Every 15-20 years, Orange County blows up in an eruption of young bands. Young bands who become tastemakers for the rest of the country, their generation and indeed, the world. What is it about Orange County that spawns these movements? Is it the suburban setting and overflow of empty garages, which demand to be filled with a clutter of amps, guitars, drum kits and the smell of weed? It definitely isn’t that simple. There are suburbs, empty garages and weed all across this country, but none of these other places so consistently churn out such impactful music, if ever.
Bands like The Growlers, along with enterprising and creative young business men like Sean and Lee at Burger Records, and John Reiser (owner) and Jeff Shuman (talent buyer) at the Observatory in Santa Ana — are not only making, releasing and promoting great music — they are redefining the music industry. The DIY, low budget business model of recording on two-inch tape, limited edition releases of cassettes and vinyl and the non-stop tour schedule of these bands have brought the business back to the love of music first, and turning a dollar second. There is nothing more appealing to discerning, young audiophiles and aficionado’s than authenticity.
I fell in love with this young, burgeoning scene a couple years ago when a friend of mine turned me onto the band FIDLAR, which in turn, exposed me to Burger Records and subsequently led me on many a music pilgrimage to the Observatory in Santa Ana. Yesterday, on Saturday October 25th, I made yet another excursion south of Los Angeles to check out Beach Goth 3. This annual festival is not only the brainchild of The Growlers but also, the name they gave their genre of music which they coined years ago, partly in jest. It is a fitting moniker for the sun and surf soaked, sometimes sad mood of music that is blowing up all over the world at this very moment.
Don’t get it twisted though. The lineup of Beach Goth 3 stretches well beyond the county limits of Orange County and stretches much further than the LSD laden, surf/psychedelic sound of The Growlers. From Shannon Shaw in Oakland, to Alice Glass from Toronto, La Femme from France, all the way to the unlikely perfect fit of one of Wu-Tang Clan founding members, GZA out of Brooklyn. It is by FAR, the most interesting festival lineup I have seen, maybe ever. And Daddy has seen a lot of festivals.
I arrived at the Observatory just in time to check out the last few songs of The Garden set on the main stage. These young, identical twin brothers are pioneers of style and sound. I can’t help but hear a bit of P.i.L. in their music but even with that tinge of familiarity, their sound is all their own. Later in the evening, in the confusion of shuffling set times, their other band, Enjoy played the Observatory stage in place of Cherry Glazerr who were late, coming straight off the plane from playing the Burger Caravan of Stars cross country tour. I loved the band Enjoy as well. When Cherry Glazerr did finally take the stage five hours after their scheduled set time, they did not disappoint, nor did they seem tired by the major amount of travel they just completed. Costumes were encouraged amongst attendees and performers of Beach Goth and Clementine sported her Kill Bill, Beatrix Kiddo uniform while Hannah had a schoolgirl outfit and Sean looked like a gunslinging Mariachi from the old west.
The only negative thing I can say about Beach Goth 3 was that with the ever shuffling set times, it was almost impossible to know who was playing where and at what time. Unfortunatley, I missed a few bands I really wanted to see.
I did get a chance to see Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams play an entire set of old Metallica songs, clad in her James Hetfield mullet wig and moustache. It was billed as Shannon and the Clams but Cody did not play in the band for this one even though he was in attendance at the show. Every track they played pre-dated the Black Album. I could not have been more impressed by the selection of songs or the execution of them. Sure, there were a couple of forgotten parts and minor miscues but it sounded amazing and led to one of the most angry and violent pits I’ve seen at a show in the scene. This was the setlist:
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Hit The Lights
Seek and Destroy
Fade to Black
Trapped Under Ice
Master of Puppets
Shannon & The Clams
I was able to catch a piece of Bleached and their set. I was blown away by their cover of The Misftis’ “Hybrid Moments” and also their tightness as a band. I have seen them a couple times now and they never miss a step. There is a great chemistry in this band and they, like The Garden, are a band of siblings, Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, along with Micayla Grace.
There were a couple tantrums amongst performers. Sam France of Foxygen appeared to be having issues with either security or a fan as evidenced by him punching and kicking the air in front of him. I got to their set a bit late and was a bit far back but it was a bit hard to see what was happening but he looked pissed. I think the aggression fed the beast as Foxygen unleashed a powerful set of glam punk on an overflowing crowd.
Alice Glass (of Crystal Castles), frustrated by a shortened set, brushed some of her DJ equipment off the table, smashing to the floor of the stage after unleashing a blistering hardcore DJ set of techno. Her set featured a couple of flamboyant, male dancers that were effortlessly beckoning to the crowd with their asses in some type of choreographed, downward dog. I am dying to see what she does with her career now that Crystal Castles broke up earlier this month.
Other notable acts were The Drums, DIIV, Andrew Jackson Jihad and old school punk outfit, The Spits who showed some of these young guns how to banter, feedback and be belligerent.
With so many great bands, The Growlers were still the most anticipated band of the night and for good reason. Their set was incredible. The texture and richness of Brooks Nielson’s voice and the amazing energy amongst the band was unmatched on this day. The stage was overflowing with friends. The crowd was overflowing with fans. The speakers were overflowing with their incredible sound. The best moment for me was when they played “Empty Bones” which is still haunting me today and annoying all those around me who have to hear me singing it, not quite as well as Brooks.
In years past, it was the party people of Orange County making the trip to L.A. to see fresh, new bands. If you frequented this venue 10 years ago, which is now called the Observatory but once called the Galaxy Theater, you would be treated to cover bands and drunken, middle aged professionals and divorcee’s blowing off steam and dealing with a mid life crisis. Now, it is the epicenter of new music; not just in California but the entire country.
Los Angeles has the Echo / Echoplex. While they are comparable in the caliber and freshness of the acts they book, the raw exuberance of the youth of Orange County trumps the typical L.A. hipsters that cross their arms at shows and don’t dance. Even with generation-after-generation of young bands coming out of the O.C., they no longer have to drive up to L.A. to play a show of significant consequence. They can stay right here at home and play to fans who are eating up and enjoying all the new music they can get their hands on. Beach Goth 3 was a powerful festival that might not have worked as well anywhere else but The Observatory in Orange County.
Words: Danny Baraz
Photography: Monique Hernandez
Want more photos of all the bands and crazy fans? Check out the photo gallery below!