There were a lot of forces and narrative threads converging at the Sacramento stop of the 98 Rock Presents Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival — not the least of which is the need to type out that mouthful when such commercial involvement might not even have been possible while many of the featured bands playing were busy touring and releasing new albums.
While punk’s appeal at one time may have been in its youthful ripping apart of conventional music and fashion, it’s also clear that some of the bands that have lasted now play for audiences that can far eclipse the crowds they were getting years ago.
Enter the festival format, where the organizers again take the conventions and rearrange them into something that fits – hence the Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival and its almost circus environment of craft beer breweries giving out free beer to all attendees in the afternoon, a line of taco trucks serving up all variations of taco-related food, Lucha Libre wrestling taking place between bands, and an onstage appearance by Takeru Kobayashi (most commonly known as that skinny Asian guy who destroyed all previous hot dog eating records) doing what he does best: devouring an oversized plate of food at an unreal rate before a cheering audience.
And this is all before we even get to the bands!
A cadre of Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords bands stirred up the free-beer-fueled crowds beginning in the afternoon. The Vandals brought their antagonistic goofball brand of punk in full force, with guitarist Warren Fitzgerald jumping from stage to speakers and providing interpretive dancing for old songs like “I Want To Be A Cowboy,” and included their seasonless classic “Oi To The World” in the midday heat.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – a cover band supergroup with members of Bad Religion, Swingin Utters, and Lagwagon – threw down some brash comedic relief while playing sped-up versions of songs like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Madonna’s “Crazy For You” in matching blue satin button down shirts.
Pennywise’s anti-authoritarian singalong choruses and riffs have aged into the raised fists and shouted lyrics of an audience a generation removed from their initial crowds, and the fans packing the Papa Murphy’s Stadium field for their set made visible that the music still resonates even as band members might easily be mistaken for skatepark dads rather than the guys whose shows have nearly turned into riots.
And as dark fell over the stadium, The Offspring ignited their set of what seemed like a soundtrack that had a longer shelf life than the vast majority of bands from the ‘”new school” genre that they helped spawn in the mid-90s. At one point, the band had to ask the crowd to take a step back because the stage barricades were being pushed into the security area.
Sounding as large now as any point over the years, they commanded the floor, with circle pits erupting across the front half of the stadium grounds. A set highlight was when the stage emptied and singer Dexter Holland sat at a piano to play an emotional version of “Gone Away,” growing to the band re-entering the stage for a crescendoing conclusion of the piece. From that point, the energy got more and more intense as the band breezed through songs like “Bad Habit,” “The Kids Aren’t Alright” and finished with “Self Esteem.”
Aside from the lineup, which was enough a reason to go in itself, the Sabroso Festival is an example of punk following the lead of the festival model, but spinning it into an environment whose spectacle and style matches that of the bands performing.
While the Sabroso Fest is on a limited run around the West Coast right now, The Offspring have just announced a nationwide tour and will be heading back to the area this summer. It hasn’t been mentioned yet if they’ll have Lucha Libre wrestlers and Kobayashi in tow.
– Shaun Astor