As a fun-in-the-sun event, Saturday's Doheny Days music festival offered a playful, easygoing atmosphere that appealed to parents and kids alike. As a showcase of musical talent, however, it dealt discerning listeners a few disappointments.
Surrounding two stages erected for the two-day beachfront event were displays of vintage surfboards and the "woodys" that once transported them, including a green and white '59 Chevy. Those eager to sweat could scale a 20-foot-tall rock-climbing wall or test the "Trampoline Zing," an apparatus that launched people 25 feet into the air to do assorted spins and flips.
Three-year-old Rachel Stein of Orange loved the trampoline-bungee combo. "She's our little daredevil," the girl's father, Josh, said with a shrug. "She'll probably want to climb that wall next."
The Steins planned to stick around for day's main event: "We've never seen the Monkees . . . well, except on TV," said an excited Lisa Stein, 31.
Also among the crowd, estimated by organizers at 3,500, was Jenny Sanderson, 28, of Dana Point, who left the spouse and kids at home to spend the afternoon with friend Minnie Sarreal. They drank beer and munched on carne asada tacos while listening to the pop-rock of the Rembrandts ("I'll Be There For You").
"We just had to take advantage of this before Hurricane Linda hits," Sarreal said.
Saturday's diverse bill of a dozen national and local acts also served up ska, funk, pop, folk, punk, surf and instrumental rock.
The Friendly Indians emerged as the day's strongest local entry, offering an engaging set of melodic pop-rock from its likable new "Greetings . . . From Lake Dolores" CD. The emotionally charged "You Sometimes," hard-driving "Stateline" and a thought-provoking blast at stereotypes, "If I Was Gay," were among the Orange County quartet's highlights.
Taking the stage after the Rembrandts, Dick Dale brought a much-needed jolt of electricity to the proceedings. The veteran surf guitarist played as impressively as ever, summoning torrents of both sweet and stinging licks from his gold Stratocaster during a 75-minute set. The most memorable were a reverb-drenched version of the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun"; an edgy, lean "Nitro," and his classic "Misirlou," which he introduced by saying: "If you want the Gary Hoey-Dick Dale version that sounds like a White Zombie [song], you'll have to go out and buy 'MOM II."' ("Music for Our Mother Ocean," a new compilation benefiting the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, which also will receive a slice of the Doheny Days proceeds.)
In stark contrast to Dale, singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik shrinks in front of a crowd. His introspective, atmospheric folk-rock can wilt in the wrong setting. But after a mellow start, his robust versions of "Serena," "She Runs Away" and the radio hit "Barely Breathing" drew strong applause. After his set, Sheik hung out to sign autographs and pose for pictures.
The Untouchables delivered a sampling of their best-known hits of the '80s ("Free Yourself," "Agent 00 Soul," "Whiplash," etc.) during a predictable 45-minute program. The Goldfish, a local funk band, seemed stuck in one tiresome, extended groove. (It's not a good sign when your most impressive selection is a note-for-note cover of the Commodore's disco-funk staple "Brick House.")
But Saturday's biggest bust had to be the bizarre closing set by the Monkees. Playing some of their more ill-advised selections in recent memory, including an absolutely soulless Peter Tork singing Little Richard's "Lucille," this group desperately needed to tighten things up in an overly long 90-minute set. Their screaming fans, particularly those who came by chartered buses from the three-day Monkees convention in North Hollywood, deserved more (or is it less?) than this corny shtick and Vegas-style revue. Who can blame sometime Monkee Mike Nesmith for bowing out?
Attendance for Sunday's scheduled lineup--headlined by Newport Beach's Sugar Ray and featuring Cracker, the Violent Femmes, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sunchild, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and others--was expected to hit 6,000, organizers said.