Five highlights from Shaun White’s Air + Style 2018

Air + Style 2018Photos courtesy of Air + Style // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Shaun White Presents Air + Style //
Exposition Park – Los Angeles
March 3rd-4th, 2018 //

When three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White launched his first Air + Style contest on U.S. soil three years ago in Pasadena (read our review here), it had plenty of kinks to work out like any brand-new event has nowadays. Half snowboard competition and half music festival, Air + Style offered a different twist for those who enjoy a side of extreme sports with their live music, or vice versa.

And in many ways, it still does. Because when you get right down to it, there aren’t a whole lot of events out there, if any, where you can catch some of the best snowboarders in the world go big while also taking in performances from top-notch artists and bands across a wide-range of musical genres. There’s the X-Games of course, but after that, there’s not much else.

White, in that regard, has certainly created something fun and unique in a short amount of time. But as we realized upon arriving at Exposition Park for Air + Style’s fourth installment here in LA, it wasn’t hard to see that there’s a heavy emphasis placed on the music. Maybe it felt that way because this year marked the first time there was no big air event (and we were rather disappointed to find that out on Day 1), even if the consolation prize was moving to a street-style course for the snowboarders and adding skateboarding, which was another first for Air + Style’s LA edition. Or, maybe it was a Coachella-like lineup headlined by Zedd and Phoenix, coupled with the size of the two stages, that made it feel like so many other major music festivals in Southern California that we have previously attended. Even Phantogram frontwoman Sarah Barthel said it herself, calling Air + Style a “mini Coachella” during the group’s hour-long set on the ginormous Winter Stage.

Either way, in a city with so much to do and an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to live music, it’s impressive to see Air + Style still going strong and drawing large crowds like it did this year. It may have been just another way for “The Flying Tomato” to party with friends and celebrate his latest Olympic gold from Pyeongchang, but for us, it served as an opportunity to see some of our favorite musicians in action and catch some others we’ve been eager to check out for a while (more on that below). So, with that said, these are our five highlights from Air + Style 2018.


Air + Style 2018 - Cut Copy

Cut Copy

Whenever Australian four-piece Cut Copy come to town, you know you’re in for a dance party. But a rainy dance party? That’s something that none of us, including frontman Dan Whitford, saw coming. What blindsided all of us was an epic, approximately 10-minute downpour right in the middle of their set. And they thought it never rains in LA! Sorry, Danny boy … but well, it does — you know, every once in a while. As Whitford told the crowd, it was kind of amazing that their equipment didn’t short out, as we were treated to a lot of the usual favorites such as “Hearts on Fire” and “Lights and Music” as well as a few off 2017’s Haiku from Zero, including “Black Rainbows” and “Standing in the Middle of the Field”. For as many times as we’ve seen these guys take the stage over the years, they always seem to deliver — rain or shine.


Air + Style 2018 - DRAM
DRAM

Considering that we wouldn’t exactly call ourselves huge fans of Zedd, Saturday’s bill felt a bit lackluster compared to Sunday’s. But one of the biggest surprises from the weekend proved to be DRAM, who was on a mission to “spread love” while at Air + Style. With so many examples of hate and violence in recent months, it was an important reminder for all of us no matter the setting, and in this case, White’s festival seemed as good as any for Shelley Massenburg-Smith to promote more positivity. DRAM’s performance, though, was more than just one big love fest — rather, it felt like a celebration of life as he performed “Cute” and later “Broccoli” (even if it was sans Lil Yachty), eventually making his way into the crowd to show his fans some more … why yes, love. Keep spreading those good vibes, Big Baby DRAM. We’re all for it.


Air + Style 2018 - Washed Out

Washed Out

In what was easily the most visually stimulating (and pleasing) show we witnessed at Expo Park, Ernest Greene, who performs under the moniker Washed Out, entranced a completely packed crowd at the smaller Summer Stage with a slew of trippy visuals and his chilled-out tunes. We had been wanting to see Washed Out in SoCal for several months now, ever since Greene released the project’s third LP Mister Mellow last year, and after missing his gig with Nick Murphy at the Shrine Expo Hall in October, we were glad to finally hear him play “Hard to Say Goodbye” (one of our favorite songs of 2017) and “Feel It All Around” live as any loyal “Portlandia” fan would be. With Toro y Moi venturing away from the chillwave movement he helped pioneer, it’s up to Greene to lead the charge, and so far, he has done one hell of a job.


Air + Style 2018- Griz

Griz

Gosh, we can remember when Grant Kwiecinski, aka Griz, was first starting out and opening for his buddies in Big Gigantic more than five years ago. Fast forward to now, and the 27-year-old Detroit native has climbed higher and higher up the festival ladder. Melding hip-hop and electronic music to create his own future-funk sound, Kwiecinski knows how to get the party going with various elements of trip-hop, dubstep and glitch-hop all sprinkled into his tracks, but it’s his jazzy saxophone solos — and some slick guitar work from his sidekick/childhood friend Muzzy Bearr (born Dan Hacker) — that adds another element to the final product. And then there’s his stage production, which Kwiecinski has clearly taken up a few notches as the huge screen on the Summer Stage flashed psychedelic images that would also poke fun at the current state of American politics. After all, what kind of music festival would it be without a few Donald Trump references?


Air + Style 2018 - Phoenix

Phoenix

After what we thought was an underwhelming way to wrap up Day 1, Air + Style closed with a bang thanks to Phoenix’s energizing, 16-song set. The French indie-pop outfit have headlined Coachella before, and it was more than worthy of that billing for this occasion. Kicking things off with the opening track “J-Boy” from their sixth studio album Ti Amo that dropped back in June, Thomas Mars and company gave us exactly what we wanted to hear: a hit-ladden show featuring singles like “Lisztomania”, “Trying to Be Cool”, “Too Young” and “1901”. No, there wasn’t a Daft Punk or R. Kelly appearance — not that we expected one — but Phoenix put an exclamation point on an otherwise successful weekend. We may not have known the quartet could rock that hard after the last time we saw them, but we definitely do now.

