June 25, 2018 / 11:45 AM

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Culture Collide Festival: Keaton Henson and Liars



With over 65 acts from countries around the globe, Culture Collide is like the U.N. of Music. The three-day festival has seven venues nestled within Echo Park, LA. There's little room for pretention -- soundchecks happen in front of the audience and artists put their sound and soul on the line for whoever stumbles their way. There's outdoor dancing, dark-room discovering, and in some cases, sitting in a church. Keaton Henson and Liars are two acts exploring outcast themes, which festival-goers fully embraced start to finish.

Keaton Henson
No matter how much this English illustrator has shied away from making much noise, his soft folk has spoken loudly to a loyal following and critics. After the re-release of Dear... in 2012, he followed up with Birthdays [Deluxe Edition], where he collaborated with illustrators, pairing images with each song.

At Culture Collide: There was a paradoxical calm to a performance that struck an unsettling chord with each fingerpick of Henson's guitar. For those moments, Henson tugged at scars and re-opened wounds of unrequited love and more complicated questions of honest living. He sings of death, tar-filled lungs and lying with lovers on the way in and out. There's no vestige of whininess, even with lyrics dripping with emotion in songs such as "10am Gare du Nord":  "Please do not break my heart, I think it's had enough pain to last the rest of my life." There's something unwavering in the frank fragility. His voice is a lulling lullaby that keeps you awake, especially with cello interjections and unexpected build-up in songs like "Don't Swim." Even audience-goer Jack Black was left silent.

Check out: If you're into the sounds of Teitur, Damien Rice, Bon Iver and the like, try "Sweetheart What Have you Done to Us." Henson now returns to Europe for some shows, which is a special treat for audiences. "In The Morning," he sings: "You know the crowds unsettle me..." See him when you can.

With Liars making a mark on the music scene over a decade, it's no surprise each album is wildly distinct. A live show is, however, an experiment in Russian roulette with a big payoff. You just have to be there to see what singer Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill (synth, guitar) and Julian Gross (drums) have in store. The band originated in Brooklyn, but their ethereal electronic sounds may as well come from another planet. 

At Culture Collide: The three-piece band busted the night open with some of 2006's concept album, Drum's Not Dead. Donned in a bright, blue coat and 'MESS' hat, Angus Andrew danced and finger-pointed in full-force with "Scarecrows on a Killer Slant" from Sisterworld and "No.1 Against the Rush" from the latest electronic album, WIXIW. He had the crowd moving freely, and not just out of intoxication. There was an air of radical acceptance in the broken-barrier space Liars created. Lyrical references to Los Angeles were especially fitting for the night. In a past press release the band referred to the city as an environment "...where outcasts and loners celebrate a skewered relationship to society." One audience-goer felt so free as to hop up on stage and belly dance.

Check out: "Who Is the Hunter" to cleanse the palate before devouring more of WIXIW. 

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