A look into OC’s embrace of Punk Rock Culture

Sabroso Festival took place over the weekend on April 6th and 7th at Doheny State Beach. Now in its sixth year, its stop at Dana Point has sold out for the second year in a row. With unlimited free tastings from over 150 highly sought after craft beer companies, award-winning gourmet tacos from some of the best OC establishments there is to offer, and all served up on the shores of Dana Point Harbor, you would be hard pressed to name a better event.

Save one or two bands on the lineup, all were formed in Southern California. Started in the ’80s and 90’s, the loyal fans and followers all seem to be responsible parents now, proudly raising families in the same communities where it all started. It was not uncommon to see little kids hoisted on the shoulders of mom or dad wearing spiky hair and one of their parent’s favorite punk band t-shirts on, smiling ear to ear. With a crowd of nearly 11,000, it was just a matter of time before running into someone you used to go to school with or go to the very beach this gathering was held on. A sheepish grin, a quick joke about “selling out to the establishment,” and then talks about coordinating little league practice with their new start-up business 5 minutes up the road seemed a typical conversation. In the instance of seeing a “true punker” that never “gave up and gave in”, they were met with pats on the back or perhaps a nod of respect with a quick cheer of an ice cold beer in hand. Some of the most impressive with tall mohawks, tight leather jackets, and piercings were old enough to be our grandparents. Many of the onlookers would rush over to give these legends a high five, hoping some of the strength and vitality of these septuagenarians would rub off on them.

Bad Religion is known for their articulate yet contentious and charged music mostly focused on politics and religion, yet they are equally known and respected for their melodic and catchy songs that make all of it worth the listen to in the first place. As one of the main headliners on this year’s 2019 lineup, I believe it’s worthy news and should be noted, that the lead singers of all 3 main bands hold PhDs. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion holds a Doctorate in History of Science from Cornell University. Dexter Holland, of Offspring fame, but also the owner of Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce and Nitro Records, holds a Doctorate in Molecular Biology from USC. He also completed a 10-day solo flight around the world with his twin-engine Cessna proudly decorated in leopard print interior and anarchy symbol on the tail. Milo Auckerman, who fronts Descendents, holds a Doctorate in Biology from UC San Diego. I feel compelled to mention these facts because Punk Music for all of its quick, hardcore, aggressive, and anti-authority culture, is also extremely intelligent, well thought out, and empathetic in its message.

Jason Cruz who is the lead singer and songwriter for Strung Out played on Saturday. I met with him before their set on stage, both of us sitting on the picnic tables and soaking in the ideal weather. He had this to say about the event: ” I was just walking around and I got love from so many people…just really good vibes today. I am just so stoked to be here. I feel like we earned our place at this festival and every day just like in life, you have to earn your right to be there. You do that by being a good friend, a good person, husband, boyfriend, dad, and being part of a band…every song…every performance.” Let that soak in, folks. This is a glimpse into how amazing this Sabroso Festival is and how important it is to preserve our unique punk culture born and bred in our own backyard. After being blown away by those enlightened words from Jason, I asked what brought them thus far and what was in the future for the band. “If it wasn’t for the surfers from this area, we wouldn’t be here. We got here on the backs of the surfers and guys like Taylor Steele who would put us in his surf videos. We have a new album coming out in August that we just finished on Friday that was recorded in Anaheim with Cameron Webb (founder of Maple Sound Studios and worked with everyone from Madonna to Motorhead to Dr.Dre) We are calling it Songs of Armor and Devotion. I would like to think that we aren’t moving backward in any way and showing some new stuff. The notes you will recognize, but I think it’s important to show people something new…that’s our job.”

 

Jake Kiley who sings backing vocals to Jason and also plays the guitar for Strung Out, added this: “Growing up in Southern California and this area was incredible. The combination of metal and punk and also the skateboarding scene was just a really cool hybrid to be a part of growing up. Just the culture of it all and going to the shows was the best. We grew up loving bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Excel, old Metallica, and Bad Religion to name a few, and we were just trying to pay tribute to them but also put our own twist on it and bring in some other elements. We just had a blast with it and are so stoked and appreciative people are coming out still to see us and the other bands. This line-up is unbelievable. It’s really cool. This new record of ours is going to be fast, tight, and old school. We are going to South America and Mexico in July to tour soon but around the rest of the world as well eventually this year.”

Just then Dan Root who plays guitar for the Adolescents came by. The Adolescents have on numerous occasions been voted by local Orange County magazines as arguably the best band to come out of Orange County. I asked him what Dana Point and the surrounding area around this festival meant to him and his band’s music. “This is our first time playing here at Doheny and it’s a beautiful spot. We absolutely love it here and it’s a really cool event. We have always been a part of the surf and skate scene here and it has always been a big part of everything we did.”

Everyone seemed most excited to see Flogging Molly including the other bands. This is one of those bands that has created its own unique brand of music and are pure genius. One quick look at their trailer and equipment and I could see a mandolin, fiddle, accordion, tin whistle, concertina, acoustic guitar, electric guitars, a bodhran, banjo, and percussion just to start. I walked over to where the band was hanging out and enjoying the scene and spoke with them for a bit. Dennis Casey plays guitar and is backup vocals for Flogging Molly and Nathan Maxwell plays bass for them and also vocals. Nathan was particularly excited about being at Doheny and getting to play for everyone there. ” This is a special place for me. I grew up boogie boarding and body surfing and the first time my dad ever took me surfing properly was right here at Doheny. I was pretty young… single digits I guess. We are very stoked to be here and for sure if we are invited back would love to keep playing at this event. We have a lot of friends on the bill tonight like Bad Religion, Strung Out, and Lagwagon. Flogging Molly formed in LA years ago where beer and tacos abound, and we feel very comfortable and good to be here.” Dennis added excitedly, “I’ve never been here before, but it’s paradise! I live in upstate New York now and we got none of this. I used to live in Hollywood for 16 years and would drive by this place many times. This festival is phenomenal and it doesn’t get any better than beers, tacos, and punk rock on the beach. We have a professional skater in the band (Matt Hensley) who has been showing us around.” When I approached Matt about what this festival and area meant to him he explained that he was born in Newport Beach and grew up skateboarding professionally in Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano countless times and never thought he would be playing accordion in a band here all these years later. Their Salty Dog five-day cruise festival through the Bahamas with other bands like Face to Face and Frank Turner will be at the beginning of November this year as well. Also on the water, this setup is the first of its kind and becoming mythical as well. Thank you to the city of Dana Point for hosting this event.