King Khan and the Shrines (photo: Jon Ching)
In the beginning there was Budget Rock. For ten years, Budget Rock was a three-day summer weekend event that brought out the loudest, cruddiest ’60s influenced garage and trash-punk bands from around the globe and our very own backyard. Elder statesmen like The Bobbyteens, Phantom Surfers, and The Flakes shared beer-soaked stages with young upstarts like The Coachwhips, The Traditional Fools, and Nobunny. As the event grew and attendance increased, the responsibility and planning became increasingly taxing on organizers and after a decade of fun they retired the Bay Area weekender. Marc Ribak — Rock n Roll Adventure Kids’ wild man and veteran of Budget Rock — stepped in to fill the void with his series of Total Trash Fest shows and ultimately teamed up with Los Angeles cassette cult leaders, Burger Records, to launch Burger Boogaloo.
Taking over Oakland’s Mosswood Park to create what resembles a demented state fair of trash culture and pop-up eateries, Burger Boogaloo is the Bay Area summer event for thousands of rock and rollers, miscreants, freaks, and loud music enthusiasts. The Boogaloo is Ribak’s labor of love and gift to everyone who has ever loved garage rock. Reuniting classic groups that many were too young to see in their heyday and that older fans haven’t seen in decades, as well as hosting a crop of current noisemakers and hip-shakers, the Boogaloo brings together generations of fans and performers.
A late opening had lines reaching past the Kaiser Medical facilities and under the 580 overpass. The high noon sun beat down on the bottlenecked entrance as fans waited nearly two hours to make it past check-in and enter the park. Understaffed security employees kept high spirits as they rushed people through, but irritable show-goers grew more and more annoyed. Meanwhile, inside on the small Dirty Mouth amphitheater stage, Tucson-by-way-of-San-Francisco party rockers The Okmoniks were kicking off the weekend activities playing a raucous and fun set of organ-driven songs Riff Randell could have penned if she spent less time being a starstruck fan and picked up a guitar instead. Frontwoman Helene 33 1/3rd lead the charge from behind her compact organ as members of Nobunny and Elvis Christ accompanied her, and guitarist Sam delivered simple, to-the-point licks around the handful of chords needed for hits like “Not That Good” and “Teenage Timebomb.” Sadly, very few were able to catch the set as the line was still only trickling in.
Psycotic Pineapple took the stage, then delivering an eye-roll-inducing performance shortly after. Proving that not every band needs to reunite, the schlocky senior citizens rambled through a set of Nuggets covers and originals, reminding the few dozen spectators what their weird uncle’s band must sound like.
Boogaloo MC John Waters was running late, much to the chagrin of fans expecting to see the pencil-mustachioed pervert. One can only guess he to was still stuck in line. Special guest Traci Lords (the former teenage adult film star-cum-Waters’ actress) was also tardy for her meet and greet. One can only guess she may have been still emotional about the accusations regarding her Cry Baby co-star, Johnny Depp.*
By the time Amplified Heat were beginning their set on the larger Tassel Castle stage, the floodgates had opened and hundreds of fest-goers were granted entry into the trash-rock wonderland. The sectioned-off 21+ beer garden/corrals soon filled and the deafening roar of PBR cans cracking open permeated the summer air.
Seattle’s Young Fresh Fellows were college radio darlings throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Frontman Scott McCaughey also enjoyed a stint as the unofficial fifth member of R.E.M., spending over 15 years touring and recording with the band, so it was no surprise to see R.E.M. guitarist, Peter Buck, wandering around during their set (causing many middle-aged college DJs to perk up). The band delivered a solid and impressively energetic performance, complete with a drummer playing with one leg thrown over the other and propped atop his kick drum before leaping off his stool to hit a high-placed crash cymbal. Legendary guitarist (and Fastback) Kurt Bloch and his buzzsaw guitar work felt both loose and powerful as they raced through their classic “99 Girls” and a cover of the Undertones’ “Male Model.”
Lars Finberg’s post-punk group The Intelligence hit the TC stage completely at the mercy of the afternoon sun and deprived of shade. Guitarist Dave Hernandez once again showed his chameleon-like ability to adopt a new style after his years of fronting Scared of Chaka and performing as a founding member of The Shins. The audience looked mostly confused by the darker and more angular style of non-feel-good music. Still, many stood to watch when word got around that Finberg was once a member of Thee Oh Sees.
