By Sebastian Buzzalino
March 28-29, 2015
SANTA ANA, CA. — Southern California is a paradise mecca to countless millions, but for the 5,000 kids who descended on the Observatory in Santa Ana on March 28 and 29, an unassuming venue and parking lot in a business-industrial neighbourhood was transformed into a veritable garage, surf and punk smorgasbord. The venerable Fullerton indie label, Burger Records, curated a deep, sprawling and impressive line-up for the weekend, featuring cult favourites (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, La Luz), overseas wonders (Hinds, Jacco Gardner, Twerps) and mainstay favourites (Weezer, FIDLAR, Bleached). It was two days of total, sun-bleached madness, sweltering dance parties and seemingly endless, cheap Mexican beer.
Burgerama 4 was the second year the festival offered an outdoors main stage in addition to the Observatory’s two inside stages, but even then, it seemed like there were multitudes everywhere shuffling between sets. Even smaller acts enjoyed audiences that burst at the edges as everyone delighted in taking in their favourite acts. Early on, Seattle’s La Luz set the mood for the weekend, playing one of the first sets on Saturday and getting everyone dancing along their smooth, cool, surf-ready garage rock. Frontwoman Shana Cleveland peered out through her bangs between songs to take everything in — it was the start to a weekend that would feature more than 60 bands crammed into a hectic schedule and everyone was testing the waters at this point.
Saturday continued at a more or less breakneck pace: Atlanta’s black-garage killers, The Coathangers, flattened the main stage with their spiky hooks and angular rhythms. They were followed by a triple-threat set of bands that glued everyone to the Rama Stage: festival favourites, Bleached, rock and roll nihilists, Bass Drum of Death, and streetwalkin’ mutants, Tijuana Panthers, all scorched underneath the afternoon California sun and cooked the capacity crowd into a frenzy, sweat and body limbs tangled into one impossible mass. Inside the Observatory, armed with emperor cans of PBR, the U.K.’s hype kings, Palma Violets, grooved and howled through a stellar set that raised the anticipation for their soon-to-be-released sophomore album, Danger in the Club, to dizzying heights, while Soko enthralled everyone at the Constellation Stage with her glammed-out electro pop songs about heartbreak. Before anyone could catch their breath, the Black Angels burned out every light at the Observatory Stage and transformed the venue into a psychedelic black hole as they blasted through a heavy set that seemed to continuously collapse in on itself.
Outside, back at the Rama Stage, everyone was working themselves up for the evening’s headliners, hometown dirtbags, FIDLAR, and alt-rock giants, Weezer. Within bars of FIDLAR opening with “Cheap Beer,” the stage was turned into an unhinged house party, complete with four towering figures of the guys as stage props. FIDLAR raced through their street punk anthems alongside an adoring, screaming crowd that hung onto every word, every movement from the local heroes. When Weezer took the headlining slot, a short, sweaty mess later, it was perhaps the most fun set of the weekend: they roared out of the gate with “My Name Is Jonas” and the hits kept coming after that as the band piled them on amidst shit-eating grins.
Sunday came altogether too soon, but Colleen Green’s dulcet, fuzzed-out rockers about navigating adulthood eased everyone into the day and out of their hangovers. Following her set, King Khan & BBQ Show at the Rama Stage set the tone of the day: weird, dirty and out of control, King Khan, decked out in a leather gimp outfit, thrashed the crowd (he would routinely crash other performers’ sets, too, wandering around in a goofy haze with his blowup sex doll) with his scrappy, lewd garage blasts. Following that, Shannon and the Clams killed it inside at the Observatory Stage, before hustling over to see Thee Oh Sees battle technical difficulties and a scorching sun before launching a mega dance party. King Tuff and J Mascis’ stoner riders, Witch, went up next, playing a Martian set of heavy, groovy riffs. The Black Lips and Ty Segall were the day’s headliners at the Rama Stage and it seemed like they took all of the weekend’s delirium, distilled it into a heady, volatile cocktail and unleashed it into a dizzy crowd, who revelled at the thought of keeping the party going forever. As the festival closed inside the Observatory, The Queers, The Meatbodies, The Aquadolls and Jacco Gardner all performed deep, affective sets that surged with equal parts urgency and excitement.
Burgerama 4 was maximalist in its approach to booking: the weekend was stacked with one of the most impressive, tightly curated festival lineups in a while. It was a seemingly endless train of garage rock, surf punk, weirdo indie and chaos and it was a stupid amount of fun. Burger Records continues to be at the forefront of the indie garage scene and, with their ever-growing festival, they’ll continue to be on top for years to come. We can only dream of what’s coming up next year.AB, Alberta, Ariel Pink, Bass Drum of Death, Bleached, Burger Records, Burgerama, Burgerama 4, California, Colleen Green, FIDLAR, Hinds, Jacco Gardner, King Khan, La Luz, Martian, Palma Violets, Santa Ana, Shannon and the Clams, Soko, The Aquadolls, The Black Angels, The Black Lips, The Coathangers, The Meatbodies, The Observatory, The Queers, Thee Oh Sees, Tijuana Panthers, Twerps, Ty Segall, Weezer, Witch