Words by Farren Jecky, photos by Pedro Paredes-Haz
Oakland’s Burger Boogaloo is now in its eighth year running. The garage punk fest is located in leafy Mosswood Park, just beyond the industrial sprawl, the docklands and the tent cities of downtown. It’s different out here, as the locals will tell you, the heat is a little more intense and the glittering bay seems like a distant dream, the place has grit.
When I arrive Personal & the Pizzas are busy blasting through their set. It’s as good a start to the weekend as any. Three dudes who look like they lost it all in some shady Vegas deal churning out raw, crude tunes like the Ramones’ sleazy uncles.
Speaking of the Brudders from Queens, they’re a major touchstone for the tone of the weekend. Their synthesis of buzzsaw guitars, fifties harmonies and comic book slogans has become the practical blueprint for a lot of modern punk.
However, as I stroll the grounds I come across some people fundraising for DIY venue 924 Gilman and I’m reminded of a time when the Bay Area was known for an entirely different strain of punk rock.
The flyer is old school, black and white, overtly political, it shows some kids raising the Gilman sign in echo of the famous Iwo Jima soldier photo.
Not to get too nostalgic but it is interesting that in the current climate the one thing missing here is any palpable sense of rage. Perhaps people are still reeling, or still too comfortable, or maybe punk has just become jaded in its old age. Its cultural power diminished. I honestly don’t know but I do catch myself longing for a hardcore band or two, some fury to cut through the haze of beer, pizza and perpetual adolescence. Still, these are just momentary reflections on the state of the culture, a critic has to talk about something after all. But it would be churlish to be too negative when people are enjoying themselves this much.
Burger Records specializes in good time trash and on that front they deliver time and time again. From the rockabilly wit of Bloodshot Bill to the exuberant delinquency of NoBunny, it’s a nonstop party.
As local heroes Shannon & The Clams take the stage in the late evening sun, you think this is as close to heavenly as punk rock can get.
John Waters, premier purveyor of kitsch and sexual eccentricity returns to host proceedings for the third time in a row. His uncanny ability to make even the most deviant behavior feel like a wholesome all-American endeavor marks him as the perfect choice for the festival.
“This man survived drugs, the music business, Susan Tyrell, heterosexuality and yes, Lou Reed and David Bowie. Plain and simple, he’s God,” goes his intro to Iggy Pop.
Shirtless at seventy and going out like he came in. As night comes on the Godfather of Punk takes the stage kicking and screaming. Some of these songs are so vital, so primal, they still feel like transmissions from another world entirely. It’s just about everything a fan could possibly want in a set, solo classics, Stooges screamers, they even play the goddamn Repo Man theme tune. I don’t know how Iggy does it. Pogoing for an hour makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon.
The weekend is closed out by England’s originals the Buzzcocks. It’s a colorful set, alternately sardonic and heartfelt, with enough genuine classics to keep the crowd jumping.
Outside the park I spot a nice lady selling some beer from a cardboard box.
I like beer I think and so I take out my wallet, pay, put the wallet back and grab my two beers. I’m a few feet down the road before I realize the wallet’s been snatched. It’s different out here.
Luckily I have just enough change to pay for the train home. Plus I’ve got two beers! Every cloud has a silver, Tecate flavored lining.
Special note – Everyone expects to get scalped a little at a festival but damn, eight dollars for a slice of pizza is taking it a bit far.
Check out more in the gallery below.