First and foremost, the Burgerama at the Observatory in Santa Ana is a music festival cluttered with teens and college kids, and I have NEVER been to a festival so tightly curated and audience pleasing. From the easy access to the highway and lots of free parking, to the short lines and cordial security/festival workers, Burgerama 4 was a breeze and a positive experience from start-to-finish. As a veteran of dozens of festivals, I was genuinely surprised how music, food and drinks were easily and cheaply available, impressive. And to say the crowd skewed young would be a massive understatement, my estimation was that 95 percent of the attendees were under 25. A lot of bands were “sweet” and a lot of kids were “stoked”, and all that was perfect because the bands on Saturday were essentially the soundtrack to a day in the life of a Southern Californian teen.
The setup was like your typical festival. A large outdoor stage (Rama) and an indoor at The Observatory, and then a second (smaller) indoor stage at the adjacent Constellation Room. The Constellation Room was always so packed that it was impossible to get in mid-set. I love this idea because often the rock we all love so much is designed for the darkness and sometime bands are totally off their game playing in the middle of the day surrounded by sunshine.
We first arrived and saw Atlanta’s Coathangers playing on the outdoor Rama stage. Front-woman Julia Kugel plays off a dressed-all-in-black detached cool, somewhere between Lou Reed and Marc Bolan. The Coathangers play garage-y, one-liner rock that plays up the jokey side of early rock and punk. Kugel’s between song banter was hilarious and endearing and the band rocked hard not unlike fellow Georgians the Black Lips. VERY COOL.
Next, inside at The Observatory Stage, the four-piece drone rock band, Cosmonauts were packing the house. I consider Cosmonauts one of the two great discoveries of the day. Although Grimy Goods has covered Cosmonauts numerous times, this was my first Cosmonauts experience. This local Fullerton band was a fully realized idea from the moment they hit the stage. Rooted by a tight and original rhythm section, Cosmonauts’ dual guitar/singers never over overlapped, when one was screaming, the other whispered; when one wailed, the other strummed. In the crowd, I heard a great quote “those guys got each other’s’ back.” Musically, the fact that each guy never did what his partner did, made the sound big, but not labored. Mission accomplished, guys.
Next, back outside to the big stage for together PANGEA. If there is a band made for an outside fest of California teens, it’s together PANGEA. These guys were not afraid of sunlight and turned the Rama stage into a big beach party. Their sound lays somewhere between the fertile crescent of the Gilman St./Bay area punk of the 80s/90s, and the garage pop of Ty Segall. But please understand that their snotty, energetic rock is super, super catchy. I was able to sing along to every chorus by the second time it came around. Lot’s of “hey! hos!” and fist pumping and lots of moshing and crowdsurfing (something I have to admit, I dint see much of any more). Super fun for the kids.
After all that testosterone, I thought it would be a good idea to go inside and check out the psych band Tomorrows Tulips on the Observatory stage. Unfortunately, the psych was too light with the Tulips. There was an overall feeling of meticulousness that doesn’t gibe with that kind of trance-y vibe that I prefer in my space jams.
So, back outside for Bleached. I had seen Bleached relatively recently in a club and was blown away, but they are one of the bands that lend itself towards late nights and bad decisions and their set was playing in the hottest, sunniest part of the day. Their very short set was cool, but I prefer them in a club. But kudos to Bleached for kicking it outside in not the easiest of circumstances.
Bleached was followed up by one of my other sweet, sweet surprises, Cherry Glazerr. Again, Grimy Goods has been covering these kids since their debut, but as my first time seeing them perform live, I got a lot more than I ever expected. Yes, singer Clementine Creevy is 18 and yes, they’ve only been a band for a short while but their clever, melodies, rhythms and musical breaks were that of expert writers and players. Even when the band would transition to high octane punk, Creevy’s melodies were complex and memorable. The band flipped back-and-forth between moodier mid tempo and punkier jabs. I was totally impressed.
Gang of Four
Next up Gang of Four. I had seen them last week at the El Rey Theatre. Their Burgerama set was very similar, but much shorter. Gang of Four is not necessarily a festival band. They can be a little intimidating and not very fun. These guys gave a classic performance and when they played old numbers, their influence on the current crop of indie kids was obvious as thousands of kids sang along.
Beach Fossils is a fun band perfect for festival kids. Part of that current Brooklyn Captured Tracks scene with bands like DIIV and Heavenly Beat (lots of poppy, but long songs and goofy baseball hats under long hair). Fossil’s frontman, Dustin Payseur writes great catchy tunes. His really charismatic and and friendly stage persona, is a clear reason as to why kids go crazy for Beach Fossils. The band’s mellow vibe was a perfect daytime come down before the nighttime brought back the rock (and the beats)!
Speaking of beats, I went inside to check out Tobacco, a band I have seen many times live. Front man Thomas Fec, created a spooky and opaque electronic wash of menacing beats and busy sound effects. There is a lot going on in Tobacco’s music and I’m not sure that the sound mix helped. Fec’s music requires super crisp sound and there was a lot of middle end mush in the mix. However, as the set got longer, the music got a little simpler and the crowd started to respond by turning the pit into a dance floor. Unfortunately, a few songs in, there was a technical glitch and they had to stop early.
Back to the Rama stage, for the kings of suburban teen punk, FIDLAR. The band stands on the shoulders of their pop punk fathers with a dash of classic rock and even some pop metal thrown in. Singer Elvis Kuehn is the classic Southern California kid: commanding the stage with his cool, relaxed demeanor, but what the kids came for was the hooks. Every song had the entire crowd singing along and fist pumping and moshing and all the things a music festival crowd in Santa Ana would do. These guys added hard rock riffs to the classic So Cal Blink 182 formula to make sure that nobody was left out of the fun. Interesting note, the crowd thinned out a little after they finished. A little surprising considering the headliner was next.
And that brings us to Weezer. To say that this crowd grew up on Weezer songs like lullabies is not being disingenuous. Weezer is smart enough to play the hits and nothing but the hits, and these kids knew the hits. Every song, whether from the Blue Album or Back to the Shack, was sung along at high volumes. The fact that Weezer are old enough to be the parents of almost every ticket holder made zero difference. In fact, Rivers Cuomo brought out his dad to play drums on one song and the crowd went bananas! Weezer gave a solid, note-for-note performances of almost every classic Weezer tune and closed with none other than “Buddy Holly”.
And with the sing-along over, everyone exhaustedly slid to their cars and disappeared back to Cal State Fullerton and their Mom’s house satiated and happy.
Words by Stephe Psi-X
Photography: Monique Hernandez
Bass Drum Of Death
Gang of Four
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