REVIEW: Adult Swim Festival delivers surreal humor, music

From noon Saturday until late Sunday, Adult Swim Festival took over Row DTLA for two full days of music, art and comedy. The festival was the first of its kind from Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s nocturnal adult-programming block.

Between sets, patrons entertained themselves with attractions as quirky and surreal as Adult Swim’s content — a mechanical bull shaped like a hot dog, a “Rick and Morty”-themed mini-golf course and a giant dome representing Meatwad from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”

Early on Saturday, San Diego-based surf-punk band Wavves took the festival’s Calico Stage. The band performed several songs about relationships, binge drinking and hangovers, accompanied by a visual display of World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon that played on a loop throughout the set. Members of the meager audience sang along and moshed, true to the rebellious youth attitude the young band embodies.

Hip-hop and glitch producer Clams Casino was next on the Calico Stage, and one of the few DJ acts of the weekend. A larger crowd had finally arrived, and Clams Casino welcomed them with a lucid set that maintained his atmospheric and ethereal bounce. Songs like “Norf Norf” and “LVL” caused the crowd to come together and mosh.

As a salute to rapper Mac Miller, a collaborator and friend who died last month, Clams Casino played his instrumental from “One Last Thing.” To close his set, Clams Casino performed a new song with hip-hop artist Plu2o Nash titled “Gravity.”

When the sun went down, the Brainfeeder Takeover on the Tabby Stage began, featuring artists from the record label of the same name. Austrian electronic artist Dorian Concept displayed his talent to the audience with a visual backdrop of the four controllers he played and manipulated on stage. Despite his relatively complex production, the audience received his set well and got in the mood for acts to come.

Next, fellow Brainfeeder labelmate Georgia Anne Muldrow and her band of five conquered with an explosive jazz-driven set that displayed their raw talent and energy. Dudley Perkins later accompanied the group. After Muldrow’s crew cleared the stage, comedian and “The Eric Andre Show” co-host Hannibal Buress emerged for a half-hour stand-up set. Initial technical difficulties detracted from the multimedia aspect of “The Hannibal Buress Experience”; however, Buress succeeded in producing some chuckles with hilarious observations on hip-hop culture and the use of Auto-Tune in everyday life.

Bassist Thundercat (aka Stephen Bruner) was next on the Brainfeeder Takeover. As well-known for his live performances as his recorded material, he delivered intricate, mind-blowing jams of songs like “Heartbreaks + Setbacks,” “Captain Stupido” and “Tron Song.”

“I love my cat more than most people, like a lot more … like a lot,” Thundercat joked while playing the opening notes to “A Fan’s Mail.” “I think Adult Swim has a lot of cat fans. Shoutout to all my cats.”

Thundercat concluded the set with a touching tribute to Mac Miller in an emotional yet funky rendition of “Them Changes” before passing the torch to Brainfeeder founder Flying Lotus.

Multi-genre producer and visual artist Flying Lotus provided a gripping finale to Saturday’s Brainfeeder Takeover with his acclaimed three-dimensional visual display, for which the festival provided glasses. Flying Lotus opted for a more atmospheric, slow opening before the crashing drums and spooky jingles from “Getting There” blasted from the speakers. Featuring influences from psychedelic culture, surreal imagery and body horror, the visuals provided a breathtaking accompaniment to his dizzyingly intricate instrumentals.

Toward the end of his set, Flying Lotus broke out his rapping alter-ego Captain Murphy for a tongue-in-cheek performance of “Dead Man’s Tetris,” before concluding with the weekend’s most uplifting tribute to Mac Miller in the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Never Catch Me.” Flying Lotus kept an image of the late rapper-producer on his visual display throughout the song and revealed that he was celebrating his birthday that night before retreating offstage for the final time.

On Sunday, what would’ve been one the most aggressive and energetic sets of the festival was unfortunately canceled, as $uicideBoy$, a hip-hop duo from New Orleans, dealt with their personal health. To compensate for their absence, Adult Swim recruited Run the Jewels’ DJ Trackstar to perform a set, which exclusively comprised West Coast artists such as Tyler, the Creator, Vince Staples, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock.

When the Sunday sun went down, Oakland rapper Kamaiyah brought her clever, cheeky lyrics and sticky production to the Tabby Stage. Accompanied by DJ Vision and a team of dancers, Kamaiyah provided a loose, fun-loving performance. Songs like “N—as,” “Addicted to Ballin’” and “Fuck It Up” featured charismatic flows and at-times hilarious lyrics about relationships, parties and her breakout as an artist.

Next was one of the festival’s main attractions, the “Rick and Morty Musical Ricksperience,” featuring the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra playing the show’s score. Composer Ryan Elder also made an on-stage appearance, introducing the orchestra and starting the show with a live rendition of “The Rickshank Redemption.”

Elder revisited the stage again to welcome sister act Chaos Chaos. The duo performed previously in the festival and played their song “Do You Feel It,” which is featured in the show. Accompanying them later was voice actor John Roberts, who voices Linda Belcher in the hit animated show, “Bob’s Burgers.” Roberts, as Linda, sung “Terry Fold” with Chaos Chaos, a number originally sung by the band and “Rick and Morty” creator Justin Roiland. Continuing the weekend’s festivities, rappers Open Mike Eagle and Father revisited the festival stage to perform a live rendition of “Get Schwifty.”

As a whole, the festival served as a celebration of Adult Swim’s most prominent productions and affiliates. Performers and patrons alike were fans of the late-night programming block, which contributed to the intimacy of the weekend’s many acts and attractions. The festival is sure to be a staple of the Los Angeles festival scene for years to come, and expanded activities and tighter organization should ensure successful future interactions.