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Kensington Presents at The York Manor

As a native Angeleno and unabashed lover of Los Angeles, I’m always curious how transplants feel about our great city. One common theme seems to emerge when I ask people how they’ve been faring here…they like the city but miss the feeling of community. We’ve all heard it: LA is huge, friends are spread all over the place, it can be hard to find what feels like “home”. Well then, please allow us to introduce you to Kensington.

We’ve written before about Kensington’s concert series at the Viaduct as the best secret party in LA (and it’s true). But they actually started out much smaller—showcasing live music on the porch of their own backyard. You really can’t get any more “neighborhood” than that. What’s remarkable is how Kensington has been able to create that same incredibly intimate feeling even as their event spaces grow and expand. Whether it’s a backyard porch, a park under the bridge Downtown or a refurbished church in Highland Park, it all just feels like hanging out at your coolest friend’s house, appreciating some good tunes, good food and good people together. Creating community is what they do best.

So naturally, we were thrilled to check out their newest venue and inaugural concert at The York Manor in Highland Park (that afore-mentioned refurbished church). Entering the wrought iron gates, you already feel like you have stepped into a small town Sunday gathering. The simple white church has a little wrap-around yard of green astroturf all aglow under strings of globe lights, groups of friends hanging out in clumps on the grass, kicking back and enjoying some bbq and popsicles on a hot summer night.

The first stop is the Earlez Grille stand, where men who have dedicated their lives to the sacred art of the hot dog evangelize about how to do dogs right as they help you pick your favorite—all beef, turkey or veg—and decide whether you’re a chili topper kind of person or not. They pour their passion into each and every meal they hand out as you wait your turn and it shows in the taste—their dogs are simple but incredibly delicious. Down-home dogs in the best way.

Wandering to the backyard, chowing down on our dogs and chili fries, we find the libations table and Wild Pops popsicle cart awaiting our Round 2. We order a bunch of popsicles and share them all because with flavors like dark Belgian chocolate, watermelon, coconut, coffee and strawberry mint, how can you pick just one?

“you have creamed me, my love. each kernel of my heart a starchy promise.” -for whitney & clayton

“nature teaches us emerging, each day the ground I slowly break through.”

“they say I have an old sole. I hope it doesn’t smell. really, who cares.” – for jonathan

“change is a sweater never outgrown, learning your movements, it expands.”

As always at Kensington events, The Haiku Guys are here, set up at a corner table in the yard, ready to type up a personalized haiku just for you based on any one word of your choosing. There’s something really special about participating in the creation of art on the fly like this. And the fact that they seem to have the ability to peer into your soul and bring back a message from the creation gods to take home with you feels reminiscent of visiting the Oracles of Delphi. Tell us…what will our fortunes be, oh sages of the typewriter?

The opening act begins to play and we follow the beautiful chamber music melodies into the church. Salastina Music Society is on the small stage of the open hall under the gilded words “Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving”. A mix of auditory wonder and nostalgia simultaneously stirs up inside of us as the quartet performs a Star Wars suite before launching into some classical Americana to get our toes tapping.

The main event takes to the stage as folks pile in and sit on the floor, making fast friends with their neighbors. The Raising Sand Tribute Band is made up of the members of Pretty Polly and The Get Down Boys who have gathered together here tonight to perform the Grammy-award winning Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration album Raising Sand for us in its entirety. A reverent hush falls over the crowd as the band launches into their first song, the Pretty Polly gals harmonizing like Americana angels taking us straight to folk rock Heaven.

After quite literally taking us to musical church, no one wants the night to end. The crowd demands one more song, even after the entire album is performed. The band obliges with a rollicking bluegrass tune that gets the crowd on its feet, clapping and dancing along as if at an old town hall social. The only things missing are the home-baked pies.

Afterwards, folks spill back out into the Highland Park night with a gleam in their eyes and lightness in their step—all warmth and smiles, lit up from the inside. This is what inevitably happens at any Kensington event…you leave feeling like you just took part in something really special, something sacred that can never be recreated. You just have to be lucky enough to be there when the moment strikes and get that little piece of LA heaven, that little piece of Home.

Don’t miss out! This weekend Kensington has two outdoor screenings at the Viaduct with live improvised scores from Dave Harrington of Darkside. No Country for Old Men screens Fri Aug 12 and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari screens Sat Aug 13. Tickets are available here:

Read more about Kensington Presents at the Viaduct: HERE

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Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl

© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels

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