Sabroso Festival: 2017 Recap

Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, CA

Tacos, beer, rock music, and even some professional wrestling.  What could be a better and more entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening?  Those were the feature attractions at the fourth annual Sabroso Festival this past weekend at Doheny State Beach, down in Dana Point.  A gourmet celebration of some of the tastiest treats around, this event featured free beer tastings from dozens of local breweries, taco trucks and local restaurant purveyors selling fancy culinary treats, and plenty of rock and roll the blast those ear drums away. 

Though Sabroso Festival has been around for three years prior, this was the first year the event featured a musical line-up and longer hours.  Behind the publicity of local rock station 95.5 FM KLOS, the festival actually sold out its 6500-person capacity.  A brisk but beautiful day at the beach set the scene for Dan and myself as we ventured down to South County, guests of the festival courtesy of a media invite.  Both of us were excited to see the headlining band, The Offspring (Dan might be just a bit of a fan, having seen them 27 times now), and the prospect of quality beer and delicious tacos only made the offering even more enticing.  And despite the high expectations, Sabroso Festival more than lived up to its promises.  This ended up being one of the most enjoyable days of music I had ever experienced.

Tacos and Beer

The general start time for the festival was officially 1:00pm, but VIP purchasers were allowed in one hour earlier, at noon.  The extra hour to sample beer and tacos against a far lesser crowd was a huge boon for those who shelled out the extra money, given the longer (but still surprisingly manageable) lines that would form later in the afternoon, once the full capacity arrived.

Dan and I arrived a little earlier to get our press credentials and check out the scene.  Backstage, taco judging was well underway, featuring offerings from the vendors on hand to sell their own tortilla-wrapped creations to the public.  It was tough and noble work for the two judges tasked with tasting 26 different tacos of different flavors and styles.  These weren't just the basic "meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese" tacos either.  Various inspirations and cuisines provided base for tacos that ranged from Asian fusion to traditional flavor overload.

The event boasted free beer tastings until 4pm, and it followed through with its promise.  Each guest received a small, plastic, miniature goblet upon entering, to be used at any one of several dozen local breweries across Southern California.  Taps were spread across five stations, each containing close to ten breweries, each with three or more different brews to try.  From IPA's to stouts to wheat beers to various varieties of ales (brown, red, Scotch) to even some ciders, there was plenty variety of booze for any preference.  And though the lines for the samplings did grow as the afternoon waned, they moved quickly and efficiently, and generally smoothly.  Despite some taps running out before the 4:00 cut-off, the atmosphere remained light and genial--no doubt because of the taco and beer-induced good vibes.  Dan and I each ended up trying about 20 differing beers over the course of the four available hours, accumulating what equated to several pints of bubbly goodness.

As far as food goes, a wide selection of food trucks and stands were spread across the beach grounds.  Tacos were the main attraction, but there were some places that sold other food offerings, such as burgers, sandwiches, barbecue, and fried chicken.  Of course, the whole point of this entire festival was to showcase the diverse creations that all spring from the humble taco, and to this end, the offerings were mouth-watering.  Carne asada, grilled chicken, pork belly, duck confit, garlic shrimp... all were applied in various fashion with sauces and veggies and condiments to produce some truly fantastic creations.  Plus, they acted as perfect fodder to soak up all that alcohol.

Lucha Libre Wrestling

Throughout the afternoon, on the sand across the lawn from the main stage, pro wrestlers entertained the crowd with high flying squared circle action between music sets.  One might scoff at the theatrical "fake" aspect of pro wrestling, but these truly physical competitors provided high energy and action packed entertainment with real athleticism. 

Dan and I were only able to catch one of matches--a tag team match between two masked luchador tag team champions and a villainous pair of weighty hillbilly brawlers--but we enjoyed ourselves far more than we expected.  Fueled by a highly engaging crowded that broke out into constantly evolving chants and cheered and booed with engaging tenacity, the wrestlers flew around and out of the ring, knocking each other with a plethora of suplexes, hip tosses, neck breakers, and power slams.  They hammed it up to the crowd and gave exaggerated gestures and pantomime.  But it was all exhilaratingly enjoyable and just plain fun.

