In the last decade, garage rock festivals have blossomed across the U.S. like unruly weeds from a cracked sidewalk. Dedicated to spreading the gospel of the raw and hedonistic rock 'n’ roll exemplified by acts such as Nobunny, the Black Lips and the late Jay Reatard, Portland, Ore.’s Slabtown Bender, San Francisco’s Total Trash Fest, Memphis, Tenn.'s Gonerfest and Atlanta’s Mess-Around staked claims for their respective regions. That may be well and good, but what’s a Southern Californian to do when seeking out a beer-soaked, blown-out weekend of rock 'n’ roll?
The brightest hope is San Diego’s three-night Johnny Rad Fest, which returns for its fourth year this weekend. The diverse, all-star lineup includes costumed keyboard punks the Spits, Indiana’s garage pop Half Rats, the vocal-driven Shannon and the Clams, psych-leaning hard rock from one-time Reatard Ryan Wong’s Tokyo Electron, and legendary garage rock icon and founding member of the Oblivians Greg Cartwright with his soulful Reigning Sound.
Indiana transplant and Lurkville skateboard entrepreneur Tyrone Taylor started the festival in 2008, when he realized he wasn’t going to be able to make it to that year’s Gonerfest. “It was kind of far away,” he said in an interview Monday. “There were a lot of bands playing I wanted to see that weren’t really local California bands.” Rad Fest, as it is affectionately known to regulars, was intended to correct that omission –- and hopefully enrich San Diego’s anemic garage music scene.