First off, thanks to the people at the New LA Folk Festival for putting me on the press list so I could check this out. I had heard that Beachwood Sparks was playing and my friend Jake and I were all about seeing this show. We figured a day in nature with Beachwood Sparks would be an all-around amazing experience, and hey, if there happened to be an open bar (with price of $50 VIP ticket) well that would be fine too.
We arrived a couple hours after the festival started, and the parking lot was full. We were asked to park in the neighborhood just below Zorthian Ranch and to please keep quiet as they did not want attendees to disrupt the locals. That was nice.
Right off the bat there was a bonus to this festival. A short hike up a mountain. It was pretty hot out there and a few of us had already hit a few High Lifes before making the trek. We eventually made it to the top with subtle gasps for air and fresh layer of American beer-scented sweat. People looked concerned.
We grabbed our passes and started making our way through the grounds. I’m no agronomist, but I’m pretty sure Zorthian Ranch is not a ranch at all, but rather a strange junkyard on a mountain. This wasn’t a deal breaker or anything, I am cool with junkyards.
It needs to be stated again, it was hot as balls up on that mountain. It was like a bunch of hippies got together and decided they were going to play chicken with the sun. These people were not giving in. People sat on the cement in direct sunlight, some spent some time in a pool, some hung out with a llama. We found one shady area in front of one of the stages, but that was packed to the gills with people that had given up on the sun chicken.
I called the people at this event hippies, though they were more drama school kids with suspenders and saloon bartender mustaches than any image I’ve ever had of a hippie. Not quite hipsters, though probably hipsters. Oddly enough, every once in a while a six-foot tall supermodel would walk by in a bikini.
We continued exploring the ranch. There were junked cars, trailers, refrigerators, tires, more tires, maybe a tractor? I don’t know, pretty much everything and the kitchen sink could be found along the trails of Zorthian Ranch. The scene had a lot more in common with the Gathering of the Juggalos than the Newport Folk Festival. Finding shade up there was pretty tough, so we retreated back to the bar area which seemed to be the only area out of the sun’s reach. There, we attempted to go to the rest room which did not appear to actually be a rest room. By the time we walked away to ask someone if that was actually the rest room, there was a line of about 20 people waiting to use it. There were port-a-potties as well, but those lines were no better.
I figured the line would die down again when the next band started playing, so we headed to the VIP-only area where they appeared to be mixing vodka with coconut water. Even though this combo would probably net out with me feeling like a drunk superhero, I decided to pass as nothing good has ever happened to me after consuming vodka, and I didn’t need to throw a flaming mountain into the mix to tempt fate.
The beer line was pretty insane. Seeing as my friends paid $50 each for VIP all-you-can-drink passes, this was an unpleasant surprise. While standing in line, we made a friend from Rancho Cucamonga that had won tickets from a radio station and decided to attend by himself. He seemed pretty psyched to be there. We got to be good friends because that line did not move at all. As I was still nodding in agreement with our Rancho friend about how fun this event was, we decided to get the hell out of here and head back to Eagle Rock.
This was clearly not our scene. I do kinda wish it was my scene. I love the outdoors, folk music and suspenders, but at a slightly lower temperature. I wish I was able to hang with these people and battle the sun without the need for a beer or a bathroom, but that is not me. The more time I spend in Los Angeles the closer I get to being a guy that can survive in the woods with an autoharp and a pair over overalls, but I’m just not there yet. It’s been 6 years, I am getting there, but I still cry a little on the inside when I see rattlesnake warning signs. That is not going away anytime soon.
I won’t try to review any of bands’ sets because I really could not stand in one place long enough to take in a full set. This is just my “What I did last weekend” report. You can check out a more music-focused review over here.
This is probably not the review the organizers hoped for when they gave me a press pass, but I am not telling you to avoid this event in the future. To the contrary, I think you need to check this out next year. We should all step outside of our comfort zone to keep ourselves on our toes. My comfort zone is on the west side in 72 degree weather with an ocean breeze. I’m pretty sure that everyone at this festival shared a magical experience after I left, I just hope the rest of the crowd made it out of there. Someone should check. Seriously.
I may see you next year Zorthian Ranch, I will probably just arrive at sunset.
Check out some more (better) photos here.