The least shocking thing about Burger Boogaloo: Summer of Filth was that the gates opened late, and attendees lined up around the block to enter. After all, punk is not an abbreviation for punctual, and if the two-day price tag of $59, with headlining acts like The Mummies didn’t tip you off, this is not Coachella. Psycotic Pineapple tapped into something that spoke to the spirit of the event when they sang “Rock and Roll is dead, and we don’t care,” early on day one of this freak-fest. Because if Rock and Roll is indeed dead, its reanimated corpse sure put on one hell-of-a show as Burger Records resurrected a lineup of some of the strangest garage acts ever to pervert the genre.
We all know that the freaks prefer to come out at night, but like flies drawn to a stink, they were lured out of their crypts by the too-bad-to-be-true lineup and endured two days of relentless sunshine and a balmy breeze to worship at the alter of sleaze. As you might expect audience members adorned a plethora of pins and patches representing their punk rock sensibilities. Heaven forbid, (or maybe rather hell forbid) somebody misinterpret the crowds’ loyalties. Besides these banal expressions of counterculture there were also more daring fashion exhibitions; among them pentagram nipple pasties, and body modifications that defy description. The beauty of this gathering was that regardless of your predispositions, in the sea of weirdos, there were no outsiders.
If we follow the undead Rock metaphor, John Waters was the perfect necromancer to summon an assortment of trashy acts to the stage. He introduced himself as the “Bob Hope from hell,” and gave introductions for punk pioneers like the Young and Fresh Fellows, The Angry Samoans, and The Dwarves that might sound like insults in other circles, but were worn here like badges of honor. All three of those bands played on the “Dirty Mouth” amphitheater stage, which was made up to resemble a (you guessed it) gaping mouth, complete with a tongue shaped drum riser. The amphitheater also featured a fire pit turned mosh pit. This pit was an endless source of sooty dust which was kicked up, and clung the sweaty bodies in the throng of concertgoers. However, like the performers wore Waters’ defamations, the fans wore their grime with pride.
Minor logistical oversights to aside, Boogaloo affords many moments when the viewers inevitably think to themselves, “Only here.” For instance, where will you find a cult wet-dream quite like The Trashwomen performing “Surfin’ Bird” with Russell Quan (of The Mummies) and Jello Biafra (of The Dead Kennedys) on vocals, after being introduced by none other than Traci Lords? Another such moment was hearing Tony Clifton tell characteristically tasteless jokes to warm the crowd up for San Francisco punk forefathers The Flaming Groovies. The whole affair was curated so perfectly for the low-budget-late-night crowd that it sounds made up.
That said, “nasty nostalgia,” as John Waters put it, was not all that was on display at this filthy affair. Contemporary garage rock heavies like Thee Oh Sees, Death Valley Girls, The Intelligence, and King Khan and the Shrines contributed fresh blood to the cold dead heart of Rock & Roll on the stage dubbed the Tassel Castle. The current lineup of Thee Oh Sees led by John Dwyer and featuring relentless dual drummers was a hypnotic highlight of the stage flanked by rotating spirals. A set by local sweethearts Shannon and the Clams forced us to acknowledge that maybe Burger Boogaloo has outgrown the modest confines of the Mosswood amphitheater, as many fans were forced to try and steal peeks at the act between dense trees and neon mohawks.
Another fresh and unexpected delight in the lineup was a trio of acts from Tokyo including Thunderroads, Fink (formerly of Teengenerate) and The Fadeaways. One could not help but find their energy and appreciation for a bygone era of punk endearing. There was not a trace of irony as these eager acts from Japan leapt from stacks of amplifiers playing covers by bands like The Sonics with vintage guitars in hand. Yet they were not the only ones who shamelessly relied on stunts and covers to bolster their performance. Self-proclaimed “Kings of Budget Rock,” The Mummies, made their entrance at the conclusion of day one riding atop the iconic Mummiesmobile, (a ’63 Bonneville ambulance) led by a marching band. They pulled into the middle of the park and performed their crowd-pleasing set including “(You Must Fight To Live) On the Planet Of the Apes,” and a cover of Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge” atop a piece of plywood set between a makeshift platform and the ambulance roof.
As the sun set on day two, King Khan and the Shrines burned through a rousing set including “No Regrets” and a rendition of their classic “I Wanna Be a Girl” dedicated to transgender individuals everywhere. After many nods to the pride festivities under way across the Bay, the final act of the weekend was an appropriately fabulous, surreal, and kitsch-laden multimedia performance by Seth Bogart (formerly of Gravy Train!!!, and Hunx and his Punx). Seth made it clear that costume changes are not just for the likes of Beyonce as he vamped his way through some of the most pop-oriented fare of the weekend including “Hollywood Squares,” “Plastic!” and “Sunday Boy” all from his recent self-titled Burger Records release. From the scantily clad backup dancers to the stripping security guards, The Seth Bogart Show was a perfect cherry on top of the sickeningly sweet trash extravaganza.
As we put aloe on our burned skin and return to work with NSFW images burned into our minds, we reflect on the debauched celebration. In a summer festival ecosystem that has become ever more populated, what is that makes Boogaloo stand out like Divine in a JC Penny catalogue? Disregarding the fact that their lineup consistently lacks household names (at least in any respectable household), the real secret sauce is that the folks at Burger Records understand that Rock & Roll should not take itself too seriously. It’s about having a good time. It’s about that oft-forgotten ingredient known as “the party” to quote Lester Bangs. No doubt Lester was rolling in his grave for this one, not because he found the event to be in poor taste, but because Rock & Roll is dead and the party lives on.
Day 1 photos by Pedro Paredes-Haz, check out more of his work here.
Day 2 photos by Brian Ogden.