Abandoning the frigid greyscape of winter in favor of the sunshine has been a longstanding tradition for the human race, and there are no better vibes of sunshine and warmth than those found in Southern California. In accordance, we find ourselves in the midst of the second leg on a two-stop road trip between a home rental in Orange County and our daily lives somewhere less temperate. Our first stop was Vegas and we left behind the debauchery and extravagance that came along with it just hours ago. But hours is all it takes for a much more rewarding and healthy destination to find itself appearing on the horizon through the windshield. We’re almost there.
One of us is a native to the area and brings with him a strong sense of locality that extends to those in his presence. Deep down, we all wish it was our home too, and with the added advantage of his wherewithal, it might as well be. We talk about the roads, the beaches, the bars, and the restaurants as if we too were raised here, when in reality, we spend a week here every year just to dream.
There is a plethora of real estate in this part of the world, but we decided to splurge and combine our finances for something beachfront. After months of snow and a few nights in a hellish, plastic wasteland, the beach becomes a temple and rays and waves become prayer.
Directed by our local friend, we arrive at the rental sans snafu. A quick tour of the home, a division of private space, and a toast to friendship brings us to the moment we ‘ve been waiting for. We stumble out the back door, down the lonely wooden staircase, and step onto the sand without the calm, collected look of locals. Instead, we have the honest and innocent look of the tourists that we are, simply excited to be here. Ironically enough, none of us are more excited than the local who has been removed from his natural element and now returns to the beach and the In-N-Out Burger like an addict.
In front of us, the Pacific, to our left, an endless line of yellow beach, and to our right, something peculiar demands attention. An impermanent stage made of cheap plywood and expensive electrical equipment is taking form and nearly complete. By the looks of things, the setup will be finished by sundown and be completely dismantled within an hour of the show’s completion. Though an audience is yet to be pulled in by the oddity, this setup is no mark of an unknown artist, and some sense of curiosity has certainly been aroused. Cocked necks, questions, and conversations abound by the many in range of the stage, all wondering the same thing as us.
“Who’s playing?” We ask our local friend, stupidly assuming that he knows everything just because he was born near here. But of course he doesn’t know. No one except for the roadies have an answer to our question, and they’re not going to give away their secrets.
Suddenly, we come to the realization that there is quite literally no harm in our lack of knowing. After all, the stage is within reach of our beachfront casa and we’re in no danger of missing the show. If anything, negativity would only arise if the performer were someone we disliked. We would have no way to escape the sound.
After a few hours in the sun, we all escape lazily to a place of solitude for a late afternoon nap. And an hour or two later, the sounds of footsteps, doors opening, running water, and the crack of a beer from the first of us to awaken work like a line of tumbling dominoes through our subconscious until the rest of us too wake as the final fall. Within ten minutes, we’re all collected in the beach view parlor, revitalized and sharing a cheers.
An unnatural sound starts echoing from the beach. Overtop the waves and the gulls comes the muffled rustle of a voice through a microphone. Any concertgoer knows a mic check. Time to get out there.
The sun is dipping below the water’s edge reflecting orange and purple streaks towards the coastline, the waves have begun quieting, preparing for their slow evening roll, and a smallish but vibey crowd has formed underneath the stage. We wheel our cooler stocked with cheap beer to the fence line of our rental’s property, hidden from the public, but easy to access for restock during the show. We clutch three a piece in our grips, slide off our shoes, and walk down the beach.
The beach has a great power of uniformity on its visitors. Style is limited and a primal honesty takes its place. Around us, only the rare fool is wearing shoes that are soon to be ruined by an inextinguishable population of sand. Shorts, skirts, unbuttoned shirts, and bikini tops are as wide as the style possibilities reach. People are here to have fun, not to stunt.
As we infiltrate the crowd and find a comfortable swath of sandy real estate on which to post up, it dawns on us that we are still entirely in the dark to the details of the concert. We cheers once again, this time to spontaneity.
A shift in the general mood gets us excited. Signaled by the opposite turn of events to their indoor counterparts, outdoor concerts are ignited by the welcoming of light, and not the bidding of its farewell. Bathing in a bright light nonreflective of our earlier sandy, tanning session, we direct our attention stage side.
Unfamiliar figures grace the positions at the helm of two keyboards and a drum set, and the familiar face of a California icon takes his heroic stance at the microphone. Sporting a fitted Dodgers cap, a classic Mike Kemp jersey, and more confidence than one man should legally be allowed to own, Dom Kennedy calmly introduces himself. The crowd, without a sense of calm, erupts. In an instant, the drummer and the keyboardist break into the unmistakable melody of OPM, and the night and the vacation are taken to unreachable heights of pure Californian perfection.