redesign will largely be based on the conclusions of these meetings.
Community input is particularly important because the event can put a strain on local businesses, according to Dave’s Chillin’-n-Grillin’ owner David Evans. As the festival has grown in the 10 years since Evans opened up shop, increased security and street closure the day of the festival have decreased revenue.
“I love the music festival, it just got a little out of hand … it’s like an animal that’s outgrown its habitat,” Evans said.
Evans expressed concern that if it keeps expanding, the festival could end up like Sunset Junction, a two-day event in Silver Lake that ended after 30 years in 2011 because the organizer, the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, could not afford fees imposed by the city for a permit, police protection and other services. According to the Eastsider LA, residents also complained that the festival had become unruly and overly commercialized. The festival operators are mindful of these possibilities and are learning from Sunset Junction’s mistakes.
“How do we keep the ERMF the right size and scope to ensure its longevity as a small-town festival, and not suffer the fate of Sunset Junction, which grew and grew until it self-destructed?” Greene said via email. “The fact that we’re taking the time for a reality check bodes well for the ERMF, and for Eagle Rock.”
Details about the community meetings are forthcoming, according to a press statement from Center for the Arts Eagle Rock. Whatever the next iteration of the festival looks like, Greene is sure community members will embrace it.
“The ERMF will never be a predictable, corporate event … it’s a living thing that will have its ups and downs, and will be different every year,” Greene said via email. “That’s about as ‘Eagle Rock’ as it gets.”
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