Sublime with Rome kicks off a rousing High & Mighty in Garden Grove – OCRegister
For Southern Californians of a certain age, Sublime’s 1996 hit “Santeria” stands as an unofficial anthem. If you can’t recognize that song in the first five notes, you’re not from around here. A crowd full of these locals descended upon Village Green Park in Garden Grove on Saturday for the first annual High & Mighty Festival, a two-day event from the minds of the contemporary incarnation of Sublime (Sublime with Rome), the Dirty Heads and local radio station KLOS.
With those two headliners and a name like High & Mighty, one can easily imagine the scene that unfolded — Rastafarian red, yellow, and green at every turn, white guys with dreadlocks, one particularly pungent and unavoidable smell — all soundtracked by a formidable lineup of ska, hip-hop, and reggae bands.
But there’s more to High & Mighty than meets the suspiciously bloodshot eye. Even though those genres didn’t originate in SoCal, pockets like Long Beach, Venice and most of Orange County became epicenters in the late ’80s and ’90s for the music and the culture that surrounded it, with bands like Sublime creating one of the more recent chapters in the area’s rich musical history.
Killing time between sets from acts like Iya Tera and Katastro was a nonissue, thanks to the genius who thought of putting the two stages right next to each other. Whoever was coming up would soundcheck as their predecessors finished up next door, creating an unbelievably efficient turnover that led to every single set starting right on time down to the minute (not what you would expect from a festival being run by a bunch of stoners) and zero stress about missing your favorite acts.
That being said, even the most devoted ska fan can’t take eight straight hours of booming, syncopated bass, making entertainment away from the stage a necessity. While the “carnival rides” listed on the flier turned out to be a lonely swing carousel named YoYo, the craft beer tasting area was just as advertised. You needed to do nothing more than flash your 21+ ID to be handed an adorable mini-schooner glass and sent through to beer nirvana.
Everything from pilsners to IPAs, from ciders to saisons, were available from local favorites Ballast Point, Barley Forge, Beachwood Brewing, Chapman Crafted, Modern Times and more. Everyone was trying to get into the tasting tents before they closed at 4, which didn’t help earlier acts like Tyrone’s Jacket and Tunnel Vision, but offer people unlimited free beer and you know exactly where they’ll be.
The “vendor village” drew a little less traffic, offering up smoke culture goods, tie-dye shirts and premium cigarellos out of tents with names like “Chronic Candy” –the wares of which you can probably imagine. Most people seemed to peruse this area on their way to grabbing some grub, the options for which ranged from kabobs and burgers to taco trucks and bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
As the day got cooler and the acts got bigger, a larger and larger crowd began to gather on the grass, taking in the sweet harmonies of MAGIC! which performed the Bob Marley classic “Is This Love” as well as its smash hit “Rude.” Local heroes Stick Figure got a warm welcome, playing tunes like “Coming Home” and “Smiles on Faces” and placing a respectable cover of “Hey Jude” at the end of their set. Erring on the reggae-rock end of the spectrum, SOJA spiked its syncopated rhythms with fiery guitar solos, treating the crowd to a sneak preview of tracks off its upcoming LP, “Poetry in Motion,” as the sun finally sank below the horizon.
Arriving at the intersection of skate culture, the beach and punk’s dying gasp, the music of Sublime continues to reflect the experience of SoCal natives, creating a fan base that has only grown following the death of original frontman Brad Nowell. Taking up the banner since 2009 is Rome Ramirez, an impressive guitarist, vocalist, hype man and, most important, a Sublime fan through and through.
Kicking things off with an explosive rendition of “Date Rape,” Ramirez led the insanely tight band through an all-inclusive setlist, mixing the biggest hits like “Wrong Way” and “Wherever You Go” with deeper cuts like “Garden Grove” and “Burritos.” The Sublime with Rome original songs that were sprinkled in (“She’s a Murdera,” “You Better Listen”) held their own, but the crowd made it clear that the Nowell-era standards are always going to get the most love.
With the evening coming to a close, puffs of smoke rising from the crowd as if from little chimneys, the band launched into “Santeria,” the bittersweet strains of Orange County’s unofficial anthem floating into the night.
High & Mighty Festival
With: Sublime with Rome, Soja, Stick Figure, Magic!, King Lil G, Katastro, Custom and Iya Terra on Aug. 5; Dirty Heads, Jurassic 5, Tribal Seeds, Tech N9ne, Murs, Chief Keef, Ballyhoo!, Pacific Dub, Landon McNamara and Know-Madik on Aug. 6
Where: Village Green Park, Garden Grove
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