When I visited Gonpachi, the restaurant that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1, I watched as a teenage bus boy, carrying a tub of dirty dishes, tripped on the second floor landing, sending a cascade of water on two well-suited Japanese business men at the bar below. Resulting in a flash and flury of apologies, towels, and more apologies, I waited for something to happen.
In all honesty, I hoped this was the open action sequence to a movie – the bus boy, who would *really* be an bus GIRL would be a high-stakes arms dealer attempting to get far undercover into mob headquarters to take out the mob boss who’d killed her father. Amid the building tension and suspicion, Mr. Mob, realizing his restaurant would now be the scene for said revenge, The 5, 6, 7, 8’s would loudly tear into: “I’m Blue.” Brilliantly choreographed knife and fist fights (imagine Kill Bill meets The Raid) between our starring underdog crime fighter lady and the mob’s henchmen would ensue. And above the nash of fists, faces, and katana swords and the interlude of “Bomb the Twist”, John Waters would quietly take the open seat next to me: “Soooo, hmm, yakitori?” he would ask calmly, coyly peeking at me through delighted eyes.
After hearing for months that John Waters would host this years’ Burger Boogaloo in Oakland and seeing that my favorite Japanese rock trio of badass ladies would be play an evening slot, this day dream played out daily: it was a mash-up of my favorite things. I guess it’s no surprise that Burger Boogaloo has become one of my favorite festivals. This year’s line-up was incredibly sick and showing up on the first day, I realized I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The line-up for Burger Boogaloo is always phenomenal, everyone there is incredibly nice, respectful, and cool about being in a crowd or has been to a concert or festival before (whispering: they now how to act), and the food is awesome.
On the sunny Saturday of Burger, I first made my way to Abur-Ya, upon the recommendation of a well-informed friend. This was, by far, the BEST fried chicken I’ve ever had. The Sansho pepper seasoning was impressive – unreal and unlike anything I’ve had before. That’s what people expect from Burger Boogaloo- a unique experience. The line-up is always expected to be fantastic. There were a few differences from last year’s fest and it was all for the better.
This year, Burger Records set-up the festival with two, different stages: Flesh Land, complete with manicured zombie hands and Psychoville, decorated with blood-soaked gauze strips. And even better were the set times that bounced between the two stages. You could easily move between the two areas, maybe stopping for a beer or popsicle in between, to see the acts alternating between the stages. As the day progressed, it was harder to get to the front of Flesh Land, which served as the main stage and the platform of Mr. Waters introductions. But this only meant you had to give up a few songs of one act to get ready for the next.
My Saturday began with Magentix, the garage rock, hi-fi duo from France. Don’t let drummer Aggy Sonora’s too-cool, stylish look fool you. She’s been called the Queen Bee of the Bad Beat (trust me, I read it somewhere) and it’s easy to see why. She kept the beat steady for husband Looch Vibrato’s loud and moody lyrics. Although impressed by how the entire festival was kept on time (a feat in itself), I could have listened to Magnetix all day. I checked out Untamed Youth next and who John Waters said he confused with “Surf Rats” then understanding they categorized themselves “Surf Rap”. The Untamed Youth dudes were fun, excited by the stage set-up, and were the right mellow tunes for the sunny afternoon.
Taking a quick break out the sun for a minute proved to be a bad choice because I almost missed the band hitting Psychoville. It was the punk trio The Thunderroads from Japan.
These guys killed!!! I. Mean. Just. Killed. They were loud, captivating, had a drummer who also sang vocals, and were overall bad-ass. The crowd was really into it – so much so that it was almost impossible to take a picture of the entire band.
Their website is mostly in Japanese and their Facebook page only says: “Since human beings emerged on Earth, the best things are always created from The Underground. Rock’n’Roll!!”
Yeah, these guys are the coolest. I’d love to tell you the names of the all three members but I can only hope to ask them next time they play a Burger Records gig or The Hemlock. My regret is not looking for their records while at the festival and maybe if they emerge from The Underground, I can figure out how to get some of their albums into my day-to-day life.
Next up was a packed Flesh Land for The Gories, who were awesome. Consider them some of Detroit’s finest and garage-punkiest! This was my first time seeing The Gories only after knowing their work through albums and hearing about their 2009 reunion tour in Europe. Had I known that The Gories would be playing Scandanvia this July, I would have stayed in Finland for a month to see them a second time. In their live performance, you can even more clearly hear their blues influence. I caught as much of the show as I could above people’s heads. But the packed scene meant I had to head over early to check out LA’s finest all-lady garage band, The Pandoras. If I wanted to see anything past the pit, I’d have to get close.
Kim Shattuck, also of the Muffs, is the lead singer and guitarist in this reunion of The Pandoras. Kim and her ladies brought together a mixed crowd of old and young to the Psychoville stage. Melanie Vammen looked super excited to be performing and Sheri Kaplan annihilated the drum kit. Karen Blankfeld held down the bass line and the audience ate it up.
