John Waters at Burger Boogaloo, by Molly Champlin
John Waters at Burger Boogaloo, Photo by Molly Champlin.

“There’s just something so cool about garage rock. I don’t know what it is. It’s raggedy and dirty.”

The Pandoras, an all-female line-up signed to the major label Elektra in the 80’s and known for playing just that style of music, easily surmised Burger Boogaloo 2015. It was a 4th of July for converse held on with duct tape, toddlers with rat tails and jean jackets, and patrons digging out bottles of tequila buried the day before. Those in love with rockabilly, punk, and John Waters rushed Oakland on Saturday to relax and carouse during one of the more laid-back festivals in the Bay Area.

Boogaloo was organized by Burger Records, the Orange County label that celebrates crunchy, sleazy, lovable garage punk — adjectives which could easily describe John Waters. His role in hosting was emceeing at Flesh Land, the main stage. He would read from note cards and cheekily shout things like, “I never had a bad LSD trip in my life. My mom said, ‘don’t tell the kids that.’ But I just did.” The set design for Flesh Land and John Waters’ home base was a gaping vagina portal with black manicured fingers clawing overhead. Whoever dreamed that nightmare up is a genius.

Magnetix at Burger Boogaloo, by Molly Champlin
Magnetix at Burger Boogaloo, Photo by Molly Champlin.

Then it was quickly obvious that the bands hyped in past decades were grouped to shine on Saturday. Legendary Stardust Cowboy, 5,6,7,8’s, The Mummies, The Pandoras… it was a crash course of music history in a span of one sweaty, PBR filled day. John Waters introduced Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the unintelligible pioneer of psychobilly in the 60’s, as, “David Bowie loved him and so will you.” 5, 6, 7, 8’s, a Japanese surf rock trio formed in the early 90’s, performed “Woo Hoo” as a cameo in the Tarantino film Kill Bill Vol. 1.

The night before, Magnetix (a French duo also on the festival’s bill) had played a barely publicized show at Vacation, the thrift store in San Franciscisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood that throws BYOB basement shows for free. John Dwyer presided over the sound at Vacation, as Castle Face Records was recording the live show. Afterwards, the special guest for the night was Shannon and The Clams, also on the festival’s bill and just under the day’s headliner, The Mummies. The next day Vacation had a booth at Boogaloo selling their throwback wardrobe wares. I mention this only to show how tight-knit and laterally lucid this community is, with little elitist thought towards venue size, a separate space for VIP, or guest list opportunities (Vacation shows are always free.) When major festivals are pushing up to five pricing tiers at consumers, it’s refreshing that Boogaloo only offered general admission and VIP.

The Mummies at Burger Boogaloo, by Molly Champlin
The Mummies at Burger Boogaloo, Photo by Molly Champlin.

But it was The Mummies, riding up on mini-motorcycles and swathed head-to-toe in white cloth (as mummies are known to do) who somehow tied John Waters for most charismatic. They riffed off of Larry David’s “Prettttty, prettttty, pretty good” and were raunchy: “People keep telling me I have to walk through this vagina. I don’t know why it smells like an asshole.” Despite shrill feedback and the skateboard kid who kept air-chopping his wheels like a battering ram towards the stage, The Mummies’ show was exactly the amp up needed before fireworks and Boogaloo after-shows.