Keeping It Low-Key at Loco Brews Loco Grooves

 

Kinky (Credit: Bridget Arias for House of Blues Anaheim)

Loco Brews, Loco Grooves this past Saturday proved to be less loco and more clave Baja. Which is not a bad thing if you have a bit of festival fatigue (even though festival season is just getting started) get easily overwhelmed by too much choice at now ubiquitous beer/music festival pairings, or in my case, hungry.

Also, because of the smattering of music Latina autentico, I feel like less of a guilty gringa for “celebrating” Cinco de Mayo as not much more than a Latin-flavored St. Patrick’s Day.

What made this daytime festival enjoyable and just the right amount of party?  

Air conditioning. And bathrooms. And seating. Want to sit? Pee? Not be hot? The cavernous Anaheim House of Blues in the “nothing remotely garden” about it Garden Walk has your bathroom and body-temperature control needs covered. Too much cerveza has you dizzy? It wasn’t so crowded that you couldn’t easily snag a barstool or theater seat. And it was nice that the entire venue was, for the most part, dedicated to the event, so all seating was open.

Just enough choice. For true beer connoisseurs, it can be overwhelming to have a tiny sip cup and a vast list of breweries. And that long, long list is padded with too many big brands you can easily find on your own.

The whole point of a beer tasting is to taste the beer. Being pregnant and a beer lover, I appreciated that every table I approached had a “dump bucket” where I could, with minimal guilt sip, taste and spit after requesting the tiniest of pours. It takes a bit of willpower, but can be done. Stand-outs for me were a  funky Tropical wheat ale from Green Flash and a peppery saison by Gunwhale Brewery.

The price of the entry is separate from the drink and food tasting band, but for $15 you had a choice of some beer fest mainstays including indie brewery superstars like San Clemente’s Pizza Port. There were a couple of corporate beers, but for the most part, it was a nicely curated SoCal lineup.

It might be annoying for some that the entrance ticket and tasting band were separate. But a hidden benefit to that is it gives those who want to come out solely for the music, who aren’t into beer, or who wish to remain sober a chance to opt out. Although, all the bars at HOB were fully open so many got their full-sized drink on in between tiny tasting sips.

Chill + groovy music that didn’t ignore the occasion nor overwork it. In all honesty, I caught only three acts during my handful of hours. But what I caught was a nice mix of party and a smart nod to Mexican culture.

In between DJ sets of nineties R&B, I got into the mood with Devil Season a funky-soul rock mashup up whose lead singer is (full disclosure)–my editor here at the Weekly’s band.

At times lightly reggae-tinged and with an emphasis on the rhythm section (kick-ass bass playing, fun drum breakdowns) Devil Season helped get me into the mood. Even if I couldn’t sustain it with a full-sized beer. And I was distracted by the bass player’s uncanny resemblance to Brandon Flowers from the Killers.

Perched on a stool with a tamale in hand–one of a handful of Mexican comfort-food items offered–I settled in for a set by Manantial de Fuego. Reminding me of the best in rock en Espanol (“Yo Estoy Aqui…baracho y loco…”) Manantial de Fuego was hot and featured a trumpet and accordion player.

I stayed for headliners Kinky, who seemed to be plagued by some sound issues (light popping) and although they have long been pioneers of Monterrey-bred electro-rock, had a bit too much of a manufactured sound for my liking despite being a full live band. It might have been the sound quality but I preferred the grittier set from Manatial de Fuego, and the Vicente Fernandez and Selena hit that kept the crowd pumped in between sets.

Loco Brews, Loco Grooves may have been light on the loco, but that’s just what I needed. And the stuffed jalapenos were delicious.

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