Are festivals the new fashion week? The past few years have seen an explosive “festival style” trend take root, stemming from the lounging ladies of Lacoste’s Coachella-party poolside, sprouting branches directly into the festival itself, blooming into the shopping carts of every fast fashion retailer nation-wide regardless of event proximity. But if Coachella is the Rodarte in this analogy, who’s Jeremy Scott?
For the fourth year in a row, Orange County has been blessed with the yang to their Real Housewives yin in the form of Beach Goth, a festival named after a genre created by the OC’s own The Growlers, who also throw and headline the event. Keeping up? The set list stretched across the entire popularity spectrum, from tumblr-royalty Grimes and Die Antwoord, to industry veterans Julian Casablancas and Sir Mix-a-Lot(!!!), to impressive newcomers like Avalon and Sunflower Bean. However, the audial aspect took a close backseat over this 2-day stretch to the ocean of visuals, equal parts sartorial and behavioral. Someone actually climbed a 30ft tree to get the best view in the crowd during Grimes’s set and stayed up there for about 45 minutes, redefining commitment goals in the process.
Total extremism transparency here: 1/4 of the attendees literally arrived in costumes. Another 1/4 were actually being responsible and taking the functional-over-fashionable route *YAWN*. The sweet spot of inspiration was nestled between these two archetypes, whether it was in the blending of princess crowns and pleated skirts or the pairing of a purple power suit with a faux pencil ‘stache. Identifying the style tastemakers was, in a way, like thrifting. Except all of the clothes are really drunk. Fun fact: the dude pictured below barked on command. Try finding that on a Milanese runway.
The festival itself wasn’t quite what I expected. Rule #1 of both events and life: If you promise to provide a live Smurf village with live-action Smurfs, your party needs to literally be overflowing with Smurfs. Seriously, write that on your mood board. If that wasn’t underwhelming enough, the festival flyer advertised MULTIPLE Selena impersonators, but it seemed that there was only one in attendance and trust me, I was on the hunt. Alas, my dream of a photo-op as the centerpiece of a 6-Selena group pic remains a fantasy. On the other hand, I got to speak with a few of the performing acts about their festival, fashion, and inspiration insights, which was probably better than chatting up the Smurfs or Selena(s). Probably.
Actually working the festival was kind of a whirlwind (read: extremely disorganized), but that comes with the territory. Regardless of what H&M Loves Coachella might have you believe, finesse is your most crucial festival accessory. With a little finesse, you can always get backstage. You can always find a power outlet to revive your phone. You can always hunt down free water. That’s right, you heard it here first, free festival water really does exist, I have seen it, I have tasted it, it is glory in a bottle. I’ve never been around a larger group of people that have the concept of true hustle fully grasped, as evidenced by Beach Goth’s predominantly fire looks and overwhelmingly frustrated vendors. (Serves them right, literally WHO is trying to pay $7 for a veggie burger?)
Beach Goth, like any festival, couldn’t be boiled down to a “fun” or “lame” experience. Attendance of an event like this is a layer cake of trials, tribulations, photos with band members, and wearing something nice even though you know you’ll get mustard all over yourself before you take a single good picture and then you’re stuck with it all day. But in a world where the festival outfit is inching closer to a festival uniform, Beach Goth embraces the flight of the freak flag. If they can pinky-swear on Smurf deliverance next year, I’ll be back.
All photos taken by Cherokee Neas.