The long-awaited Beach Goth festival finally arrived last Saturday, where there was enough weirdness to satisfy veteran Beach Goth-goers and newbies alike. As Brooks Nielsen of The Growlers said in our Beach Goth cover story this week, "We always gotta up the ante so that we're satisfied. And our being satisfied means that everyone else will be."
Now in its third year, the band has certainly made good on that promise, making this third Beach Goth the biggest it's ever been. The lineup included an exciting mixture of big-artist names such as Chelsea Wolfe, GZA, Cherry Glazer, Alice Glass of Crystal Castles, Andrew Jackson Jihad and The Garden listed among newer acts like Cat Signs, Emily's Army, Broncho, and Walter TV.
The annual tradition of coming dressed in Halloween apparel brought an array of imaginative costumes; the best were those who came as fully realized characters: Edward Scissorhands, Harley Quinn, Garth from Wayne's World, Tina Burger, etc. But hey, if you came in your everyday threads, that's fine too. The worst costume offenders? Indian headdresses (I thought we were better than cultural appropriation??).
Read more: The Growlers and the Rise of Beach Goth
This collective group of weird and wonderful BG fans came together under a warm, sunny sky this past weekend. Observatory parking had its usual long lines, but parking fees were exorbitant, more than usual anyway. The $25 parking fee sent many to look for alternative lots farther away. The other, bigger pain at the event was the crowding. When we say this was the biggest Beach Goth yet, we also mean that as far as the audience attendance. Heavy human traffic blocked both entrances to the Observatory venue, making it harder for someone to jump around different stages for every other act. Many just stayed put in one stage for multiple artists and opted to miss out on others.
Despite those struggles, the music and atmosphere was never hampered; the fun house, carnival ride, and combination surf board, aliens and piñata decorations strewn around the outside gave the event a youthful, carefree feel while vendors dotted the margins of the festival grounds. Each individual stage in the Observatory featured superb aluminum and silver decor that gave the rooms a spacey ambiance; the outdoor stage featured two graffitied shacks that book-ended each musical act, an obvious homage to The Growlers' surf-bum vibe.
Earlier acts in the day set the mood just right; LA Witch brought their usual psych-rock sultriness, while Mystic Braves provided solid '60s fuzz prior to The Garden's art-punk exotica. Shannon and the Clams, dressed appropriately for the Halloween theme in their big wigs and heavy makeup played a metal song set. Newcomer Avalon played what she said was her first show, and it definitely appeared so; accompanied by her APC20, she sang along to dreamy electronic beats, but her performing isn't quite seasoned enough to be a festival act. Foxygen rocked out a groovy, psychedelic set with go-go dancing backup singers, but they were off to a bad start with some mic issues and ended way too soon.
Tijuana Panthers played in bank robber outfits in the Observatory main room, creating what must have been the house record for most stage diving and crowd-surfing at a show ever. Multitudes of audience members hopped onto railings and dividers to fly into the crowd, some even managing to run onstage and dive head first into the sea of concert goers. At the end, member Chad Wachtel tossed out dollar bills from his sack of "stolen money," casting away all perception that it was a prop this whole time.
DIIV performed their synthy shoegaze gems, however the sound quality of the live music seemed sub-par, especially considering that the time it took to set up went way too long, pushing back the next bands behind schedule. And then, like a beacon in the night, Pauly Shore came onstage to thunderous applause. "I was asked to host Lollapalooza, I said 'Fuck that.' I was asked to host Coachella and I said, 'Fuck that." I wanted to host a brand new music festival, I said I want to host Beach Goth in Orange County." He then presented The Drums onstage, who played a vibrant show of new and familiar songs to a reenergized audience.
Alice Glass came next to perform her DJ set, accompanied by two backup dancers aggressively voguing in next to nothing, except for some bondage accessories and skin-tight tops and underwear. They practically stole the show, as Glass' set, although sending the audience in a dance frenzy, seemed lacking in technical expertise and musical prowess (when you witness the sound guy teaching a DJ how to mix songs right before the show, that's a bad sign). Her set was cut early to allow The Growlers to begin on schedule, maybe for the best.
Shore came back onstage to introduce The Growlers, inviting each member to tell a brief story right before their set (really, Pauly Shore's wacky personality brought a refreshing presence to this festival, and added to the awesome bizarreness of Beach Goth). The Growlers' set began with a couple of songs played by a mariachi group, followed by The Growlers diving into their performance. The audience swayed, danced and bounced merrily, while DMTina, clad in a sparkly sequined dress danced and stagedived into the crowd, lost her wig.
Post-Growlers, the evening remained electrifying in whatever room you wandered into. Com Truise's set was eerily transcendent in the spaced-out Constellation room, while the Electric Carney Barney rave was off the walls; audience members joined the DJ onstage and excitedly danced to their hearts delight. Levitation Room, popular here in OC, finished the night with their exciting brand of psych-rock.
As wide and varied the musical guests were, so too were the types of concert goers that attended; but all were bonded through the vein of weirdness that The Growlers, and Beach Goth, represent- and celebrate. If these guys pledge to 'up the ante' of the festival every year, then it's a safe bet that next year's will continue to blow people away. But for now, let's all stay weird–and hope that Pauly Shore's schedule is open around this time next year.