Since 1993, Spaceland Presents has gone from hosting events (under the moniker Club Spaceland) out of a small Silverlake pub (which currently operates independently as the Satellite) to becoming one of the premier independent club promotion and event companies in Los Angeles. Until it ended its partnership with the 1717 Silver Lake Blvd drinking hole in 2007, Club Spaceland had provided a home for indie acts and was responsible for introducing Los Angeles to acts like the White Stripes, the Arcade Fire, Scissor Sisters, Keane, Snow Patrol, The Killers, Modest Mouse, Arctic Monkeys, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Bright Eyes, Bloc Party, The Bravery, Destroyer, Silversun Pickups, Neko Case, M. Ward and many more. From 2003 to 2004, they were the exclusive promoter of the Henry Fonda Theatre, reviving its reputation as a major venue by producing over 150 sell-outs shows.
Spaceland Presents also put together events such as Sunset Street Junction and Arthurfest. They have been responsible for hundreds of concerts and private parties at venues around Los Angeles, including The Gibson Amphitheater, Universal Citywalk, The Avalon, The Palladium, The Wiltern Theater, The Knitting Factory Hollywood, Vynyl, The Vanguard, Royce Hall, Barnsdall Art Park, The Vista Theater, The Jensen’s Recreation Center and The El Rey Theater.
These days, Spaceland Presents are behind KCRW’s Masquerade Ball, A Sounds Eclectic Evening, and Who Shot Rock n’ Roll, a photo exhibit of some of the most iconic photographs in rock history. They are also the sister company to Los Angeles music venues The Echo / Echoplex and the Regent Theater.
Spaceland Presents is known for having a knack for combining cultural institutions with live musical performances for audiences to enjoy. Since 2007, they have been booking “First Fridays” at The Natural History Museum and Saturdays off the 405 at The Getty. Now in conjunction with and LA’s Rum & Humble, over the next few weeks, they will be hosting two brand new festivals on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier; The Beach Ball Festival on September 21st and 22nd and Way Over Yonder on October 5th and 6th. The former will feature a day of soul and funk and as well as a day of reggae and ska, with performances by Aloe Blacc, Mykal Rose of Black Uhuru, Allen Stone, Sly and Robbie, Lee Fields, the Skatalites, Maceo Parker, U Roy, Myron and E, Soul Syndicate and DJ sets from Funky Sole DJs and the Dub Club Sound System. The latter will feature two days of folk-oriented music, presented by the legendary Newport Folk Festival and include performances by Neko Case, Conor Oberst, Brett Dennen, First Aid Kit, Justin Townes Earle, The Felice Brothers, Calexico, Jonathan Wilson, Neal Casal, Shovels and Rope, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.
Mitchell Frank, the groundbreaking entrepreneur and nightlife visionary that founded Spaceland Presents and helped revitalize the Los Angeles club and music scene, spoke to us recently about the upcoming events.
The next few weeks are really busy for you guys. You have the Beach Ball Festival on September 21st and 22nd, as well as Way Over Yonder on October 5th and 6th. How’s everything coming along?
It’s coming along swimmingly. What’s not to like – beach, pier, food and most importantly some of the most amazing songwriters and performers of our lifetime. I’d say… it’s all coming together rather brilliantly!
Both the Beach Ball Festival and Way Over Yonder will be taking place on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. With superb weather year-round and majestic views of the Pacific Ocean, the mountains of Malibu, and a lit-up coastline once night falls, it seems like an obvious venue choice for music events such as these. However, aside from the Twilight Concert Series, I understand the opportunity to have shows here were slim until recently. Is that true and if so, how did you score the opportunity?
Last year the Santa Monica Pier sent RFP which RHS concerts (Rum and Humble & Spaceland Presents) interviewed / submitted for. When awarded music curator for TCS and other ticketed events, we were stunned and humbly surprised as competition was from some of the best promoters in LA if not the country. We then were off to the races, creating concerts like All Band on Deck, Beach Ball Fest, and Way Over Yonder. Then we are also involved co-producing Festival Supreme, Tenacious D’s music & comedy Fest.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the Beach Ball Festival came to fruition?
At both Rum & Humble and Spaceland / Echo Presents, both promoters have shared love of Soul and Reggae. And… we’ve both been producing shows with a host of new really fantastic soul artists … like Mayor Hawthorne, Sharon Jones, Fitz and the Tantrums, Aloe Blacc, Alan Stone …etc. As well have been involved with launching / re-launching some old school soul artists, like Shuggie Otis, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley …etc. Throughout the years, we all have very substantial Reggae roots / history (at The Echo we’ve had Dub Cub since 2001) and when creating the Santa Monica Pier wish list our Soul Revue and Reggae Fest at Beach Ball Fest manifested rather nicely.
Saturday’s Soul Revue line-up showcases renowned acts as well as stars on the rise. With performances from… say… Maceo Parker… the audience will be experiencing one of the pioneers of the sounds that the festival is founded upon, whereas with someone like Allen Stone, you get a taste of the next generation. Can you tell us about the booking process and how such a balance is achieved?
