By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Lowlights from our incredibly demoralizing rawkenroll weekend: the Fireants putting on one hell of an amazing, ball-breaking, seat-climbing show at the Orange Coast College Science Lecture Hall on Friday to a depressingly skimpy crowd that couldn't have numbered more than 25; feeling Acme Bomb Factory's pain and anxiety later that night at Java Lanes, during the dramatic moments when they struggled to locate a replacement for a busted kick-drum pedal (they found one, then whupped ass, so it all worked out); the boat ride we took to the Catalina Island Blues Festival on Saturday (was it the motion of the ocean that left us feeling positively puke-o-rific, or was it the equally nauseating band onboard that seemed to only know Grand Funk Railroad covers?), then reaching the fest site only to be met by the antiseptic Robben Ford, who couldn't possibly have made the blues any whiter—or duller.
So, yeah, our expectations were high for Beach Fest; they were made even more impossibly unattainable by a mysteriously acquired cracked tooth—so much for that roasted corn on the cob. It didn't help that the first band we paid attention to was Anyone, whose cheese-metal guitarist slid his instrument between his legs and stroked the neck like he was going for the gold in the Monkey Spank Olympics. We tried to scrawl only about bands we liked, a huge challenge since there was just so much stuff going on that live music seemed almost secondary to the info booths, the bikini contest, the chili cook-off, the cop who asked if the gentleman at the Live Bait booth could be so kind as to remove his face from that young lady's crotch, and at least one gnarly fistfight (blood was gushing outta the guy's nose! And this was way before the Vandals played!).
Melting Pot were all right; they were a fun, reggae-tinged, hook-laden, sunshiney band that felt perfect for the Beach Fest occasion. We appreciated "Living in America," a paean to the bill-paying working class, which we could sure relate to. It was just hard to look at them, what with their animated front man's piercingly loud orange shorts. The Ataris bleated out boisterous, sing-along power punk, even though they seemed like such blatant Vandals pretenders at times. Hit Rock Bottom, like several other bands, were smart for circumventing the Beach Fest bookers, renting out their own booth, and playing all day long without having to concern themselves with set times. Given their punk attitude, it's too bad their music never rose above standard bar-band funk, though we're sure it's good music to (at the risk of sounding grossly heterosexual) "scam chicks" to. Pinwheel seemed a bit more carefree and relaxed than when we saw them at South by Southwest, and not just because they went without their usual suits-and-ties wardrobe. Maybe it was because they were playing in front of their hometown crowd, but their buzzy-guitar pop chords felt more fluid, loose and just-plain-enjoyable on this afternoon. Maybe they should just never leave Cali. World Tribe's lively ska/jazz/reggae grooves gave off gloriously positive vibrations, but they petered away whenever they tried to pull off hip-hop, which left a bad, trendy aftertaste in our mouths. Jughead's Revenge took it away, though, with their deliciously punky send-up of Elvis tunes (dubbed "Hellvis," appropriately enough) and their incredibly zippy slam tune, "Fuck Shit Up," which made us yearn to be young and in the pits again. Assorted Jellybeans were quite the shit, too, especially zesty during "Wiggerside," probably our fave tune of theirs. Though their sound cut out just as they were peaking, they're punk rock, so they played anyway. Isouljahs, a reggae band, were—well, a reggae band. Really, we can't say much more than that. As long as they remained faithful to the Skank, no one really cared. They were good, all about positivity, Marley, Rasta, ganja, Jah—you know, all that stuff. One day, though, we'd like to hear a reggae song about killing your parents and fucking their corpses—just to be different! Yeah! Death reggae! A new subgenre!
"Do you plan on slamming?" asked the chesty young woman standing next to us just before the Vandals' set.
"Um, no, we actually kinda like the Vandals," we replied, "and don't think we'll write nasty things about 'em. How did you know we're rock critics? Is it that obvious?"
"No—slamming—you know. Can I jump on your . . . shoulders?"
And so it was that we were saved from yet another embarrassing breeder encounter by the Vandals' take on "Summer Nights," which kicked off their stoopidly sooperb set. It's probably one of the greatest guilty-pleasure summer anthems ever, and the Vandals basically took John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's sugary tune and puréed it. Everything else in their greatest-hits set was equally enthralling:"Oi to the World," "The Legend of Pat Brown," "Live Fast Diarrhea" (which Joe Escalante dedicated to the chili, natch). They played real punk rock to save the day from the snaggly jowls of mediocrity. And speaking of mediocrity . . . well, we guess that's what Hed—we'll pass on the pretentious lowercase letters and parentheses in their name—was for. They were more of that forced-rage, guttural, hardcore-meets-hip-hop shtick that's the big, boring trend right now. According to these boys, they played "some real punk-rock shit, bitch!"