The Demon Dayz Festival transformed the Pico Rivera Sports Arena & Grounds into a post-apocalyptic oasis for thousands of enthusiastic Gorillaz fans. This festive environment was clearly influenced by fictional doomsday scenarios, Japanese animation, Mad Max movies and other outdoor events like Halloween Horror Nights and Wasteland Weekend. Through the midst of all of this beautiful chaos, I slithered in and out of the large sweaty crowds, while enduring death stares from angry parents and mean looking boyfriends (because apparently, I was blocking the view of their loved ones). But you know something…I would do it all over again. Why? Because in the words of a Gorillaz song called "Tomorrow Comes Today:" “The camera won’t let me go, the verdict doesn’t love our soul…” As a music journalist, let’s just say that I took those lyrics to heart and did what I had to do to in order to capture footage on my camera.
With cartoon images of his award-winning virtual band appearing on a huge jumbotron, Damon Albarn (co-founder of the Gorillaz) presented a grand spectacle of music to the sellout crowd in Los Angeles. And to the delight of this avid fan base, a vast majority of the Gorillaz three-hour set was dominated by hit songs from the band’s top-selling albums: Gorillaz (released in 2001), Demon Dayz (released in 2005) and Plastic Beach (released in 2010). But nevertheless, this memorable concert took an unexpected turn from great to even greater once Gorillaz began to share the stage with an eclectic assortment of relatively unknown musical guests and collaborators. When Peven Everett joined Albarn on stage for a rendition of “Strobelite,” I immediately started running around the designated press area, asking anyone with a camera if they knew who he was. He had a raspy gospel voice and a riveting stage presence that reminded me of a young Bobby Brown. I was definitely moved by this display of flashy entertainment. But his performance did not “take me to church,” so to speak. Nope. That honor goes to a recording artist named DRAM. Because after I listened him sing “Andromeda” with the Gorillaz, I wanted to run around the outdoor venue screaming “Hallelujah” and “Amen” to anyone who would listen. But alas, I refrained from acting like a complete buffoon and I maintained my professionalism.
Perhaps the most sentimental moment of the Gorillaz three-hour set came when they paid homage to their deceased collaborator, Ibrahim Ferrer. The band honored the Afro-Cuban legend during their performance of “Latin Simone” featuring a Cuban trumpeter named Leider Chapotin. Gorillaz also honored the late rock & roll hall of famer Bobby Womack during a presentation of a song called “Stylo.”
If British rock & roll made sweet love to American hip-hop back in 2001, their spawn would most certainly be a band named Gorillaz. It is almost the year 2019 and over the course of the past 18 years, I have watched the musical creation of Damon Albarn grow from an experimental music inception to a worldwide phenomenon.
That is a sentiment that I hold near and dear to my heart because I have been a devoted fan of the Gorillaz since the release of their second album, Demon Dayz. The morbid artistry, gothic fiction, violent concepts, political undertones and unprecedented musical experimentation from this LP really expanded my imagination. Quite frankly, I can think of no better way for a fan to partake in their first Gorillaz concert than at the Demon Dayz Festival with two Grammy-nominated artists (The Internet and Erykah Badu) as the opening acts.
Featured Image by Johnathan Juarez
Photos by Miguel Costa