Beach Goth may have died due to a lawsuit between The Growlers and The Observatory over its name, but the Orange County garage rockers conjured its spirit in a refreshing locale. Now called The Growlers Six, the annual rite of passage boasted a better-than-ever lineup and vibes in its new home.
Located in a parking lot on the port of San Pedro, the new festival felt more open and relaxed than its last few OC predecessors thanks to the open air, cool sea breeze and so much open space that no set ever felt crowded or lost its intimacy. In addition to carnival games, fried sweets and the popular Yoyo swing ride, The Growlers Six hosted three outdoor stages, plus a tent and a makeshift island DJ spot.
Once again, the lineup proved to be an oddity among a sea of increasingly homogeneous festivals. A genre-defying mix of legends, esoteric delights, local favorites, oddities and more, The Growlers Six offered a unique, eclectic assortment of aural riches, particularly for those that came of musical age during the past decade. Here are the best sets we caught on Saturday.
Mike Watt and the Secondmen
Faced with the unenviable task of playing a festival at 1:35 p.m., San Pedro’s Mike Watt and the Secondmen rose to the occasion by storming through approximately 20 songs in twice as many minutes to invigorate the hometown crowd.
The award for most adorable costume at Growlers Six goes to The Paranoyds, or rather The Pupperoyds. Dalmatian onesies aside, the punk quartet charmed the growing crowd with a half-hour storm of trippy, menacing garage punk that ‘Noyd raged with the fury of All Hallow’s Eve. Consider their set a crash course for the earlybirds on why they are one of Los Angeles’ finest.
Despite their relatively early set, seemingly everyone inside the gates by 3:30 p.m. swarmed around the Junior stage to catch garage surf doo-wop quartet La Luz. Dressed as nuns, the Seattle transplants got the masses rocking along with impeccable harmonies and the slick riffs of frontwoman Shana Cleveland. Although La Luz recently relocated from Seattle to Los Angeles, they seem to be right at home in Los Angeles due to their ever-growing legion of loyal fans and their Burgertastic sound and style.
Any festival where one can go directly from La Luz to Tinariwen wins in our book. In response to the Malian outfit’s Tuareg rhythms and meodies, the crowd couldn’t help but blissfully groove along.
Early in Juvenile’s set, he shared a story about sharing a plane to Los Angeles with 2 Chainz, who purportedly hooked him up with a joint subsequently lit and smoked onstage. Where else but The Growlers Six?
At The Growlers Six, Danny Brown’s onstage energy and charisma proved as formidable as his explicitly frank lyrical prowess. While storming through highlights from XXX, Old and 2016’s Atrocity Exhibition, Brown energized the jumping crowd, often with his tongue hanging out. At one point, an overzealous fan climbed onstage for a dive that ended with him landing headfirst in the photo pit. Perhaps as a reminder, dried blood from that incident remained in the pit long after medics wheeled the fan away (while he rocked the devil horns, I’m told).
No, Modest Mouse didn’t play “Float On.” The band’s renown, after all, has never come from being one to please the crowd in the most obvious of ways. Nevertheless, pleasing the crowd is what they accomplished with a varied set drawing from every album. Longtime fans and new converts alike marveled as Isaac Brock and company tore through the likes of “Dramamine,” “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” and “Trailer Trash.”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s been over four years since Yeah Yeah Yeahs last rocked our world, and they’ve been sorely missed. How fortuitous that they were anything but rusty during their career-spanning set. Karen O toyed with her mic cord and crowd in equal measure, spat her drink in the air in spectacularly dramatic fashion and growled with a stupefying ferocity, and that was just during opener “Rich.”
In case anyone missed them the first time around, their set served as a crash course in indie culture of the early to mid 2000s and as a reminder of why Karen O has been one of music’s most iconic frontwomen since the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s breakthrough. Speaking of which, despite the fact that Fever to Tell dropped 14 years ago and the hour-long set brought a blissfully cathartic sense of nostalgia, the set’s intensity and reciprocated energy proved it was more than another trip down memory lane. If their Growlers Six showing was any indication, then the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have plenty more to tell.
At last, the festival’s namesake took the stage to close out the night clad in space-patterend onsies and skeleton face paint. The Growlers rocked the crowd with singalong after singalong, peaking with a mashup of “Rubber and Bone” and William Onyeabor’s “Good Name.”
After experiencing a set as invigorating as a return of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, anything that follows can feel superfluous or even distracting. In the exception of The Growlers, however, the Orange County rockers have amassed a fiercely devoted base of passionate fans, so much that this is their festival, after all. And what a festival it has become.
Words and photos by Frank Mojica