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NomBe, Emmitt Fenn play third annual SamJam in venue-deprived Venice Beach
On Sunday (7/1) afternoon 4,000 music fans flocked to Oakwood Park in Venice Beach to enjoy tunes, dancing, artisanal kombucha and vegan food trucks at the third annual SamJam -- and artist manager Jake Udell made sure as many of his clients as possible were in the lineup.
That's in part because the proceeds went to a youth-focused nonprofit called Inner-City Arts, but also because the day-long fest represents a rare chance to reach a growing young, tech-savvy segment of Los Angeles fans who can't be counted on to venture through traffic to get to Hollywood or Downtown LA, where most of the city's storied music venues cluster.
"To have 3,000 to 5,000 people here that are from mainly a Venice community that might not get to see our artists if they are doing a show in Hollywood or downtown, I'm in. I just wanted to give those fans an opportunity to see our artists," Udell, founder of TH3RD BRAIN, told Billboard, explaining that it was "kind of a built-in audience." "I was like, 'Let's do it! And as many of my artists as you'll have; we're all in!'"
Sally Can't Dance, Doz Biz B2B D?Y, and Poolside kicked things off with afternoon DJ sets before Udell's client Emmit Fenn took the stage. XYLØ followed, treating their fans to their first show of 2018, performing their freshly released single "Don't Panic," and riling up the crowd by dedicating a track called "America" to "all the families currently being ripped apart." Shortly after 5pm, German recording artist NoMBe, also a client of Udell's, bantered with the crowd while the soundmen worked out a few kinks. He wound things down with "Can't Catch Me," a track that was selected by Pharrell as the theme for his HBO series, Outpost, and joked about not caring about basketball, but still being impressed about the news that LeBron James managed to land an extra cushy salary with the Lakers.
Later, Charlotte Lawrence made her festival debut, playing to a lively crowd. The 18-year-old thanked SamJam for their "beautiful energy," playfully admitting, "I almost tripped about seven times" while experimenting with an unreleased tune. Venice local, Payam Doostzadeh from Young the Giant rang in the day with a DJ set, which included everything from A Tribe Called Quest to old school Snoop Dogg. Gallant, another TH3RDBRAIN client was on the original bill, but had to pull out at the last minute due to technical difficulties.
The event was a joint collaboration between local event producer 2332 Collective and Winston House, a living-room-style weekly concert series hosted in the home of entrepreneur Corey McGuire, who is driving the growth of LA's westside music scene. Since its 2015 inception, Winston House has put on weekly concerts with bands of all levels – giving notable newbies like Noah Kahan and Billie Eilish some of their earliest gigs and even hosting the likes of Weezer, The Shins, and Justin Bieber. A special memory for McGuire was landing Ed Sheeran to perform last year after the Grammys; McGuire's father, Scott, who was spotted relaxing at his son's house with other festival goers Sunday, told Billboard that he'd flown down from Oregon for the event, and recalled Sheeran sneaking in a quick catnap at the Winston House before playing for 150 people.
"That was an amazing performance and it really changed things for our brand a lot," says McGuire, who notes that his Thursday Winston House sessions are invitation only and the acts remain a surprise right up until they take the stage. "Our shows are very community driven in the sense that we really care about the people who come back each week. It's about the relationships and the community of people, how we are supporting them in their careers and then the fact that we can be a hangout point for everyone," he explains.
McGuire also deemed the partnership between him and TH3RD BRAIN "mutually beneficial. "Each of the artists are great and it was amazing to get them as a package. They all have energy, which is great because as the day goes on SamJam becomes all about dancing," he said.
Throughout the day, Winston House hosted a VIP hangout where concertgoers headed to pick up free merch and reload on snacks and beer. Following the concert, some retreated back to the three-floor loft for intimate performances by Kelsey Kartel and Thutmose, also TH3RD BRAIN artists.
"I had someone come in earlier, a 55-year-old guy, who said he's lived in Venice for 20 years and has never seen anything like this in Venice," said Udell.
McGuire, meantime, thinks there's plenty of room to expand LA's westside scene. "We're going to do a lot more events like this that come out of Winston House...The market is right for it. A lot of people have been wanting it."