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Tenacious D, the comedy rock duo comprised of Jack Black and Kyle Gass, amped up their annual music and comedy festival this past weekend, taking over Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall and its surrounding grounds on Saturday. Launched in October 2013 at the Santa Monica Pier, the one-day Festival Supreme seems to have found its stride in its second incarnation, featuring sets from comedians like Nick Kroll, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani and Cheech & Chong, as well as performances by Eagles of Death Metal, Peaches and The Aquabats, the latter who celebrated 20 years as a band.
Saturday’s festivities featured two outdoor stages that rotated between comedy and musical acts, eight hours of ongoing comedy on the Shrine’s Auditorium stage and a massive art installation dubbed the Circus of Death, which included a small stage as well.
Although Black and Gass created the festival, Tenacious D was not the focal point of the day. The band performed a 30-minute set on the smaller of the outdoor stages and played most of their songs acoustic, without the aid of their usual rock band lineup.
“You know how long the Beatles played when they played Shea Stadium?” Black asked the audience after they booed his announcement that their next song would be their last. “Twenty-five minutes. And you know how many people there complained? None of them because they saw the f—ng Beatles. Same thing here.”
The duo, dressed as an angel and a devil in honor of Halloween (many of the audience members were similarly costumed), rolled through a slew of their hits despite the abridged set time, including “Tribute,” “Rize of the Fenix” and “Dude (I Totally Miss You).” As they performed “Rock Is Dead,” “Weird Al” Yankovic, who was not on the festival’s bill, emerged to play along. “That’s ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic,” Black reminded the crowd. “He’s the f—ing best.”
The duo concluded their set with “F— Her Gently,” off their 2001 self-titled debut, and then sent the audience to watch the reunion set from group troupe The State on the opposing stage. In many ways, this is one of Festival Supreme’s best facets — there was no official headliner, just a lot of popular performers who typically headline their solo shows. Armisen spent his 30 minutes playing various types of music for the fans and commenting on them (he’s not a fan of jazz), and then did various accents for the rest of his set. Margaret Cho, Norm McDonald, Janeane Garofalo and Maria Bamford all took turns on the indoor stage, and Comedy Central’s Drunk History recreated its intoxicated historical narratives live. The cast of Workaholics dressed as wizards and bounced through a few parody rap numbers they previously released on YouTube while Zach Galifianakis and Adam Scott made surprise appearances during the live rendition of Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang!.
The Circus of Death, a new addition this year, filled the Shrine Expo Hall with a massive, gothic art and sound installation helmed by Steven Hull. Fans were invited to experience the work by riding a small train on a track around the pieces as musicians like the Haden Triplets and electro-pop duo Actually performed a small circular platform. The installation also featured works by Jim Shaw, Tami Demaree, Marnie Weber, John Tottenham, Gibby Haynes, Marcos Rosales, Allison Schulnik and April Totten.
As an overall experience, Festival Supreme was continually and broadly engaging. The new venue was used well, with no bottlenecking and zero lines anywhere, and the combination of indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces meant that, unlike at other festivals, fans weren’t stuck in the sun for hours with no reprieve. It’s almost a miracle in this day and age to collect a huge group of fans into a confined space and receive very few complaints, but somehow Festival Supreme seems to have achieved that this year.
Jesse Hughes, frontman for Eagles of Death Metal, who unleashed a raucous set that should leave fans eager for the 2015 album the group has promised, marveled at the festival. “The greatest comedians the world has ever known are assembled under one roof tonight,” Hughes told the cheering crowd. “And only in our town, Los Angeles.”
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