10 takeaways from Shaun White’s first Air + Style on U.S. soil

Air + Style - Shaun WhitePhotos by Josh Herwitt, Melissa Hebeler & Matthew Nordman // Written by Josh Herwitt & Pete Mauch //

Shaun White Presents Air + Style //
Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
February 21st-22nd, 2015 //

Olympic gold medalist, X Games superstar and part-time actor/musician Shaun White brought the first-ever Air + Style contest to the States last weekend, taking over the Rose Bowl grounds for two days of extreme sports, music and art. Yes, in case you haven’t noticed, “The Flying Tomato” has become quite the renaissance man these days.

Air + Style officials, in fact, estimated that approximately 40,000 folks attended the event, but we’re a little skeptical of that number after a sparse turnout Sunday thanks to some unforgiving weather. While many attendees, including quite a few media members, only showed up for Saturday’s festivities, we made our way back to Pasadena to catch more live music and brave Sunday’s torrential downpour.

So, with plenty of highs and lows over the course of the weekend, here are 10 things we took away from two action-packed days at Air + Style.


Air + Style - Phantogram

10. These ph-ancy pants

OK, we know she’s dating Shaun White, but Phantogram lead singer Sarah Barthel undoubtedly took home the “Best Outfit” award, donning a pair of leopard sequin pants during the band’s hour-long set on Saturday. Unfortunately we couldn’t hear Barthel’s vocals all that well, but that wasn’t exactly her fault. That was for the sound guy to figure out — or not. More on that below.


Surfer Blood

9. Surf’s up

One of the few highlights on Sunday was a 45-minute set by alt-rock group Surfer Blood. Hailing from Florida, these four dudes brought a much-needed, high-energy set during the heaviest rainfall of the day. The band kept mentioning the rain and how much they appreciated everyone sticking around to see them. It seemed that the crowd didn’t mind — they just wanted to rock. Their big hit “Swim” was the perfect fit for the rain-soaked crowd, who could have swam around in the pit if they wanted.


Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

8. Not so Sharpe

Edward Sharpe, aka Alex Ebert, made a big splash in 2009 with songs like “Janglin” and “Home” from Up From Below, but it’s been all downhill since then. Ebert broke up with then-girlfriend/vocalist Jade Castrinos, kicked her out of the band and is now resorting to using audiences to sing Castrinos’ parts. But when only a few hundred people show up to see your set, that doesn’t really work too well.


Air + Style - Craola & Jeff Soto

7. Getting colorful

One of the festival’s big positives were the live paintings on Saturday by three talented artists from the greater Los Angeles area. Craola, Jeff Soto and James Haunt each brought a unique graffiti style to their individual walls and were very gracious in answering questions from lots of drunken festivalgoers.


Cults

6. Cult following

We didn’t know much about Cults before their 4:45 p.m. set on Sunday, but the New York indie-pop outfit had the small, yet lively crowd at the Flood Magazine Stage cheering them on in the rain. Even with the band’s instruments getting soaked, forcing them to lay down towels over them when they weren’t being used, you could tell vocalist Madeline Follin and guitarist/keyboardist Brian Oblivion were having a good ol’ time — and it rubbed off on everyone else.


Air + Style - Big Air Jump

5. BIG air

Another obvious high point of the weekend was the gigantic, 16-story big air jump in the middle of the Rose Bowl fairgrounds. About 30 truly gifted athletes launched themselves into the dark grey sky on Saturday and the beginning part of Sunday, and it was quite fun to watch in between the musical acts. Sunday afternoon’s rainstorm put a damper on the ski final, which had to be canceled, but the few attendees who made it back for Day 2 didn’t seem to mind.


The Flaming Lips

4. Flaming hot

The last time we saw The Flaming Lips come through LA, they were sharing the bill with Tame Impala and Wayne Coyne was dressing up as “Carrie.” The Lips didn’t bring their “A” game that night at The Greek Theatre, but they sounded a whole lot cleaner and tighter on Sunday despite only getting to play for a total of 30 minutes (their set time was scheduled to be one hour and 15 minutes) due to weather-related equipment issues.


Air + Style - Crowd

3. First-time festival problems

The lines at all the concession stands and bathrooms were absolutely horrendous. If you were lucky enough to notice the makeshift beer stands next to each stage, then that saved you easily an hour for each beer purchase. We heard that people were waiting in line for a $10 PBR for over a hour! Those who came back on Sunday were rewarded with no lines anywhere, but that came with the price of getting completely drenched.


Air + Style - Portugal. The Man

2. These guys rocked

While Diplo had the majority of attendees fist-pumping their way through his hour-long set on the Main Stage, Portland-by-way-of-Alaska psych-rockers Portugal. The Man followed EDM’s most misogynistic DJ with one of the best sets of the weekend. The LCD projections, some of them featuring frontman John Gourley’s drawings, on the diminutive Flood Magazine Stage jived perfectly with a performance that was highlighted by covers of Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”


Air + Style - Kendrick Lamar

1. Kendrick Lame-ar

Compton native Kendrick Lamar’s headlining set on Saturday could have been amazing, but the volume was just too low. After constantly hounding the sound guy in between each barely-audible song, Lamar finally got the volume turned up, but it was only for one song — and he chose to redo “m.A.A.d city” again?!?! We can thank Pasadena’s noise ordinance laws for that one or the festival organizers for choosing to host the event outside the Rose Bowl.