The Fifth Annual Burger Boogaloo
Saturday July 5 and Sunday July 6
Better than: That mono vinyl rip of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds you play on lazy Sundays. Or the bootleg tape of the recording sessions.
It's Saturday afternoon, the first of the two-day Burger Boogaloo, midway through Reigning Sound's set, and the small crowd is nodding along, occasionally (gasp) dancing to the band's Detroit Wheels-style rave-up. Yes, we're in Mosswood Park in Oakland, and hundreds in cut-offs and impossibly skinny jeans are dancing to rock 'n' roll. This isn't news. But what's remarkable is the complete absence of the scene replayed in tiny screens held at arm's length. These people are remarkably present, here, in this moment, and they're loving it. For a festival/shindig/boogaloo put on by a record label and boasting a lineup fixated on widespread nostalgia, the unspoken motto is, "Be here now."
This is the Burger Boogaloo, an annual festival arranged by Burger Records, a Southern California cassette tape-centric record label, and Total Trash Productions, a local underground rock 'n' roll promoter.
The lineup is a mix of nostalgia and underground rock, with a bill featuring Ronnie Spector ('60s girl-group nostalgia), Thee Oh Sees (underground rock with a tinge of Bay Area nostalgia, since bandleader John Dwyer moved to L.A. and changed the lineup), Shannon and the Clams (underground rock with a nostalgic '60s sound), OFF! (80s hardcore nostalgia), The Muffs ('90s alternative/underground nostalgia), Milk 'N' Cookies ('70s underground power-pop nostalgia), and a score of other excellent groups that meet one or both of the criteria.
Generally, "nostalgia" is a word that has negative connotations in the music crit lexicon, which might be deserved for the Mojo magazine, "here's an interview from the vaults" kind of nostalgia. But Burger Boogaloo nostalgia is about finding your voice and playing some real live rock 'n' roll with it. This isn't about remembering-reliving-recapturing the past, but being right here right now with whatever kind of music it is that you know best. Either you play the songs, or you take your ass out the door and go watch them get played. Be here now.
At the close of the festival, Ronnie Spector is introduced as a nostalgia act thusly: "in 1964, she played across the Bay at the Cow Palace, now...." A few songs in, the thump, thump-thump crack of "Be My Baby" and Spector's reedy voice and lip-smacking charm fill the twilit amphitheater, and it's not memories of 1964 that are moving us all to dance and scream, it's us, here, now, with two minutes and forty seconds of rock 'n' roll heaven before it all ends with the darkness of the night.
WAND: This heavy psychedelic rock group plays a song called "Necrophilia" that's "not about fucking dead people," and ripped through a blistering cover of kosmische classic "Soap Shop Rock." An album recorded by Ty Segall will be released later this year.
Reigning Sound: For a band with an album called Too Much Guitar, the star of the show is the rock 'n' roll organ (Leslie rotating speaker included). That thing makes the long-hair Yardbirds-meet-Plimsouls tune the rest of the band is playing into a tail-feather shakin' beach party.
Phantom Surfers: Setting up onstage in purple tuxes and Lone Ranger domino masks, making dad jokes, it's easy to entertain the thought that this is an original surf band from the surf band era. But then again, the children of the Ventures could certainly be old enough to go gray and take daily prophylactic aspirin. Either way, I get to see my first surf pit as the crowd loses it for these twangy instrumentalists.
Nobunny: Always unhinged but with a soft side (he does dress as a bunny after all), Nobunny has the most adorable moment of the day as he dedicates a song "to the little guy in green," a toddler on his dad's shoulders who knows more words to "Live it Up" (a Burger ethos song if I've heard one) than about half of the audience. Not as many as his mom does, though.
Off!: On Christopher Columbus: "Fuck that dude." Why are we talking about Christopher Columbus? I cannot say.
Danny James and the Once and Future Band: Backed by the Once and Future Band, Danny James's bedroom Prog 'n' B turns into an unmissable jam. Introducing "Boomerang Kids" by saying, "This is about you guys," could seem patronizing in another place and time, but here it comes from the heart.
La Sera: They make sunny days in Oakland just so moments like the "Hour of the Dawn" can be properly accompanied.
Juan Wauters: His setup time is spent putting up a literal freak flag, emblazoned with the motto "Real Recognize Real."
Shannon and the Clams: It's hard to tell what the highlight of Shannon's night is. Is it when the hundreds of balloons (of tiki heads, bunnies, and pickles/green beans) are released to a crowd at peak adoration levels? Or is when she sneaks to the cleared-out side-stage only to appear at the mic in Ronnie Spector's encore? Either way, Sunday is a good day for Shannon Shaw.