Back at the DM stage, John Waters made it just in time to introduce ’80s Los Angeles punk heroes, Metal Mike and the Angry Samoans (or at least his current incarnation of the band minus original frontman Gregg Turner). The band quickly worked the audience into a slam pit, reminding us all how truly timeless immaturity and stunted emotional growth can be. When they erupted into ho-hum cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” one couldn’t help but wonder, why?
On the Tassel Castle stage were legendary Boston power-pop/boogie rockers The Real Kids. Known for their incredible ability to craft masterpiece pop songs like “All Kindsa Girls,” “Common at Noon,” “My Baby’s Book,” etc., and ragers like “Reggae, Reggae,” “Taxi Boys,” and “Solid Gold (Thru and Thru).” They are also notorious for their decades of substance abuse and inconsistent live performances since reuniting in the late ’90s. After a weekend of Budget Rock shows in ’07, fans were left disappointed, but still made excuses and justifications for extended Blueshammer-esque renditions of classics. This performance was equally underwhelming. Slopping through lazy versions of only a few beloved songs from their early catalog and relying heavily on their 2014 album Shake…Outta Control that, quite honestly, was atrocious Boston bar rock at its worst, The Real Kids looked to be melting in the sun and on the verge of decay. As singer/guitarist John Felice blew sour note after sour note starting “All Kindsa Girls,” even the biggest Real Kids fan (me) was praying for it to end. After a few more songs it finally did, but sadly far too late to salvage their reputation.
Fellow ’70s Boston rockers, The Lyres, hit the DM stage — well, Lyres frontman Jeff “Monoman” Connolly hit the stage, with The Fadeaways from Japan backing him. They delivered a tight, energetic set, but sadly lacked a performance of “She Pays the Rent.”
Japan also brought Boogaloo-ers The Thunderroads featuring Fink from the infamous “flat tire punk” icons, Teengenerate. A loud, frantic rawk onslaught of Teengenerate hits hit everyone in the face at 100 mph and did not let up until an encore cover of The Nervous Eaters‘ “Just Head,” which Fink prefaced with an apologetic “I don’t know this one…”.
Traci Lords and John Waters introduced the original “Queens of Tease Rock,” The Trashwomen, on the Dirty Mouth stage to rabid crowd. Featuring Down at Lulu’s founder Tina Lucchesi, Marquee salon owner Danielle Pimm, and Elka Zolot (mother of Bay Area/LA hip-hop artist Kreayshawn), The Trashwomen have been the matriarchs of the ’90s Bay Area garage scene. Delivering stomping surf fuzz since ’91, these women paved the way for many in a predominantly male music scene. The trio made their presence felt delivering a cache of records and tours during their initial five-year run. Dusting off the leopard print for one more go-round, The Trashwomen reminded everyone: All hail the Queens.
John Dwyer and Thee Oh Sees packed the lawn in front of the Tassel Castle. A sea of mostly young faces aimed themselves at the formerly San Francisco-based band, anxiously awaiting Dwyer and company to rain down their patent brand of modern garage noise. The former Coachwhips leader rallied his troops (which included former Wild Thing, Dan “Hollywood” Rincon, as one of the two drummers onstage). The crowd lost their collective minds once again, ecstatic to see the band whose departure once marked “the death of the San Francisco garage scene.” I’m happy to report both Bay Area garage rock and the band are doing more than fine since the separation and keep in contact amicably.
As the sun set and Thee Oh Sees began to wind down security closed the Dirty Mouth side of the park, roping the audience into the main lawn where a third tiny stage was set up roughly eight feet off the ground. Indignant Boogalooers, not wanting to be ushered five feet to their right, began hurling insults and beer cans at security, who were attempting to make room for the marching band and Mummie-mobile carrying Budget Rock Kings and Boogaloo headliners, the almighty Mummies. Riding atop the hood and roof of a converted ’60s ambulance with their logo and song titles painted on it, the bandage-clad group made another unforgettable entrance before launching into their slop-rock styling of classics from Devo, Little Richard, and the Sonics as well as their pissed-off originals. The once and always poster boys for attitude over ability epitomized what garage rock has always been: fun, loud and unprofessional. It was a more than perfect ending for day one of the Burger Boogaloo.
