March 22-23, 2014
Over the weekend on three stages at the Observatory in Santa Ana, more than 70 bands gathered to get stoned, play distorted garage rock, and otherwise live out the ethos of Burgerama headliners, Fidlar: "Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk."
On Saturday we assessed the state of things with Warren Thomas, the frontman of featured band The Abigails, while he was backstage having his first beer. The boozing crooner, once reported to be "dead" by Brooks Nielsen of the Growlers, embodies the very essence of a 'Burger artist' - where being broke is a lifestyle choice, a form of DIY scar tissue, and being "ripped" and "faded" can describe both a pair of blue jeans and a state of being.
After being asked to describe the scene at this year's Burgerama, Thomas looked around at a group of teenagers and grinned: "LOL...and shit."
Let's get one thing straight: Burgerama is certainly not limited to teenagers and grizzled drunkards. (And, though The Abigails are, it's not limited to bands signed to Burger Records either.) This year's festival included sets from classic '90s punk outfit The Muffs, who recently joined Burger Records to release a new album.
The Muffs' Kim Shattuck talked to those in the audience as she prepared to crowd surf inside the Observatory: "This is why I got kicked out of the Pixies," said Shattuck, who provided a '90s pop-punk palate cleanser from the overwhelming amount of surfy, psychedelic, doo-wop, and garage outfits that transferred from stage to stage.
See also: Photos from Burgerama III
The annual festival has grown to a point where Bleached, who brought the dance party vibe on day one, were surprised at the massive crowd during their set. "I cannot believe how big Burger is right now," said Jennifer Clavin, the act's lead singer, who along with her sister Jessica performed a set that bounced like a garage rock tinged Go-Go's. "Burger is something you become obsessed with," said Jennifer, passing around a bottle of Don Julio tequila following her set and before splitting to catch the Black Lips - who closed Saturday with a ferocious display of cuts from their new record, Underneath the Rainbow, and 2011's Arabia Mountain.
But Saturday's highlight was Oakland-based rocker Nobunny (real name Justin Champlin), who ran onto the stage wearing a Donnie Darko-inspired bunny mask and black panties - his genitals, occasionally, fully exposed. Performing infectiously catchy, cartoony-garage sounds, Nobunny managed to inspire sing-alongs during "Bye Bye Roxie" that both rocked and had everyone giggling at the absurdity of a grown man dressed in dirty-bunny-drag.
Moving on. "Weird Al Yankovic is the ultimate Burger band we want to book!" said Sean Bohrman, the co-founder of Burger Records, who spent the weekend running between groups of rabid fans (mostly teenagers), who had come to see Cherry Glazerr, a group that went from Burgerama opener to headliner in just one year."It's a haven for kids who want to be initiated into this beautiful musical life," said Clementine Creevy, the 17-year-old lead singer of Cherry Glazerr, who spent the waning hours of Saturday night sitting atop of a van and watching both the Growlers and Black Lips underneath the moonlight.
Below: Day Two
On Sunday, Canadian singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco was preparing for his set in the green room when we caught up with him. "I used to think Burger was just garage, but it's more 'anything goes' nowadays," said DeMarco. His set on the main stage bounced between funky guitars that shimmered and dipped low during a spaced-out rendition of "Ode to Viceroy," where DeMarco celebrated his favorite brand of cigarettes through song.
As it turned it out, DeMarco was the perfect muscle relaxer for the shot of adrenaline that would follow.
Fidlar made their way to the main stage followed by three giant mascots; Merlin the Wizard, Frida Kahlo, and Wyatt Earp (we think it was Wyatt Earp, anyway). They helped Fidlar torch the place (almost literally) with a massive set that ran over an hour and almost ended in the electrocution of frontman Zac Carper.
"I just want to get really high / smoke weed until I die," sang Carper, who banged up his knees pretty badly early in the set. The letters for Fidlar appeared above the stage in flames that resembled the Vegas skyline on the Fourth of July. The band scared the shit out of everyone by tossing small firecrackers into a puddle of water and beer that covered the stage - which at times, looked like it was ready to go up in flames as well. At points, the entire surrounding area smelled like gun powder, cheap beer, and weed.
By the end of their set, which was capped off by an aggressive version of "Cheap Beer," Fidlar was hidden behind plumes of smoke from flares they ignited.
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That was Burgerama III in a nutshell: anything goes, and anything went. An anything goes music festival that's meant to be disposal, like a DIY cassette tape, and like any great tape, it's a special collection and includes the personal touch lacking at a festival like Coachella - that's gotten a bit Hollywood in the past few years - where knowing a member of the band means you're industry.
At Burgerama, knowing a member of the band doesn't make you any more special than the 17-year-old in the crowd that could easily be headlining next year. Or in the case of Colleen Green (who played on Saturday), Burgerama just makes it really easy to smoke a joint and see the Muffs, at the same time.
See also: Photos from Burgerama III