OAKLAND — Without Devo, the crowds were noticeably smaller on the second day of Burger Boogaloo at Mosswood Park, and with headliners The Damned having been around since the mid-1970s, it was also noticeably older on Sunday. But those in attendance were treated to an overall stronger slate of acts.
“Not bad for a bunch of old bastards,” The Damned guitarist Captain Sensible said, after an especially fast song before gesturing at the crowd. “I’m talking about you!”
While it seems strange to call a punk band polished, it definitely describes The Damned performance. After more than 40 years of touring, that makes sense. Time has been good to lead singer Dave Vanian. He sounds as good, if not better, than ever. Wearing an all-black suit, long coat, and black gloves, he struck a more sinister image Sunday than he did when he was younger. Aside from periodically forgetting to sing into the microphone he was on his game.
Captain Sensible was easily the best guitarist of the day. Still wearing his trademark red beret but trading punk banter for complaints about how much longer airport security takes than it used to, he absolutely shredded the old hits like “Feel the Pain.”
Rome, Italy rock band Giuda, were introduced as often being compared to AC/DC, and that’s not too far off the mark. The band’s lyrics were simple and repeated many times, the backup vocals were shouted in unison, and much of the power guitar chords were shredded. The highlight of its set was a cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” It never would have occurred to me to cover it as a guitar-driven hard rock song, but now I can’t think of it any other way.
The other surprise of the day was a terrific performance by Nobunny, who was called that morning to fill in for the Dwarves and managed to put on one of the sets of the weekend without notice. Joined by Pookie of Pookie & the Poodlez, the band had to borrow instruments (how punk rock of them). They asked fans for requests because they didn’t have time for a proper setlist. They shouted out happy birthdays. Most of all, they rocked.
Hardcore punk band Le Shok was, by a wide margin, the most punk act of the day. Singer Hot Rod Todd was clearly inebriated, the rest of the members wore matching white ties, and they closed out their set by smashing every guitar on stage. I’m not exaggerating: They smashed the guitar and bass they were playing, then they got the ones they played on previous songs and smashed those. After that, one by one, they got guitars from behind amps and from backstage and smashed them on the ground. It took several minutes, long enough for the crowd to go from cheering to slightly concerned. Anything with strings got smashed. Then they left.
On the other end of the spectrum was The Rip Offs. Wearing black nylons as masks, and behind a web of crime scene tape, they seemed to be trying very hard to be edgy and punk, which is the least punk thing you can do. The band entered the stage on an old San Francisco police motorcycle, which they claimed to have stolen but presumably bought, were flanked by backup dancers in sexy cop Halloween costumes, and they seemed to go out of their way to insult the crowd and each other. It struck me as how a CBS procedural would depict a punk show.
Quintron & Ms. Pussycat, on the other hand, were great. The husband and wife duo had a weird doo wop-meets-kids’ show aesthetic, with music that sounds like if the B-52s developed their sound in the mid-’90s. Robert “Quintron” Rolston plays the organ and other instruments, many of which he invented, while Ms. Panacea Pussycat sings backup and plays percussion—though most percussion is provided by the Drum Buddy, a light-activated rotating drum machine also invented by Quintron.
John Waters introduced them as, “the weirdest band in the world.” For example they ended the set with a puppet show, put on by Ms. Pussycat, about a pair of vampire real estate developers trying to shut down the Western Village Shopping Village. I think. It was a bit hard to follow on account of being so very, very weird.
Tokyo’s Firestarter not only played but seemingly brought quite a few fans from Japan. The garage punk band started a bit slow but quickly hit its stride, getting more and more hardcore as the set went on.
San Francisco’s The Flakes put on good ol’-fashioned rock and roll show. Playing the sort of garage rock you just don’t see enough anymore, and featuring Russell Quan of The Mummies on drums, they pulled in a huge crowd to the smaller stage.
Several surf punk band played on Saturday, but Subsonics was the first surf rock band of the weekend. The difference is subtle but important: While surf punk bands are inspired by the beach party aesthetic, surf rock bands are the thing that inspires them without the underlying punk. From the drummer’s beehive hairdo to the smooth-but-jangly surf guitar, Subsonics were a flashback to the early ’60s, or at least the version from the movies.
Oakland psychedelic rock band Gris Gris, which had broken up in 2009, came together for the occasion. To do so, they had to bring in a couple members from Oregon. While the music was very good, the band battled technical difficulties and the frequent feedback. Lead singer Greg Ashley also spent most of the set ducking behind a stack of speakers.