The anti-fest fest? That’s the point.
“We wanted an environment where there’s no separation between the people playing and the people watching,” explains festival organizer Chris Payne, who performs on Sunday under the stage name Whitman. “We’re trying to strip away everything that’s typically associated with a show, all the way down to the electricity.”
And that is the most unique aspect to this 6-year-old, multi-genre, no-cost fest. Electric generators are not allowed, so bands must go acoustic or find alternative, battery-powered means to juice their instruments.
“Bands have powered their electronics with car batteries or run an MP3 player through a boom box or used battery-powered amps,” says Payne. “I just want bands to have to put that extra effort in, and I don’t want it to be the same kind of performance they do everywhere else.”
The Cochina format, of course, is not like everywhere else. With no stage or designated performance spot, artists set up wherever they choose with some past acts actually performing up in the trees. There’s also no vendors peddling $5 water bottles and $10 hot dogs, so fans bring their own food and drinks (though the park strictly forbids alcohol).
“This festival is about bringing people and music together with nature in a way that doesn’t alter the environment,” Payne concludes. “I like to think of Cochina as the anti-festival festival.”
Cochina specializes in exceptional indie acts performing a wide variety of different styles. Since many of the acts aren’t known to the unwashed masses, Payne highlighted five of the fest’s must-see acts:
WHY HE MATTERS: “John is an amazing songwriter, performer and an Inland Empire native who’s definitely made his mark on the SoCal music scene. Plus, the idea for the festival essentially came from him. Shortly after we met in 2003, he invited me to play one of his ‘Prerock’ shows in the hills of Riverside. I started helping set up the shows, but they often turned into bands just playing for each other. I introduced the idea of doing a festival and the first Cochina came to be in the summer of ‘04. John eventually moved up to Napa, and this will be his first SoCal return since moving away.”
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles
WHY HE MATTERS: “Ezra is the son of Don Buchla, one of the original pioneers of synthesizers, as well as the ex-singer of the Mae-Shi and a former member of the Gowns. He has a unique whisper-to-scream style and one never knows what to expect from his live shows, which can include anything from a Viola drone to a processed mandolin.
HOMETOWN: Tucson, Ariz.
WHY THEY MATTER: “Since the festival’s first year, I’ve wanted a metal band to perform, but that’s not the easiest thing to do with the anti-electricity rule. Finally, after six years, I found one that’s up for the challenge. Serows is well known for their live performance antics, like staging huge battles with armies dressed in cardboard monster outfits. I look forward to their set with much anticipation.”
WHY THEY MATTER: “Refrigerator is probably one of the most influential bands to emerge out of the Inland Empire. Brothers Dennis and Allan Callaci lead the band, and Dennis is also the manager of Claremont’s Rhino Records and the man behind the infamous Shrimper Records. Their live performances have an in-your-face feel and could very well include ad-libbed lyrics about you. They are a huge inspiration to me.”
HOMETOWN: West Covina
WHY HE MATTERS: “The name may get many double-takes, but rather than the acclaimed actress it’s the project of Jon Barba. Jon’s been involved in the SoCal DIY scene for some time and documented a lot of it in his zine Food & Water. His songwriting is impeccable, honest and straight from the heart with music that’s stripped down to his shaky voice over the keys and beats of a Yamaha keyboard.”
Cochina Festival, Higginbotham Park on Mt. Carmel Dr. in Claremont, www.myspace.com/prerock. Sat.-Sun., June 6-7, noon to dusk; Free, all ages.