There’s a distinct retro vibe to the music slated to fill the air at Saturday’s family-friendly Open Arts & Music Festival in downtown Glendale, which is not to say it’s old-fashioned; Nick Waterhouse, Jen Awad, and Thee Sinseers, among others, may adopt the style of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s soul and R&B, but the attitudes they voice are unmistakably contemporary.
Long Beach-raised Waterhouse’s self-titled fourth album, released in March, surrounds the veteran crate digger with crisp, sensually layered arrangements Little Willie John might have savored in his prime. Depictions of daunted modern manhood like “I Feel an Urge Coming On” and “Song for Winners” (“Your strange innocence has ended/ What a state to dance/ Well, I look at you/ And wanna conjure a victim of circumstance”) share elements of classic ’60s-style soul with Thee Sinseers’ summer singles “I Don’t Mind” and “It Was Only a Dream.” But where frontman Joey Quiñones’ silken croon wholeheartedly embraces romance, Waterhouse’s phrasing cuts sentiment like a lover bitten too often to still believe in niceties. Sister Mantos’s recently issued “Songs in the Key of Destroy Capitalism,” meanwhile, works social themes that may elude preschoolers but the music’s polyrhythmic joie de vivre is likely to get heads and hips of all ages in motion during songs like “La Gente Contra Los Bancos” and “Bajo El Sol.”
With her flamboyant style and humor, irreverent diva and fashion designer Jen Awad is likely to deliver some of the festival’s most entertaining moments. Horns punctuate her romantic advice to listeners — “Break a Man,” “Love is Dead,” “Night” — which she belts like a gutsy, miniskirted love child of Wilson Pickett and Bette Midler. There’s sweetness behind the bawdy veneer, though, even when she’s batting her fake eyelashes over “Bad People” (“…need loving too”) and vamping around like a vintage Hollywood starlet and poking fun at herself for being “Hungover.” Her penchant for encouraging audiences to make the world a little better by being kind should find receptive ears Saturday.
Open Arts & Music Festival presents Nick Waterhouse, Kilo Kish, Jen Awad, Sister Mantos, Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca, Thee Sinseers, and Earth Arrow on the Main Stage, and Mt. Pool and Musical Theatre Guild on the Glendale Stage, on the block in front of the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, 3-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14; free admission for all ages. Some seating available on the festival grounds. openartsmusic.com