Echo Park Rising: LA's Neighborhood Music and Arts Festival
photos by Vivien Best
Echo Park may seem like an unlikely place for the Luck Family to land, but even cowboys and outlaws made it in and out of Hollywood eventually. The Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park, just south of Silver Lake, has been home to music legends like Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, and Gram Parsons over the years. It's rumored that the "Burrito King" restaurant down the street from the park on Sunset Blvd. is the very spot that influenced the Flying Burrito Brothers' name. Zevon's song "Carmelita" (also recorded by Flaco Jimenez, Dwight Yoakam, and Linda Ronstadt) recalls his time in the neighborhood: "I hear Mariachi static on my radio/And the tubes they glow in the dark/And I'm there with her in Ensenada/And I'm here in Echo Park". In recent years, Echo Park has quickly evolved into what has been called one of the hottest areas of the city. Eight-year-old Echo Park Rising, the community’s landmark music and arts festival founded by Liz Garo (founder of the local venue, the Echo) and KamranV (Chamber of Commerce President), has become a source of inspiration and evolution within LA’s creative landscape. We attended the fest with our friends at Mountain Valley Spring Water last weekend to dig into the community and culture of Echo Park that has come to serve as a vibrant source for creativity in LA.
When asked “How do you Echo Park?”, attendees, artists, and festival founders alike focused on the tight-knit community. Founder KamranV explained, “It’s a complete neighborhood effort, and everyone’s contributing in many different ways. It is that personal care that makes it continue.” Everyone from local businesses, musicians, artists, law enforcement, members of the community, and officials pitch in and get involved to make Echo Park Rising happen. The festival is free to attend and features over 600 acts and 120 businesses from the neighborhood and surrounding communities. This year’s music roster included electronic DJs, indie rock, rap, and even country with the Grand Ole Echo showcase.
The Grand Ole Echo (GOE), self-described as LA's "country and not so country music showcase", bridges the gap from the seemingly separated Texas and Nashville music scenes to that of Los Angeles. GOE's Jocelyn Romo reminded us that country roots run deep in California: "This is is about as Western as you can get, literally. Its very easy to forget that there’s a great community for country music, for anything from like very traditional stuff to something a little bit more far out like Gram Parsons...that was all very much centered in California." GOE is just one of many widely varying showcases and events throughout the three day festival, including drawing workshops, free yoga and movement classes, wildlife walks around Echo Park Lake, and even a DJ workshop for kids.
As Echo Park and Echo Park Rising grow simultaneously, one constant remains in local venue the Echo. Liz Garo opened the venue in 2001, ten years before the launch of Echo Park Rising. Over the years the venue, alongside its festival extension, has grown into a staple for up and coming local acts and touring indie bands (including a few of our #LuckFamily members like Aaron Lee Tasjan and Cut Worms). Artist Theresa Wayman of Warpaint, popularly known as TT, has been living in Echo Park for over a decade and recalls the Echo as an establishment that marked the community long before it gained popularity: "...It didn’t seem like anything was going to be happening down there or up here. There weren’t that many great restaurants up here on Sunset, and things were just really different. But the Echo was there. The Echo was happening, Echoplex was happening...I think that’s a really big point of interest and also has been establishing the culture here for so long."
Both the festival and the neighborhood are becoming permanent additions in the creative tapestry of Los Angeles. Like every creative hub, Echo Park is experiencing growing pains; but with the rising popularity of the festival and the supportive community, it continues to thrive. Fest attendee Paulina Ruiz said, “Echo Park is young and its happening and it’s changing, but that doesn’t mean that the youth is not going to survive here.” Echo Park Rising founder Liz Garo agreed and commented on the uniqueness of her community: “I think like a lot of the neighborhoods in LA it has a good mix of the old and new. There’s a lot of history here. It’s pretty diverse still but at the same time there’s new businesses coming. I think it’s a good little microcosm of what LA is, or can be, just with the different mix of people and different businesses and the independent culture.” And there’s no doubt about it, Echo Park is on the rise.