In it’s fifth year running, Viva! Pomona 2017 has grown into a joyous celebration of local music, culture, and youth. Held at the Glass House in Pomona and sprawling into the surrounding courtyard, the fest was full of stylish teenagers, dressed head to toe in the current vogue – namely nineties grunge (long live flannel). Many young musicians casually hung around the stages before and after their sets, lounging in the grass and sipping non-alcoholic beverages. This was clearly meant to be a casual, local-centric yet all inclusive affair, giving voice to a lot of young, upcoming artists that may not have had the chance to take the stage otherwise. The majority of sets were kept to a half hour, meaning the crowd got to enjoy close to fifty unique bands in rapid-fire succession over the course of two musically packed days. Girl Underground Music had the pleasure of ingesting the Sunday performances first hand, and the following are some of our favorites of the night.
A trio of baby-faced teenage girls, Pinky Pinky played a powerful, albeit short set early in the afternoon. Dressed head to toe in offbeat, mismatched clothing, the girls met this style with their blasé attitude, as they kept their faces expressionless and their eyes rolled up toward the ceiling throughout their set. Even so, they rocked through their fifteen minutes on stage with the loud confidence of a much more seasoned group, ending with the raucous “Ram Jam.”
Alighting the outdoor Diamond Plaza Stage was the radiant Gemma Castro and her band. Channelling classic lounge music with a latin flair, Castro charmed the crowd with a serene smile as she ran through jazzy arpeggios with fluidity and style. Her laid back set consisted of a number of songs from her 2016 EP with some brand new pieces mixed in, including the funky “El Johnny” in which she brazenly implored, “Don’t play with me / do I look like a plaything?”
Calling themselves an “avant garde new-wave surf band,” EEEKS brought their brand of pop rock straight from Paraguay, complete with goofy hats and sparkly silver instruments – even an electric ukulele. Playing the Radical Stage in the late afternoon, EEEKS did not lack volume, and they filled the small outdoor space with their twist on classic beachy tunes, complete with do-do wahs on songs like “Let Me Be Your Pet.” Their eclectic set even included a unique rendition of “Dancing Queen,” leaving nothing more that could possibly be desired.
August Eve gave the crowd a healthy dose of sensuous sadness with her soulful voice and her slow jams filled with lyrics like “Baby when it’s over I will miss you in my bed.” Dressed in all white, she and her four bandmates swayed to retro synth sounds and bossa nova drums while the rich swells of her voice navigated the sultry melancholy of her lyrics.
Another young group in the lineup, Banes World put forth a very mature sound in stark contrast to their youthful appearance. Lighting up the Glass House with their dreamy synth pop, the band’s focus on soft blending of instrumentals and vocals swiftly transported the audience into a parallel universe of sonic pleasure. As they worked their way through songs like the smoothly ambient “I Must Be Wrong,” the crowd listened contemplatively, probably daydreaming of waves gently rolling into shore.
As the sun slowly crossed the horizon, Levitation Room took the Diamond Plaza stage, now lit solely with the ambience of nearby street lamps. The smell of incense seemed to waft across the plaza along with their nouveau-psychedelic sounds, drawing in a crowd during their forty minute set. Not shying away from politics, Levitation Room made strong references in nearly every song, expounding their activist mentality with lyrics like “Try to put a wall between you and I / but we got the answer.”
With Elvis-level good looks and a few hip swivels thrown in, frontman Misha Lindes of SadGirl brought serious charisma to the stage for an evening set at the Glass House. The effects of this charm were obvious in the enthusiasm of the wildly dancing and singing crowd – safe to say they were into it. Made up of a trio of LA locals, SadGirl played a satisfying set of grungy surf rock, with some eerie minor chord progressions adding nebulous depth to songs like the instrumental “Norma & Jessica.”
All photos by Rachel Schroeder