A few decades ago, Dana Point was probably the last city in Orange County that anyone thought would host a punk show. Sabroso Festival stands as a testament to how much times have changed. This year, the event expanded to include two full days of festivities. With craft beer tasting, taco eating contests, and lucha libre wrestling matches, Sabroso is truly one of a kind.
Since the early days of Warped Tour and Coachella, it’s pretty much become standard for festivals to run multiple stages so that they can cram as many bands as possible onto their lineup. Sabroso, on the other hand, only runs one. Although this limits the number of performing bands to about 7 for each day, it also eliminates the “Two of the acts I bought tickets to see are playing at the same time,” problem that inevitably comes with more stages. Instead, set times are kept on a tight schedule (which is surprising, considering the notorious phrase, punk time) and attendees don’t have to worry about walking across the festival grounds in between acts.
The beer tasting portion of the event, which lasted for three hours each day, featured over 200 different beers. While many local favorites like Modern Times, GameCraft, and Stone were there, other breweries from across the country also made the trek to supply the festival with free samples of their beverages. Setting Sun Sake Brewing Co. from San Diego even poured shots of their sinus-clearing spirits. Many attendees were grateful to find that, after indulging in basically as much beer as they could drink, Del Real Foods were giving away perfectly greasy carnitas tacos.
Of course, the true essence of Sabroso lies in the music. Despite some technical difficulties which were out of their control, Whittier post-punk band Plague Vendor delivered an abrasive and mesmerizing set. They played a mix of old and new songs, including “New Comedown,” which was only released two weeks ago. They did a great job of setting the tone for the rest of the evening, even though the sound technician should be put under criminal investigation for the muddy mess that consumed their first few songs.
One of the most recognizable names on Sabroso’s lineup was Black Flag. It was even accompanied by their unmistakable four bars logo on the flyer. Perhaps that’s why so many festival-goers were confused to see guitarist Greg Ginn walk onstage with pro-skater Mike Vallely and a rhythm section that looked young enough to be his grandchildren. It seemed like Vallely, who is essentially Henry Rollins Lite, was singing karaoke with his favorite band while Ginn ripped guitar solos and soaked the stage in feedback. The drummer and bassist were visibly stoked to be playing songs they probably grew up listening to and even took some solos themselves. Everyone knows that a Black Flag set isn’t finished until you’ve heard at least two drum solos (*rolls eyes right out of their sockets).
Next, Southern California punk legends Descendents took the stage. Unlike the previous band, they’ve had the same lineup since 1986. Drummer Bill Stevenson actually played with Black Flag for a few years before leaving to focus on Descendents and eventually going on to record countless artists (such as Rise Against and NOFX) in his studio. He and the rest of the band visibly had a great time on stage as they blasted through their songs.
Since the moment they started their set off with “Suburban Home,” the crowd turned into a hurricane of people moshing and singing along. It was actually difficult to hear frontman Milo Aukerman sing “I’m the One,” over the rest of the audience. After such a confounding performance from the previous band, it was clear that Descendents breathed some life back into the festival.
Although it would have been a daunting task for most any other band to follow the Descendents’ performance, The Offspring didn’t have anything to worry about. After all, it was their festival. Frontman Dexter Holland’s face was ever present all weekend–his outlaw image on the bottles of his hot sauce Gringo Bandito was the official, fiery condiment of Sabroso. Before they started though, one of the festival’s most important events was scheduled for the stage: a taco eating contest hosted by none other than skateboarder/stuntman/actor Wee Man. About half a dozen local competitive eaters took the stage to face Japanese champion, Takeru Kobayashi. Ten minutes flew by as the contestants shoveled tacos into their mouths and swigged water. OC mom, Molly Schuyler gave Kobayashi a run for his money, but the champ retained his title by devouring an astonishing 157 tacos.
Finally, after a sizeable maintenance crew cleaned the taco remnants off the stage, The Offspring started their set. Regardless of how one might feel about The Offspring, their “punk credibility,” or their music, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they’ve produced countless hits over the years. Whether it’s because of a movie, the radio, or the Crazy Taxi soundtrack, everyone has heard The Offspring. Their set consisted of one crowd-pleaser after another. The only way they could be a more enjoyable live band is if frontman Dexter Holland would grow his dreadlocks back.