Splatter Festival in Oroville suffers from disorganization, and bad smells
The Splatter Festival, in theory, sounded like a grand ol’ weekend. Held on the campgrounds adjacent Oroville’s badass paintball complex, Surplus City’s Combat Zone, the three-day festival was advertised as a mixture of electronic dance music, art and full-fledged paintball action. Topping things off, Del the Funky Homo-sapien (of Bay Area underground hip-hop group the Hieroglyphics) was billed as the headliner for Friday’s opening-night show.
As big fans of Del, dancing and simulated violence, my buddy Zack and I had high expectations as we made the drive out to Oroville. Both of us envisioned scaling obstacles, taking cover and storming the enemy line while bobbing to some sweet hip-hop and electronica.
As we weren’t staying overnight, we were given our over-21 bracelets at the gate and told to “go around back” rather than take the drive-in entrance upon arriving around 7:30 p.m. This amounted to walking through row after row of trailers and tents in the pitch-black darkness. In the distance, we could hear the pop-pop-pop of paintball guns and throbbing bass. We quickened our pace.
As we came upon the festival’s main stretch, we were immediately struck by how dark and empty the space was. A handful of food vendors and two stages were providing the only light, and what we could see wasn’t impressive. A few dozen festival-goers were watching an uninspired performance by Nerd Nate, an Oakland-based rapper with the lyrical ability of a parakeet. Figuring it was still early in the evening, we decided to check out the paintball scene.
Just as we arrived at the edge of the course, however, the last rounds were fired and the overhead lights were turned off. Our war-dance fantasy was not to be.
Undeterred, we found a lineup schedule that said Del would be performing a three-hour set with Bukue One and the Serendipity Project at 10 p.m. It was just past 8 p.m., so we decided to check out the dance stage. We approached as DJ Gamma (out of Sacramento) ripped an undeniably awesome remix of Kanye West’s “Get ’Em High,” complete with dubstep divebombs and screeches. However, the pair of 12-foot high speaker stacks on either side of the stage were probably overkill, especially considering they were bumping for about 17 people, so we opted to cruise the grounds a second time rather than let our brains melt.
As we did, we realized there was actually no beer tent and our over-21 bracelets were pointless. And to make matters worse, the festival smelled bad. It was a sickening blend of fog machine, marijuana, body odor and some other unidentified scent that the breeze would occasionally pick up. And as we wandered, inadvertently bumping into revelers in the darkness (and picking up additional scent with each encounter), a man in a soiled full-body penguin costume approached us at one point offering “Molly,” which I knew to be a powdered drug with effects similar to those of ecstasy. I politely declined, acknowledging the offer was mighty neighborly of The Penguin.
The 10 p.m. set time came and went with no sign of Del. We faithfully returned several times, with the Serendipity Project finally taking the stage around midnight. The Project turned out to be a glorified elevator-funk group, the flashiest member of which was a Mohawk-sporting bassist who, at every opportunity, wanted to remind the audience he had his pop-and-slap funk technique down. We became so bored that we left the stage and sat in front of a crepe cart to read the menu about a dozen times. It’s not that either of us wanted a crepe; it’s that absolutely any other form of stimulation was better than watching that ass and his forced Flea impression.
As we left at 1:20 a.m., Bukue One was letting the crowd know Del was taking the stage soon and it would be awesome. But by then, we had been strung along so badly we probably wouldn’t have enjoyed his performance, anyway. There were still a handful of people groovin’ to Bukue’s vibes as we made our exit; among them was The Penguin in the midst of a high-speed shuffle dance. This would be my final and most lasting impression of the Splatter Fest. (Maybe if I’d have taken The Peguin up on his offer, I too could have gotten more into it.)
Post script: According to a post by Moc Events Management (as well as several others by festival-goers) on the Splatter Festival’s Facebook event page, the fest was shut down Saturday morning due to “lots” of noise complaints.