All Photos Boston Lynn Schulz
“This is a fucking cool festival,” Patti Smith’s description could not have been more fitting. The first day of Beach Goth saw music ranging from Latin death metal, to pop punk to 90s R&B – and the lack of beachy-ness and gothy-ness only made the first day that much more memorable.
The start and end of the day could not have been more different. The first band, Brujeria, a death metal group combined theatrics and intensity to create one of the most memorable performances of the day. Things like, “Fuck Donald Trump” being chanted and a song set to the tune of the “Macarena” with “marijuana” in its place were highlights of this set. If the concertgoer was unconvinced of just how hardcore they were, rested atop a Mexican flag was a fake severed head and the lead singer, when overcome with emotion would take the machete attached to his waist and wave it above his head.
Any listener with music A.D.D. would have enjoyed Leftover Crack. They transitioned quickly from punk, ska and hardcore within in a matter of seconds, which made it feel as if one was seeing multiple bands as opposed to just one. Next was Gang of Four. As they took the stage, a sea of people dressed in old lady masks and terrifying clown makeup made their way to the Observatory Stage.
Tucked inconspicuously between the Observation Stage and the bathrooms was Heron Oblivion playing on the Constellation Stage. They played an intimate and relaxed set where the audience gently swayed between the hypnotic drums and guitars. If Beach Goth were to have a quintessential sound, Heron Oblivion might fit into that description.
Much different from the band that had played that stage earlier, Brujeria, Gang of Four played their dance-punk shrouded in red light and smoke from fog machines.
Staying true to the goth theme for the weekend, the band Cold Cave walked out onto the stage dressed in all black. The singer, Wesley Eisold (also of American Nightmare/Some Girls fame), with his Joe Strummer-esque vocals sang over the manipulated synth pop beats. Later, Wild Nothing played to a sweaty, packed crowd that danced enthusiastically and sang in unison with Jack Tatum.
Blaqk Audio, one of the danciest bands of the day opened to a crowd of hardcore AFI fans. Davey Havoc and Jade Puget did not play their signature brand of post-hardcore punk. Instead, they departed from their old sound and created new and more danceable music.
It’s safe to say that any band to come out of the Bay Area is going to be a decent group and SWMRS falls into that category. The lead singer, who from afar resembles River Phoenix, thrashed and screamed into the microphone as the rest of the band flung their bodies periodically around the stage. The held the crowd in the palm of their hand and toward the end of their set, the band commanded the crowd to separate so they could do a wall of death. Everyone dutifully obliged and once everyone had collided with one another, the lead singer ended with doing a stage dive.
One of the best bands on schedule this year was Los Angeles based noise rock band HEALTH. Between Jake Duzsik’s Anthony Green-type melodic vocals backed up by some of the loudest instrumentation one might hear, HEALTH could have done with a little more time to play, so that new listeners may be drawn into their beautifully noisy world.
It was this time during the night that the fantasies of any kid growing up in the 90s would finally be fulfilled. When TLC walked out onto the stage a wave of both disbelief and joyfulness moved throughout the crowd. They played favorites like “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “Baby-Baby-Baby” that would have made even the most stoic well up. Their set, complete with dancers all wearing matching denim jackets, brought an unrivaled level of nostalgia.
If there was one word to describe Patti Smith’s set it would be transcendental. On the hill next to the Outdoor Stage, a sea of colored wigs and face paint anxiously waited for Smith to grace the stage. When she walked out applause erupted, but there was still a sense of reverence that enveloped the crowd once she took the stage. She opened with “Redondo Beach” and halfway through proclaimed that she had forgotten the lyrics and said, “That’s so fucked up. I’ve done this nine million times.” She recovered beautifully and still remained effortlessly cool. She then went into “Free Money” and while most musicians’ voices tend to change Smith’s has changed very little. She still retains the same electricity in her voice as well as her performance as she did so many years ago and even if she didn’t she would still kick ass. Throughout her set, she would shout things like “Feel the truth of your youth” and “Feel your strength. Feel who you are,” which gave the crowd the vigor it needed to continue on with the evening. She finished with an energetic “Gloria” before transitioning into a cover of “My Generation.”
After having his performance at Treasure Island cancelled a week earlier, James Blake was deserving of some redemption on the festival circuit, and redemption he received. He opened with “Life Round Here” where his haunting gospel style vocals and repetitive drumming slowly crescendoed into a beautiful, noisy chaos. For the second song the backdrop alternated between red and white lights, leaving Blake and the rest of his band silhouetted against the gleaming backdrop. His silky vocals soothed the audience into a trance, only to be broken by bursts of noise and fog machines polluting the air and hovering above the crowd.
“Now it’s our turn,” Brooks Nielsen of The Growlers said in his distinctive, raspy voice. The first song “Big Toe” had the audience erupting into cheers and dancing. If anything, The Growlers set saw the most audience participation of the day. From start to finish, the crowd sang along with the band, while concertgoers scrambled up walls and art installations to get a better look.
Immediately after The Growlers set ended, Bon Iver began his. If people were wondering and growing concerned about the whereabouts of Bon Iver, namely Justin Vernon, set your mind at ease because just weeks after releasing his new album 22, A Million Bon Iver exploded back onto the music scene. The majority of the songs that he sang were from his newest record, which caters well to a festival crowd because of its electronica heavy tones. Although this third record is such a departure from what one normally hears from Bon Iver, the foundation of the band and its sound is still the same, the roles and instruments have just changed. Justin Vernon used to be the melancholic, guitar player who sang songs a Capella in French hallways. Now, he’s Justin Vernon, the guy who plays his music on a synthesizer and computer, and he plays both roles gorgeously. The hour he had for his set melted away and it seemed unfair that he didn’t have more time, but luckily there is still tomorrow.
Albert Hammond Jr.