The Growlers’ DIY Music Festival Is Back, Bigger And Better Than Ever REVIEW+PHOTOS: THE GROWLERS SIX 10/28-29/17
EDITOR’S NOTE: Blurred Culture did not submit a request to cover The Growlers Six (we’re always looking for more contributors, so hit us up if you are an aspiring journalist!), but as fate would have it our dude Derrick got a last minute opportunity to take photographs at the festival for beermoviesmusic.com, and he decided to put together a little something to share his festival experience and the tons of photos he didn’t have to send. The format of this festival review will be slightly different from what we normally do when we are typically approved to cover festivals (all of the thoughts of the acts will be in this post and not in a separate post, but photo galleries will be set up separately). Well … enjoy!
San Pedro, CA- After a messy Beach Goth outing last year, which was followed by numerous legal troubles, it was a pleasant surprise when I received the notice that The Growler’s were still setting up another festival, with a new name, in a different location. With Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Modest Mouse, Rostam (an original member of Vampire Weekend) and Danny Brown on the roster, I started to reminiscence about my Coachella 2013 experience (all artists that performed at Coachella that year in one form or another) and got psyched when I thought about getting the opportunity to photograph all of them performing (Side Note: I didn’t get the chance to photograph Rostam perform since I wasn’t going to miss any bit of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ performance).
When I arrived at the LA Waterfront, I immediately noticed how spacious and pleasant the festival setting was. Being next to the ocean with a pleasant sea breeze wafting through the venue was definitely an upgrade to the prior venue in Orange County. There were also tons of fun stuff to check out on the festival grounds. Perhaps in an attempt to compete with Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, there were festival game booths, art installations, rides and “side shows” including the “Death Ride” which patrons could enjoy when they wanted to take a break fro the music.
But perhaps the best part of the festival- other than the music- were the attendees themselves. With the musical festival scheduled the weekend before Halloween, guests were encouraged to come dressed in costumes, and some of them were costumed up to the nines [Check out the photo gallery below]. This “audience participation” gave the festival a truly carefree, let-it-all-hang-out vibe, and quite frankly, was a unique festival atmosphere to experience. Some bands even got into the spirit and dressed up to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve… speaking of which …
The first act I was able to catch was Tinariwen. A KCRW favorite, this Grammy award winning band of Taureg musicians quite simply mesmerized me with their guitar-driven melodies and rhythms. Their style of music is difficult to describe but imagine cross pollinating blues, Bollywood, and folk while throwing in a pinch of something psychedelic and you’d probably end up with something to Tinariwen.
From World Music, I changed things up and decided to relive some of my younger days by getting crunk to some classic Southern hip hop courtesy of Juvenile. Now, it’s actually been a while since I’ve bumped his Cash Money album “400 Degreez”, but as soon as he told the crowd to “Back That Azz Up”, I was back in college trying to grind up on girls at dances. When Juvenile noted that you could probably catch him in scenes in almost all of the Cash Money videos that came out during the late 90s and early 2000s, I realized that it was really him and Lil Wayne that put Cash Money on the map. Whether you recognize it or not, Juvenile is part of the foundation of one of the biggest hip hop label juggernauts of modern times. It was good seeing him do his thing and lighting one up on stage.
Continuing with the hip hop, I made my way to the stage where Danny Brown was performing. He has previously announced that he is currently working on his next album- teasing recently that it’s being produced by a “rap legend“. Looking much more clean cut that the last time I saw him perform, I almost expected that his live performance would be toned down. I was wrong. With his signature high pitched voice, and his animated antics while spitting lyrics on stage, his performance was about as entertaining and excited as I can remember. He may have cut his hair, but unlike Sampson, he’s still got that strength.
I opted to cut Danny’s set a little short to check out the revered indie rock band Guided By Voices. Now, I’m not the most well versed in their repertoire, but with over 20 studio albums to their name, I know a song or two. Plus, how could I miss the chance to check out one of the greatest living songwriters, Robert Pollard, do his thing.
At age 60, Robert has still got that rock star flare. With the band playing his melodic gems loudly with vigor, it was an inspired moment to watch unfold on stage.
After catching about thirty minutes of Guided By Voices, I ran over catch another thirty minutes of a band that I had heard a lot about from my female friends: Cigarettes After Sex.
After about one song, I realized that the name of Greg Gonzales’ band was perfectly fitting. I’d want to call their music dream pop or shoegaze, but to be honest, it was so much more downtempo than I anticipated. Their music induces the kind of feeling you get after you’ve just finished having … well … sex, and are sweaty and exhausted lighting up that relaxing cigarette.
Sweet mellow melodies floating over a daze of ambient sonics.
