JUST LIKE HEAVEN FESTIVAL
June 10, 200 Review by Leeza London
Most mornings in May in Los Angeles start off a bit cooler and overcast, but then the sun usually breaks through and it starts warming up at around 11 a.m. But not on May 21st, the day of the Just Like Heaven Festival at the Brookside Golf Course adjacent to the Rose Bowl; it stayed cool and overcast the entire day. The weekend just prior was the Cruel World Festival, which saw temperatures in the mid-90s, so I (and the rest of the concertgoers and artists that were performing) was quite happy that I wouldn’t have to spend the entire day melting.
The festival set up was very similar to Cruel World, except they had taken away one of the smaller stages and replaced it with food trucks: Philly Fornia, Van Loewsen Ice Cream, Cerda Vega Birrieria, and Mexi Bachi. The food stalls in the middle of the site set up for Cruel World were still in place. However, instead of only serving vegetarian, they were now serving meat as well. Even though there were less people at this event, there were still long lines for everything; the longest being for the merchandise.
I arrived at the site at noon, just in time to see The Cribs perform on the main stage. I hadn’t seen them for about 20 years, so I didn’t know what to expect. When they appeared on stage, it was like flashing back to the first time I saw them in London in the early 2000s. They looked exactly the same, sounded the same, if not better, and had the same energy and passion they had all those years ago. I enjoyed hearing all my old favorites like “Hey Scenesters!” and “We Share The Same Skies,” along with some new tracks off their “Night Network” album released in 2020.
I was fortunate to be able to have a chat with Ryan Jarman, the front-man for The Cribs, right after their set. We walked to the edge of the golf course, past about five sand traps, to try to find a quiet spot, and sat on the grass.
L: Ryan, how you doing?
R: To say that we haven’t slept or eaten in 48 hours, I’d say we’re doing pretty spectacular.
L: To move around like that on stage, and be able to play a set like that without any nourishment was very impressive.
R: Well, the rock was my breakfast this morning.
L: Living on rock ‘n’ roll. So, fill us in on what you guys are doing now?
R: We’re up to eight albums now. In 2018 and 2019, we had off because we were locked in a legal battle with our old label. So those two years sucked; we couldn’t tour, and we didn’t want to write any more songs because we were paranoid about them having ownership. So we kind of shut up shop for those two years and got all that sorted out. Then we signed a new record deal, wrote a new album, and record it at Dave Grohl’s studio. So, everything seemed great, but that all happened at the end of February 2020, and we all know what happened next.
L: Oh no! How are things now? Are you back on track?
R: We’re actually really busy now. All the touring we had planned to do before, we are doing now. But I’d like to start thinking about a new record pretty soon.
L: Are you going to have any special guests on the record? I know you had Johnny Marr in the band from 2008 to 2011.
R: There are no plans yet. All that stuff was really accidental. We had done a couple of tracks with Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth. And we had Johnny in the band for a bit. So I think people have this idea of us that we have a sticker book of famous indie guys that we’re ticking off, but it’s just not like that. You just meet these people, and when you get on with them, you roll into stuff. So, we don’t have any plans for anything like that at the minute, but we might run into some people backstage, and before you know it, they might be in the band. You never know.
L: Was Johnny Marr instrumental in bringing in Steve Albini?
R: No. Even though Albini is very economical, when you grow up in a small town and you work in a factory, you think there’s no way we’d be able to work with Steve Albini. But we always wanted to since we were kids. So, when we were making our fourth record with Johnny, we were pitching pretty hard to work with Albini, but it didn’t really suit Johnny’s workflow. He likes to spend more time on recording. So then when Johnny left, that was when we said we’d do the next record with Albini. His workflow and way of doing stuff is so in tune with ours, so we ended up working with him twice.
L: Who would be on your bucket list to work with now?
R: When we first started we had our own studio, and it was super junky in an old mill in Wakefield, but I listened back to the recordings we did there, and I think that’s when we sounded best. So, I would like to set that up again.
L: Explain to people where Wakefield is.
R: Wakefield is an industrial town in the north of England. It was a mining town originally. It also had a load of old cotton mills that had stood derelict for years. So, that was the cheap place to rent for bands to rehearse.
L: What’s next for you?
R: Since we got our rights back, we’re going to reissue our first three records. When we got all the tapes back, we found loads of songs we had recorded during that period that we had completely forgotten about. So were going to do a box set with all this extra material.
L: Are you going to stick around and watch any other bands today?
R: Yeah. Modest Mouse are playing, and they are on tour with us, so it would be rude not to watch their set. The Franz (Ferdinand) guys, and the Bloc Party guys are here, and we’ve known those guys for years. So, we’ll definitely see them.
Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party were both on my must-see list as well, but I was also looking forward to catching a bit of The Hives. The last time I saw The Hives was in the mid ‘90s, so, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and listen to the interview I did back then with singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem. First of all, I had forgotten that they had such iconic rock star names. And second, I forgot how thick their Swedish accents were. At some parts of the interview, I can tell that I didn’t understand them, but pretended to, and just carried on.
Flash forward to the Just Like Heaven Festival nearly 30 years later, after firing up the audience with crowd favorite “Hate To Say I Told You So” and newer track “Paint A Picture,” Howlin’ Pelle addressed the audience with a perfect American accent. In fact, he actually sounded a bit like late comedian Mitch Hedberg. “We are now at the part of the show where the audience will do anything we say. Right?” Howlin’ Pelle asked the audience, who erupted in cheers confirming his statement to be true. He then asked everybody to sit down, and when only part of the audience did so, he repeated his request in Spanish. Once he got the crowd on the floor, he continued, “On behalf of The Hives, I want to thank you all for attending.” The band began to crescendo into their 2007 hit “Tick Tick Boom” and prompted everyone to jump up at the finale. The band left the stage expressing their love to the audience.
The Hives would not be an easy act to follow, but Scottish band Franz Ferdinand were up for the challenge with their new incarnation of the group. Front-man Alex Kapranos and bassist Bob Hardy are the only two original members. They added Julian Corrie on keys and backing vocals. Guitarist Nick McCarthy left in 2016 and was replaced by Dino Bardot, and drummer Paul Thompson left this past October and was replaced by the gorgeous musician Audrey Tait. The band played for nearly an hour, featuring all their hits from the past two decades.
The other bands that performed at Just Like Heaven included Bloc Party, The Shins, Modest Mouse, Interpol, M.I.A., Wolf Parade, Peaches, The Ravonettes, Chromeo, and Cut Copy, to name a few. But no matter how amazing the bands were on the day, the question I overheard the most afterwards was, “Who’s the new hottie on drums with Franz Ferdinand?” Ms. Tait surely stole the show.