"The sea is foamin' like a bottle of beer.
The wave is comin' but I ain't got no fear.
I'm waxin' down so that I'll go real fast
I'm waxin' down because it's really a blast."
So sang one of the most unlikely headliners ever to rock the U.S. Open of Surfing, but geek-rock icons Weezer fronted the seaside show Saturday with aplomb.
The decision by Weezer to headline a surfing event shocked many casual fans, but the band has always said that one of their key inspirations was the innocent, power pop harmonies of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
Hurtled into fame during the heyday of grunge music, Weezer's 1994 eponymous first album is best known for self-deprecating hits like "Undone — The Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly," but the above-referenced song, "Surf Wax America," is an unashamed, heart-on-sleeve tribute to the groundbreaking surf band that helped stir the fervor around the California youth scene in the 1960s.
That being said, the typical Weezer devotee normally shuns the beach in favor of an atmospheric dive bar or hipster coffee shop.
But Saturday morning, the most loyal Weezer fans — in flannels and plastic-rimmed glasses — ventured onto the sand and staked out spots near the stage. As the start time for the concert approached, more traditional U.S. Open-goers in board shorts, temporary tattoos and tiny bikinis crowded the grandstands and beach. Many stood hundreds of yards back from the stage, waves spraying at their feet, for a chance to see the band in person.
"I love Weezer," Huntington Beach resident Lauren Tracy said. "They're one of my favorite bands ever. I didn't know anything about this until we were walking down the street and someone mentioned it. I haven't even gone down here all week — I'm a little scared of the Open. But Weezer brought me out."
Perched on a railing overlooking the semi-transparent stage walls and the vast crowd of fist-pumping fans, Tracy and her friend had one of the best (and most uncrowded) views of the show, which was heavy in crowd-pleasing hits and athletic antics from Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo — who at times appeared to be mocking the surfers and hangers-on who crowded the event.
After playing more than a dozen songs, Cuomo and his crew pulled out a pair of covers that they've been experimenting with at different events all summer: MGMT's "Kids" (which garnered huge cheers) and a befuddling (yet hysterical) rendition of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," blonde wig and all.
Beer company employee Robert Forrester said he arrived at the Open about 9:30 a.m. and was shocked to see people already crowding near the stage for Weezer's 4:30 p.m. show. He said that although he wasn't familiar with Weezer, he was surprised to find he knew nearly all the songs they played.
"This is probably the best band I've ever seen here," Forrester said. "It was a good weekend all around. I look forward to it every year."
Throughout the week, bands like the Cold War Kids, Switchfoot and Cobra Starship took the stage on the sand for nightly free concerts.
"This is the strongest music lineup to play along side competitive surfing in Huntington Beach in 50-plus years," U.S. Open co-sponsor Nike Inc. Vice President of Action Sports Sandy Bodecker said in a release.
Along with competitions and concerts, organizers form a miniature city on the sand each year that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators. The sprawling complex is filled with shops and services linked by ad-hoc wooden boardwalks.
In addition to the venue, the food and the bikinis, Forrester said he was impressed by the swell of the waves Saturday, which promised good conditions for the finals the following (and closing) day.
"It took them two weeks to put up, and it's all coming down in a day," Forrester said.