Costume- filled crowds bombarded The Observatory grounds this past Saturday and Sunday for The Growlers’ fifth annual Beach Goth music festival. You’d think it was their first, though. Not to say the festival was bad, but the organization was definitely lackluster.
This is probably because the location of the event was changed last minute from the Oak Canyon Ranch in Irvine, to the Observatory grounds in Orange County. Considering how the festival turned out, the switch was probably for the better. Who knows what the rain that flooded one of the outside stages would have done to the grassy and dirt-filled terrain of the Oak Canyon Ranch.
The Observatory grounds weren’t all that better. It was seriously over-packed, and the outdoor RX stage just seemed to be thrown in last-minute. When it rained on Day 2, the RX stage’s dance floor flooded and needed to be shut down (it opened up again, eventually.)
At that point, I had forgotten I was at a music festival for a good 30 minutes, since security were refusing to let people into the indoor Observatory and Constellation Room stages, and no artists were performing on the Dome Stage outdoors.
However, without the rain, the festival was at least doable, even though it felt more congested than the years prior. The event was a mess, but I’ll give the organizers credit for doing a fairly good job of setting things up last minute.
One other big problem? Overly-aggressive security. Sure, their job might be frustrating and at times challenging, but it’s NEVER right to start pulling and throwing people out of the crowd while they’re waiting in line to see their favorite bands perform (This was at the time people were waiting outside the Indoor stages that were locked down. People were being told to leave the line, but had nowhere to go. Security still started literally throwing people out that had no chance at exiting.)
Besides the horrible logistics, the lineup was as original and great as can be. Mixing greats like Gucci Mane, Devendra Banhart, The Growlers and Violent Femmes is something Beach Goth is known for. The lineup automatically spurs a lot of diversity, and that’s what keeps me coming back every year. It’s not just in the music, but in the audience too. It was a great thing to see a full-blown “hipster” getting wild to a Kali Uchis song.
One of the first bands I had the opportunity to see was Wild Nothing, and their set was like no-other. Performing dream-poppy classics like “Nocturne” and “Shadow” off of their album “Nocturne” had me feeling eccentric. Their instrumental sound echoed throughout the dim-lit venue, which helped seemingly saturate their riffs into the audience’s very soul. It’s for that reason that I’m glad their set was inside the Observatory stage and not at an outdoor one.
With so many great performances going on, missing the return of Gucci Mane would have been a total mistake. With the DJ and vocals blasting even louder than the more- than- hyped crowd, I’m sure it was hard to not hear the set. It’s great seeing Gucci committing to his performances after his recent prison release, and I’m expecting great things from him in the near future.
Violent Femmes’ folk-punk rich performance was angst-y as hell. Hearing classics like “Kiss Off” awakened my inner 16-year-old, and made me want to ditch my camera and stage dive right into the crowd (not such a terrible idea now that I think about it.) I definitely had the most fun watching them perform.
The Growlers’ set on the second day was delayed by at least 30 minutes, and when they finally came out, they briefly addressed their festivals shortcomings and played the exact same set they performed on the first day. Although I was disappointed that they didn’t mix it up for the fans on the second day, they still played their hearts out to fan- favorites like “Big Toe.” Watching frontman Brooks Nielsen getting the audience moving with his seemingly Egyptian-style dance moves is always fun too.
Overall, this year’s Beach Goth was a bit of a mess. Fans have even started petitioning for a refund since they don’t feel satisfied with its outcome. The Growlers issued an apology statement that focuses on optimism for the future, but fans still aren’t satisfied. I’m hoping they take the fans’ feedback into major consideration and properly execute next year’s festival.