Festival Ambiance

The convergence of tacos, beer, rock, and the soap opera theater of pro wrestling made for quite an interesting atmosphere at Sabroso Fest.  The mood was generally relaxed and silly, with people less concerned with trying to do everything and more focused on just having a good time.  It made for some great people watching, as many guests came decked out in their own luchador, beer, or taco themed apparel, or at least a T-shirt of their favorite band playing that day.  Despite the large presence of alcohol, everyone seemed to be pretty jovial with each other, and I never observed any altercations or even hints of strife.  Compared to many other festivals I've attended, this was a wonderfully behaved crowd.

The Triumph of Kobayashi

With everything that was going on, one might think that the day was fully satiated, but that would go against the spirit of the festival.  In between the second-to-last band (Sum 41) and the headline set by The Offspring, festival organizers held a taco eating contest sponsored by Chronic Tacos and Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce (two sponsors of the event itself; Gringo Bandito is also the enterprise of on Dexter Holland, lead singer for The Offspring).  A dozen of the finest competitive eaters both local and international were on hand to try to eat the most tacos in ten minutes, but the bulk of the attention fell on the celebrity favorites, Takeru Kobayashi and Molly Schuyler.  These two proved to be the anchors of the contest, and in the end, it was Kobayashi coming out on top and breaking his own world record of most tacos consumed by downing an ungodly 159 tacos within the ten minutes allotted to earn the $5000 top prize.  Molly was no slouch either, inhaling 139 tacos for a $1500 second place purse.

The Music

Of course, if beer and tacos were the hook to entice guests to come, the musical line-up was the reason to stay.  It was a veritable who's who of late 90s and early 2000s hard rock on the bill. 

Besides headliners The Offspring, there was also Sum 41, Unwritten Law, and Lit representing bands who, at one time or another, received some pretty good radio play.  Sum 41, in particular, might have actually been the best sounding act of the night.  With a strong legion of fans moshing and crowd surfing their way around the pit, these Canadian punk rockers showcased why they were so popular around the turn of the millennium. 

The relatively newer Rival Sons brought a raw, high intensity sound reminiscent of Led Zeppelin or Whitesnack to the stage, impressing many a concert goer who was less familiar with their work.  Then there was Metalachi, a cover band specializing in heavy metal reprisals that could best be described as if Tenacious D did mariachi.  They were hilarious and curious and highly entertaining.  And even the opening band, Fused By Defiance, who had won a battle of the bands at Fullerton's Slide Bar to earn the chance to kick off the rock, sounded great.  Their punchy guitar riffs and relentless energy elicited a Rage Against the Machine vibe, and they definitely helped get the early crowd jumping. 

And of course, the venerable Offspring put on a typical fantastic performance that overcame some sound mixing issues (both vocals and guitar were alternatingly off over several songs) by dipping into some deep cuts.  Old hits and cult classics like "Nitro," "Americana," and "Mota" took their rounds alongside recurring plays like "Dance F*cker Dance," "Come Out and Play," and "The Kids Aren't Alright."  By the time Dexter, Noodles, and company closed with their habitual "Self Esteem"--just minutes before the hard 9:00 curfew, fans had been worked up into wondrous revelry.

Fused By Defiance


Unwritten Law, Lit, and Rival Sons

Sum 41

The Offspring

This festival required the coordination of multiple parties across very disparate fields, from the musical artists to their publicists to the countless restauranteurs to the microbrews to the site set-up and transportation and guest and parking control.  And impressively, everything turned out well organized and smoothly operating.  Signage was clear, schedules were maintained, crowds were very bearable, and the activities all quite enjoyable.  The fact that the event completely sold out is a strong indication that it will be back next year--something that KLOS morning show hosts Frosty,  Heidi, and Frank basically confirmed during an intra-set hype spiel. 

And why not?  It's a winning combination, and we thoroughly had a blasting drinking, eating, and rocking our way through the day.  Even getting out of the venue proved to be a very seamless endeavor.  So there's really nothing bad I can say about the event.  A big round of thanks goes out to the festival for having Westcoaster out there.  We can't wait to be back next year!

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.