Sabroso Festival 2019 Recap

Doheny State Beach, Dana Point, CA

Happy late Thursday, and welcome to the first non-Knott’s update of April! We’re a little delayed this week due to our busy real life schedules, but today, we’re taking a look at one of our favorite local festivals, which is now in its third year of its current format. The Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco, and Music Festival once again took place this past weekend, thrilling lovers of rock music, good food, tasty drinks, and lucha libre wrestling. Newly expanded to two full days, it brought in thousands of guests this past Saturday and Sunday, who enjoyed the complimentary craft beer tastings, multitude of gourmet food vendors, and all-day (and night) rock music from famous and longstanding bands like Flogging Molly, Bad Religion, Black Flag, Descendents, and The Offspring.

Due to scheduling conflicts, we were only able to attend the Sunday edition, but we had a terrific time nonethless. Sabroso brought a relaxed, beach-casual vibe in its Dana Point setting, and injected it with an afternoon line-up of fun and exciting events and terrific dining. Lets recap how this year’s Sabroso Festival turned out!

(Photos by Dan Angona and myself.)

Festival Ambiance

Doheny State Beach was once again the site of the Sabroso Festival. Located in South Orange County, this venue puts on several festivals a year, including the Doheny Jazz Festival in June and the Ohana Festival in September.

Although the Sabroso Taco Festival has taken place across many years, this was the third instance of a grander, hybrid food and music event. As such, the layout and logistics of the festival remain largely similar from previous years, with a singular stage area surrounded by booths and tents flanking two main avenues—one along the beach and the other at adjacent park space.

There were a few minor adjustments, though. The lucha libre wrestling ring, which had previously been placed along the sand, was relocated more “inland” to grassy park space. Though this was a more intimate setting, it surprisingly never felt overly crowded. As a benefit, the ring relocation enabled Sabroso to expand its beer tasting booths into the footprint formerly occupied by the wrestling activities. The beer (and one sake) vendors seem to be more numerous this year than last!

The blue skies, green palms, and beautifully temperate day at the beach afforded a delightfully enjoyable and relaxed experience. There was a great sense of ease throughout the venue, from guests resting and reclining on the lawn or in their own beach furniture to beach activities being enjoyed. Although the presence of alcohol can sometimes be dicey, the clientele appeared much more interested in sampling and actually enjoying the various brews instead of simply getting drunk and belligerent. With great music providing a soundtrack throughout the day and exciting lucha libre wrestling to space out the breaks, Sabroso Festival once again brought a tremendously entertaining environment to its attendees.

Food and Booze

With its culinary focus, Sabroso Festival again brought forth a grand selection of local and well-known craft beer breweries, gourmet food vendors, and even a host of local merchants selling souvenirs and merchandised aimed at the punk rock demographic. The highlight, of course was the complimentary beer tastings, offered from noon (for VIP early entry ticket holders) or 1:00 (to the general public) until 4:00 in the afternoon. Dozens of booths were set up along the beach and within the park, each offering several different types of creations for guests to try. There were plenty of IPA’s on hand, of course, given its huge role in California’s craft beer scene. But ales, stouts, blonds, sours, and even specialty hybrid varieties were all available.

On the food side, the focus was on tacos, and there were countless taco vendors in attendance. Many of them even participated in a taco judging contest to vie for who had the best taco creation. But for those who might not necessarily yearn for tacos (and also must be cold, heartless machines), there were other dishes available, from pizzas to sausages to bowls and nachos and loaded fries configurations.

The People

A concert is only as good as its crowd, though, and the 2019 Sabroso Festival certainly attracted a diverse and energetic but refreshingly friendly and well-behaved audience. There was a familial vibe throughout the event—in a literal sense, really. Guests of all ages could be seen, from older punk fans to millennials who grew up on 90s and 00’s punk to young children being exposed to music by their parents.

