Beach Goth Still Shone Even With Rain Delays

The Growlers and the Observatory presented Beach Goth V (the fifth installment) this past weekend in sunny Santa Ana, where headliners such as Bon Iver and Justice kept the party going into the night. The layout of the festival allowed for festival-goers to get around easily; the main dome stage was a short walk to the other outdoor RX stage, which were in the parking lot of the Observatory/Constellation Room. On the first day, the weather was beautiful, so much so that the Thrillcall crew had to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.  Day one was very organized in our opinion, though people that arrived later in the day may have encountered more delays than we did. We arrived at around 12:30p and were shuffled through ticketing and security quickly. The smaller acts early in the afternoon raised the energy of the crowd as everyone trickled in from the bottleneck of will call. Hinds of Spain have been touring around the world for the past year and gave a rousing performance at the outdoor RX stage. Heron Oblivion were stationed in the Constellation Room and stood out from other bands of the afternoon with their cohesion and their incredible frontwoman who also played drums. Chicano Batman wooed the crowd while donning matching suits as they jammed through their set at the peak of the afternoon.

Older acts also brought the house down, from Patti Smith to Violent Femmes. Though she spoke only vaguely about politics, Patti Smith still delivered on her riot-feminist flair with lines of inspiration for the crowd, “You’re alive!” and encouraging fans to throw their hands in the air and scream. TLC’s set gave us chills- they sound exactly like their recordings. Their backup dancers were a lot of fun, and a pleasant surprise as most shows don’t include any choreography, unless you’re watching a top-40 pop act play an arena show. Naturally, everyone erupted at “No Scrubs,” easily one of the biggest hits of the day. Violent Femmes came as a close second, when they opened their set with “Blister in the Sun,” with every member of the crowd emphatically singing along.

Beach Goth V - James Blake

James Blake

James Blake and Bon Iver closed out the first night back to back on the main dome stage, showcasing their new experimental electronic albums. Blake kept things characteristically minimal, playing hits such as “Retrograde” and “Forest Fire” (with sadly no special appearance from Justin Vernon). Bon Iver’s set may have been the exact opposite, loading up the stage with equipment until there appeared to be no room to even stand. The band played through most of their newest album, 22, A Million with the alien symbols filling up the visuals behind them. The crowd relished the electro-rendition of “Calgary” that they included in the middle of the set, but no moment could beat the bliss of hearing “Creature Fear” from Bon Iver’s debut album. That acoustic melody was the grande finale of the night.

Things got complicated on day two. The will call line wasn’t so bad, likely because everyone had two day passes and already had joined the revelry the day before. But that translated to long, yet relatively speedy security lines to enter the fest. It rained all day, which may have been a curse in disguise of a blessing; as nice as it is to feel the cool rain on a particularly hot October afternoon, areas on the festival grounds flooded and there were very few places to find refuge from the downpour. The venue tried to compensate by selling trash bags for a dollar to be used as ponchos, but in all it was utter chaos. The music, however, was still unforgettable.

Beach Goth - Future Islands

Future Islands courtesy of Julian Malagon

The start of the day may have been wet, but everything still ran as usual. 2 Live Crew threw a profane pep rally at the indoor Observatory main stage with lots of crowd engagement from the MC and of course the star duo, Fresh Kid Ice and Brother Marquis. Devendra Banhart was slated early to play the outdoor dome stage as the rain came down harder and made everyone more than slightly grumpy. “We’ll be alright!” Banhart told us, then launched into his delightful indie folk set comprised of songs from all across his discography. It was around this time that we decided to grab lunch and also when shit hit the fan. The pathway around the sponsor tents and merch table was completely flooded, and the Outdoor RX stage was declared dead. Whispers from other festival-goers suggested the bands would be performing at the other stages, but not a single member of the press knew what was happening. By chance, we stumbled into the The Drums’ performance which had been moved indoors, bumping other bands off the set list and whose fates we never learned.

The dome stage went on without a hitch, much to the relief of the folks camped at the front for the headliner of the night, Justice. After Devendra Banhart, New Zealand funk group, Unknown Mortal Orchestra took the stage and gave a great performance, but it was overshadowed by the wild antics of the act that followed them, Future Islands. Their lead singer, Samuel Herring, would go from his signature raspy voice to deep and demonic in a blink, and at times he looked like a crazy person staring off into space, air writing with his index finger, and dancing erratically, but the crowd loved it. Finishing up the night, Justice gave the crowd exactly what they wanted, and maybe a little of the unexpected. Everyone chanted along to “D.A.N.C.E.” and their latest single, “Safe and Sound,” and even managed shake it to their cover of “I Love Rock n Roll.”

With the outdoor stage closed, Nicolas Jaar followed The Drums on the indoor Observatory main stage and was reduced to a DJ set. Eventually, though, the RX stage was reopened, with the final two acts scheduled to go on as originally planned. The crowd flooded the area at the foot of the stage as RL Grime came out to distract everyone from the mess of the day that we’d endured. His set made even the most sober individuals writhe to the music, dancing to his signature (and namesake) industrial grime tracks. Despite managing to keep to the schedule as best they could, nothing could have reversed water damage on equipment that was left out in the rain. A sad Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, came out on stage to explain this to us, and apologized profusely for then having to cancel her set. A fitting end to a whirlwind of a festival.