Red Bull Music Festival 2019: Mikey Alfred Brings His Creative World To Life With Illegal Civilization Movie Motel Show [Recap]
Illegal Civilization is the manifestation of Mikey Alfred‘s dream turned reality. Created when he was 12, Illegal Civilization — commonly referred to as Illegal Civ or IC — has transformed into a creative empire, its beginning and present still dedicated to the skateboard culture that inspired it, but expanding into fashion, film, music and more.
So it’s fitting that Alfred transformed the already dreamlike Pink Motel into his own playground for his Illegal Civ Movie Motel event as a part of the Red Bull LA Music Festival, enlisting the likes of Tierra Whack, Na-Kel Smith, Show Me The Body and more for performances and showing snippets of the recently-released Illegal Civilization 3 video.
A primarily West Coast rap-centric set soundtracked the event grounds as fans ate free popcorn, took pictures in front of an inaccessible cafe called Cadillac Jacks, went through some of the rooms of the motel, and skated inside a pool near the stage. Artists such as Warm Brew, Sunni Colon, Rocket Da Goon, and 1 Take Jay provided sets earlier in the day. But a chilling cool came over the Pink Motel once Show Me The Body took to the stage. The Queens, New York trio dedicated most of their set to new music, inciting a mosh pit that even Alfred participated in. The group’s performance was arguably one of the more chaotic but still enjoyable sets of the day, with lead singer Julian Pratt joining the crowd for the band’s last song “Body War,” the title track from their 2016 album of the same name.
On another side of the Pink Motel a large screen showed parts of Illegal Civilization 3, which took four years to make. Fans sat on hay bales surrounding the screen and watched scenes of the skateboarders affiliated with Illegal Civilization skating throughout LA, as well as behind the scene footage of Jonah Hill‘s Mid90s, which was co-produced by Alfred.
But there was one scene that was particularly of note, considering it featured someone who had recently passed — Mac Miller.
Miller’s unexpected death struck the music community at large, with countless artists across the country sharing their own experiences with the late rapper. That Miller was in proximity to the world of Illegal Civilization wasn’t surprising. The scenes were a testament to not only Miller’s extended reach to LA’s creative scene but Alfred’s extended reach to creatives in LA and beyond. The footage, which ranged from Miller listening to a hilarious freestyle from Vince Staples to the artist receiving praise from his peers, was heartwarming and intimate. A testament to Alfred’s ability to capture moments of humility and realness and allowing those moments to play out.
But another notable, albeit more subtle, part of the video preview was the music. In an age of music streaming services, music discovery is a click, swipe and tap away. But there’s still a charm to discovering music when attached to something visually, specifically with skateboard videos. Witnessing one of the Illegal Civilization skaters venture throughout LA on a sunny day while Karin Jones‘ “Last Night In My Dreams” soundtracked it all was a reminder of the days watching Kevin Booker skate to Don Blackman‘s “Holding You, Loving You,” or Jordan Richter skate to Black Flag‘s “My War.” There’s a curatorial significance to skate videos and it was nice to be reminded of that through Illegal Civilization 3.
Back at the stage Na-Kel Smith put on a lively set featuring music from his recently-released EP Twothousand Nakteen. The songs were well-received by the audience, with the skater and now actor (he made his acting debut in Mid90s) even jumping into the crowd at one point while performing one of his tracks.
Before Tierra Whack took the stage as the night’s last performer, Chief Keef made a surprise appearance and performed his song “Faneto.” The track, which was released on his 2014 mixtape Back From The Dead 2, has seen a resurgence recently thanks to this viral video. Although the Chicago rapper’s live rendition of the track didn’t have the same energetic rush as the recorded version, the crowd didn’t mind, yelling the lyrics and jumping around until the song ended.
Tierra Whack offered a calm but still lively set, the Philadelphia artist performing songs from her critically-acclaimed debut album Whack World. Walking out onstage with a mirror so everyone could see “how beautiful they looked,” Whack was playful in a way that reflects the charm of Whack World, engaging in banter with the audience (and even some photographers onstage) and moving energetically across the stage. Finishing her set with two performances of “Hungry Hippo,” Whack thanked the crowd before throwing the microphone into the crowd and leaving the stage.
Alfred’s Illegal Civilization Movie Motel was a beautifully imaginative event that reflected his creativity. Hopefully, the primarily young demographic that was in attendance left feeling inspired.