Just like in my last Boogaloo review, Janky Smooth apologizes for the opinions herein and advise that anyone below the age of 18 or with an aversion to graphic language, obscenity, or humor, should not continue reading.
Burger Boogaloo 2017 was so good that when we left Mosswood Park last July, we didn’t think 2018’s festival could possibly be better. After all, what band could out-punk Iggy Pop? What sort of headliner could possibly drive the festival further in its evolution? Were they going to bring David Buoy back from the dead? Total Trash productions was clever though, they knew they had to think outside the box if they wanted to make Burger Boogaloo California’s undisputed champion of festivals. So what did they do? They realized that progress doesn’t necessarily have to move forward like we’d expect. No, the answer was De-Evolution.
And in the spirit of this movement backward, to the primordial swamp we once infested and called home, what was once the Gone Shrimpin’ stage in 2017, an ode to foot fetishes, was now Toxic Paradise. A mutant stage with tentacles and eyeballs sticking out of the ground as if some honey-suckle smudge of toe jam grew legs and crawled out from one of the feet used to decorate last year’s stage and for an entire year festered into some punk rock abomination too repulsive even for a Troma movie. This creature could have indiscriminately devoured us all, shitting out a wardrobe of punk rock fashion hijinks that even the homeless would’ve rather used to wipe their asses than wear but it didn’t. Why? Because this creature had a master, one that would make sure we were all safe from his frankenstein’s hunger so that we may go out into the world and spread his verbal virus to the tech nerds that make the bay area deserve every bit of North Korea’s leaked plans to turn San Francisco into the radioactive atomic anus of the West. That master, was of course, the incomparable, God of grotesquery, John Waters.
That was only the story of Toxic Paradise, the smaller stage. All you need to know about the Pleasure Pier is that every sort of sexual deviancy was not only encouraged but rewarded with a musical performance. That’s right, these bands didn’t come to play, they themselves wanted to see a show, and the only way they could get to ogle us freaks from the best view in the house was to play.
Burger Boogaloo isn’t just my favorite festival to attend but it’s my favorite concert to write about. It gives me the chance to pretend I’m John Waters in my head. The only drawback is that once I’m done, for a few weeks, my inner-monologue acquires a lisp.
I read another review by East Bay Express that broke down the festival in terms of the demographics of the performers and if we want to talk about devolution, I think that’s a great direction to go. Here’s a solution that will solve both the issue of diversity of performers and the issue of the homeless getting kicked out of the park: why not just get the homeless to perform next year!? Who knows, they might be great! (This excludes homeless white males of course who will be compensated for their displacement with tickets to the next Jordan Peterson lecture in the area.)
Enough with the trash talk and onto the bands. I arrived at the festival as Okmoniks were playing the Pleasure Pier. My first thoughts were that this was the sounding trumpet of the “Boogaloo of the Synthesizer”. The synths that Okmoniks employs really bring out the sunshine in their pretty, poppy garage music and helped establish the tone in my rhythm for all acts to come. This was the sound of celebration, great music to get chased by girls to. Carefree and exhilarated, I moved onto Toxic Paradise, the neon God Simon and Garfunkel had hallucinated.
The Flytraps are a must see for me on any lineup, at this point I feel like I need to track their career show by show and see how they develop for my own personal interest. My prediction is that they make it far seeing as they always give the audience what they crave which is an old, rugged, street style of punk. The band was speedier and more metallic than most of the other acts I’d see during the day, almost feeling like Motorhead, and certainly shrinking the male boogaloo libido to a limp, shrewish stature. Singer Kristin Cooper would be stage diving and crowd-surfing throughout the day for acts like the Spits, setting a punk rock example for us all.
Hunx and His Punx led the migration to the Pleasure Pier and got introduced by John Waters before performing. Here is a transcription of John’s introduction:
“Seth Bogart, his mustache fucked mine, he kinda looks like a younger, more handsome version of me after he fucked Pee Wee Herman. Shannon, she’s a stun-gun of a big-boned beauty, right? She shows no fear, she’s like Lil’ Bo Peep and Divine on steroids. And Ethel Merman with a transplanted larynx stolen from a tipsy Adele. Both helped celebrate my birthday in Detroit at El Club, along with the rest of the punx who put the “X” in x-rated. Their name is “X” like in extreme, exhaustingly sexy, they’re the bastard offspring of musical incest. Knock Ups, Panty Raid, that’s all Seth’s babies, he’s like Phil Spektor with a heart and a hard on. The Hunx and His Punx, they sniff glue, they dress like proud rejects of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, they’re punk, they’re pop, they’re both pussy and prick friendly, ladies and gentleman, and everything in between… Hunx and His Punx!”
