By Dave Pehling
OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The garage-punk festival former known as the Burger Boogaloo has gone through some major changes since it was held in Oakland’s Mosswood Park over two years ago. Organizers split with the fest’s namesake Burger Records after a sexual misconduct scandal broke surrounding the imprint and many bands associated last year (the SoCal label had had little to do with the festival’s planning for ages, according to Bay Area promoters Total Trash Productions).READ MORE: Cal Fire Confirms Estrada Fire Sparked by Controlled Burn, Holding at 150 Acres; Evacuations Ordered
Meanwhile, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has kept the rechristened Mosswood Meltdown from happening since it’s tenth edition was held with headliners Jesus and Mary Chain in 2019, initially getting pushed back to Halloween weekend in 2020 and then summer of 2021 before being rescheduled for July of 2022.
The Mosswood Meltdown featuring marquee acts Bikini Kill, Plastic Bertrands and many others may have been pushed to next summer, but Total Trash has decided to hold a Halloween-themed two-day festival with many returning favorites to tide fans over. Once again hosted by iconic film director John Waters, the Halloween Meltdown on Oct. 15-16 will present another whopper of a line-up with performances by such returning favorites as Osees, the Mummies, Detroit garage heroes the Gories, Sacramento juggernaut th’ Losin Streaks and a cast of new and vintage punk bands.
Spearheaded by main organizer and Total Trash honcho Marcos Ribak, the Meltdown looks to continue the Boogaloo’s reputation as one of the premiere underground rock festivals in the country on par with Goner Records’ yearly Gonerfest. This October event will still feature vendors selling records, clothes and guitar gear in addition to an array of food options.
John Waters at Burger Boogaloo 2018 (Dave Pehling)
The Halloween Meltdown brings back pencil-mustached director and revered trash-culture expert John Waters as MC. Expelled from NYU where he was studying film in the 1960s, Waters rose to notoriety thanks to his string of ’70s campy midnight movies including Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living. Making up what the director termed his “Trash Trilogy,” the films shredded the boundaries of conventional propriety and movie censorship with outrageous dialog and action as well as establishing drag queen Divine (Waters’ friend from his Baltimore, Maryland childhood and muse, Harris Glenn Milstead) as an actor and cult figure.
Waters would eventually go on to more mainstream success with his later films like Hairspray (which inspired the Broadway musical and movie adaptation), the Johnny Depp film Cry-Baby and the scathing satire Serial Mom, but he has remained an icon of trash culture between his b-movie appearances, books and This Filthy World is a one-man stage show exploring his artistic origins. More recently, Waters has explored visual arts with mixed media and manipulated photo exhibits that by his own admission aim to inspire disgust with the viewer. Waters never fails to deliver off-color commentary during hilarious band introductions from the stage. His return as host should be no less entertaining.
For Saturday’s line-up, the Halloween Meltdown bill gets topped with another raging appearance by John Dwyer and his incendiary garage-psych outfit Osees. One of the most popular San Francisco bands to emerge from the garage-rock underground in recent decades, Osees is the brainchild of SF underground rock fixture Dwyer (Pink and Brown, Coachwhips). Formed in the early 2000s and initially known as the OCS or Orinoka Crash, the band started out exploring lo-fi home recordings with a decidedly more laid-back sound than his earlier garage-punk outfits.
In the years that followed, the line-up evolved as Dwyer returned to the more frenetic style he’d played with the Coachwhips. After adding new members guitarist Petey Dammit and drummer Mike Shoun and changing the moniker to Thee Oh Sees, the band would release a steady stream of singles and albums including such acclaimed efforts as 2008’s The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In, Warm Slime and the more pop-minded Castlemania in 2012.READ MORE: Car Fleeing CHP Causes AC Transit Bus to Plow Into Oakland Home
A reputation as an incendiary live act helped further spread the word of the band, as did such propulsive and chaotic releases as Carrion Crawler/The Dream, Putrifiers II and Floating Coffin before the band underwent some major changes. The longtime live quartet line-up went on an indefinite hiatus after a final 2013 late show at the Great American Music Hall prior to the band leader relocating to Los Angeles.
