Queerness and weirdness
Burger Boogaloo, an annual music festival sponsored by the Fullerton-based cassette label Burger Records, is a bubble gum pop, candy-colored carnival, but on Sunday, the second day of the event at Oakland’s Mosswood Park, darker events threatened to intrude.
The sun shone bright at the crack of noon, when the Poontang Wranglers, a dozen union-suit clad musicians, featuring members of legendary surf band the Phantom Surfers and legendary punk band Crime, kicked things off by loosely riffing through old-timey jams on instruments.
Throughout the day, the presence of two stages made the festival go remarkably smooth, with all sets starting and ending on time—although the lines to get into the festival on the first day reportedly stretched well past an hour.
Other things that went smoothly: no lines for food or drink and plenty of merch and vintage clothes to peruse. Even the portable potties seemed fresh.
Host John Waters made his first appearance of the day to introduce the Soda Boys, in the process deeming Oakland “the Baltimore of the Bay Area.”
Later, as self-proclaimed “rock legends” the Dwarves plodded through their heavy set, I lounged on a blanket in the shade and scrolled through my Instagram, only to note in horror that Miley Cyrus had just posted something about a Nazi rally in Sacramento that had resulted in five stabbings.
Soon, my social media feed was taken over by photos of bloodied skinheads. What a relief, then, to see a lighter post from performance artist Hailey Chase, known as MOM and formerly of Sacramento, who was at that very moment performing burlesque in a tent not even 30 feet from my head.
I rushed over and paid my two bucks to witness a loose resurrection of San Francisco’s legendarily debauched Stinky’s Peepshow, and was treated to a bacchanalia of female flesh, clad in pasties and fishnets entertaining a hooting, smiling crowd.
One notable aspect was the festival’s air of body positivity. Ladies of size ruled the day, sometimes clad in not much more than a few sequins and some netting.
The backing dancers for Sunday headliner Seth Bogart of Hunx and his Punx fit that bill. After he writhed around in red fishnet outfits, Bogart continued the campy fun by provoking his two stone-faced male “security guards” into ripping off their clothing and dancing clad only in tattoos and bikini briefs. As he sang his ballad “Lubed” and anointed them with lubrication like some kind of alternate universe archbishop with holy water, I couldn’t help thinking of Orlando and the massacre at the Pulse nightclub, and how vulnerable we all could be, dancing outside in this fishbowl of an amphitheater.
It wasn’t just me; later in the set, Bogart drew this comparison explicitly, dedicating his performance to those who died at Pulse. So, here we were all together, during S.F.’s Pride weekend, celebrating queerness and weirdness and otherness, rejecting the fear and hate that seems to have an increasing grip on everyone lately. As John Waters remarked in his introduction of Bogart, and his observation of Burger Boogaloo as a whole, “You all are quite a tribe.”