After a great first day, it was time for a full 12 hours of surf groups from all over the globe.
And right out the gate, I messed up. I was really excited to finally see my friends and fellow southerners The Mystery Men... and I arrived at the Alpine Village half-way through their second-to-last song. I'm going to tell you my excuse because it's true and I'll probably never get a chance to use it in such an appropriate setting: I was out surfing and was waiting for one more good wave.
From other pictures I've seen that they were playing with strange plastic masks on their face, but they had shed those by the time I saw them. I caught them at a crescendo, absolutely bursting with energy, with Chad Shivers bounding off the stage and rolling backwards and right back into the music. As openers to an energetic day, they certainly managed to get things up to speed. During the convention they were selling an EP they threw together called Embers which is a few select tracks off their new LP that they were hoping to have ready. They performed that entire album live on Sunday (I was flying back home) but from what I heard they played a few on Saturday and I heard great things.
Next up was The Atomic Mosquitos. Listening to them live I came to realize just how well I knew their songs... I've listened to them more than I realized! Those songs came to life beautifully and faithfully, and though it was apparent from listening to the albums, it was great seeing just how much of a role the theremin plays. I've always thought their songs have this crashing momentum to them, with the rhythm guitar just smashing whatever's in its way. I was pretty tickled that they played their cover of the Bollywood classic "Jaan Pehechan Ho", though I was surprised that I didn't hear "Dial 'M' For Mosquito" which really takes my breath away as the album closer on their most recent LP "Bug Music for Bug People".
Next up was an all-star tribute to the recently passed Jim Fuller of the Surfaris. I have to remind myself that if it weren't for coming last year, my brain would be exploding seeing these songs played by John "& the Nightriders" Blair and Paul "Mr. Moto" Johnson playing these songs. They played most of Jim Fuller's original instrumentals and even played a little bit of Duane Eddy's "Yep" leading into Wipeout to give a hint at where it came from. John provided narrative between songs and gave them context. I've always thought the Surfaris are a little poo-poohed because of the success of Wipeout but I've always thought that Wipeout is pretty killer, and if you can't appreciate songs like Scatter Shield or Waikiki Run then I don't know what you're doing on this website.
Tthough it was so great hearing all these modern groups I love, being in Los Angeles and hearing these near-perfect facsimiles of the real deal was powerful. It was coming extremely close to a spark of magic that I've spent thousands of dollars on 45s chasing. After a straight-up trascendental experience watching John Blair play with Phantom Frank last year, it was hard to accept a smaller helping of his playing this time (my fault since I missed the Blair Pongracic Band on Sunday), but props to the drummer that was probably the wildest of the day.
So speaking of the real deal, the Lively Ones were next.
What a cool addition to the bill. This isn't the casino circuit in-name only version: these are the living legends themselves with only the bassist not in the original lineup. They did a great mix of originals and covers that were on their Del-Fi releases, with Surf Rider early in that lineup and my personal favorite Tranquilizer near the end.
Speaking of the end, what was especially touching was hearing Tim Fitzpatrick, soon retiring to Arizona, close the set telling the fans how much it means to them to hear that these songs are meaningful.
This whole event is very community-oriented, but it's amazing to hear one of the people that unwittingly helped create this community get to behold what it has become. Over 50 years of this music, still going strong.
After all that The Dynotones cleared the air with a certain sound that was missing from the convention until this point: FUZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
This was actually their last show because the aforementioned Tim Fitzpatrick who also drums for them will soon be moving away. The Dynotones were a favorite of mine when I was first getting into surf, so hearing songs like Gear Grinder loud and clear and extra fuzzy was a treat. They had a few covers thrown in there too like Blues Theme, Caterpillar Crawl, and Whittier Boulevard.
Next up: The Exotics. I don't know too many genres where synchronization is such a big thing, and it's hard not to love it. Matching shirts, matching pants, and I have so many shots where all three guitarists are pointing their instruments in in unison. They played a lot of my favorites of theirs but it was especially cool to hear Jetsetter and Sandoway. Some cool covers in there too like The Cherokees' Uprising and Calvin Cool's El Tecote.
Some advice from The Kilaueas: if you want people to crowd up in front of the stage, play guitar in an inflatable sumo outfit. I can't imagine that's an easy way to move around, but the Kilaueas guitarist seemed completely unencumbered -- it was hard to get a shot with all the movement. After a few songs his bandmates seductively pulled it off of him while they piped in stripper music.