Needing to wake up from the dream-like trance that Cigarettes After Sex charmed me into, I walked over to catch the vibrant noise rock of Modest Mouse. This would be the third time catching them live, and Isaac Brock and company never fail to entertain. The seven players on stage- playing everything from trumpets to violins- gave festival attendees a loud sonic barrage of some of my favorite songs including “Dramamine” and “King Rat”. As if the music weren’t enough, simply watching Isaac shred away on his electric guitar is entertainment enough, especially when he plays his axe with his face (see the photos below)
The band I was most excited catch on the first day of The Growlers 6 was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The last time I caught them live was at Coachella 2013, and 5 years between sets is waaaay too long. Their show to the Fonda a few days earlier had sold out, so getting the chance to photograph them, let alone see them, was blessing. The added fact that their appearance at The Growlers 6 was the second of only four gigs this year made this performance particularly special.
Karen O and company put on one hell of a show. Basically performing a set of their greatest hits (including “Heads Will Roll”, “Maps” & “Sacrilege”), their performance alone would have been worth the price of a single day ticket.
And Karen O reminded us of much of a bad-ass she is on stage. Everything she did embodied a punk ethos that other female rockers should aspire to. The way she danced across stage, spit water out of her mouth, interacted with the crowd, whipped her microphone chord around like a lasso … it was rock and roll at its best. A rock goddess reclaiming her place on rock and roll’s throne.
In the early incarnations of the festival, The Growlers used to close out both nights of the festival. Last year, they deviated from that formula but for The Growlers 6 they returned to form closing out both Day 1 and 2 with their inimitable brand of surf/psychedelic rock.
I could get a sense that that their performance was a celebration of overcoming odds. Perhaps, going back to the way it was … a DIY festival that was more of a party than a corporate money maker … rejuvenated them in a way that made this performance more lively than the one I saw last year.
Day 2 of The Growlers 6 got off to a bit of a rough start. I was looking forward to having the up and coming, female fronted punk band The Regrettes kick off my day. The band took the stage dressed in costumes all smiles and full of energy. Sometimes during the third song of their set, a girl from the audience pushed her aggressively through the photo pit to the stage (slapping me in the face en route), jumped on stage, verbally accosted the lead singer, Lydia Night, before forcefully pushing her over, abruptly cutting the performance short. The attacker was apprehended by security.
Lydia would later address the incident on social media, reassuring fans that she was all right and would keep on rocking. The stage is supposed to be a safe place for every performer. Let’s make sure it stays that way.
Still in a daze from what happened at The Regrettes stage, I slowly made my way to where Antibalas was set to perform. If there was anything that was going to pick up my spirits at the time, it was going to the be the infectious Afrobeat from this Brooklyn based band. They play with the kind of passion and intensity that stokes a fire in your soul and forces you to move to the rhythms that they groove to.
There’s also a fire in Antibalas’ lead singer, Amayo. With his painted face and colorful garb, his presence on stage was magnetic and captivating. It was as if he was a witch doctor enchanting the audience with his melodies.
After getting some of world music into my system, I decided to keep soaking in some musical culture and catch Chiquis Rivera and her pop influenced banda. Chiquis is the eldest daughter of Jenni Rivera, and with a debut album, “Ahora”, that reached number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums, she had plenty of fans attending her early afternoon performance at The Growlers Six.
Though it seemed to me that there may have been some sound issues at the beginning, it was hardly noticeable with her band that lined the entire width of the stage with horns pumping out overwhelming latin rhythms. With Chiquis singing songs while sipping on glasses of tequila, it was about as fun of a performance as it could be.
There were two acts that I desperately wanted to catch live and photograph whose set times conflicted with each other. One of those bands was the The B-52s.
The B-52s had the smash hit back “Love Shack” in the 1989. This was right during the time when I started watching MTV and started saving up pennies to buy cassettes tapes. Their album “Cosmic Thing” cost me about 1800 pennies, and I listened to it enough that I literally wore it out until it was unplayable.
Seeing Kate, Fred, Keith and Cindy perform some of their classic hits with the energy and enthusiasm that I remember from their music videos gave me life. It was like opening up a little capsule of instant youth and made me pretty damn giddy beyond belief. I only caught the beginning and end of their set so I missed out on seeing them perform “Roam”, but that was because ….
… the other act I HAD to catch live was performing during the same time. When I saw the Geto Boys scheduled to perform, I had to hear them perform at least one song: “My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me”. Since I was going to miss the beginning of their performance because of The B-52s’ set time, I crossed my fingers when I made my way over to their stage.
Missing my time in the photo pit, I started snapping pictures from the crowd. I had about 30 minutes to enjoy their performance, before I needed to make it back to the The B-52s’ stage to catch them perform “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster”.
As I watched Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill perform, I was once again transported back to my youth. Back when I used to rock Jinco Jeans and act like I was as hard as they were. Just when it was about time for me to head back to the other stage, I heard familiar treble heavy sampled loop start to play. The one song that I HAD to hear was about to be rapped. I couldn’t have been any happier as I spit lyric for lyric every line with the trio.
Dan Auerbach is a man who can wear the clothes of a plethora of styles and genres. Although I’m way more familiar with his work with The Black Keys, I’ve kept tabs on his solo work and his music with The Arcs. Dan is taking a step in another direction touring with soul singer Robert Finley on the “Easy Eye Sound Revue” tour.
While Robert only joined Dan for a couple selections during the performance, the set was filled the blues and soul that we should expect from the collaborative album that they are working on.
I’ve always wanted to see Beth Ditto perform live, whether with the Gossip or as a solo act. What I love about her is her powerful soprano voice and the energy with which she sings. After seeing her perform at The Growlers Six, I have a few more reasons to want to see her perform live again.
First of all, Beth’s confidence is infectious. She’s a big girl, and she owns it. All of it. With confidence. Second, she’s also got a great sense of humor. When she took a moment during her set to steal a slice of pizza from a fan in the front of the crowd to take a bite from it, relishing the nourishment, I was laughing my ass off. A fabulous performer with a fabulous personality and a fabulous sense of self.
From one strong woman to another strong woman, I made my way to see Alice Glass perform on the “Something” stage. She had had an emotionally trying week, previously releasing a statement through social media on her reasons for why she left the band Crystal Castles. Addressing the alleged emotional and sexual abuse that she endured from Ethan Kath, and subsequently putting so-called “friends” on blast for not backing up her stories- by posting screenshots of emails backing up her truth- I was partially expecting her, understandably, to cancel her appearance. She did not.
While her performance was slightly shorter than the time that was allotted for her, she gave her fans a visceral performance that was accentuated by dramatic lighting effects and mysterious clouds of fog. But even with the amazing stage production, Alice Glass’ charismatic stage presence could not be obscured. With grand and dramatic gestures, her emotions were clearly worn on her sleeve and it was a reassuring sign that she is well on her way of leaving whatever that was bad in the past in the past.
I’m not a big fan of DJs, but man … I do love me some Girl Talk. When it comes to mashups, there’s no one better than Gregg Gillis.
As is his modus operandi, he invited a gaggle of festival attendees to join him on stage to dance wildly to the beats and melodies he spins together creating a truly excited party atmosphere. As fans lost their collective minds to the beat, a hype man shot rolls of toilet paper into the audience with makeshift toilet paper gun (?) adding more fervor to the atmosphere. And as his set concluded, huge balloon balls were released into the audience.
While many of the grooves he played on this evening were tracks that he’s played since “Feed the Animals”, I didn’t mind. It’s always a party with Girl Talk, and I dig it.
Back in high school, I had a handful of friends that were really into Butthole Surfers. Though I thought their name was wildly amusing, I never really took the time to get into their music. After doing a little digging online, I discovered news that they were in the process of recording their first album in 15 years. I figured, catching them at Growlers Six was about as good a time as any to get exposed to their loud and eclectic brand of music.
Performing in what was perhaps the darkest lit stage of the weekend, they unleashed a sonic barrage of psychedelic punk weirdness to the masses. Known for their outrageous antics onstage, I didn’t see Gibby and company do anything too out of the ordinary on stage during the thirty minutes I was there to catch them perform. Maybe Gibby used a staple gun on himself later in the set, but if he did I missed it. Anyone there see them do something crazy? Let us know.
I thought I would be concluding my Growlers Six experience by catching The Growlers shut their baby down, but due to the urging of a fellow photographer, I was convinced to catch the Brooklyn-based band Beach Fossils instead. It turned out to be a really nice night-cap to a full day of music.
They were one of the only bands in the line-up that I really had no prior knowledge of. Other than the fact that they had released an album earlier this year that I’ll admit I hadn’t listened to yet, I really knew nothing about them or their music. When they started playing, I was immediately swept up in their lo-fi dream pop. With soothing instrumentals and very melodic hooks, I found myself gently swaying to their music as I sauntered out of the photo pit. I stayed until their last note, making it a point to add them to my Spotify playlist, before joining a group of folks heading for the exits.
After two days at The Growlers Six, I think that The Growlers successfully rejuvenated their DIY music festival, making it a bigger and better spectacle than the year before. By curating a line-up that caters to virtually every type of music fan, offering attendees little non-musical escapes to enjoy throughout the day and situating the festivities at a location that is 10 times more enjoyable than their prior locale, it’s clearly a recipe for future success.
BELOW ARE LINKS TO PHOTO GALLERIES OF THE MUSICAL ACTS THAT BLURRED CULTURE WAS ABLE TO CATCH AT THE GROWLERS SIX. STAY TUNED AS INDIVIDUAL PAGES ARE POSTED HERE!!!
SATURDAY OCT. 28TH
SUNDAY OCT. 28TH
Derrick K. Lee is a music attorney, blogger, concert photographer and co-owner of Blurred Culture. He goes to a lot of shows and sometimes he writes good. Music is his boo.
All photos are edited with iPhoto. Lightroom edits can be made upon request. For prints and/or approvals for special uses of any photo taken by Derrick, please contact him directly.