[the homeless] would bitch about this. I mean, screw your sleep, you get a free show.”
This sentiment was in the minority, though, with representatives from The Homeless Action Center and Punks with Lunch speaking to people at the festival from vendor booths and an overall appreciation for Boogaloo purposefully making the space more respectful of park residents than last year.
The space ultimately was not the main driver for the less raucous feel of the festival. The Jesus and Mary Chain headlined both nights. Having the same headliner for both nights of the festival was odd by itself, but Jesus struck me as a particularly strange choice for the festival at all. Don’t get me wrong — Psychocandy is an unparalleled work of shoegaze, taking sullenness to the stratosphere in a way that is compelling and entertaining. They aren’t a group that evokes the same kind of outward frenzy I’ve come to associate with Boogaloo. However, my friend corrected me when I said they were a strange choice for the festival. “Well, it’s a strange festival,” he quipped.
Even given the climate for strange, Jesus and Mary Chain were good but not amazing. Jim Reid’s vocals just didn’t seem to live up to the music. “Just Like Honey” was played both nights, and it fell short of the recorded version each time. Those lovely low notes that just seem to drag on forever, taking the spirit of the listener down the road with them, were aborted. I wonder if playing two nights following a tour of Central and South America was just too much for the performer, as I hear their July 4th show in Mexico City was nothing short of revelry.
There were moments of greatness. “Some Candy Talking” was one of the most beautiful and passionate songs I’ve heard played live in a while. It was a highlight of the festival for me. Additionally, the band was very gracious when the P.A. cut out the second night and interrupted their set. Burgeriarians ran about and fixed the issue quickly, but it still punctuated the already strange energy (or lack of) waving over the crowd.
At the end of their set the first night, the crowd was extremely orderly and quiet filing out of the space. Again, not the typical Boogaloo.
There was plenty of daytime excitement from the other bands, however. Nikki Corvette opened the show with music to motor by, the kind of classic, thriving, manic punk you’d expect. She claimed to be performing a cover of “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” so the crowd would “have something to sing along to,” but I saw plenty of older punks mouthing the words to her other songs. There was some surprise from members of the crowd sharing a picnic table with me that Ms. Corvette had aged since her days with The Corvettes. I don’t know why I’m always surprised by people who don’t think beautiful women also change and age, but I’d love to go to a concert one day where a woman’s appearance is not remarked upon at all. A girl can dream.
Day one bands Terry & Louie, NoBunny, the Phantom Surfers, and the Dwarves all played fun sets. The Dwarves were joined on stage by some go-go dancers, but for once they didn’t seem to need the extra spectacle. They played better than I’d ever heard them play before and seemed to be on their best behavior, spitting on the crowd but laying off the heavy verbal abuse. Maybe they were trying to make amends for pulling out of the festival last year.
I’m not sure if it was part of the act or not, but one of the go-go dancers tried to join the Dead Boys on stage and was rejected. This was probably an effort to make room on stage for the Boys’ sound, as they had these dense basslines that were thrown over the crowd, and then with a single yank pulled tight into shibari-like knots. Impressive.
Sheer Mag channeled their inner the Who with a scream so blood-curdling I thought that an episode of CSI: Miami was about to start. If you can recreate the scream from “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” you’re OK in my book. Their songs swung back and forth from bluesy to sunny with that working-man grit and struggle braided into their fabric. Very entertaining.
The heroes of Day One were Amyl and the Sniffers. Sporting the mullets your mother warned you about, the band was youthful energy personified. Snot-nosed by birth and snotty by choice, their songs were the satisfying berserk frenzy that I look for at Boogaloo. “This song is for everyone I hate,” snarled their singer at the crowd with Grinch-like misanthropy, “it’s called, ‘Fuck You.'” Then they tore into a set laden with everyone’s favorite four-letter word. Imagine if The Primitives had hated everyone and wanted them to know it. You’d get something close to the Sniffers.
I was less enthusiastic about Day Two. Timmy’s Organism, the Chats, Derv Gordon, and King Tuff were all good, but there wasn’t one moment when I was knocked off my feet. Davila 666 and Musk didn’t really do anything for me, but the crowd seemed receptive. The Scientists started off so-so, but they gained quickly ramped things up for a really enjoyable set.
The best set of the day was played by local legends Shannon and the Clams. The Clams are Boogaloo regulars, but what they do on stage is never short of extraordinary. This year, they brought their brand of hoopla with dancing ghosts waltzing on stage. The highlight of their set was a cover of “White Rabbit” that took the beauty and power of the original and subverted it, making it pleasantly trashy enough to nestle nicely into the ears of emcee and counter-culture king John Waters, who was smiling ear-to-ear backstage as “Feeeeeeed your heeeeeeeead” was belted out.
I am hopeful that this downsizing is not a trend to an even more minimal Boogaloo next year. The coziness of this year’s festival felt different, but still mostly comfortable and community-minded. The focus was not so much on the headliners this year, which may ultimately be a good thing and more in line with Boogaloo “values,” but I am hopeful next year’s Boogaloo will have more of the mania of year’s past at the end of the night.
Stay strange, Burger Boogaloo.