Seth and Shannon go together like strawberries and whipped cream. It’s old-fashioned rock and roll with a the appearance of something totally non-traditional. Interlaced between these cute, rebellious maladies, Seth would give us some of the funniest banter you could ever hear at a concert. The band was tight, the music was loose, and we were all having fun in the sun, all the punx are hunx at the Boogaloo.
Before Burger Boogaloo, I felt that I had seen The Spits too many times. I had to drag myself to Toxic Paradise but then as soon as I saw them all donning trench coats, probably with little or nothing beneath them, I began running to the front of the stage in the hope that someone might streak.
John Waters gave the band a proper intro:
“Next up, the powers that be told me that this is the best punk rock band on the planet. They were formed when two brothers from Kalamazoo, Michigan were transplanted to Seattle. Their first anthem was “Let’s Play Your Party” and they did just that. Releasing lots of tunes with great titles like “Dumb”, “Beat it Up”, and “I Hate Pussy”, they got laid in the bathrooms of the lowest punk clubs across this nation. This band broke up more times than anybody in show business history. Today the four different members live nowhere near each other because they fight too much. Once a year they come together so they can break up again. “We’re not a band, we’re a gang”, one of them said. Well, I’m getting out of the way. They’re here, they sneer, I’m scared, they’re The Spits.”
It was an affirmation of how much an audience can make a performance great because this had to be the all time best Spits set I had ever seen and it was in part because of how completely off the wall bonkers we went for it.
A band that is often credited as creating the grunge sound was next and that was none other than Mudhoney. Their noisy, sludgy, and feedback-filled sound would distort then eventually revert back to the hooky melodies that they were known for in songs like “Touch me, I’m Sick”. Grunge seemed to fit right into the Boogaloo, we absorbed that old scene into our body-politic and spat it back out like we do all movements in this new happening, where all things noisy and gross are welcome.
After Devo, the band I was most excited to see perform was Traditional Fools. Ty Segall’s Tenderloin, San Francisco surf rock bonanza. They began with John Waters’ intro:
“This next group hails from the bay area, the only real surf punk band in 25 years, right here. You know, they’re from trashcan-frisco. I love those fake names, I’m from Smaltimore, Murderland; Warhol was from Shittsburg, Pennsivania; The Move group, some of them are getting out of jail like they should in Filthadelphia, Pennisvania; and Steven Spielberg, he’s from Cincinasty, Ohio. These fuckers tonight, I’ve heard them called the sloppiest band ever. And that’s a compliment. Their instruments break down, their amps blow, and sometimes they perform with broken arms. Their practice space was in the Tenderloin at Turk and Taylor, often called the shittiest block in the world. The same neighborhood Valerie Solanas died in. I’ve seen lunatics there lying down, puking in their own faces, no wonder someone was inspired musically there. One of their hits “Snot Day”, well, like Dick Clark said. “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it”. Ha, maybe if you’re off your meds. They probably have fun just the way I did when I was young, taking LSD and driving the wrong way on Lombard street, the crookedest street in the world, just to hear the tourists scream. They’re traditional as in committable, surf cute in wipeout way, so cool you could play pocket pool, you know who, Traditional Fools.”
Traditional Fools is a very rare band to see and the fans packed in knowing how much of a treat it was to witness this performance. The band was raw and sloppy just as I had hoped. The riffs and drumming would crash against you like a brutal wave in salty sonic blasts. Ty began on drums then halfway through the set he took on the guitars. Andrew Luttrell and David Fox both slayed on their instruments and with Ty, built a sound that totally wiped us all out in the best kind of way.