Glad you noticed Maceo mixed with Allen! At RH&S simply said we are just music heads and love to produce events. We know the old school and seek out the new. Without the old there is no new. Without the new there is no one under 50! Not to mention can’t wait to see how the audience reacts to – Myron & E, Maceo, Lee Fields, Allen Stone and Aloe. We are pleased to have on hand the Funky Sole DJ crew as well!
Ever since Bob Marley’s breakthrough gig at the Roxy in 1976, Southern California has been a hot spot for the music of Jamaica. KCRW’s annual Reggae Night packs the Hollywood Bowl year after year. In any given issue of the LA Weekly, dozens of reggae bands fill the concert listings. Just last week, Jimmy Cliff closed out the Twilight Concert Series’ 29th season with a phenomenal set that packed the Santa Monica Pier, and it looks like the second day of the Beach Ball is projected to do the same. There is certainly no shortage of reggae legends for the Sunday closer; Mykal Rose, Sly and Robbie. The Skatalites will also be performing, as well as a rare performance by U Roy, who will be backed by Soul Syndicate. It’s pretty amazing that they will all be playing under one bill. How did this line-up come together?
Tom Chasteen from Dub Club really came through for us and assisted to bring us every act we ever wanted! At RH&S, we’ve all licked our chops with want and desire to work with the likes of Mykal Rose and Sly & Robbie. The Skatellites performed recently at a Dub Club and blew the audience away. U Roy has also been at the Dub Club and plays incredible dub! Let’s not forget about Fully Fullwood who’s gonna be heard all the way up and down the coast! Tom Chasteen and Dub Club DJS will be on the scene as well!! Watching dub or soul at the pier… what more could you want?!
Is it true that Mykal Rose will be joined by his former Black Uhuru bandmates Sly and Robbie during the evening’s festivities?
YES…. guess who’s coming to dinner… Natty Dreadlocks !!! HOLY COW!!! It’s going to be a very delicious bit of live music!
So let’s move on and talk about Way Over Yonder. Two weeks after the Beach Ball Festival wraps up, Spaceland Presents will also have a hand in the inaugural west coast expansion of the iconic Newport Folk Festival. How did that come about?
Just for the record it’s RH&S which is Rum & Humble, my partner Martin Fleishman’s joint venture with Spaceland Presents. Way Over Yonder is Martin’s brainchild. Our mutual feeling is like a Dad’s kid ready for primetime… just feels like it’s a “must see event” of the fall. All of the acts are just incredible performers, songwriters, and artists in their own right – from Neko Case, Conor Oberst, First Aid Kit, Bret Dennen, Calexico, Justin Townes Earle, Felice Brothers, Jonathan Wilson, Shovels & Rope, Tao & the get Down… And on and on! Kind of surreal to watch them at the pier.
For over half a century, The Newport Folk Festival has earned a reputation for showcasing and introducing the world to many celebrated folk-oriented songwriters and performers. How do you put together a line-up that honors that reputation? Was the role of finding the talent a collaborative effort with Spaceland Presents and Newport Folk Festival franchise?
Martin’s been working to bring Newport Folk to the Pier, then worked closely with Jay Sweet from Newport Folk (and Spaceland Presents) to ensure it’s up to Newport Folk Festival standards. Once this artist list confirmed they just rocketed Way Over Yonder into stellar overdrive.
It’s fair to say the Newport Folk Festival was always folk-centric, not strictly folk. Even in it’s earliest days, the event incorporated artists who came from bluegrass, country and blues. These days, it has expanded its palette to include indie-folk, alternative country, punk-folk. Could Way Over Yonder be the first to offer up an EDM-tinged set from one of the performers? I’d imagine it would be the Bob Dylan-goes-electric shocker of the event.
We would not expect any EDM sets, but who knows what the pier can bring out in a performer?
In all seriousness, are there any surprises in store for attendees?
Yes, there should be some great surprises, maybe a couple artists making guest appearances… who knows… won’t know exactly until they are onsite. I’m guessing no Dylan or Baez, but who knows, maybe they’ll see this and come on down!
In regards to both the Beach Ball Festival and Way Over Yonder, which artists are you eager to catch?
I know it sounds like BS, but have to admit there isn’t a single artist I’m not excited to see. A lot of the early artists will be the ones to watch for future headliners of Way Over Yonder and Beach Ball. So if I were a big music fan, I’d get these events early and stay until last performer ends.
Would you also say that both the Beach Ball Festival and Way Over Yonder are expected to be annual events? If so, what do you envision for these two festivals?
All Bands on Deck, Beach Ball Fest and Way Over Yonder are all set to be annual events. This is the year we establish the pier as a ticketed event space. Next year we envision all of these events to kick up a several notches in artists wanting to perform as well as fans getting the complete low down. The Santa Monica Pier will soon be seen as one of the best places to perform in Los Angeles, if not the world.