After a successful debut last year, the second installment of the Cloak & Dagger Festival took place in downtown Los Angeles at the historic Los Angeles Theatre. We were there to check out the various aspects of this unique event featuring live music and immersive theatre.
The choice of venue came after multiple changes occurred with the original venue and lineup for the festival, now a one day event instead of last year’s two day affair. The grandeur and nostalgic opulence of this venue, built in 1930 with a grand opening in 1931 premiering a Charlie Chaplin film, befitted the vibe and needs of an event held by Cloak & Dagger founders Michael Patterson and Adam Bravin. The various levels of the venue and architectural details proved to be perfect for the crowd: a large anteroom in the ladies bathroom lined with mirrored vanities, grand staircases and stately chandeliers provided a glamorous backdrop for plenty of selfies.
Many who have never attended Cloak & Dagger’s club event in Hollywood have heard little or nothing about the immersive theatre and ritual aspects of this members-only event. As with last year’s festival, this year featured various installations throughout the venue intended to bring participants into an experience. Actors were staged at various locations in the venue as guides, among other roles. Some of these experiences were invitation-only or VIP-specific. As with everything related to the Cloak & Dagger weekly event, discretion is everything and this applied to the installations throughout the event.
The musical lineup was the main focus of the festival, headlined by Bravin’s band with Justin Warfield She Wants Revenge (remember when their song “Tear You Apart” was featured in a scene of American Horror Story: Hotel introducing Lady Gaga’s character The Countess?). One aspect of the festival I loved last year stayed consistent with this year’s lineup: the main stage hosted well-known acts and the more modestly sized downstairs venue hosted emerging artists. For music lovers like me, the festival really caught my attention with emerging artists including BOAN, Black Mare, Body of Light, Death Bells, and headliner Boy Harsher.
A standout of the ‘emerging artist stage’ lineup was SRSQ, the latest solo project of Kennedy Ashlyn (Them Are Us Too). Of all acts at the festival, she had the most pared-down set up and delivered an extraordinary vocal performance full of intensity and raw emotion. It was impressive to watch her sing and operate multiple instruments simultaneously.
The main stage lineup included Christian Death, Tamaryn, and The Faint as well as returning acts TR/ST and HEALTH. As always, Drab Majesty gave a memorable performance which began with frontman Deb DeMure conducting a smudging ritual and calling the elements, essentially casting a circle at the top of the set. The joy of following a band over time is seeing their evolution and Drab Majesty did this once again with a stage set up that departed from previous years with statues and visual projections. For their appearance at Cloak & Dagger Festival, with a decidedly minimal stage set up, Deb DeMure and keyboardist Mona D wore their signature wigs, all-white stage makeup and sunglasses with leather motorcycle jackets. Their set featured longer breaks in between songs with Deb performing ethereal interludes on his guitar accompanied by Mona D’s haunting synth. Their sound has become more akin to a soundtrack or soundscape, a welcome evolution from a band notable in the dark alternative scene for the quality of their songs as well as musical talent.
My favorite area of the event was the merch room because it brought together participants and performers to dig through the vinyl on sale in the makeshift record store and pick up coveted items from each band’s merch table as well as merch for Cloak & Dagger itself. One aspect of Cloak & Dagger Festival that cannot be overlooked is the participants themselves. The event is truly a showcase for members and non-members alike to put on a spectacle of dark fashion ranging from the stayed goth club attire to fetishwear and glam rock ensembles. The aforementioned anteroom to the women’s bathroom was a perfect meeting ground for participants and became a hotspot for selfies and impromptu photo sessions. Perhaps it is the paradox of the secrecy so inherent to Cloak & Dagger the concept/event and the desire of its participants to create and photodocument the community created therein that makes Cloak & Dagger Festival such an interesting social experiment.
For more information on Cloak & Dagger as well as the Cloak & Dagger Festival visit their Instagram @xcloakanddaggerx and website. For more of Tyler Curtis’ photography visit his Instagram @tyliner and website. Read about 2017’s Cloak & Dagger festival in our Fall 2018 Issue.