There are a handful of hard truths a band learns to accept when becoming a successful touring act. One of them is that the majority of festival gigs suck ass. Most fans jumping up and down in the pit are probably wondering how that could be. After all, rock stars complaining about playing for thousands of fans does sound a tad ungrateful. To hear bassist Jon Jameson of Delta Spirit speak on it (or just about any musician for that matter), that's the part most worth getting out of bed for.
"Festivals are usually not very fun for bands," says the bearded, long-haired San Diego native. "And I can't even imagine being an attendee at a festival. It's just, like, noise assaults and shitty food and no vibe, and the bands are just all over the place."
This year, instead of slogging through yet another megafest, Delta Spirit chose to use their clout and resources to create their own event. But it won't be a smorgasbord of 30 random acts. It's designed to be something loud and exciting yet thoughtfully curated, communal and, above all, local. As Jameson says, Saturday's Outpost Fest is meant to be "rad."
"The food's gonna be rad; the beer's gonna be rad," he says. "The bands are all gonna be rad. That was really the beginning of [Outpost]. It was just us saying, 'How can we make a festival that we'd actually want to go to and be super-proud of?'"
The principles of radness as defined by Delta Spirit are what guide the one-day event in downtown Santa Ana. Choosing the lineup, securing specific local vendors and deciding the overall vibe of the festival have been a welcome challenge for Jameson and company--even though they only had three months to pull it together. "It did sort of come out of nowhere. Our drummer, Brandon [Young], and Jon Reiser [formerly of Detroit Bar and the Observatory] were having beers one night and just started saying, 'Why don't we have our own festival?'" Jameson says. Naturally, OC felt like the place to do it.
Celebrating their 10th year of making music together, Delta Spirit's howling, teeth-gnashing brand of bluesy, rock & roll Americana got its start bouncing back and forth down the 5 freeway between San Diego and OC. Even after releasing their third full-length album, Into the Wide, along with dozens of major opportunities and big tours, the band agree their raucous nights at Detroit Bar in the mid-2000s are a big part of what made them great.
"I'd say the most exciting and important shows happened at Detroit Bar," Jameson says. "That's where our relationship with [Reiser] started, and he was always really cool to us. So we just made this connection to the community in OC."
Outpost headliners Cold War Kids helped Delta Spirit get their first taste of the national spotlight by taking them on the road. So it seems a fitting gesture that Matt Maust, bassist/artist for the Fullerton/Long Beach-bred band, designed the first billboard and posters for the event. "In another setting, where some random promoter who doesn't know the band is putting random bands on festivals, you can't have a natural relationship like that," Jameson says. "It allows you to create cool things."
The lineup includes Long Beach compatriots Tijuana Panthers; New York-based rock group Guards (featuring former members of Anaheim's garage rockers the Willowz); dream-pop vets Blonde Redhead; Brooklyn indie rockers Beach Fossils; and the Mynabirds, an indie pop band from Omaha, Nebraska. A trim eight-band bill left room for only those bands they know as friends or comrades on the road. Tijuana Panthers bassist Daniel Michicoff even briefly roomed with a few members of Delta Spirit, Jameson says.
When it came time to select vendors, the same all-in-the-family philosophy applied. "It's just reaching out to our fans and bands that we love through socials," Jameson says. "We have a good relationship with Lagunitas, so they're doing the beer." Food trucks such as Santa Ana's Dos Chinos, Chunk-N-Chip, the Grilled Cheese Truck, Burger Monster, Poke Hut, We Heart Froyo, and Ragin Cajun will be parked and ready to serve.
The band have also enlisted their friend who runs cool dry-goods store Individual Medley in LA to curate a pop-up shop. Young's brother, a builder of custom motorcycles, has even donated some bikes for display.
Delta Spirit and the other organizers of the fest have been pretty much glued to Outpost Fest for the past three months. Which means the band haven't had much time to work on music, though the geography also gets in their way. Two guys live in New York, singer Matt Vasquez lives in Austin, Jameson lives in LA, and Young lives in the mountains near Big Bear. "So we're about as spread out as possible," Jameson says.
Though no full band rehearsals for the new record have happened yet, whatever small amount of time they're afforded between parenthood, married life and festival logistics is being spent creating separately. The last time we saw them onstage was their big homecoming show at the Observatory, which featured a rotating cast of friends including Matt Costa, Sam Outlaw and members of Young the Giant. Since then, Vasquez recently released a solo offering, The Austin EP, and is currently on a string of residencies between San Diego, LA and Santa Ana's Festival Hall--just down the street from where Outpost happens. Reiser has been helping promote those shows as well.
As for when Delta Spirit will block out time to record a proper record, it's anyone's guess. "We'll probably just Airbnb a cabin in Montana and go out for two weeks," Jameson says half-jokingly. "It's just about finding those times to carve out and be really focused and also be independently creative and just bring it all together."
It's possible that leaving something such as Outpost Fest in someone else's care might afford them more time to get busy on new material. Then again, that's never really been their style. The decision to be hands-on, with all the madness that accompanies it, is what fuels them to tear a piece of music to shreds and reconstruct something twice as good in its place.
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"It would be way quicker to let one person take the reins completely, but that's kinda what makes us special," Jameson says. "We make space for these frustrating arguments that end up creating really special moments. So hopefully what Outpost Fest is is a frustrating argument that just makes for one insanely rad day."
Outpost Fest, featuring Cold War Kids, Delta Spirit, Tijuana Panthers, Beach Fossils, Guards and the Mynabirds, on Bush and Fifth streets, Santa Ana; outpostfest.com. Sat., 2-11 p.m. $40-$80. All ages.