Photo by Matt OttoI'm sipping a cup of mango juice mixed witha ShotPak of thrice-distilled grain vodka and staring at a five-foot-tall painting filled with unicorns, teddy bears and random, bearded, bodiless heads when I realize something: it's Jerry. Those iridescent white dashes toward the bottom? They're his beard. Those luminous lavender orbs I mistook for crystal balls? His glasses, obviously. Which means that those bodiless heads? They're the rest of the Grateful Dead, floating in Jer's man-mane along with smiley-face flowers, fluorescent rainbows, squiggly peace signs and canoeing Jerry bears.

Aw, Laguna Beach: that bitchen city by the sea where the things we scoff at everywhere else in the world—like hippies and pastels and acid-trip homages to a man who's been dead for a decade—somehow don't seem so much ridiculous as kinda beautiful—worthy of their own five-foot-tall painting, maybe—and all because Laguna lacks the one thing that makes the rest Orange County such a hoot to observe: irony.

There's never been much room for irony in Laguna Beach—how could there be, in a city where folk-art junk is literally its most cherished treasure?—and there especially wasn't room for it at a do-good event like the Blue Water Music Festival, Surfrider's first annual benefit held at the Festival of the Arts on Feb. 5. And so, for a day, my snarkiness hung back at home in Anaheim, and I didn't feel guilty for liking this Dead Head's paintbrush ruminations—as well as the other artists' varied renderings of Rastafarians, surfers and, um, Herbie Hancock. Even the music—"Eww! They're a bunch of crappy Laguna bands!" squealed Commie Lady—was actually, well, very good.

Among other much-lauded acts Just Jinger and Common Sense, there was Missiles of October, whose bluesy pop songs kept the Birkenstock-ensconced toes of those waiting in the line at the free munchies table—featuring prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, mushroom aphrodisiac broth and delish fried wontons topped with mango (or maybe papaya?) chutney—tapping, and whose nitty-gritty guest soul singer made even the most pubescent, know-it-all skater kids stop and kick up their boards in awe. Later, after the sunset dropped a heavy chill on the crowd, came the blissed-out, perfectly preserved '70s California AM gold from the members of Honk, who at times sounded like Laguna's very own version of Fleetwood Mac and whose Carole King-esque female singer had every former flower child in the audience boogying to the point of exhaustion during a cover of "Heat Wave."

Never mind that were I to have seen the same antics at, say, a Steely Dan show at Verizon Wireless—which I have—I would roll my eyes, cackle loudly and then, in return for having to witness it all, attempt to bum a contact high from one of them—which I did. That's Irvine. This was Laguna. This time, I was on their turf. Instead of begging my friend to kill me, I asked him to dance. And granted, our dancing consisted of silly, self-conscious steps in the shadows, 50 feet from the stage and everybody else, but hey—there's always next year, right?

Subbed! correspondent checksin from a dark parking lot in Costa Mesa: "RVCA's opening party was one of those teasers for the real after-hours deal—had to be when the kegs tapped hollow at 11 p.m., though it was nice how the 15-minute dry-up warning cut through the crowd—but there were still all kinds of little histories being made. Like the first time we ever spotted Mark the Cobrasnake east of the 605; too bad Frankie and Steve weren't there, else we could have had our own little exotic Cinespace-expatriate drinking circle. And ex-Aquabats (classy in mufti) guys slinking past the guy who owned the sponsoring vodka company; Matt Costa playing pet Bob Dylan for the bro-dawg set; even some guy in the crowd inadvertently but nonetheless accurately parroting our Hey-Is-That-Paris-Hilton? bit from the Moving Units show in December ('Hey, is that Paris Hilton? Oh, wait, is THAT Paris Hilton?'). 'Man, why am I standing here listening to bands when I could be picking up on girls?' someone says; sure thing, and there was some art there, too, inside, away from the bands and the booze. Guarantee you by 11:30, there was a pile of drunks with skunk dye jobs tripping over doorjambs from Detroit to Memphis. Good start for a Friday night."


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