Punk rockers of all ages filed into a packed Iggy Pop set to see the headlining show in Oakland, CA Saturday night for the 5th annual Burger Boogaloo Festival. John Waters, the perfect host and curator for the raunchy weekend, took to the Butt City stage to introduce who he called “the second coming of Christ,” Iggy Pop, for the most anticipated show of the night. The “godfather of punk” started and ended the night with as much energy as the guy in the front row headbanging his face off the entire set, if not more. The only difference was the energetic dude in the audience was around 30 years old, and Iggy Pop is more than twice that age.
Pop was running back and fourth on the stage, performing well-known songs like “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “The Passenger,” “Search and Destroy” and “Lust for Life.” He performed “Gardenia” from his latest album Post Pop Depression, but the set was largely made up of classic Stooges songs and solo material. The singer radiated a stage presence that was infectious for fans, making it almost impossible for the audience to look away. The Bay Area can be known for its cool nights, and this evening in Oakland was no different. Regardless, Iggy Pop showed no signs of being affected, working up heat from his constant pacing and running. His energy bounced off the crowd for the rowdiest and most packed set of day one. Some people outside the festival even tried to sneak in without tickets after hearing the chaos that seemed to be unfolding inside.
Both sides of the stage featured a bouquet of balloons highlighted by blue stage lights, with one that read “butt” and the other “city,” to showcase the booty-inspired stage name. In the middle were three balloon dudes who stood hand-in-hand, one facing the crowd and the other two mooning — not only with the printed moons that covered the back of their heads, but also with their completely bare backsides. It was by far the biggest stage of the two and stood out the most at the festival.
Earlier that night, on the same Butt City stage at 7 pm, someone who represented Guitar Wolf — an eccentric Japanese garage rock trio from the late ’80s — came out to the stage and informed the crowd that the group were “shy” and their set would begin with three minutes of just instrumentals because “they weren’t even close to the stage.” After several minutes and a few hollers from the crowd, the audience heard a loud shout across the stage yelling, “Godzilla!” The three members promptly came onto the stage in their signature matching look, gnarly Godzilla masks and matching leather jackets. They were all acting like dinosaurs, one creeping around with his hands up like a T-Rex and the other waving his guitar in the air. The next thing we knew, Guitar Wolf erupted all at once, jamming on their guitars and slamming the drums.
The Japanese punk rockers were rough and had an in-your-face approach to performing, whether they were non-stop screaming into the mic or going hard on their instruments. The crowd erupted in cheer when each member ripped the Godzilla masks off and threw them to the ground in the middle of the set. The drummer even got so juiced he took his shirt off. After an incredible performance, when the audience thought the set was over, Guitar Wolf screamed “arigato” — which means “thank you” in Japanese — and proceeded to give fans a memorable encore.
Another band that undeniably spanked Butt City was alternative rock band Redd Kross. The band owned their performance Saturday night and provided the audience with the biggest surprise of the night. After performing several of their most popular songs, Redd Kross dropped the bombshell that they were going to be performing their 1984 (mostly) covers EP Teen Babes From Monsanto in its entirety — that included “Deuce” by Kiss and a cover of “Ann” by Iggy Pop’s own The Stooges.
Before taking the stage, the one and only John Waters made an ode to all his fellow creeps and weirdos who were made fun of for dressing like they were in costume, reminding them that it’s “Halloween every day at Burger Boogaloo Festival and it’s punk’s perfect place.” After the Pope of Trash’s short introduction was over, Redd Kross entered onto stage and performed favorites such as “Lady in the Front Row,” from their album Phaseshifter, and “Stay Away From Downtown,” from Researching the Blues.
After a shoutout to Dale Crover, the well-known and established Melvins drummer who rocked out the whole night, the band announced that they were going to perform every song from Teen Babes From Monsanto. They described the album as being a “history of rock ‘n’ roll,” and they wanted to play the whole EP for Burger Boogaloo. Unsurprisingly, fans went wild and even the kids on their parent’s shoulders seemed to react to the energy of Redd Kross. Aside from Iggy Pop, Red Kross offered perhaps the best sound quality performance of the entire night. Every chord and every guitar riff seemed to echo out perfectly, despite being on the biggest stage in the most spread-out area of the festival. It made for a perfect environment for an album that has been dubbed one of the band’s favorites.
On the other side of the venue at Mosswood Park in Oakland, CA was the “Gone Shrimpin’ ” stage, a small coliseum-like setup where Canadian rock artist Bloodshot Bill performed earlier in the day. He seemed to be the act who engaged with the audience the most, telling small anecdotes and continuously thanking the audience for being there. He seemed incredibly genuine, and fans could tell he was having the time of his life on stage. His attitude matched his country banjo-like sound, which added a different twist to the other rock outfits that were at the festival. After their songs, he shouted out every single member of the band to give them recognition for their talents and efforts on stage. In between, he also joked, “I lost my luggage so that’s why I’m wearing these fucking sneakers from Walmart,” and the audience gave a supportive cheer.
The Gone Shrimpin’ stage was located behind a row of trees and descended into the ground — in a manner similar to a Greek theater. Across the stage were letters spelling “Gone Shrimpin,” and several huge balloon legs bursting out from behind were spread across the back. What do legs have to do with going shrimping, one may wonder? Thanks to the unapologetic host, audience members found out it had something to do with sucking toes — which “all the celebrities were into,” according to Waters.
NOBUNNY performed on the elaborate stage in an outfit that seemed to match the aesthetic perfectly. Justin Champlin is the musician behind this alternative identity and mask — a bunny mask that is. However, that wasn’t even the most eye-catching part of his get-up, as he performed the entire time in his signature black and white undies. Fans fed off the energy, and everyone who managed to get a seat in front or on the concrete steps leading down to the stage was going wild.
One of the earlier sets in the day, that of Th’ Losin Streaks, stood out for the group’s incredible stage presence. The drummer was headbanging his long black hair for longer than anyone going that hard on the drums should go; and, several times, the lead singer and guitarists were jamming out into the same mic, feeding off of each other’s energy. In one epic moment, the drummer threw his sticks five feet in the air while the lead guitarist flung his guitar in the air. Once he caught it, he turned around with his backside facing the audience like the balloon men at Butt City, and began to play the guitar behind his back.
After a day one like Saturday, the artists of day two will have to bring their A-Game. However, that won’t be too hard of a feat considering the rockers on the lineup. Set to perform on day two of Burger Boogaloo are The Buzzcoks, X, Shannon and the Clams and many more.
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat