A Perfect Afternoon: KFJC Battle of the Surf Bands

For this wannabe surf guitarist, the formula for a perfect afternoon is simple:

Perfect Afternoon = Music + Venue + Weather + Fun = KFJC Battle of the Surf Bands

As any reader of this blog -- whether casual or semi-regular -- knows, our posts are never that concise.  You are going to get the long form version.

Music.  Sixteen bands presenting sixteen different adaptations of what we loosely call surf music.  Enough time for each band to convey its style and show off its talents.  Sonic diversity to refresh and vitalize the audience’s senses.  Visual variations to engage and entertain the audience.  Never so much of any one band, sound, or schtick as to overwhelm.  Each band leaving you wanting more.  A surf sampler of sorts.

Venue.  Bring the sixteen bands together at an aptly-named venue, the Surf Spot, across the PCH -- Pacific Coast Highway for those not given to our West Coast shorthand -- from the ocean in Pacifica.  The outdoor stage is nestled into an embankment leading up to the highway.  The stage shelters performers and audience from the onshore breeze and eliminates any highway noise.  A hill to one side and a restaurant to the other combine with cabanas and a grassy play area opposite the stage to create a bowl where an audience can sit at picnic tables or on the grass.  Intimate, yet open.  No overpowering volume required.  Add ample parking, excellent and reasonably-priced food, beer, and margaritas, and you have an ideal all-ages venue for surf music.

Weather.  Play and listen in the sun.  Two myths prevail about California coastal weather.  One is that the California coast is sunny and warm day in and day out drawing thousands of tanned, fit, and scantily-clothed bodies to the beach.  The other is that San Francisco and its adjacent coastal communities are shrouded in fog day in and day out.  The weather in Pacifica did not live up to the myth.  Instead, it was sunny, clear, and in the mid-60s -- in a single word, marvelous.

Fun.  A surf music love fest.  Sixteen bands welcomed to the stage and supported by other musicians and fans who share a love of surf music.  Members of different bands communing with each other.  Band members and audience members communing with each other.  People exchanging fist bumps, hand shakes, and hugs.  Eagerly anticipating the next band while wondering where did he get that suit, the paint job on that guitar, or that color guitar. 

More Fun.  The bands’ palpable enthusiasm for entertaining and caring about the audience.  Buzzy Frets in tailored black suits and masks.  Agency EL84 in sharkskin suits.  The Mighty Surf Lords displaying a hot pink bass.  Beachkrieg hitting the crash cymbal with a rubber chicken.  Brodaddy’s matching shirts with -- my personal favorite -- blue panels.  The Gillibillies’ southern surf played on a Gibson flying V.  Meshugga Beach Party’s choreographed dance kicks.  Trivalve’s rendering of “White Wedding” on a bright yellow guitar.  The Tomorrowmen in silver lame.  Audience members on stage dancing while Drifting Sand sang “Rockaway Beach.”  Aloha Screwdriver in jumpsuits and more silver lame.

Still More Fun.  Seeing the future of surf music in bands with budding young talent like the Deadbeats and the Sneaky Tikis and in young fans.  As the Sneaky Tikis blazed through Miserlou, overhearing a father (or grandfather) imparting some history a pre-teen girl, “That’s a Dick Dale song.”

Even More Fun.  Being there, seeing old friends, meeting new people, and feeling the enthusiasm for surf music.

Yes, indeed, the efforts of Ferenc Dobronyi, Mary McDonald, and KFJC resulted in the right mix of music and venue.  The bands and audience added the fun.  You can credit whatever source you choose for the weather.  The sum is that the KFJC Battle of the Surf Bands made for a perfect afternoon.

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