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Beach Goth 2016 met with festival obstacles, still won us over with sets by Justice, Nicolas Jaar, Patti Smith, The Growlers, and more [Live Music Review]

Photo by Chris Dodds.


The highly anticipated Beach Goth 2016 was fun, but that’s not saying much since its a music festival after all. The Beach Goth production team failed in many ways which took away from the music and everyone’s overall enjoyment of the festival. Beach Goth, the yearly festival put on by The Growlers in Southern California, was set to be one of the best festivals of the year. The lineup boasted legendary (and soon to be legendary) names including, Patti Smith, the Violent Femmes, Justice, Nicolas Jaar, The Growlers, Gucci Mane, King Krule, Bon Iver, etc., the list goes on and on. The festival was scheduled to be held at the lush and beautiful Oak Canyon Park. Oak Canyon Park is an amazing space featuring meadows, groves of trees, a beautiful pond, and enough space to host the thousands of expected people. Instead, due to the fact that the festival did not sell enough tickets, the Beach Goth producers, which, I’m assuming, is a small team backing The Growlers, decided to short-change the festival goers and move the festival to The Observatory parking lot in Santa Ana.

Note: I have to mention that I was assured by a friend who works on the production team at Goldenvoice that they were hired last minute in what I imagine was a half-assed attempt to save what could have been an amazing festival.

This caused a multitude of problems first and foremost being, an abysmal set up unfit for thousands of guests. I arrived on Friday afternoon and after waiting an hour in the will call line, I quickly made my way past the main entrance. Upon entering the parking lot I ran into a bottleneck caused by an overeager attempt at selling merchandise and food before even entering the festival. Finally, I got some space to move and decided to enter The Observatory venue in order to see the delightful freak show that is Jerry Papers. After waiting in line another half an hour I was allowed into the venue where an overwhelmed security guard proceeded to scream, shout, push, kick, and shove any person who did not immediately follow his directions to, “get the fuck out of the way.”

Photo by Chris Dodds.

This really is no way to treat people trying to have fun and see a show but it could have easily been avoided had the venue been of a suitable size. My friend Taylor, a 110-lb pacifist gnarled her way past the irate security guard and forced us into the tiny room that would soon host Jerry Papers. After suffering through 20 minutes of a Kurt Cobain wanna be make noise on his guitar, Jerry, a rather portly man with a tiny camel-tail, finally came on stage dressed in a skin tight black bodysuit. He proceeded to woo the crowd through a combination of incredibly awkward dance moves, strange but real facial expressions, and surprisingly awesome song. It was refreshing to see such an incredible weirdo “owning his shit” on stage and not pretending to be anything other than the crazy creepy artist we know him to be. That being said, his set was amazing and if you haven’t heard his music, check it out!

Following Jerry, I rushed over to Violent Femmes where I channeled my way through a raucous (not in a good way) crowd to the center of the pit for the last few songs of the set. Gordon Gano finished up a set with a lively rendition of “Add it Up” which brought back good memories of the ninth grade and then I waited patiently as Patti Smith came on stage. The first thing I noted about this stage is that the actual area allocated for the audience was extremely narrow. The right side featured the fenced off VIP section and the left side featured a grassy hill. Between these two features was about 125 feet of parking lot which pretty much meant that unless you are one of those annoying people who pushes their way through the entire crowd, you were stuck at the back of a ¾ football field length audience with no visibility and horrible sound quality.

Photo by Chris Dodds.


Note: I am not one of those annoying people who pushes through the entire crowd, I wait for pockets to open up within the crowd and move stealthily. The mosh pits and occasional fights at this sort of show really help.

Patti Smith came on with the raw power of a 69 year old woman who has seen all of the greatest moments in Rock n’ Roll history and survived to tell the story. I try to avoid cliché adjectives in blog articles as best as I can but, Patti Smith MURDERED it. I can’t really go into much detail but, between a rendition of “Gloria” that made my sober friend pass out in the middle of a crowd, to her statement that, “Our generation does not need guns, WE HAVE THE ELECTRIC GUITAR,” to her proceeding to break every string on her guitar as a tribute and sound of love dedicated to the people of my generation you can pretty much say that she slayed.

During the intermission between Patti Smith and King Krule all hell broke loose and idiots began basically rioting in a sad attempt to get better spots to see the next show (also easily avoided by sticking with the original venue). King Krule went on and proceeded to allow the screeches of a mystical ginger hell hound break through this larynx. It was a true pleasure to see the young anomaly do his thing. Following King Krule, Eric Andre came on stage and spit a few intoxicated lines at the stage and then The Growlers came on and played a delightful set including past hits and new tracks off of City Club. Bon Iver began to play on the other stage and actually played a really great set that incorporated live electronic sounds with his soothing voice and melancholy lyrics. Everyone I saw was happy and had enough space at the much larger, well planned stage, and Justin Vernon rocked the first night away.