More recently, Dwyer has focused his energies on the powerful two-drummer line-up of the band, issuing a string of studio efforts and further cementing it’s reputation as an explosive live act. While most bands used the coronavirus pandemic to focus on recording with the possibility of touring taken off the table, Dwyer and company manage to ramp up their activity in the wake of the band’s latest name change to Osees.
In addition to releasing three studio albums in 2020, the group participated in three widely viewed livestreamed performances — two in affiliation with the Levitation Festival and a second filmed in Big Sur in partnership with local psych promoter folkYEAH. The scorching live shows were also released as downloads and limited vinyl and cassette edition, addition to the growing pile of new recordings to be snapped up by dedicated fans. Earlier this year, Dwyer and company released another new studio recording, the experimental (even for him) exploration of synthesizer sounds, Weirdo Hairdo.
The balance of Saturday’s action in Mosswood Park will feature a parade of local talents, including a screening of San Francisco’s First and Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie: Crime 1978 featuring SF punk pioneers Crime, Sacramento-based all-female Beastie Boys tribute the Sheastie Boys, hypnotic Oakland post-punk outfit Body Double, punk band Bohdi’s War, hysterical one-man groove tornado Chaki the Funk Wizard, experimental Sacramento garage crew Drug Apts and Berkeley electro quartet Naked Roommate. Saturday’s schedule also includes a costume contest with a $500 first prize hosted by solo star and Shannon and the Clams singer/bassist Shannon Shaw and writer, artist and musician Brontez Purnell (Younger Lovers) and musical selections by DJ Omar Perez (Popscene, Leisure).
The line-up for day two of the ghoulish good time features a return appearance by one of the most beloved local bands to influence the modern generation of trash disciples since the ’90s. The Mummies first came together in San Mateo in 1988 and — along with fellow Bay Area band the Phantom Surfers — set a standard for snotty, Sonics-informed ’60s style rock snarl. With their tattered mummy wraps and self-proclaimed “budget rock” attitude, the band’s shambling, chaotic stage performances and lo-fi recordings stayed true to a DIY aesthetic until their dissolution in the early ’90s.
While members of the band have had projects since (SF garage-rock figurehead Russell Quan has had a hand in the Count Backwurds, the Dukes of Hamburg, the Bobbyteens and many others), the Mummies resisted reuniting until 2003 when they issued their first CD Death by Unga Bunga. The band wrecked the now closed San Francisco Elbo Room in 2016 with a packed and raucous 27th anniversary show, but this encore appearance at Mosswood Park should keep the crowds dancing until the last note is played and the last Vox organ is destroyed.
Also making a return to Mosswood Park are Detroit garage-rock legends the Gories. The outfit led by guitarists Mick Collins and Dan Kroha (drummer Peggy O’Neill rounded out the trio) made a trio of corrosive, blues-drenched albums and a fistful of singles before splitting up in 1992. Collins would move on to the Dirtbombs and Kroha played in Rocket 455 and founded the Demolition Doll Rods while O’Neill put in time with ’68 Comeback and the Darkest Hours, but the Gories still stand as one of the most influential garage-rock bands of the modern era. The threesome comes back to Oakland fresh from an appearance at Riot Fest in Chicago last month.
The rest of the Sunday line-up presents an outstanding list of performances including a solo set from Hunx and His Punx vocalist Seth Bogart, celebrated Sacramento garage-rock kingpins Th’ Losin Streaks, punk band the Ugly, and local trash-rock merchants Hot Laundry, Teutonics, Whateverglades and Vaxxines with DJ Big Nate playing music between bands. Additional information on the Halloween Meltdown’s COVID policy and how to get tickets is available on the festival’s official website.MORE NEWS: Marin County Judge Tentatively Rejects Cutting Inmate Crowding at San Quentin
Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 16-17, 12 p.m. $29-$139