A quick line brought tired and hung over souls back to the Mosswood grounds. A long-john-attired 12 piece jug band started the day off with purposefully awful jokes with a smattering of songs between gags read off by the Commodore Eran.
Buck Biloxi and the Fucks kicked things into high action with a Cajun serving of stripped-down garage punk, hearkening back to The Oblivians and The Spits (without the Casio). Their Total Punk records labelmates, Giorgio Murderer, would take the same stage later in the day deliver an ever angrier and noisier dose of the same.
The Fadeaways from Japan took over the TC stage and performed with more energy and enthusiasm than possibly any band all weekend. Their identical striped tees and teardrop-shaped guitars gave them a strikingly Japanese aesthetic, while their set list provided a heartfelt homage to American rock and roll.
Tony Clifton told some awful off-color jokes that had some people, unaware of who Tony Clifton is, fuming before he introduced San Francisco classics The Flamin’ Groovies. The Groovies’ history reads like a fifty-year rock and roll struggle to chase that big hit and leave their mark. Lineup changes and restructurings of the group have left dozens of former members but lead guitarist Cyril Jordan continues to keep the band going. The current lineup includes late ’70s UK/Sire records-era frontman Chris Wilson and bassist George Alexander, as well as Los Angeles hotshot drummer Victor Penalosa. The band started the set with a few Jordan-and-Wilson numbers, including the powerpop masterpiece, “You Tore Me Down,” before being joined by original Groovies frontman Roy Loney. The three traded vocal duties for a set that stretched their entire career — a rare treat for most Groovies fans.
Rock legends The Dwarves hit the Dirty Mouth stage in full force. The lineup featured frontman Blag Dahlia and guitarist Hewhocannotbenamed as well as bassist Rex Everything aka Nick Oliveri and the setlist relied heavily on songs from their mid ’90s and current records (i.e. the pop-punk ones).
Former Exploding Hearts members Terry & Louie took over the Tassel Castle stage, delivering an incredible set of brand new tunes from their two Tuff Break records singles and their upcoming album. Making a big guitar sound with catchy rock and roll has been Terry Six’s gift since he started modern power-pop reprobates The Exploding Hearts. Truly a gifted guitar player, after years of inactivity and migrating to Oakland from his native Portland, Six has reunited with King Louie to do what he has always done best. The band raced through a short set of new songs before switching gears to do several Exploding Hearts songs with Louie stepping up to the mic. The front row went wild as The Fadeaways’ bassist, Toyozo, leapt from the railing into the crowd during “I’m a Pretender.”
The crowd rushed to the Dirty Mouth stage to catch Shannon and the Clams make their dreamy sock hop fantasy rock. The adding of a fourth member on keys opens the bands up and fills out the sound in a delightful way.
King Khan and the Shrines came all the way from Germany to ensure there would be soul at the party. The Shrines came in hot, serving as Khan’s soul revue band and making psychedelic voodoo rhythm and blues. Complete with a horn section, go-go dancer, and costume changes, King Khan and the Shrines are almost a religious experience. Like the Indian reincarnation of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, James Brown, and Esquerita, Khan stole the day and broke everyone’s minds.
Bay Area runaway/Hollywood C-list queer celeb Seth Bogart closed the night at the Dirty Mouth stage bringing his newest creative outlet, The Seth Bogart Show, to life. In a set that looked like Pee Wee’s Playhouse in a gay disco, Bogart performed his minimalist EDM pop in front of an elaborate stage show and set. It was a truly surreal performance: The sun sank as his set ended and the crowd dispersed, having ingested a plethora of rock and roll and various intoxicants. After-parties were being discussed and rides being sorted out. Everyone made their way out of Mosswood and the deranged summer camp weekend of partiers, fans, and freaks.
Stay cool. See you next summer.
*Correction: We’ve since heard (from John Waters himself!) that both Waters and Lords arrived on time and went on stage when instructed to do so.
Photos by Jon Ching