Photo by Chris Dodds.


The sequence of artists the first night was unprecedented and it would have been even better if the event planners had common sense. Maybe its that the producers of events normally stand in VIP sections and forgot what it’s like to battle it out with the common folk. I don’t really know what got into them, probably profit maximizing, ROI, or something else they learned in a business class.

I woke up the next day to clouds, rain, and more clouds. This was incentive to take my time with brunch and my friends and I stopped by a nice British themed bar in honor of the cloudy day in Southern California. The clouds soon turned into heavy rainfall and that was enough convincing for us to start the day late and make sure we were nicely warmed up before hitting the, oh so, inviting black top of the Observatory parking lot. Upon arrival to the Observatory, it became obvious that combat boots and a flask of whiskey were necessary to survive the day. My first step inside the venue was into an ankle deep puddle which, luckily, did nothing due to the aforementioned combat boots. I once again got stuck in a merch and puddle bottleneck and realized that day two was going to get interesting. It did! I immediately encountered funny people swimming in puddles, others dancing in them, so on and so forth. The only dry place, the actual Observatory, was completely closed down and a massive line of people waited patiently outside to enter the warmth and safety of the indoors. I also quickly found out that The Drums and Nicolas Jaar had been moved to the indoor stage due to the bad narrow stage being out of commission because of the rain. I immediately made my way to the front of the blob of people waiting to get into the Observatory and waited for the doors to open. Much to my disbelief, a few minutes into waiting in an unmoving line some saint of a man kicked down a side door of the Observatory where no guards were standing. I ran, hopped a small fence and slid through the door where a frantic guard stood tackling anything he could get his hands on. Another guard quickly came to his assistance and they plugged that leak seconds after I had gotten in.

Photo by Chris Dodds.


It was a Beach Goth day two miracle and my friends and I went into the venue which we found to be warm, dry, and not crowded (even though they wouldn’t let anyone from the outside in). The Drums promptly came on and played a nice hour long set. It was great to see them play in the small venue instead of outside in the narrow stage and everyone who saw them was happy. I can’t say much about what was going on outside, I’m sure it was a lot of disappointed festival goers drinking themselves warm, dry, and broke, one eleven dollar beer at a time. Following The Drums, Nicolas Jaar came on stage. He was initially supposed to play a live set but much to everyone’s disappointment ended up playing a DJ set instead. Jaar, who normally lets out soothing trippy dance tracks, powered through a forty five minute set Gesaffelstein style. He played relentless industrial techno whilst chain-smoking cigarettes and making symbols with his hands every time the audience cheered. It was magnificent to see him in this heavy light even though he was not playing live. The audience didn’t get what was expected but everyone got crazy and dark and it was beautiful.

After Nicolas Jaar, The Growlers played their second set of the festival which was really fun, as usual. Brooks and the boys are always a top notch act to see and the crowd was having a grand old time now that the rain was over. The highly anticipated Grimes unfortunately had to cancel her show due to the rain and Sunday ended up being a waste of time and money for a lot of the concert goers. At this point, I had enough poor planning so I got in my car and headed back to LA. My photographer, Chris Dodds, stuck around to see Justice play the closing set. He had these words to share about their set:

From the moment they came on, choosing to start with a party anthem from 1999 (“We’re Going to Party Like It’s 1999”), I knew the whole crowd was in for an interesting set. Justice, the notorious Parisian dance duo, was here to have fun and get funky with their Beach Goth time slot. While I have seen them a number of times in years past, I have never witnessed a set quite like this one. In addition to the opening remix they also dropped “Sexual Healing” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” both by Marvin Gaye, all of which were extremely well received by the crowd. On top of the throwbacks they played a number of their own hits from recent years/albums such as “Genesis”, “Civilization” and, of course, their smash hit “D.A.N.C.E”. While they had one of the last sets of the weekend, no one made for the exits early–I guess you could say that Justice was indeed served.”

In the end, Beach Goth 2016 turned out to be kind of a disaster. The venue was not equipped for the amount of people and the rain on Sunday turned the day into a mess. That being said, it was some good old fashioned messy fun. We went, we battled, we got wet.

I’ve complained enough already so I will finish by saying that the festival planners had the right intentions in mind but the execution was not up to scratch. This sort of thing happens but I’m sure The Growlers and their production team learned many a valuable lesson that will lead to a much better show next year.


  1. Having a capable contingency venue is key.  
  2. Prepare for rain. Even in Southern California.


All photos by Chris Dodds for Compose Yourself Mag

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