Beach Goth is finally back after The Growlers took back ownership of the festival name. Last year, The Growlers Six made its debut in October, and the aesthetic this year was very similar, despite yet another change in venue.
The Los Angeles State Historic Park was once home to FYF Fest, and this year Beach Goth declared itself an L.A. festival after moving from the OC Observatory and last year’s San Pedro waterfront venue. While this years’ lineup was compelling, it was hard to measure up to last year’s stacked lineup, which boasted headliners Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Butthole Surfers, B-52’s and two nights of The Growlers. This year, Beach Goth alums The Voidz and The Drums, in addition to The Growlers, drew in a considerable crowd.
It was a blazing hot day in L.A., but still come festival-goers took the opportunity to dress in costumes, as the Beach Goth theme suggested. Some wore full faces of skeleton makeup, while groups dressed together in In-N-Out Burger uniforms. Just before 3:00 p.m., GWAR took the main stage to a fairly packed crowd. The trash metal/hardcore act donned their terrifying, futuristic character’s costumes, and took the liberty to incorporate skits between the songs. At one point, a character dressed as Trump in a fat suit came on stage. The crowd cheered as they disemboweld him on stage and fake blood squirted everywhere as they sang “El Presidente.” Before “Crack In The Egg,” the band members were about to start fighting on stage before the singer growled, “instead of fighting, let’s have breakfast!” They continued in the theme of introducing the songs in that manner for “Bring Back the Bomb,” which had the crowd thrusting their first in the air.
Not to far over La Luz were getting ready to take the stage at the Death of a Rat Cabaret tented stage. The surf-rock quartet came out holding a surfboard together, dressed as the “zombie Beach Boys…” or Beach Girls in their case. Their set was 30 minutes of pure, carefree fun as the crowd danced along to the groovy, doo-wop sounds. They played several tracks from their latest album, Floating Feautres including “Don’t Leave Me on the Earth” and the instrumental “Floating Features” which had everyone shuffling around. During their set, a performance artist in a black spandex suit with sings floated about the stage, adding an entertaining eeriness about their set. They finished she set with a groovy song featuring a moving bass line, leaving the crowd shouting for an encore.
The sound from the main stage leaked over to the smaller stage, which was particularly noticeable for Gwar and La Luz. The sound of Australian indie outfit Hatchie beckoned some of the festival-goers, but many stayed at the covered stage to catch hardcore act Youth of Today. Singer Ray Cappo ignited the crowd with plenty of opportunities to participate during the songs. During thrashing songs like “Can’t Close My Eyes,” the crowd joined in the chorus with fists in the air. They did the same with “Break Down The Walls,” and the mosh pit never relented throughout their set. Cappo shared life lesson tidbits throughout the set like “life isn’t just a waste of time, it’s an offering… focus on your offering.” They finished their set with a cover that had everyone singing along “gotta stick together.”
Doug E. Fresh was the only hip-hop act slated for the day, and it was filled with hype and fan favorites from Snoop Dog to Nirvana. The crowd got down to each of the songs and the whole field was like one giant dance floor. To start the set, he brought out his sons Slim SOG and Trip SOG to each rap for the audience. “Do you all like good music?” Doug E. Fresh hyped the audience. Just when they thought there wouldn’t be any original music coming from the stage, about 20 minutes into the set he showcased his famous beatboxing skills and the crowd went wild.
Back at the Rat Cabaret stage, a large crowd was gathered for the Lions, Tigers and Queens drag show. The drag queens performed seductive dance moves and lip synced to crowd favorites including Marilyn Manson and more.
The Drums drew in quite a crowd at the main stage, and it was clear that many of the Beach Goth attendees were there for them. While they recently released Abysmal Thoughts, the majority of their set included old favorites like “Days,” “Money” and “Let’s Go Surfing.” The crowd sang along and danced to the upbeat songs. They even performed a brand new, carefree song, “Meet Me In Mexico,” which the crowd didn’t seem to know but got into. During “Mirror,” the first track off Abysmal Thoughts, singer Johnny Pierce introduced and brought singer Ioecho on stage for backup vocals.
The Voidz also had one of the largest crowds of the day, all of whom cheered as soon as Julian Casablancas took the stage in his dayglow sunglasses. They played mostly songs from their latest album Virtue including “We’re Where We Were,” a harder song that had the crowd headbanging. The crowd danced along to “QYURRYUS,” a mostly electronic song with a world music feel. Their popular song off Virtue, “Leave It In My Dreams” had everyone swaying along to the upbeat rhythm. The rocking “Pyramid of Bones” started a pit in the middle of the crowd. The pit continued through the last song of their set, “Where No Eagles Fly.”
The Growlers would be the final act to take the main stage, but before then, Bleached were playing a set at the Rat Cabaret stage as The Ramones, and everyone was singing along which some moshed in the pit. The band were dressed as The Ramones and sang favorites including “Judy Is a Punk” and “Gabba Gabba Hey.” After Bleached, Beach Goons took the stage next and continued the punk energy. The San Diego based garage rock band played songs in both English and Spanish, including “Vatos Tristes” and “Tar,” and the more popular “Without U” mixing it up between slow and crooning and fast and loud.
Finally at 8:30, The Growlers took the main stage to loud cheers from their fans. “Somebody tried to steal this shit from us, but it’s ours!” Singer Brooks Nielson shouted to the crowd, reclaiming the Beach Goth name with pride after opening their set with “I’ll Be Around” and “Night Ride.” The pace slowed a bit with the romantic “When You Were Made,” and couples danced and swayed together. The lights on the stage came to life with vivid red and purple shades behind the silver backdrop. A muscle car decorated the left side of the stage, and lit up as well, smoke emanating from the car and the stage. “I just got high off someone downwind over there,” Nielson shared — it was true, just about every other person was lighting up. “We’re gonna play some old ones… this one dates as far back as 3000 B.C.” he joked before diving into “Humdrum Blues.” They continued their set with more hits that the crowd sang along to including “Heaven in Hell” during which they threw what looked like money into the crowd who cheered. The set lasted nearly an hour and a half with no encore, which the crowd eagerly awaited. A couple new songs off their latest release Casual Acquaintances made their debut including “Orgasm of Death.” They closed their set with “Going Gets Tough,” and the crowd waited for a bit, hoping for an encore before making their way home.
While everyone was glad to partake in Beach Goth yet again, lineup and location had a lot to live up to from last year’s Growlers Six production. The amount of dust and heat were a lot less bearable than the paved parking lot in San Pedro and waterfront breeze, not to mention that the event was in October last year and many more took the opportunity to dress up. Nonetheless, fans will look forward to hearing next year’s lineup, as The Growlers have proven that nothing can stop them from putting on a great festival.