Photography by Philip Cosores
Bigger isn’t always better, but in the case of burgers and, well, Burgeramas, it seems to be a good rule of thumb. An easy way to upgrade the sandwich is just to add another patty, and for Burgerama, now in its fourth year in Santa Ana, California, bulking up on big-name acts like Weezer and Gang of Four instantly added to the appeal for a fest that’s biggest knock is that it books a very similar lineup year in and year out.
Now in its second year of having an outside stage in addition to the two built-in stages within the confines of the Observatory, the event was noticeably smoother than any of its previous incarnations. Sets mostly ran on time, and while the indoor stages could get pretty full, getting from point A to point B never became overly laborious. This may seem like a bare-minimum requirement, but with festivals, you’d be surprised how the most basic of expectations are sometimes not met.
But with a two-day event that featured buzzy acts like Hinds, Girl Band, and Soko along with Burgerama vets like Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and FIDLAR, it became interesting to see just how much harder the out-of-town (or out-of-country) acts brought it than the locals. For some of the acts that play year-in and year-out, there was the sense that this was simply another Burgerama, while bands like Twin Peaks and Palma Violets, well-versed on the difficulties of playing fests, relished the chance to play in front of a thousand enthusiastic people.
And this is the heart of what makes Burgerama fun. Sure, Weezer and FIDLAR can command a big audience, but most of the acts, even down to Ariel Pink and Bleached, don’t play in front of many more than a few hundred on any given night. But at Burgerama, every set is packed with more than these bands typically play in front of. It is almost a chance to see how smaller bands would be received if they were big-ticket headliners. In some cases, like the awful Tomorrow’s Tulips, it becomes apparent at just how unready they were for such a big crowd. But the following 10 acts managed to be that second patty on the concert’s proverbial burger. Or something.
Click ahead for the 10 best sets of Burgerama 2015 plus an exclusive photo gallery.
As fascinating as Ariel Pink’s music is, the guy is equally fascinating as a person, and his band is equally full of characters it might be as interesting to watch eat a sandwich as it would be to watch play a song. Luckily, fans were treated to both an extended sound issue portion of the band’s early set in which Pink marched around testing mics and smoking a cigarette, seeming more like a rock star while repeating, “We’re having fun” than most artists do in an actual set. It was also fortunate that Pink’s set wasn’t cut short after a delayed start. Though Burgerama had been punctual throughout the first day, letting the main stage run 15 minutes behind was necessary and allowed all the acts to play their anticipated sets.
It was just last year that Twin Peaks were giving non-Midwestern audiences a taste of their garage rock, but maybe the most interesting thing about their set on Sunday afternoon is how much like pros they seemed when compared with the varying levels of experience they played up against. There were plenty of buzzy bands over the course of Burgerama’s two days, and Twin Peaks was chief among those seeming worthy of all the chatter.
Walking in to see Soko topless, with a stage full of fellow shirtless young women in the sweaty Constellation Room wasn’t the most notable thing about her Saturday afternoon set, and that kind of proves what a force the young songwriter is. Her performance was frenetic, with the singer shaking, punching, moving with abandon, hair flying. When she lept into the audience and crowd surfed for a solid minute near the end, it was almost as if she needed the break to cool down. On a bill light with women, Soko made most of the boys seem lazy by comparison.
Gang of Four
More than 30 years of public performing might teach a few things, and Gang of Four’s only original member in this incarnation, Andy Gill, displayed his experience and imparted that onto his much younger bandmates. Mixing in numbers from early Gang of Four with tracks from their new offering, What Happens Next, Gill and co. seemed as much about visual aesthetic as they were about the audio portion. And that’s not a slight as to how they sounded, but more a compliment in how surely, stoic rock stars are sure appreciated at an event when many of the bands seem like they just rolled out of bed.
Many of the strongest acts came from far away to perform at Burgerama, including Madrid’s Hinds and Australia’s Big White. But, no one plays it up like London’s Palma Violets, whose sets consistently get a hype-building introduction and as much concern for swagger as for sound. Still, new songs fit well with 180 highlights like “Best of Friends” and “Step Up for the Cool Cats”, cementing Palma Violets as having a sophomore LP worth anticipating when Danger in the Club sees its release this May.