Every so often, California holds a music festival such as Burgerama or FYF worth making the 7 hour drive from Arizona to attend for the weekend. This time, it was for Beach Goth. It’s held during Halloween, one of best times of year giving the crowd a great excuse to dress up as one of their favorite movie characters or put on their most outrageous outfits. Pauly Shore hosted the $40 festival but The Growlers founded it, aiming to build a relaxed atmosphere where a great variety of artists can share their music. Now in its third year, the one day Beach Goth party is getting bigger than ever with more than a thousand attendees and will continue to grow because of the positive feedback its receiving. I left the night wondering if I hallucinated the tattooed psychedelic Oompa Loompa or if it really was there just smokin’ a cigarette by the food truck.
Other than the common festival complaints; too many people, long lines, overpriced food, and annoying couples who make out during entire sets while practically leaning on you, it was still the best way I could have spent the weekend. The lineup was well put together and I was impressed with the set list, some of my favorite artists even appeared on it. The whole thing has a very DIY state of mind. It’s cool to attend a festival that is not completely commercialized and still has a natural vibe where local bands can showcase music they’ve worked hard on.
The festival was held at The Observatory located in Santa Ana, CA. It’s a sweet galactic spot that has a few stages, a couple indoors and a parking lot big enough to set up a stage outside. It’s a decently sized spot, but it surely won’t be able to hold Beach Goth parties in the future at the rate BG is going. There was parking at The Observatory but avoiding the $25 filled parking lot for a farther spot and a sweet bus ride to the venue was a good idea. It reminded me of my morning bus rides back in high school, except this one had cool blue mermaids and goth girls on it.
When we were dropped off, an overwhelming number of Mia Wallace look-a-like’s and masked people were running towards the entry. Piñatas and inflated flamigos were hoisted amongst the trees and the place was totally embellished for the party. I heard a familiar beat from afar and was able to catch the last bit of The Garden who seemed to have a very fun, energetic set, as usual. Though I found Wyatt Fletcher’s choice of a black painted face to be tasteless and offensive.
Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams dressed like James Hetfield- sportin’ a blondish mustache and wig while playing punk-like covers of Metallica but still maintaing the 60’s girl-group rockabilly esque sound that Shannon & the Clams embodies. Guitarist, Cody Blanchard dressed like Cliff Burton and the two were shining on stage. It was so easy to get into though I was eagerly looking forward to hearing their own original music.
After their set came Atlas Sound, a solo project by Bradford Cox. I had to get as close as possible to the stage for this one, after all, he is one of my musical heroes. I think it was during the song Shelia, a drunken girl pushed her way to the front and wouldn’t stop screeching by my ear. I’m surprised I managed to have a spiritual experience even with her trying to shove vodka down my throat for the entirety of the show. Bradford’s music does have the capability to make everything else seem insignificant and at some point I stopped listening to her and enjoyed the rest of his set.
Already feeling drained, my friend and I decided to fill our bellies. It’s crazy how delicious a five dollar, American style grilled cheese sandwich can taste. It was probably my second spiritual experience of the day, and we weren’t even half way through yet.
At this point, Foxygen took over the main stage outside. I’ll admit, “We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” was probably my favorite album of 2013. But after seeing them live and hearing their new stuff, I just got over them, to be honest.
I lost my friend in the hyped crowd, so I decided to go and check out who was playing inside. There was no point in looking at my set list because all of the bands had unexpected push backs and time changes, so I didn’t really know who was going to be playing. I was pulled into the Constellation room and was so excited when I heard the familiar psychedelic pop songs played by Mr. Elevator and The Brain Hotel. I danced so hard and probably had the most fun in that sweaty, crowded party room. I remember choosing Mac DeMarco over them at Burgerama, and missed them another time too, so I was very pleased for the non-intentional alien-like party I was abducted into.
The rest of the sets that night were amazing, with a super talented Smiths tribute band, Sweet and Tender Hooligans, great dreamy sounds from Diiv, and The Drums who filled the air with nostalgia getting ready to close the night. I danced while thinking about road trips with my closest friends when we would listen to all of Portamento on repeat.
The Growlers had the show by the end of the night and the whole crowd came out to celebrate with them. Clown-faced drag queens were overlooking the party and zebra shaped piñatas were being ripped apart by the celebrators. You never quite knew when a cardboard zebra limb would hit you in the face or when a tattooed Oompa Loompa would be dancing right next to you. Babely frontman, Brooks Nielsen had psychedelic mime makeup painted on his face and was setting off virtual fireworks and making dragons appear onto the stage with his enchanting voice and his way-too-chill-n-cool bandmates. The Growlers never fail to make me feel the best feelings, and it was the perfect way to end Beach Goth.
When the night was over, everyone was tired but still smiling and probably still high. We waited for our buses and filled them up like ghosts ready to wash the sweat away and sleep for a thousand years. Beach Goth III was unlike any other festival I’ve gone to, it’s a one of a kind party that everyone needs to attend. Until next year.