Fest Spotlight: HI-FI Rockfest – All-Day, All-Ages Punk Rock Festival

By Nick Harrah

Dead Kennedys‘ Klaus Flouride, Dying Scene’s Dave Buck, and Kevin Besignano from True Rivals talk about 1st annual Long Beach punk rock party.

Long Beach, California, in recent years, has seen a few punk rock festivals kind of fall on their face. Being solutions oriented, three punk fans (and friends) have teamed up to bring a pretty cool looking punk party to Long Beach.

Hi-Fi Rockfest, scheduled for September 26 in Long Beach, is the result of a couple of friends asking ‘Why not L.A.?’ and looking for an excuse to see their favorite bands and party.

Producer Derek O’Brien, who has worked with Social Distortion, Agent Orange, The Adolescents (among others) teamed up with Darron Hemann of DC-Jam Records, and, after recruiting Dying Scene’s Dave Buck, the idea became a reality.

Headlined by punk legends Dead Kennedys, with Street Dogs, Naked Raygun, The Sonics, Richie Ramone, Luicidal, Dirty Filthy Mugs, Year Of The Dragon, True Rivals, Downtown Brown, and The Two Tens rounding out the bill, Hi-Fi getting put on and pulled off has been years in the making, Buck said.

“I’m a guy that goes to festivals, not puts them on!” Buck said. “I’d love to take credit for coming up with the idea and pulling most of it together but frankly it’s been Darron and Derek’s baby from the beginning and I’m just happy and honored to have been asked to be a part of it.”

Describing his involvement as “overwhelming,” “surreal,” and “incredibly awesome,” Buck said O’Brien and Hemann saw a need and addressed it.

“I think the two of them got to talking at Punk Rock Bowling a couple summers ago about how the L.A. area was seriously lacking a good, reliable annual punk festival. The idea gathered momentum, they did their research, talked to some folks and started making it a reality.”

Dead Kennedys
Dead Kennedys

Dead Kennedys bassist Klaus Flouride said he was happy to have his band be a part of Hi-Fi.

“It’s an honor to be asked to headline a festival in the first place,” Flouride said over the phone. “Some of the bands, we’ve played with a few times, like Luicidal. We’ve played with Downtown Brown before, we did a tour with them.

“Playing Long Beach is fun almost always,” he added. “Last time we played down there, it was a festival by The Queen Mary, is it? That big ship?” Flouride asked with a laugh. “But we weren’t headlining it, because Iggy Pop was headlining it. We were opening for Iggy Pop, so that was a treat.”

While Hi-Fi is billed as an all-day, all-ages punk rock celebration, Flouride said, yeah, but not so fast.

“It’s funny that you’d say it’s a punk rock festival, and yeah, but it’s listed as Hi-Fi Rockfest, basically, and just a rock fest in general. Downtown Brown are an aggressive, and a very different group than someone like, say, Luicidal. So, it’s spread out, as far as musical style. I don’t know that Downtown Brown would call themselves a punk band, per se.

“So, I don’t think it’s a punk festival as much as, like they say, a rock festival.

It’s an edgy lineup for sure, though, and I like edgy. It looks like a good festival.”

True Rivals
True Rivals

Kevin Besignano of True Rivals, fresh on the heels of releasing their debut album ‘The Revenant’ barely a year ago, could barely contain his excitement about his band being part of the festival.

“I mean, we are really stoked,” the singer-guitarist said over the phone. He and bandmate Derik Envy get to hang with old friends and see bands they love. “When we were in Unwritten Law we did Warped Tour with Street Dogs, they’re old friends. We’ve known those guys for a while.

“I am a huge fan of The Sonics,” he said with emphasis. “I’ve been listening to The Sonics my whole life. I’m absolutely thrilled to be playing with them. I can’t wait to stand there and watch them play. There’s a lot of bands that we love, that we get to see, and play with. It’s a great lineup, we’re really happy to be on it.

“It’s definitely a special thing to kind of speak to a band that you love, or you know a lot about, and you just get to hang out with them, and you get to watch them,” Besignano added. “It’s spectacular. Everybody’s capable of learning something from somebody else, too. For us to get put in a position like this, it can be a great learning experience, just to be a part of it, you know?”

Buck, more used to talking to bands for Dying Scene, said that being involved logistically with Hi-Fi, from picking the bands to finding a venue, has indeed been a fun challenge.

“It definitely hasn’t been easy,” he admitted. “We’ve had a lot of challenges, some more “fun” than others, and I suspect we’ll have a few more challenges to overcome before we’re through. Derek and Darron are awesome dudes and we’re buddies so all in all it’s been really fun to get to do this with them.

“The most fun/heated challenge for us was definitely deciding on a lineup but I’m already looking forward to next year where we’ll get to decide on twice as many bands as we’re planning on expanding it out to being a two day event.”

Buck said that he, O’Brien, and Hemann were keen on having Hi-Fi be a success, and they’d learned from failed Long Beach festivals in recent years.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve paid a lot of attention to the problems our fellow festival promoters have run into and we’ve already learned a lot from their trials and tribulations. The city of Long Beach is definitely weary of punk festivals now after Punk Rock Picnic so we’re doing everything we can to make sure we avoid the pitfalls that got Punk Rock Picnic shut down early.”

For a relatively newer band like True Rivals, or a legendary punk band like Dead Kennedys, it all seems to come back to the same thing: playing good shows and having a good time.

Flouride said seeing Dead Kennedys fans support the band after all these years is, well, kinda neat.

“It’s neat. It’s really neat, if you want to ask ‘How neat is that?’” he said with a laugh. “The fact that we have, up to, like three generations of fans that come, and not just wave after wave of punkers, I mean guys that come out now with their grand kids to our shows. They have their kids and their grand kids, and the grand kids wanted to come. It’s not that ‘Dad made me come!’” he said laughing hard.

“It’s ‘Can you sign our t-shirt?’ That sort of stuff. And we do go out and connect with those people, because it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do it. And to be able to play, we’re kind of proud of ourselves that we, you know, we pat ourselves on the back that we can still put on a good show.”

Hi-Fi Rockfest
Dead Kennedys, Street Dogs, Naked Raygun, The Sonics, Richie Ramone, Luicidal, Dirty Filthy Mugs, Year Of The Dragon, True Rivals, Downtown Brown, The Two Tens
When: 11 am, September 26, 2015
Cost: $30 advance, $35 at door, $55 VIP/21+

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