“One Strange Night in Orange County” wasn’t just a festival facilitated by The Garden, an experimental rock duo of twin brothers from Orange County. It was a flashback to a time not that long ago when The Observatory was overrun by Burgeramas and Beach Goths and other festivals past. The Garden certainly were not headlining those days but they were stealing the show. Now, here they are- the last vestige of a canceled culture. 2 boys turned elder statesmen who survived the purge by not letting their erupting hormones and exploding status lead them down the path of personal and professional ruin. But on this One Strange Night in Orange County, the spirit of those days was in the air. Not to haunt us but to honor the magic of both the music of that time and the diversity of music that came before and after they died.
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The festival started by honoring the past
45 Grave are a four piece, goth/death rock band from the 80’s. They opened the festival and couldn’t have done a better job at setting the tone for what seemed like Halloween all night long. Lead singer Dinah Cancer took to the stage like a real witch, wind blowing through her hair like she was about to summon an entire era. Someone in the audience had claimed, “She really looks like the infamous “Hex Girls” from Scooby-Doo”. The energy they brought to the stage was very nostalgic and honorable to the 80’s scene scene- from the way they moved to the intensity of the performance. 45 Grave couldn’t have delivered a better set to kick off the night.
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The Adicts were arguably the best performance of the festival. Keith “Monkey” Warren- one of the first in rock to honor the clown face/droog, had just about every trick up his sleeve for their set. From confetti cannons, to throwing beer into the crowd, they did it all. This British punk rock band has been making the rounds in July with a show the night before at The Belasco but when they got to OC, countless numbers of fans were thrilled to welcome them back into their home. With an overall goofy energy to the band, this set was bound to leave everyone in a silly little mood with a smile almost as big as Monkey’s painted one.
Alice Glass, former member of Crystal Castles, has set out on her own solo career for the last 9
years, taking on a new electro pop sound. In 2017, she re-entered the scene with her first debut album, “Prey”, which embodies a journey from abuse to taking back your power. Five years later, her performance at “One Strange Night in Orange County” highlighted her ability to command a room and take charge of a crowd through her fierce and seductive stage persona. She uses a visual in her performance of tying the mic around her own wrists, showing powerful symbolism with her journey as a survivor of abuse. Her music uses aggressive and shocking sounds of distortion to communicate the violent and blunt nature of where her music comes from while matching that energy with sharp vocals to convey that all that power is within her grip.
Coming into the night, JPEGMAFIA was certainly the standout artist of the lineup. At a dominantly “punk rock” show, having a hip hop artist as the main support act on the lineup would certainly catch the eye of those with more discerning palettes. “Peggy” did not disappoint. He brought arguably the most energy of everyone to the stage and used every ounce of space he was given. Getting down into the crowd for the second half of his set certainly helped. He stood out not only musically, but also through lighting visuals such as dimly lit backlights on stage to create a slow build of energy. Some highlights of the set included “1539 N. Calvert” and “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am a Thot”,
Wyatt and Fletcher Shears curated a ghostly and intense headlining performance for the masses. Their iconic painted clown faces promote a sense of togetherness while standing out to average society. This posture has brought inspiration to a younger audience by aligning their musical aesthetic to encourage the power of defying the mundane.
With the set lasting a bit over an hour, the Shears brothers were able to captivate their audience through subtlety letting the wave of their experimental sound and devoted fan base keep the energy at an all-time high throughout the entire performance. The explosion of unity and togetherness radiating from the crowd was unmatched.
The performance began with the sampled voice featured throughout the band’s latest album, “HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66” being used as an intro to their set. As the artists crept onto the stage, keeping their overall spooky theme, they immediately began with a series of hits to get the crowd going. Just one song in and already a sea of crowd surfers and mosh pits began to break out from fans first feeling over the moon and now over the barricade.
The lighting used throughout the set correlated to the aesthetic of the album each song originated from. It was a beautiful way of visually uniting the band’s large discography over their last ten years in music. Fans were excited to see such a varying array of songs including “Guerilla” which had not been performed by The Garden since 2018.
Towards the last quarter of the set, an approximately 10-foot-tall jester appeared to accompany the duo. With not too many props on stage, the jester’s appearance elated fans and entered at the perfect time to keep the energy of the crowd high and visually grasp the back half of the audience that wouldn’t quite be able to see the twins too well otherwise.
The imagery of jesters in The Garden’s musical persona encourages the message to their listeners that every day we experience anxieties and stresses, but life isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, and even in the worst of times, we can all find the humor in the day to day struggles. Wyatt Shears emphasizes this casualness when he begins to encourage fans to throw things at him. He alludes to the classic tropes of old disapproval: throwing banana peels onto the stage. This is a reference to their song “Banana Peel ”which would be played as the last encore song out of irony. With many objects flying onto the stage for him to throw back into the crowd, there’s a beautiful moment of unity created between them. We are all people who fear rejection and disapproval. The line between us is thin. Let’s interact together. Let’s relate. Let’s connect.
Words and Photos- Sarah Dinse