In a town built on over-hyping while under-delivering, it makes sense that when you write an article declaring an event “The Best Secret Party” in all of Los Angeles, folks might assume you’re exaggerating. “Really? The best though…?” you can practically hear them thinking. Here at Sirens & Scoundrels, we’re sworn never to lie to you and to bring you only the best of the best of LA. So we were beyond stoked when, rolling twenty friends deep to the most recent live concert event at the Viaduct, Kensington opened up their can of coolest-party-ever-whoop-ass on the very grateful crowd, proving us right once again as they delivered everything promised…and more.
In a far corner of Los Angeles State Historic Park’s seemingly abandoned neighborhood, large art sculptures made of reclaimed materials dot the path to a nondescript opening in an iron fence with only one glowing neon “VIADUCT” sign to light the way. It certainly feels like you’ve followed the cement-brick road to some strange urban Oz. Luckily, the gatekeepers here are friendly and let you in as long as you have your ticket—no riddles required. Inside the small open-air event space tucked directly beneath the Buena Vista Street Bridge with the MTA line whizzing overhead and the Downtown LA skyline sparkling and shining just off in the distance, you almost start to second guess if perhaps you are here to see the Wizard…
Having done the drill before ourselves, we were thrilled to witness the awed expressions of our friends as they walked in, looked around, felt the vibe and immediately got it…yeah, tonight was gonna be something pretty special. First order of business is always food and libations, of which there was plenty. Delicious vegan hot pockets were provided by Baba’s Vegan Cafe, while Gypsy Eats farm-to-table lamb & lentil bowls filled us deep down in our souls. Sweet tooths were satisfied by Wolfie Cake, whose array of colorful home-baked treats were perfect for breakin’ off a piece of sumthin with the ones you love.
The Haiku Guys provided their poetic services again, producing personalized haikus based on the prompts of your choosing. Our group got some real stunners. It’s amazing how you can be shot to the heart in just a few lines. These guys delivered the goods, working their word wizardry to unravel the riddle of what was at the center of each person standing before them.
The night’s musical offerings opened this year with local East LA darling Irene Diaz. From her first note, Irene immediately set an intimately hushed tone, drawing the crowd in deep as if gathered around for a bedtime story. People hunkered down together on the ground, circled up around the blazing bonfire and couples snuggled on hay bales as Irene sang her jazzy torch song lullabies—often skipping and gliding smoothly through genres within a single song. For a little taste of Irene’s gorgeous, languidly rollicking love songs, you can take a listen to her NPR Tiny Desk Concert: HERE.
The main event was brought to us by Fantastic Negrito who took to the stage like Oz the Great & Powerful—one man stepping out from behind the curtain, doling out courage, heart and brains to the ecstatic crowd with each new bluesy, deep roots tune. He instantly brought the crowd to its feet, humming and stomping along through his set like a modern musical revival. He is an electric performer, mesmerizing his audience with each word, dedicating his full body to each dark and stormy tale he weaves before your eyes with the help of his soulful band. Part naughty preacher, part hard-travelled man, Fantastic Negrito wants to help save your soul and make you see the light by getting down and dirty with you.
After a stirring set, perhaps the best part of the night came when the sound unexpectedly went out during his last song—a brilliantly happy accident. Without missing a beat, the audience rose up to support the band, singing along loudly as one voice, providing claps and hums and melodies and belting out the haunting chorus all together, “We’re just people, lonely people, you and I…”
We promised our readers a peak music moment if they heeded the call and answered the invitation to the Viaduct. Luckily, Kensington did not disappoint. People left Fantastic Negrito’s set with chills, their eyes and souls simultaneously lit up, knowing they had just been touched by a moment of rare music magic. Huddled around the bonfire afterwards, the good vibrations still sinking in, we were reminded of our shared humanity and how great music, good food and people gathered together in celebration of both can make us feel a little less lonely and a lot more connected—even unabashedly joyous. If you want a small taste of the good feels, you can catch Fantastic Negrito’s winning performance from last year’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest: HERE. But if you want a real piece of the magic, you’ll have to seek out a live show and be sure to keep your eyes peeled here for our next Kensington concert invitation. We wouldn’t miss it for the world, and neither should you. We’re clicking our heels three times to take us to the next one already! Can’t wait to see you there!
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Read more about Kensington Presents at the Viaduct: HERE.
Sign up for Kensington’s email invite list: http://www.kensingtonpresents.com.
Follow Fantastic Negrito at: http://www.fantasticnegrito.com.
Follow Irene Diaz at: http://www.irenediazmusic.com.
Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
Video by: Kaiser Bear
© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels
You gave me the experience with your beautifully crafted words and visuals. Thank you. You girls are awesome!!!
Great article. Fantastic Negrito is killin’ ’em on multiple continents. About to make me travel to CA to catch a live show. He never disappoints. Amazing talent.
Yeah, I get “lost in the crowd” as well!