Some of our favorite looks
“Beach Goth” was first used by Orange County-based The Growlers to describe their mash up of hauntingly beachy tunes and death-themed lyrics. It is a phrase that feels unabashedly Southern Californian, where the sun shines over all, whether or not one is draped in black (and even those who are would be hard pressed to fully extract all influences of beach culture from their lives). It is also the name of a two-day party-cum-festival hosted by the band that has taken place at The Observatory in Santa Ana every year, right before Halloween, since 2012. It has grown from sixteen local bands playing a couple of stages to eighty musicians and entertainers, locally and nationally known, playing four stages located both inside and outside the venue. We arrived on the second day of Beach Goth’s fifth and most expansive iteration to an immediate mix of excitement and confusion, two emotional states that would rule the rest of the day.
A visual history of the growth of Beach Goth
While we used this opportunity to live our (admittedly watered down) goth fantasy of wearing black lipstick in public for the first time, upon walking up to the entrance, we realized that we were definitely on the boring end of the audience attire spectrum. From Dia de los Muertos calaberas to Elliott from E.T. to life-like zombies to a hodgepodge of accessories the wearer had laying around at home, at least half of those in attendance came prepared for exactly what Beach Goth is, one of the weirdest, most epic Halloween parties ever. And it is just that distinction, that it’s maybe a better party than a festival, that made for a day with high highs and low lows.
Despite the rain starting to pour, She Wants Revenge was packed.
They found love in a rainy place.
There’s already been a lot of coverage about the lows. It rained, or rather, poured. A stage flooded and performances were moved without any real way of telling the festival-goers. Grimes had to cancel her set due to said rain damaging her equipment. At one point, we were in a crowd so large and intent on getting out of the rain and into the Observatory that we lost control of our own, individual ability to move and rode what felt like a wave inside. By the time we were able to catch up with some attendees whose costumes we wanted to document, they were soaked. We were soaked. Everyone and everything was soaked. These were all huge bummers, especially considering the ticket cost, which rose 30% from the year before. Honestly, as a festival, it sort of sucked. But as a party, an event one attends for both the entertainment and the crowd, something that can pop up anywhere – like, say, an Orange County business park – as long as there are a few decorations thrown up to thinly disguise where we all know we are, it ruled.
All decorations were perfect for either selfies or group photos. Beach Goth was nothing if not a Millenial dream.
Affectionately known as “Los Growlers,” a sign they’re as Southern Californian as Los Dodgers(/Doyers), the Growlers became known in Orange County for both their music and their parties. Their presence used to fill up warehouses decorated with props similar to what adorned the Observatory Grounds – a fifteen foot skeleton hand shaped into devil’s horns, a giant, neon monster that looks to have arisen from the slime left over after a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and is wearing a bikini. The basic rule of organizing Beach Goth seems to be that if it sounds rad, it should happen.
2 Live Crew was amazing, but their dancers were b-e-y-o-n-d.
The same holds true for the music. Initially most excited to see 2 Live Crew and Grimes, we also caught Reel Big Fish’s closing numbers (never thought we’d type that out loud), discovered Kali Uchis, and were reminded of our love for She Wants Revenge. The sonic and temporal diversity of the acts was reflected in the audiences they drew in. What stood out to us wasn’t just the costumes, though many were epic, but how natural this mix of seemingly disparate types of people felt. Everyone was just doing them, and while in another context, a pale girl in all black and glasses might look out of place dancing and singing along to Me So Horny, that’s exactly what this festival is about. It’s a celebration of Southern California, a region home to people from literally all over the world, with every taste imaginable, over whom, despite their differences, the sun still shines. Well, most of the time, at least.
Oh kids these days, with their Simpsons and Metallica and floral print rompers.