The Mummies are as Boogaloo as acid rain, B-movies, and pencil mustaches. Here was John’s take on the band:
“This is the third year I’ve introduced them and I still feel that necro-tingle. They make a better entrance than Divine. They upstage Traci lords. They made me feel like Mr. Rogers by comparison. They kick sand in Bobby Boris Pickett’s face, scare Lon Chaney, make Boris Karloff laugh. Yessiree, they may have created the budget sound but they continue to lower the prices. They hate playing their own music so they do covers just to get on your last punk rock nerve. They may be dead but they’re good in bed and like all good corpse grinders, they never fear a performance. Wearing that same old gauze that they never change. Who cares? The dead can’t have B.O.! They’re dead alright, to musical taste, dead to your fear of death. But tonight, there’s only one thing wrong with the Mummies, they’re alive!”
The band was forced onstage, taken hostage by Dr. Zulu and his merry gang of 70’s era ape-men. After being pulled out on nooses and from bags, The Mummies assembled on stage and began their garage punk hijinks with all the jumping, kicking, and fighting they’re known for. Maybe it was the daylight or maybe we were already too burnt-out but for some reason I didn’t feel like the performance was as powerful as others I’ve seen by The Mummies. I’ve seen the Mummies absolutely destroy venues with the intensity they inspire in punks but this just seemed like the calm before the storm that was our inevitable De-Evolution.
Devo were absolutely remarkable. The best concert I have seen all year, bumping Neil Young off the top spot. As a band from Ohio that knew friends that died at Kent State, it’s a bit ironic I saw Neil the weekend before them.
As usual, John Waters, who had a surprisingly long history with the band, came out to introduce them but also took the moment to address the elephant in the park, Donald Trump:
“The first personal connection I had with tonight’s headliners was when I read in the press in the mid-70’s a comment they made complimenting David Lochary’s performance in Pink Flamingos, a movie I made. Since David Lochary was always over-shadowed by Divine, it made him feel really good and I’ve been feeling really good about these boys ever since. Originally from Ohio, why-o why-Ohio, they started their careers like I did: pissed off. And they had a real reason to be nuts, their friends were killed at Kent State University by the police. So they started a De-Evolution that we’re still feeling. They challenged illegitimate authority and so should you. It’s worse now than it ever was. Trump is a feckless prick. A shit-hole of a president. An orange anus as Rosie McDonald called him. Who kidnaps children, tosses paper towels to hurricane victims, is so dumb he stares at the eclipse. With that stupid wife who’s a clueless dresser that no drag queen would ever imitate. What better band to protest his stupidity and first-degree asshole-ism than our boys tonight from outer space. Yet, our political situation is not science fiction, it’s real. Before new wave, ahead of industrial, alternative way before the word was coined. This band was no media invention, it was a grass roots movement that everybody here has embraced. David Buoy loved them! Iggy loved them! I loved them! One of the band mates even told me I was in a titty bar with them once doing coke. I thought “What was I doing in a titty bar!?” I was under Devo’s spell, that’s it. And tonight, even more so, with my friend Freddy Armisen playing the drums. All I know is that they’re one of the most influential bands in musical history. Promoters used to unplug their equipment to stop their messages but not tonight. Because we’re a cult, glad to be brainwashed. Tonight is Jonestown with a happy ending. Lets pray to them! Lets levitate in joy! It’s a miracle! Playing together for the first time in four years, it’s a Burger Boogaloo wet dream, it’s Devo!”
With a giant replica of their red Devo helmet behind them and wearing their ceremonial orange jumpsuits, the band came on stage and immediately went into the most popular songs in their catalogue, starting with “Girl U Want”, then going right into “Whip It” and their cover of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. As soon as Devo began “Uncontrollable Urge” Mosswood Park erupted with uncontrollable joy, it was a moment that seemed too glorious for any amount of people to be collectively responsible for. Every force, known and unknown, had a role in this performance’s magnitude. During the song “Jocko Homo”, Jerry Casale, the band’s genius scholar of stage banter, went into a diatribe of how Trump is proof of De-Evolution. The song’s main lyric, “Are we not men? We are Devo” kept building and layering until tapping into some ingrained cosmic rhythm inside every one of us cult members. This was orange kool-aid for the senses.
Singer, Mark Mothersbaugh went offstage for the first encore only to return in a penguin costume as his alter-ego, Booji Boy. During “Beautiful World” Booji eulogized Divine telling us the story of how he first met her, after she pulled up beside him in a pink limousine and waved him in. They spent the whole night listening to records together. Then as praise to John Waters, the band played a cover of Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It” which was featured prominently in Pink Flamingos. Finally, in a second encore, the band ended what was unmistakably the best concert of the year with “Come Back Jonee”.