The energy level didn't dip after that. It was a great set, and I especially liked Men from MENSCH off the new 7" they debuted at the convention. For their "One more" (nearly every band came back on to do one more) they played a Fathoms song, which was a cool surprise.
The Kilaueas stuck around for a bit to do a set paying homage to The Astronauts. Now I thought for sure tha the special guest was going to be Lorenzo aka Surfer Joe since they split an LP with him doing Astronaut covers and Astronaut inspired songs. He couldn't make it, but they made up for it with Ferenc Dobronyi and Danny Snyder of the Tomorrowmen (and other bands). That'll work! They played about every Astronaut instrumental that I can think of with that great loud and wet Astronauts sound. Having a few more members didn't temper the Kilaueas energy; for Movin' they were all doing a goofy shuffle around the stage as they played. A lot of fun, the only reason I don't have more pictures is because I was enjoying some chicken for a lot of the set.
Between sets Jeff had a few people come up to pay tribute to the recently passed members of surf community. A member of the Aquasonics told a story about John "Tuck" Koontz requesting Kuk but getting it confused with Banzai Pipeline. I'm glad this story came up because I'm pretty sure I've been making the same mistake.
And now the answer to the question everybody was asking: are The Madeira actually all that great?
Nah, I'm just kidding, nobody was asking that. This was my first opportunity to see a band that really changed the music for me, and I was pretty hyped. I'm not normally one to repurchase CDs when they're available on vinyl, but this convention was the debut of a vinyl pressing of Ancient Winds and for the Madeira I was willing to buy twice. They started off their set going straight into Ancient Winds material song for song. I had seen Ivan play last year with The Space Cossacks, and he blasted through these songs with ease. This was the first time I'd seen PJ O'Connor play though, and he was an absolute rock star.
The track that had me bristling with anticipation was Caravela which had all the noise and power when played live that I hoped for. But shortly after, they upped the ante:
Emerging from backstage were John Blair and Jonpaul Balak, making the Madeira a 6-member band. They ripped into some Madeira classics including their cover of Dilmohammad, Undercurrents, and the hair-raising Sandstorm. People were freaking out. I was freaking out. I don't really know what else there is to say other than that it was a rush!
Well there's a Mexican on stage, this must be the El Caminos!
I was excited to have (Japan's) El Caminos here before they even played because they were selling eleki records at their booth as well as their hard-to-find-for-a-reasonable-price Complete Sexcite Works album. When they took the stage they were loud as hell, started with their cover of the Sentinals' Big Surf and went all over the place from there. After the raw power of the Madeira, their songs had a bit more of a lighthearted bounce. A nice transition!
Venturesmania was a blast, even moreso than I expected. You've got Deke Dickerson (Untamed Youth), Mel Bergman (Phantom Surfers), and Garret Immel (Ghastly Ones) geeking out over their favorite Ventures songs with Mosrites in hand. They sounded excellent, perhaps a little angrier than I'm used to hearing my Ventures (maybe just louder? (maybe it's the Showmans?)), but that's not a complaint. Sure, I wish they would have played War of the Satellites or Go Go Dancer but there are wayyyyy too many Ventures songs to whine about your favorites not getting played. It sure was nice hearing a proper nasty version 2,000 lb Bee Though. Half of the fun was the banter between the members (and sometimes the audience) about Ventures geekdom. Mel and Deke in particular are a regular comedy duo.
While plenty of jokes were made about how the Ventures shouldn't be allowed as they're not technically a surf band, it felt REALLY RIGHT. Side note: Deke apparently went in for carpal tunnel surgery shortly after this weekend. Hope that goes well!
The night closed with the newly-resurrected-yet-soon-to-be-ended Huntington Cads. This was a big deal for a lot of people in the crowd, and hearing these melodies played in front of them in the realest form was a special thing. I also have to add: in a show that probably had more coordinated band outfits than any other festival you'll see, they were perfectly matching down to the smallest detail with their red suits and white shoes. Classy as hell, there was even a matching red guitar. Whereas last year Phantom Frank and John Blair delivered a knockout punch to put everybody to bed, this was a gentler end to a really special experience.
Huge thanks to Jeff and everybody that put this together. This was an amazing experience and a vital thing for us acolytes of that special sound.