The Growlers’ 5th year of putting on the Beach Goth music festival was full of dynamic and intense performances that seemed to shake the stage, but was dampened by the festival’s disorganization and Sunday’s rain.

After five years, the festival has definitely grown bigger than the Orange County Observatory grounds can handle. There lacked clear walkways, and the indoor stages were so crowded that even after waiting half an hour to get in, fans were turned away from the extremely small Constellation Room filled to double its maximum capacity. Festival-goers complained of the absence of water fountains and unnecessary aggression of security guards. One attendee commented on The Growlers’ Instagram page in response to the behavior of the guards, “They are hired work, and are supposed to remain calm and professional during times like this. Instead it was prison rules and their animal instincts kicked in when crowds demanded answers or demanded to exit a squished observatory.” The rain on Sunday only made conditions worse. The pathway leading from the entrance to the outdoor stage was almost completely flooded, creating even less space.  Even after The Growler’s Instagram apology, fans continued signing a petition refund ticket sales. I experienced the true terror of being trapped inside the Observatory building as more and more people pushed against the door that was barricaded by security. When finally the doors opened, bodies pushed against each other, creating a dangerous stampede.

Still, the energy of the performances made up for a lot of the disorganization that occurred, making the festival an overall positive experience, at least for me. Even the rain created communal moments that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, like puddle dancing and people helping others cross the “river” unharmed. During Devendra Banhart’s set, he was calm, telling the crowd to embrace the rain, and, wearing a large overcoat, he did just that as it fell through the stage’s mesh ceiling.

Other highlights included…

SWMRS’ exuberant performance that promoted crowd surfing and mosh pits; their energy on the stage was palpable throughout the audience.

Patti Smith, who drew in the younger audience with her free-spirited, punk vibes. On one chorus of her opening song, “Redondo Beach,” she replaced the words “Redondo Beach” with “Beach Goth,” activating a roar from the crowd.

TSOL’s wild and memorable set, where two members of the audience managed to jump onto the stage and wrestle with lead singer Jack Grisham before leaping back into the awaiting hands of the crowd.

King Krule, who after some sound issues that delayed the start, delivered an angst-y performance that mesmerized listeners.

James Blake, a personal favorite of mine, who played hits like “Retrograde” and “Forest Fire.” Add adjective?

One of Day 2’s early performances, La Femme, absolutely rocked the stage. The Paris-based band moved the crowd with their krautrock/alternative rock songs sung beautifully in French by lead singer Marlon Magnée and female vocalist Clémence Quélennec. The entire band was outfitted in different costumes, a nod to the festival’s encouragement that concert-goers dress up. La Femme was one of my favorite performances from the two days at Beach Goth.

Words & Photos by Lucy Blumenfield

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