Tour Diary: Long Beach's On Blast Gigs Mexico City's Goliath Festival [MP3]
Editor's note: Two weekends ago writer Ryan Ritchie traveled with Long Beach band On Blast as they gigged at the debut of the annual Goliath Festival in Mexico City. He submitted a report on the gig, which West Coast Sound will be running in installments this week. What follows is part one.
Few items on the rock 'n' roll bucket list are as difficult to accomplish as performing on the main stage at an international festival. The average group lucky enough to reach this level of success usually has at least one top-selling record, thousands of miles on its tour van/bus and a devoted fanbase patient enough to sit through scores of acts before seeing the band they paid to see. Signal Hill's On Blast has none of the aforementioned, yet the band - singer Josh Brown and multi-instrumentalists Travis Raab, Tone Blair and Andy Kiddoo - was part of the first annual Goliath Festival in Mexico City last weekend.
The all-day event combined hip-pop such as the Black Eyed Peas with Spanish hip-hop/reggaeton from Pitbull and Calle 13 and indie/electro such as Crystal Castles, the Faint, Fischerspooner and Shiny Toy Guns. This mish mash of sounds complimented On Blast well as the quartet takes beats reminiscent of Dr. Dre and adds keys ala Booker T., funky blues riffs and ethereal vocals like a male-fronted Portishead.
For a largely unknown group accustomed to playing dives such as Long Beach's Prospector Family Restaurant, the opportunity to play Goliath meant having to learn how to be a professional act. Everything from transporting gear on an airplane, getting work visas and soundchecking the day before a gig (as opposed to when they're setting up) were hurdles that didn't do anything to calm the nerves that came from the thought of playing in front of thousands of people for the first time.
Here, for your reading pleasure, is a play-by-play account of how a band transforms from dismally attended weeknight gigs to main stage festival act.
Before we get into that, though, here's an MP3 from On Blast:
On Blast - "Cloud 1" [MP3]
"I've never disliked a sink, but I think I dislike this one."
The foursome arrived at the hotel around 8 p.m. and was under strict orders to not get drunk by Streetlife Records co-chairmen Pablito Vasquez and Jerry Heller. But when Vasquez and Heller weren't around, shots of tequila with Clamato chasers and free margaritas came and went like a summertime El Porto swell. Sitting a few tables away were Crystal Castles' crew members, who On Blast met earlier in the lobby and would see often throughout the weekend.
With an early morning wake-up call looming, the members retreated to their respective rooms. They hadn't seen much of Mexico City yet, but Thursday was merely a flight day. But that didn't prevent Raab from having a few impressions.
"I haven't seen anything yet," Raab said. "I drove over a big hill in the dark and couldn't see anything. Then I drove down a big hill in the dark and then I came to a hotel. My opinions of Mexico City are more based on what other people have told me to be ready for. Everyone who walks near me, I'm like, 'who is this guy?' And that's everyone else's fears.
"Tomorrow is soundcheck. I expect the stage to be really big and even after a three-hour soundcheck, I won't think that's enough. I can't conceptualize what 50,000 people is."