It made for a night so unforgettable that I swore to myself that as long as I loved music, I’d be attending Burger Boogaloo. Moments like these are not the result of good booking but rather an atmosphere created by every participant, from creator down to fan.
I arrived on day 2 during the time slot that The Dwarves were scheduled to perform only to learn they had been replaced by NoBunny at the Pleasure Pier. Though Bunny was playing with just as much machismo and charisma as he always only knows how to, the tone of the crowd wasn’t one he could feed off of and so the performance fell a bit flat. It was too early to have expectations out of anyone though, the night before was filled with so much insanity into the wee-hours that Day 2 at Boogaloo was a much less demanding experience on almost every level. There was some non-spoken and quickly broken agreement between us all to stay sober.
I made my way to The Flakes, a San Francisco band, who turned out to be one of the most impressive bands I had seen throughout the weekend. Busting out a slew of garage and psych rock covers from bands like the 13th Floor Elevators, they were a thrilling act that I’m sure could get any nightclub fired up enough to make the paint peel off the walls.
Japan’s Firestarter, formerly known as Teengenerate, were up next at the Pleasure Pier and if it’s one thing I’ve ever learned from Burger Boogaloo, it’s to always pay attention to the foreign bands. And rightfully so, because Firestarter was absolutely electric, playing a set with hits we should all know but that I was hearing for the first time. They were kinetic and catchy and filled with that true garage spirit.
One of my favorite Boogaloo staples was playing at Toxic Paradise and that was Quintron and Miss Pussycat who decided this year to play the musical portion of their set before their puppet show and not after. Their lyrics felt like a Todd Solodnz film made into music. I’m probably the only one who absorbed the music this way but I somehow reached the hidden beauty below the comedy and oddity and was stripped into some spiritual being after it was all said and done.
John Waters introduced the duo nicely:
“Can punks be children? I mean, sure; they burp, they scream, they push, they spit food, they play with themselves, they shit in their pants, just like you all on a good night. Our next act is part puppet show and Miss P knows that in what I do that puppets were the first characters all film directors ever played with. “We’re not your puppets” actors always said to me, “Oh yes, you are,” I’d always say right back. But Miss Pussycat is no Tina Turner to Ike, is no Ronnie Spektor to Phil, no Kesha to Dr. Luke. No, she’s a louder lamb chop, a muppet mocker, a howdy doody with a cooter all her own, nobody’s pulling her strings. She’s part of the weirdest band in the world. He’s Quintron Baby Cortez and with his happy organ goes ballistic. His drum buddy invention is back too, it’s a killer homicidal vehicle like the murderous Plymouth Fury in Christine or the scary Lincoln Continental in The Car. He’s also a nutcase Kreskin, he predicted the Hurricane Katrina destruction before it happened in his song “Ninth Ward Breakdown”. These two tour more than Elton John, they even played the Kennedy Center this year. What a world, what a world…. Little boys and little girls, Quintron and Miss Pussycat.”
Songs like “Waterfall” got us all dancing and smiling to their outrageous, unique performing style. Then upon the concert’s end we were treated to a puppet show involving vampires in real estate. The audience loved every minute of it and we really did turn revert into children for the duration of their set.
Next was a band that felt like the garage rock garbage pail children of the Mentors, The Rip Offs. With caution tape surrounding the stage, the band of nylon-masked miscreants were joined by their singer who rode in on a motorcycle he claimed to have stolen from the SFPD and I believe him. The band was only active from 1993-1995 but it seems they left quite the impression in that short time because everyone wanted to see them and their insane antics. You could tell these band members had beaten each other up on numerous occasions. If your mother found out you were listening to the Rip Offs and confiscated your vinyl, odds are she rescued you from a life of crime.
John Waters introduced the band with this:
“This next band is beyond Gunt. They started in 1993 and broke up in 1995, that’s the lifetime achievement award in reverse. You know it’s the real thing when they piss on a policeman for the cover shoot of the only album they ever put out, wear nylon over their heads like terrorists, and view their own audience as the enemy. They hate each other too. This is their first show with their original lineup in the Bay Area since 1995. Oh my God, this ain’t no rip off, it’s The Rip Offs.”
