Running Headless at Burgerama

Vortex Music Magazine

A whiskey-soaked two days in Los Angeles.

The Burgerama mass readies itself for WeezerThe Burgerama mass readies itself for Weezer

Losing time. Losing hours of sunlight. A gangster wearing boat shoes. The terrifying pageant girls walking the streets of Orange County. I don’t recommend you take public transit to Burgerama from Central Los Angeles. What was supposed to be a two-hour trip from Echo Park to Santa Ana became a four-hour glance into the bowels of hell. A missed train, a missed bus and the threat of an $80 Lyft ride loomed over my head as I dragged bags through the blistering heat.

I finally arrived at the hotel late in the afternoon. I took a shower to cleanse myself of the many unwashed seats I had just occupied. My friends Julia and Jon were to arrive even later into the day, so I cleaned up and took a reasonably priced Lyft to Burgerama.

That’s not entirely true—I suppose I drank a healthy dose of whiskey first. But anyway, I rushed over to the place as quickly as I could. Upon arriving at the venue, I got my press bracelet and joined the ebb and flow of a mass of young people trying to fit through narrow paths between the stage, trees and retail booths.

Burgerama is set up in a strange but relatively effective manner. The outside is a maze of booths, exhausted youth, fences and beer vendors. The stage resides at the far end, and each side is occupied by quarantined cigarette smokers. I quickly became one of them. The inside is a long hallway with a small, somewhat cramped stage followed by a larger theater space.

As I smoked a cigarette outside and watched Beach Fossils begin their set, I was approached by a girl in her mid-20s. She had brunette hair in a ponytail, she was thin and she looked like she was about to tell me a secret.

“Do you have a cigarette?” she asked.

“Who’s asking?” I probably didn’t say.

We spoke about Los Angeles, bands we were going to see, the young people around us and beer. She offered to give me a ride home after the festival, which I knew was never going to happen. There was time spent watching the band, which, with enough beer in me, sounded like a teenage boy singing into a valley with chirping guitars echoing off the walls.

The following hour was spent splitting our time between The Black Angels and FIDLAR. I’ve seen The Black Angels a million times before, and their set was as good as it always is, but I made sure to take in my first FIDLAR experience. The crowd in front of FIDLAR was pretty uniform—a lot of exposed arms, mustaches and torn shorts. Their music is driving, twangy and fucking angry. At times, it felt as if a dangerous party was occurring as they let photographers and random viewers dance only a few feet from them on the stage. I seem to also remember some strange sculptures onstage that looked like fat skeletons.

Smooth-talking your way into the vicinity of Rivers Cuomo and companySmooth-talking your way into the vicinity of Rivers Cuomo and company

We all knew what it was leading up to, and I can’t say that I was so excited. I hadn’t listened to Weezer for more than a few minutes in years, and I figured the show might be kind of boring. I was mistaken. There’s just something about musical nostalgia that doesn’t hit you until it’s there.

Weezer’s people told the press that no one could go up to the stage where you take photos, which further made me feel like this was going to be idiotic. However, eventually they changed their mind and let us in. I got close to the stage, only a few feet from a band I grew up listening to, and a girl who I can only assume was their manager came up to me. “Are you taking photos with that?” she asked, pointing to my cell phone. “Yes,” I replied. “Do you have credentials to be using a cell phone?” she asked. “No one told me about that,” I said. She quickly gave up on this lost cause.

Weezer put on a very enjoyable show, and everyone sang along. They played all the songs you would expect and some new stuff. You can tell they’re aging, but that doesn’t stop them from throwing a real show. I mean, let’s not forget about The Rolling Stones. They’re still rocking out, and they’re probably 10 times older.

Smooth-talking your way into this preapproved cell phone shotSmooth-talking your way into this preapproved cell phone shot

I left the show after Weezer and went to the hotel. Julia and Jon were ready to hang out, having given up on the first day of music, and we went to the bar together. We drank and watched a Mexican band play. I asked one of the musicians what his instrument was called, and I think he said it was a tuba. It was something of a drunken mariachi band. From there, we started what became a nightly tradition of drunkenly swimming in the pool and waking up all of the other guests. I didn’t have a bathing suit, so I was relegated to swimming in boxer briefs.

The next day was even more of a blur. Whiskey with our coffee, some kind of Cuban brunch, a bartender talking about drug dealers, and then I tried to interview the Black Lips. I showed up on time, kept texting their manager and then they forgot about me. There I stood, drunk, not interviewing one of the bands I came to meet.

“Fuck it,” I said, and I texted the girl I had met the day before.

I met up with her and watched some of Shannon and the Clams, then Ariel Pink. It’s hard to remember, but we found out we could get backstage and get free drinks, which was an appreciated discovery.

“Which hand is your dominant hand?” the girl’s friend asked.

“Right.”

“When you put your pants on, which side did your dick go to?” she asked.

“Left.”

She asked many of the men in the area. It was a sort of hand/dick scientific study. I was apparently in the majority. Then I asked her which of her breasts was larger. It seemed like a fair question. There was definitely some viewing of the Black Lips, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and more. The clearest memory is Ty Segall, who put on a fantastic show. Segall has the ability to cut through a crowd with his sharp voice and jangling guitar, and he’s a musician you can tell is truly enjoying the show. Bright lights danced over the crowd. He swayed with the music, and everyone seemed to sway with him.

That final night, which ruined my Monday with a vicious hangover, was another string of bars. The best memory I have from it is when I, for some reason, decided to tell the bartender I had a secret for him. When he approached, I began to sing “The Man In Me” by Bob Dylan into his ear until he couldn’t take it anymore. It’s a game that I definitely recommend.

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