Since its inception in 2012, the Burger Boogaloo has worked to produce a festival that celebrates music both strange and weird; celebrated and forgotten; old and new.
With careful orchestrating from both the Burger Records family and the local booking maestros at Total Trash, the once small festival that got its start at Thee Parkside has matured into a full-blown celebrated event, complete with gated beer gardens, headache-inducing bathroom lines, and nine dollar hot dogs.
However, unlike plenty of festivals that can lose their quality of booking bands as the event grows, the Boogaloo has only snowballed into a monster of music that has brought in big hitters such as Milk n’ Cookies, the Gizmos, the Muffs, OFF!, and of course, the fabulous Ronnie Spector.
The festivities began Saturday afternoon, as White Fang took the stage to a near empty stadium. The day before was the fourth of July, and like many of us, the band was hungover from celebrating the day this great nation decided it didn’t want to pay taxes anymore. However, despite the sun being a little too bright, the band gave a vivacious performance that included “Wrecked,” “Unchain Your Brain,” and “Chairman of the Board.” There were also cartwheels, pelvic thrusts, jumping jacks, epic guitar solos, joints, overgrown and unkempt mullets, and a stylish American flag shirt.
Following them was the forever disenchanted post-pop music of Terry Malts; the abrasive and angry sounds of the Trashies; the 70s stoner/metal rock of WAND; and Tokyo’s hyperactive and charismatic Thunderroads.
The Phantom Surfers, equipped with a two neck guitar and a bassist skilled enough to ditch a strap all together, evoked pogoing and shimmy shaking among the crowd with their classic, straightforward surf sounds.
By far the most encapsulating performer of Saturday was Nobunny. Having seen the Bay Area’s favorite bunny man countless times, the whole facade can at times be poorly delivered––however, saturday was not that day. Nobunny brought real energy into his set, performing raw and driving renditions from across his catalog, including “I Am A Girlfriend,” “Breathe,” “Nobunny Loves you,” and “Motorhead With Me.” An encore was demanded, and much to my disappointment, was denied by the coordinators of the event who immediately blasted the 60s soul music that had been playing periodically throughout the day to drown out the demands of the crowd (something about staying on schedule).
Next, was the reunion of Milk n’ Cookies, which like many reunions, was equal parts pleasing as it was unsettling to watch. Something about watching dad type figures singing about little, lost, and innocent girls isn’t quite the same as it probably was back when the single was first released.
Despite probably being the oldest man there (hey, he even said it himself) Keith Morris is an absolute maniac; His charisma, combined with his all booming and powerful voice with OFF! as he screeched into his mic, orchestrated a crowd of sweaty, dirty, and angry fans into a dust cloud of punches and crowd surfing.
Thee Oh Sees were set to end the night, and having seen them at the first ever Burger Boogaloo at Thee Parkside, in which tator tots were thrown and the room became a disgusting, crowded pit of sweat, fists, and tears; it was hard not to get nostalgic about a band that has defined the Bay Area music scene for over a decade. However, the latest lineup featuring John Dwyer, Timothy Hellman, and Nick Murray wasn’t quite right. Although Thee Oh Sees first began as an outlet for Dwyer to produce his own personal recordings, and arguably, Dywer is the main defining member, there was something amiss without the friendly face of Mike Shoun and the backing vocals of Brigid Dawson.
And where the hell was Petey, dammit?
It’s well known that the group has entered a hiatus, and has only performed sporadically since; But without the faces we’ve long become used to it was difficult to accept that the performance delivered Saturday night was that of really Thee Oh Sees.
Afterward multiple after parties were announced, including undisclosed houses in the Oakland area and Eli’s Mile High Club, which meant Sunday would probably mean more hangovers for people.
As the afternoon wore on, Juan Wauters entered the stage accompanied by his band of misfits, with a performance reminiscent of a young Jonathan Richman. Next came The Meatbodies, which were all long hair, shredding guitars, and a Black Sabbath cover. The Gizmos pleased the crowd by performing work from both their early proto-punk stuff as well as their later power pop albums.
The Muffs, a band that has been together for twenty-three years now, proved just to be as excited to be performing together as they did in 1991. Kim Shattuck beamed throughout the entire performance, joking out loud if it was OK if they played for more than their allotted time of half an hour. If being in a band is really like being married to a group of people, then the Muffs are the kind of band that give you hope in long lasting love.
As expected, Ronnie Spector was the most impressive and emotional act of the two day festival. After what felt like an hour after Shannon and the Clams ended their set, and an eternity of having to listen to one valley teenager explain to another valley teenager who the Ronettes were, a beehived angel graced the stage in the form of Ms. Spector; complete with sassy shakes, little leg kicks, and flirty shirt lifts, Ronnie Spector was everything and more. By the third song I witnessed a grown man brought to tears.
Spector’s set was delightful, with a wide range of work from the Ronettes’ catalog performed, including “Walking in the Rain,” “Be My Baby,” and “So Young.” Spector also took time to perform covers of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory,” taking a moment before each song to express her gratitude and love for the artists that were all taken far too soon.
Pausing to say, “She reminds me that what I did mattered.”
An encore ensued, at one point someone failed at crowd surfing, and in a brief wonderful moment Oakland’s Mosswood Park ringed the chorus of “Be My Baby” as folks young and old rejoiced in a song that has been impacting generations for the past fifty-one years.
Photos by Jon Ching