(Live Review by Chriskol)
It’s 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and what should have been my initial wake-up time, became the moment of snooze button abuse and regret for having stayed out late the night before. I will reverberate back to this later on, but for now I’ve managed to pull myself away from my bed an hour later than scheduled and head out. Los Angeles traffic never ceases to amaze me no matter how long I’ve lived here (all my life), so despite slight delays and what seemed like endless miles of freeway from the Valley to Orange County, I finally made it to The Growlers’ Beach Goth 3. Of course the free parking was all taken up so I was redirected to a lot a few blocks down, which happened to be an additional $20, and the only thing I could think about was hearing Shannon and the Clams covering Metallica and realizing that I missed their whole set. Here’s where the regret part sets in. If I had only woken up an hour earlier…but it was too late for that, I had arrived.
Aside from shamefully missing out on classic Metallica songs being Clamified, the bands I was familiar with and most wanted to see were scheduled for later on in the day, so I was still sitting pretty. I took this opportunity to explore the grounds and get introduced to some new music. What I found was a myriad of counterculture kids in all their freakish glory. Aliens, goths, and ghouls—oh my! Pretty much everything that you’d expect at a music festival, I mean it would be weird if you didn’t see Sailor Moon selling band merch, right?
But wait, hold on, I have just been informed that Halloween is coming up – this must be why everyone dressed up. You mean to tell me the raccoon-eyed, all black clad, smeared red-mouthed hipster was actually a dead boy come back to life from the depths of emo hell? Psh, tell that to Robert Smith. I couldn’t tell much a part from the normative festival garb and that was the beauty of it. Where else can you get away with this stuff? Halloween or not, these are the types of degenerates that give these music festivals their life, their essence. Rows of vendors circled the grounds along with a fun house and carnival boat ride that amalgamated to create the very type of playful atmosphere that most festivals are striving for these days.
There were a ton of people present that made maneuvering between the three stages a little overwhelming, and to be quite honest, it was almost a little unsettling. It’s easy to get caught up in the gimmickry and forget that the foremost, primal reason to even be standing there in the first place amongst the piñata strung trees and 20-foot, inflatable Gumby is the music, of course.
I hung around the Beach Goth stage (located outdoors) upon first arriving to the festival, and stumbled upon the electronically drenched Atlas Sound (Bradford Cox’s solo project), and French psyche-punk gender-benders, La Femme. As enjoyable as these two were, I still didn’t feel completely ensconced within the music. That is, until I made my way into the Observatory (located indoors). What I’m about to say next may sound like some cheesy exaggeration of a transcendent moment, but I swear the minute the Tijuana Panthers took the stage my previously unsettled nerves were instantly calmed. No less, this odd sense of tranquility surprisingly arose amidst the utter chaos of the crowd that usually ensues during their rough and tumble sets. Dressed-up as a band of bandits, the Tijuana Panthers stole the show and my heart (okay that was cheesy). These Long Beach natives never cease to amaze with their surf-punk swag, and no matter how many times one may see them, it always feels like the first time. Throwing fake, Mexican cash in the air with their faces rightfully centered on it, they ended their set like the true valiants that they are.
After some schedule changes that really didn’t sit well with most people, the Andrew Jackson Jihad went up. I had never heard of this band before and I seriously felt like I was the odd one out because everyone went completely teenage, fan-girl crazy when they walked onstage. Dripping with folk influence and what I can only describe as what New Found Glory sounded like in ’04, they were lively and interactive. Their songs were fun and catchy with surprising social-political messages that you don’t normally find in today’s music. They were great and the crowd was enamored and almost cried for an encore. I was pleasantly pleased but kept thinking when the hell was Bleached going to go up?
Finally, my long awaited Valley babes were next. Three hot cops and one jailer drummer later, Bleached had delivered a typically energized performance that, much to my dismay, was tragically cut short. I would assume something prevented them from fulfilling the 30-minute time slot (though I’m unsure what exactly), as from lead singer, Jennifer Clavin, stated that this was “the most stressful show ever.” SIX SONGS ARE NOT ENOUGH GUYS. Oh well, at least they covered a Misfits classic “Last Caress,” though even this wouldn’t fully make up for the fact that the crowd wanted so much more. No, needed more. But alas, we will definitely be meeting again.
The next artist was by far the most notable of the night. Ladies and gentleman: it was GZA!!!! Wu-Tang Clan veteran, Gary Grice (aka “The Genius”), was there right before our very eyes. When I first saw his name on the bill I thought, “GZA? From Wu-Tang? No way. What post-punk, OC band is this G.Z.A.?” And even after arriving to Beach Goth and seeing some people with Wu-Tang memorabilia did I still failed to piece it together. But alas, it was him! And thank God for that because he absolutely slayed the crowd with his liquid sword, and we were eating up every second of it. How exactly GZA made it into the line-up is beyond me, but honestly I was just glad that he was, as it was such a strange, yet welcome change from the alternative music that dominated the schedule. He provided such an incredible breath of raw, unhampered, classic hip-hop, which was truly a treat for everyone who made his set. And he not only performed his solo work but brought out Masta Killa to help with a few classic Wu-Tang hits (which knocked everyone da fuck out), and they even paid a tribute to the late and great ODB with a “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” cover! It was pure heaven guys; pure, killer bee heaven.
The night ended back at the Beach Goth stage and I was lucky enough to catch the last of Alice Glass’ set. Despite being fresh off her Crystal Castles break-up, she was a lovely, glimmering speck of electro-goth magnetism that performed in impressive fashion.
Curse my luck, but no more than 10 minutes from the time I got out there, Alice huffed right off the stage. This was the second time! And again, I have no clue what happened. To make matters worse, Beach Goth host Pauly Shore (yes, that Pauly Shore) tried to make light of the situation, but only ended up making it kind of awkward instead. But then again, would you expect anything more from Pauly Shore? It was surely a bummer, but the show must go on and eventually wrap up, and in this case, the fellas who made this whole event possible took the stage for the grand finale. Introduced by an authentic mariachi band perfect for Dia De Los Muertos, the Growlers were such a spectacle, consisting of the most performers I’ve ever seen onstage at one time, and as they partied, the rest of us joined in the festivities below them. What strength was left in me at that point I gave freely to the Growlers, and even though I had seen them once before, this was different. Maybe it was because it seemed as if it summed up the entirety of the day and the enormity of the effort that was put into this spectacle.
To all the rejects and the weirdos, to all the bands and performers and to the music, none of this would be possible without each and every one of you. I salute you. Until next year, Beach Gothers!