Orange County-based psych band The Growlers hosted their fourth annual Beach Goth Party Saturday and Sunday, drawing thousands of fans with more than 50 performers and three stages at The Observatory in Santa Ana.
The Observatory’s parking lot was transformed into a Halloween wonderland with a gigantic paper mache skeleton hand, pill-shaped and marijuana leaf-shaped piñatas lining the trees and a main stage that invited headliners to perform.
There were also two indoor stages, one of which was mostly used for a live performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Compared to last year’s Beach Goth Party, this year’s music festival was well-organized and more diverse.
Beach Goth IV catered to everyone’s musical preferences by including surf-punk band FIDLAR, rockabilly icon Wanda Jackson, experimental pop artist Grimes, punk legends the Adicts, psychedelic band Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel, hip-hop artist Juicy J and more.
Day one of Beach Goth consisted of performances by indie rock artist Mac DeMarco, punk band Subhumans, indie pop band the Drums and more.
The lineup was impressive, but day one ended weak with a subpar performance from hosts and headliner The Growlers.
Dressed in unison as skeletons and choosing a less than upbeat setlist, the most memorable part of The Growlers’ set was frontman Brooks Nielsen forgetting the lyrics to many of the songs.
During their performance of their 2013 tune, “Humdrum Blues,” Nielsen froze during the song’s second verse, which was apparent when he said, “Jesus Christ,” rather than sing the second verse.
Instead of beginning “Humdrum Blues” over again, Nielsen continued the song by repeating the first verse. The audience was accepting of Nielsen’s mistake and encouraged the band with applause.
Day two of Beach Goth included headlining heavyweights such as alternative rap trio Die Antwoord and noise rock group Julian Casablancas + the Voidz.
Rapper Warren G made a surprise cameo before The Growlers’ closing performance Sunday and performed his 1994 song, “Regulate,” which was accepted by ecstatic applause and the audience singing along.
Actor Pauly Shore made a brief appearance as host. His presence was nonexistent except for his introduction of The Growlers on Sunday.
Shore mentioned how other performers did not want him on stage, resulting in his barely-there presence.
Sunday’s strong lineup gave the audience hope and optimism that The Growlers’ performance will recover from the previous day but it only got worse from there.
Nielsen continued to fumble over the lyrics but rather than freezing like the previous day, he would freestyle lyrics that matched the beat of the songs, making it impossible to sing along.
Despite forgetting the lyrics to one of their most famous songs, “One Million Lovers,” Nielsen was content with the performance and assured the audience he felt all right with his mistakes.
Adding insult to injury, feedback from the microphones would interrupt The Growlers’ performance and was very apparent as they played their 2014 song, “Not the Man.”
“I should have just let Julian Casablancas sing that one,” Nielsen said after performing the song.
The Growlers redeemed themselves when Casablancas entered the stage to perform a surprise duet with Nielsen – The Doors’ “People Are Strange.”
As fans wildly applauded the duet, Casablancas congratulated the Growlers for hosting the “best festival ever.”
The Growlers concluded their set with their 2014 tune, “Chinese Fountain,” and a gracious thank you to the audience.
Fans pleaded for an encore to which Nielsen responded they would have to wait until next year’s Beach Goth.
Not one to be cruel to its fans, the band returned to the stage shortly after exiting and performed three encore songs.
The Growlers took to Instagram to express their gratitude on a successful music festival.
“Friends, we thank you for making Beach Goth 4 the most perfectly weird, messy and chaotic party that ever was. It only exists because of you. People ARE Strange and we love every last one of you. See you next year!!!!!”
With the Instagram post, it is safe to assume Beach Goth Party V will be in the making for another outrageous music festival.
Karla Rendon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.