Zorthian Ranch Gets Back to Its Roots

The New Los Angeles Folk Festival brings folk-inspired acts to the legendary bohemian enclave in the San Gabriel Mountains.

In its heyday, the Zorthian Ranch in the San Gabriel Mountains was a bohemian enclave where its owner Jirayr Zorthian held wild Bacchanalian parties.

On Saturday, it was the site of the (slightly more family-friendly) New Los Angeles Folk Festival, curated by L.A. Record editor Daiana Feuer. The all-day festival featured mostly-local acts from an emerging folk movement in Los Angeles.

Last year, the festival was held at HM157, a historic Victorian home in Lincoln Heights. This year the festival was able to spread out across four stages at the expansive, hilly ranch in the San Gabriel Mountains, just above the terminus of Fair Oaks Avenue.

Preparing the ranch for the festival took some work. Organizers called on volunteers to donate their time and money to restore the venue that they called "apocalyptically exotic."

That description isn't too far off. Roosters' crowing interrupted the performers. The ranch is littered with old art sculptures, vintage industrial equipment and rusted cars (although those may have been the musicians' rides) collected by Zorthian. Stages were set up near a dusty horse corral, a swimming pool overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and a lush terrace shaded by foliage.

The venue seemed appropriate for a festival that seeks to unify local acts under a broad umbrella that is traditional and experimental, nostalgic and forward-thinking.

“I felt like there were a lot of different music scenes in Los Angeles, but the [folk] one lacked unity and voice, so to speak," Feuer told AltadenaBlog. "I’m a music journalist, and I was telling people about all of these different folk-ish types of events, and they would tell me they didn’t really think there was much of an audience for those types of events.”

The festival featured nearly 30 acts that included jazzy standards from Pasadena local Jenny Luna, folk-traditionalist Frank Fairfield, square dancing veterans Triple Chicken Foot and the fuzzy guitars of Stone Darlings.

Proceeds from the festival benefit iLoveMountains.org, an organization dedicated to ending mountaintop removal coal-mining in Appalachia.

We took a few videos and posted a gallery of photos from the festival to the right. If you'd like to hear more of the acts featured, Buzz Bands has put together a New Los Angeles Folk Fest mix tape here. The festival also has selected clips from its line-up here.

Joy Jalapit August 10, 2011 at 05:01 PM
I did enjoy the venue! Although originally more Bohemian, the setting did evoke a nostalgia of a more carefree, old-roots, moutaineer time. Mostly on account of the scattered junk-turned-treasure elements, the animals, early 1900-1970 clad guests, its four unique stages and of course, the music. Bands like Cowboy and Indian, Dustbowl Revival and RT and the 44s really got the guests moving, but square dancing with Triple Chicken Foot was one of the highlights of the evening!


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