After Devo, the moment everyone at Boogaloo had been waiting for was the reunion of Long Beach’s insane synth punk band, Le Shok. I made sure to get a spot right up front for this performance because I could tell they were itching to make Boogaloo history. And that’s just what they did, breaking the record for most guitars broken during a set at the festival. I lost count how many were demolished in their need to end on a chaotic note and leave a mark.
John Waters introduced the band as such:
“Some bands are like bad musical drugs, the more you shoot, the more you have to listen. This group is hard to see, their gigs have been described as being strapped to an electric chair and fried at 120 volts, they didn’t show up at their last job in San Francisco, but hey, that was in 2000. Then they supposedly disappeared off the face of the planet… everybody else’s planet, not this one. Will they show up? or leave us Jonesing for a fix? I’m an adult delinquent and so are you. We’re on the stuff and it’s never enough. Hop heads, skin poppers, speed freaks, abscess lovers, oldies but baddies everywhere, here they come, cold shakin’ and ready to rush, Le Shok.”
Their sound was primal and violent, infused with an electrical current that would fuck you up if you got too close. I could sense people being beaten senseless for fun right behind me. Artists came out of the woodwork backstage to jump into the crowd and join the frenzy. Todd Jacobs, moved with salty sailor punk style, gargling out lyrics that felt like a cow prod to the ass. The band even played a fucking Screamers cover with “122 Hours of Fear” and from the moment that first synth note hit, the audience was sent into fuck-up everything in sight mode. That’s the very state of mind the band is always in and once the set had reached its inevitable, untimely end, they destroyed every guitar they could find, smashing them into pieces and shards that I’m surprised didn’t end up lodged through an eyeball.
Giuda was the surprise hit of the festival. At this point of the day, I had drunken enough beer to be into any kind of fast rock and roll and as Rome, Italy’s Giuda got on stage to bring the party, I sorta started acting like I was super into it as a joke, only the more I went along with the joke, the more I realized this band was amazing. Bringing together the perfect doses of glam, punk, and straight forward power rock, they can make any festival setting fun. It’s a genuine rebirth of AC/DC and not in some bull shit throwback sort of way. Giuda’s music is the soundtrack to having a good time. I could see them breaking out with a sound that’s raw yet precise, wild but sensible.
I had seen The Damned a few times as a punk in love with all things macabre but given this hour and forty-five minute window they had to play, the band delivered an epic, career spanning set that touched upon their classics, their underrated goth material, and a few rare gems as well.
“This happy little nightmare fairytale can’t last forever but bippidy-boppidy bullshit, no fairy god mothers are needed tonight before we go back tomorrow to becoming mice and men. We got one last band but they weren’t last in anything in their career. They played the first show with the Sex Pistols as opening act, but they’re sure not opening for anybody tonight. They were the first first first of the last last to be playing, the last that lasted the final without a final finale. Frank Sinatra’s of swing, swung out for Elvis, Elvis Presley grinding backwards. They made fun of The Beatles and were dead before goth and never grateful. The nuns told us we’d go to hell if we’d ever confess our sins, Visconti made a shocking movie with the same title, they believed punk should be a fucking mania and so do we. It’s our last dance at the punk rock ball but these guys aren’t new wave tonight, they’re first wave and last wave. So demons, fiends, freaks, hellions, lets smash it up in the bottomless pit of hell with you know who, our higher power, The Damned.”
They played the songs you’d expect like “New Rose”, “Love Song”, their Paul Ryan cover “Eloise”, “Plan 9 Channel 7” then other songs you might not have ever guessed to hear like “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” which Captain Sensible got to sing while wearing a banana costume. During the entire set, I experienced some form of awe at the sex symbol and goth icon that is Dave Vanian, who at the age of 61 years old, still moves with youthful swagger and undead, ectoplasmic energy.
The highlight of their set had to be their closer “Smash it Up” for which they brought Jello Biafra on stage to sing along and eulogize Steve Soto. It was a heartfelt punk moment that really cemented our strength as a community and not just a form of music or fashion.
This was undoubtably the best Boogaloo in the festival’s history and I have complete faith that it will only get bigger because Total Trash Productions seems to have discovered the right formula of bands everyone is dying to see without knowing it. I can’t wait to find out what they have in store for Oakland next year, all I know is I’ll be there for my annual trip.
Words by: Rob Shepyer