When last year's Sunset Junction festival in Silver Lake fell apart because of long-standing permit troubles, several nightclubs and business owners in neighboring Echo Park cobbled a last-minute replacement event that they called Echo Park Rising. This year, they had the luxury of actually planning for the fest.
"It has been easier this year," said Liz Garo, the talent buyer for the Echo and Echoplex, who helped organize the event. "Last year, we threw it together and the next thing we knew it was actually happening. But we'd always said we should do something like this, and it was just the kick we needed."
For its second year, Echo Park Rising splays out over dozens of neighborhood businesses, corralling many of the best bands in the area's club circuit along with a bevy of restaurant and booze deals. It's a showcase of L.A.'s best neighborhood for rock music, and catches Echo Park at a moment of genuine mixed-culture appeal.
As a new festival project from Garo and Origami Vinyl owner Neil Schield, it's no surprise that the event skims the best of the local club-residency gantlet. Bands like No, Youngblood Hawke, Hands and HOTT MT are among the headliners, and they actually reflect a shift in mission from 2011's madcap assemblage.
Last year, many of the bands were national acts scrambling for shows in Junction's wake. This year's free, locals-only lineup better reflects what Garo had in mind all along.
"For me, I like it local and neighborhood-y, and there's always enough acts here that are just about to break out," she said. "Ninety-nine percent of the bands are playing for free because they love the neighborhood and have connections to it."
The centerpiece of the fest is an outdoor stage in the parking lot of the local French restaurant-institution Taix, and organizers expect 2,000 to 3,000 people over the course of the day. But there's lots of nonmusic appeal as well. Most of the myriad bars, restaurants and galleries along Sunset Boulevard will have art shows and drink specials, and the Echoplex will host zine-making workshops and a book and record fair.
In a lot of ways, the neighborhood today evokes the environment that prompted the original Sunset Junction — a historically Latino enclave rapidly infusing with artist types and their businesses, sometimes uneasily. But as the early incarnation of Junction proved, a free festival can highlight a blended neighborhood's appeal.
"It was never meant to be just a music thing," Garo said. "It really is a celebration of Echo Park in general."