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It’s easy enough to see Roaring Nights, the monthly Friday night event taking place this summer at the Los Angeles Zoo, as something of a perfect alchemy. Take several elements of hip youth culture — in this case, live music, quality food trucks, and craft beer. Choose a non-traditional venue for entertainment (the explosion in outdoor movie screenings is another example of this). Stand back and watch the twenty- and thirty-somethings arrive in droves.

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All photos by Laura Chirinos

It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. Los Angeles summer evenings are of the still-warm-at-ten-o’clock, still-sunny-at-eight variety, and so this kind of niche yet wide-appealing type of event is perfect for the city. Where else can you down a tasty IPA while munching on gourmet tacos and watching orangutans during playtime? The novelty alone would make at least one trip to Roaring Nights something to experience before the summer is out.

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Fortunately, there is substance to the style. The spate of up-and-coming live acts that headline the regular event make it something of a must-see for local music fans, and the evening of July 25th was no exception. Former LA Music Blogcast guests and fast-rising rock band Kiven was the headliner on this occasion, and the four-piece took to their task with gusto. And what a task it was! Imagine trying to wow a crowd when you’re playing on a stage next to a large enclosure with the magnificent sight of an elephant eating its dinner directly in the eyeline of most of the audience.

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Kiven didn’t seem fazed by the task. In fact, they reveled in the unique nature of the show, thanking all species present for their attendance. Their set contained all of the things that make them so fascinating as a band, with pretty ballads dropped amidst a slew of fairly mighty riffage. They come on like a modern mash-up of Led Zeppelin and Rush at times, completely out of step with any modern fads but endearingly so.

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Kiven is clearly a band that is uninterested in being a flash in the pan and is instead focused on honing their material and tightening up what is already an impressive chemistry between the members. Thankfully, the unusual venue did nothing to affect the sound quality, and Kiven sounded punchy and crisp at a volume that was enough to feel the groove in your bones without being so loud it scared the crap out of the monkey population of the zoo.

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Kiven’s set was at the middle of a smooth, fantastically well-organized event. If there was one drawback it was that there was simply so much to do. We had no time to use the carousel or check out the DJ set taking place in the upper section of the zoo. On the other hand, the time slot of 7-10pm was both reasonable and took into consideration the zoo’s population, most of whom probably wouldn’t appreciate a bunch of drunken youngsters in their house until the early hours. I can completely understand and accept the time compromise. It just means I’ll have to go back for the next one.

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