Graveyard Smash: Getting Freaky at Beach Goth
Costumes, cosmic tunes, and getting carried away at the fourth annual gathering of the ghouls in Orange County.
Halloween came early this year for hundreds of pigeon-toed miscreants. The Growlers’ fourth Beach Goth party at the Orange County Observatory was a veritable menagerie of ageless adolescence; for one weekend only, thousands agreed to trade in their disaffection for the fleeting dumb joys of homemade costumes and loud music. And while some partygoers howled in agony from the purgatory of the ticket line, shapely superheroes flew past a waiting Jesus and the entire cast of The Addams Family as they headed toward the stages. Although most of the Mia Wallaces were making their way toward the slow-churning psychedelia of Pursons, many more people staggered over to catch SWMRS, who entertained the liveliest group of skeletons since their appearance at Paris Fashion Week.
Tokyo’s 18.104.22.168’s played catchy tunes for the deep-pocketed fans perusing the gallery of merch tables, where you could buy anything from Burger Records buttons to Jamaican incense to a personal consultation with a Satanist, while off in the distance, RiFF RaFF shook his braids and flashed his shimmering teeth to the extraterrestrial strains of “I’m Flyin’” and “Tip Toe Wing In My Jawwdinz.”
But any chill vibes were completely choked out by together PANGEA’s set of neurotic rock and roll. Frontman William Keegan screamed under a mask of white face-paint to the delight of a pogoing Peter Pan. But before the crowd could catch their breath, another painted face stole the show as Monkey and the rest of The Adicts took the stage. Turkey vultures were flying overhead, but punk’s not dead yet, my friend. Didn’t you see everyone singing along to “Chinese Takeaway” and “Viva la Revolution”?
Inside The Observatory, Mr. Twin Sister exorcised our woes and possessed our hips with celestial sounds and rhythms, and we were all learning to ride this speedball of a schedule: you see one band to mellow out and catch another to pick yourself up, and the next band on the upswing were the neoprene’d Aquabats. MC Bat Commander spit literal hot fire during the group’s set, but the highlight of their performance was a cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” which inspired a massive singalong beneath a hail of bouncing black beach balls.
After coming down with Warpaint, we wandered toward Dungen, who mesmerized the crowd with their twelve-string-guitars, silver flutes, and Nordic brand of psychedelic prog rock. Some stuck around after the set to pogo, crowd surf, and sweat along to The Subhumans, and as singer Dick Lucas gnashed his teeth through songs like “Mickey Mouse is Dead,” others took the opportunity to venture down to the small stage to watch the amazing live reenactment of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But most of the creepy crawlies ran toward the main stage to welcome that most beloved Canadian, Mac DeMarco.
DeMarco and his band delighted the crowd with mellow numbers like “Chamber of Reflection” and “Ode to Viceroy,” but despite their love, a surprisingly large number of little horrors peeled away from the crowd and made their way back inside to pay tribute to rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson. Werewolves howled as Wanda yodeled and belted out songs to the adoring crowd, and as soon as that pink-blazered siren left the stage, everyone bolted back through the doors to stake out a proper vantage point for Grimes.
The girls in Grimes costumes could hardly keep up with the real thing as she danced and skipped around stage singing new songs from her upcoming album Art Angels. Toward the end of her set, a few nimble-minded fans snuck off to watch Eagles of Death Metal, who definitely won the award for best rock outfit. The crowd threw adulations, bras, and themselves at Jesse Hughes as he reminded them that “This ain’t fucking Hollywood!”
But as the distortion cut out on the end of that set, the entire cast of monsters, goblins, and space aliens shuffled as a group to the main stage to catch the most anticipated band of the party: The Growlers.
Dressed in skeleton suits, the band took the stage to the biggest crowd of the night, and singer Brooks Nielsen joked and prodded them between numbers. The partygoes looked to be in a state of total bliss; even Batman and The Joker put aside their differences and sang along to “Row” and “Good Advice.” Alas, with time running out on the night, the band bid the crowd adieu and peeled themselves away from the stage, and while some of the vibrant remnants of the night went inside to catch Sir Mix-a-Lot and the Toro y Moi after party, most dragged their hooves across the parking lot and made their way home in order to rest up and rehydrate for Day Two.
On the second day of the festival, partygoers seemed more confident in their costumes and even bolder in their tactics for sneaking in contraband (“No, sir. That’s not a flask in my waist—that’s just my colostomy bag”), but with plenty of people presumably recovering from the night before, the crowd was visibly thinner on Sunday, which meant slightly more room and significantly better vantage points for Mystic Braves, DIIV, and The Coathangers. But the biggest crowd of the afternoon was for Juicy J, who performed Three 6 Mafia hits like “Sippin’ on Some Sizzurp” and “Stay Fly,” and who passed around blunts and bottles of Hennessy to fans begging for a taste.
But the calming effects of drugs and alcohol didn’t last long, as FIDLAR took the stage and revved up driving numbers like “West Coast” and “Cheap Beer.” Frontman Zac Carper howled into the mic as Leeloo from The Fifth Element sang along and crowdsurfed with the help of Frankenstein and his loyal wife.
Later, Julian Casablancas + The Voidz brightened the day with songs like “Human Sadness” and “Where No Eagles Fly.” And true to form, he threw himself into the crowd and shared singing duties with fans in the throes of total Voidomania.
Master of Ceremonies Pauly Shore reminded us not to wheeze the juice before introducing the illustrious Die Antwoord, and it wasn’t long before the South African group had everyone dancing and screaming and taking whatever drugs they had left, because it did not seem possible that in this small industrial park in Orange County you’d be hearing Ninja and Yolandi performing “I Fink U Freeky” and “Ugly Boy.” Nevertheless, they were there and they even brought out their daughter, Sixteen, who performed an interpretive dance to The Weeknd’s “Earned It.”
And for the second night in a row, The Growlers emerged from the recesses of the stage, but this time with silver-painted faces and denim that made them look like Martians honkytonkers. Even though their fans wouldn’t have cared either way, The Growlers were gracious enough to play an entirely new set of songs, even bringing Casablancas back onstage to help with a cover of The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” And although it didn’t work the first night, the crowd still tried to beg The Growlers to stay and keep playing until Monday.
If you had a job to go to on Monday, you probably slunk away to the parking lot, but if you didn’t have one or just didn’t care, you might have gone back inside to catch Night Beats and their reverberating set of rock and roll. But around 10 p.m., something strange happened.
Witnesses, including your humble reporter, saw a flash of light in the sky followed by the sound of a busted subwoofer off in the distance. Then overhead and beyond the trees, a massive spaceship double parked and let down a beam of white light, penetrating the ceiling of The Observatory and depositing George Clinton and Parliament–Funkadelic on stage. Despite the entire crowd being on their last legs, they used those legs to dance along with the Mothership Connection through “P-Funk” and the universally adored “Atomic Dog.” And then, before the intergalactic police could paper their spaceship with parking tickets, Clinton and rest of Parliament said bon voyage and disappeared, taking Beach Goth 4 with them. FL