A blisteringly hot and sticky Sunday in Venice Beach brought out thousands for the 31st annual Abbot Kinney Fest along the mile long stretch of boutiques and eateries along the now gentrified, some would call hip, boulevard of the same name. Armed with an Iphone and a wallet I headed out for some people watching on this sunny end of summer afternoon.
I still haven’t quite figured out what a “hipster” is…Apparently they mostly wear long beards and neatly trimmed short hair, an odd combination of body hair, adorned with mismatched tattoos and sometimes seen in Converse flat tops.
At least this is what I have been told to look out for, and there were a fair amount of these types wandering around the beer stands today. I didn’t think it was possible to make the dress of the 1970’s seem cool but this generation seems to be attaining these lofty goals based on some of the get ups I saw today.
If you can’t already tell I have a love-hate relationship with the new Venice Beach. I spent a decade, a very good one, of my life living and working in Venice long before it was deemed “Hip”. Abbot Kinney was a mostly quiet low rent stretch of galleries; affordable eateries with a handful of rowdy, locals only, drink spots including “Hal’s” and the “The Brig” which still remain.
Today Abbot Kinney is anything but “Hip” unless you define “Hip” as disgustingly expensive, corporate, homogeneous, and almost exclusively white. No thank you. What made Venice truly hip was its color and its grit and both of those elements are long gone. Venice always had an art community but it was serious art, not the over indulgence of pop art and street art that abounds in the new Venice. Today’s Venice is not for the starving. It is for the wealthy.
Change is generally a good thing and no doubt the influx of massive amounts of capital into the neighborhood has boomed the local economy and largely driven the gangs out. But it was at the expense of what made Venice one of the most unique and generally harmonious neighborhoods in Los Angeles where you could find all colors and economic strata living side by side. Was it safe? No. Not entirely. But the perception of danger is what kept the suburbanites away. And that is what made Venice beyond just hip. It was genuinely cool.
Strolling along Abbot Kinney today there is even less diversity today then there was two years ago, the last time I checked out the festival. Still, the Abbot Kinney Fest was a pleasant day out of music, art, shopping and mostly good people watching. Fortunately they don’t charge you to get in unless you want to drink. There is free music; good people watching and some decent art viewing to be had and if you look real closely you can still get a glimpse of the old Venice.
All things said, today was a good day on Abbot Kinney and for the price; nothing, it is well worth the price of admission.
All photos by Brian Michaels for The Los Angeles Beat