Wrapping up the night were The 5, 6, 7,8’s and The Mummies. Introducing the Japanese rock trio, John Waters said this: “You know this next band from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies. I’m Blue is one of my favorite songs. Which, you may know, is a cover from Ike and Tina. Ok, I’m just going to say it. I know he was a monster but EYE liked it better when they were TOOOGETHER!” His description of Tina pre- and post-Ike was met with loud cheers and the rest of his intro describing the ladies from Japan was met with much appreciation. Each introduction from Mr. Waters was well-thought out, well-penned, and showed he knew quite a bit about each band. He was a fellow fan introducing each band with a funny story and perfect delivery. He had note cards for each band introduction and proved he was truly honored to be a part of the Burger experience.
The 5, 6, 7, 8’s took the stage and were a perfect example of a Burger Boogaloo act. They coolly jammed through their hits including: I’m Blue, Barracuda, I Walk Like Janes Mansfield, and Three Cool Chicks. Ronnie Fujiyama was thrilled to see how into the trio the audience was. And, like all the John Waters-introduced bands, she was excited to have met Mr. Waters himself and is, of course, an equally huge of him.
I even caught members of The Thunderroads running toward the pit during The 5, 6, 7, 8’s performance. It was the most polite and enthusiastic pit I’ve ever seen – if you can believe that those two things can co-exist together in a pit. They can! They do! They both exist in a Burger Records’ pit!
After a slew of hits, Ronnie sweetly asked the crowd, “Excuse me, do you know Godzilla?”
After the crowd cheered, Ronnie followed with, “Then you know Mothra?”
The crowd, even more hyped than before, was screaming with delight as the band ripped into their own version of the Mothra theme. (Yes, you read that right.) If the Mothra theme song met heady garage punk, that’s what you would have heard at Burger Boogaloo that day. And if you looked closely past the stage, you would have seen The Gories’ Mick Collins thoroughly enjoying himself. He was laughing and smiling during the entire 5, 6, 7, 8’s set.
I didn’t think the day could get any better until The Mummies, dressed at mummies (obviously) and suspected of stealing all the toilet paper from the porta johns, flew past the beer garden on motorbikes. They were so fast that I couldn’t set-up a non-blurry photo so please let your imagination do the work. The set had the crowd really going, even as the last performance of the night.
Sunday proved to be an overcast Summer day but it didn’t take away from any of the acts. Guantanamo Baywatch were fun and catchy (as suspected) and Jonathan Richman was lovely and charming – knowing exactly how to play to the crowd by being IN the crowd. Zulus, from Brooklyn, a loud, loud presence might have melted your face off. You might have been filled with angst during their set, but I’m pretty sure you were happy about it.
King Khan & BBQ Show filled the Flesh Lands area beyond capacity and were amazing! Not the kind of guys you’d want to see half-dressed (Or maybe you would. I’m not judging.) – but they are DEFINITELY the act you want to see live. John Waters introduced them as: “The only band that has referenced ‘Yip, Yip, Yip, Get a Job’ by The Silohouettes” and that he kindly requested they not fight because he “would come to your tea bag party anytime, boys.” Taking the stage elaborately-dressed with gold capes, masks, and wigs, King Khan (Blacksnake) and BBQ (Mark Sultan) ripped through their set and the crowd got rowdy,but never rude. These boys proved, once again, that great things come from Canada. Check out their latest album: Bad News Boys
I wrapped up my Sunday night with Fuzz and The Black Lips. The Black Lips were the perfect ending to the weekend, getting the crowd rowdy one last time before Monday began. Toilet paper flew from corner to corner and it made me wonder if one of The Mummies was somewhere lost in the pit without proper attire.
Ty Segall is one busy dude. So, I was happy to see him play Burger Boogaloo’s Sunday with Fuzz. Everyone has been excited about Fuzz since 2013. It’s a rare, live, and special sighting and I found Ty, on drums and lead vocals, to be fun and charismatically wild. Jamming through several songs, Ty requested a pit. Instantly a pit formed, kicking up massive amounts of dust and a few, random shoes. The pit managed itself nicely; no one seemed to get hurt. After the dust settled, Ty asked if everyone was ok and with a laugh and a big smile he and his bandmates ran through a few more songs. Charlie Moothart, who is impressive in his own right in Meatbodies and occasionally backing Mikal Cronin, even jumped into the crowd mid-shred. Roland Cosio, too, was unreal – he was all sound and ALL hair. Although I wasn’t covered in the dust-up from the pit, I loved every second and was sad when it came to an end.
Fuzz embodied everything I love about Burger Boogaloo. The music was awesome, the crowd wild, and the people and the scene cool and polite. If only every festival I went to was exactly like this. I guess we could all learn something from Burger Records, not just for festival etiquette but for life in general.
As you make your Summer 2016 plans, I highly suggest you set your sights on Burger Boogaloo 2016. If you miss out, you will regret it. If you missed out, I would, as they say in Fagersta, Sweden, “hate to say I told you so.”
More pictures can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/133787851@N07/albums