Everyone seemed out to have a good time and just enjoy the day—a feeling not unlike that at Back to the Beach Festival (which is coming up later this month, in case you forgot). There was very much an energy of sharing and accommodating, and making sure everyone could enjoy the music, the wrestling, the food, and the booze.

The amount of crowds was pleasant throughout the festival as well. Though there were a fair amount of people present, the festival wasn’t sold out on Sunday—although it was felt close. Nonetheless, unlike some of the more popular music festivals out there, Sabroso never felt crowded or claustrophobic. The lines throughout the day ebbed and swelled, but they were refreshingly manageable. We had speedy experiences with food all three times we ordered at various booths, and though the beer stalls did pack in as the day progressed (early entry with VIP was indispensable), their lines never felt out of control or overflowing. It speaks to the festival organizers’ capacity control to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere.

Lucha Libre Wrestling

The highlight of the festival this year, however was the lucha libre wrestling. Sabroso Festival has had luchadors battling each other in the squared circle in each of its past two previous years at Doheny State Beach, but this year, the level of storytelling, choreography, technical skill, and crowd interaction was higher than ever before, making for one heck of an enjoyable display of professional wrestling.

This was fitting, given the fact that it was Wrestlemania weekend—a fact not lost among the wrestling fans that crowded around the ring for the four matches that took place each day. On Sunday, the lucha libre entertainment took on a movie affair, as "Nacho Libre” and “Ramses” were featured as wrestlers on the bill. Nacho was even ambushed before the first match by a pair of masked villains, before Ramses made the save. The resulting matches through the afternoon featured high entertainment value. Wrestlers soared through the hair with a variety of aerial maneuvers, sometimes even sailing to the crowd, which was vividly wrapped up in the spectacle of it all. Fiercely supportive of the good-guy babyfaces and fiercely booing of the dastardly heels, the crowd ate up each move and sequence, reacting astoundingly, and really imbibing the addictive fun and absurd excitement that makes up pro wrestling.

The pace of the matches was fluid and quick this year, more so than in past years, in my opinion. The angles were also more riveting and hilarious. At one point, one of the villainous tag teams employed the assistance of a crooked referee, who even took a few shots on the prone good guy team at times! Fortunately, he received his comeuppance before the end of the match.

The finale “title match” featured Ramses teaming up with a flier against the two baddies who attacked Nacho earlier in the afternoon. That one featured a false finale in which the malevolent duo captured the titles by cheating—only for the match to be restarted and the corrupt referee replaced by an impartial one… who proceeded to make a fast count on a pinning combination to help the good guys win. Welp, no one ever said pro wrestling always made sense—but it was a wildly enjoyable time catching each of the matches.

The Taco Eating contest

Prior to the headline musical act, Sabroso Festival once again welcomed some of the world’s best competitive eaters to the stage for the Sabroso Taco Eating Contest. This was actually preceded by the reveal of who won the taco judging contest—a title that went to Pink Taco’s poached Spanish octopus on top of chorizo and potatoes with onions and a pepper slaw. Fiesta Gourmet and Sol Agave rounded out second and third place.

Once that was taken care of, it was time the gluttony to begin.

The past two years we’ve covered the Sabroso Festival, Takeru Kobayashi has held a steady reign as the undefeated winner of taco consumption. Last year, he devoured 154 tacos—down from 159 in 2017. But he was followed close behind by fan favorite, Molly Schuyler, who was less than 20 tacos behind. This year, Molly entered more determined than ever to best her legendary rival. And while there were other professional eater contestants, the battle everyone was looking forward to was the Japanese machine, Kobayashi, vs the cool mother of four, Schuyler.

Making things a little more formal this year was the presence of an official judge, Corey Henderson, of RecordSetter.com, who was here to formally document the record for most tacos eaten. In his unavoidable yellow jacket, he paced the stage to monitor and verify the tacos.

The competition was fast and furious and full of a mixture of feverish elation and dismayed disgust. For many audience members, this was like watching an unsavory yet addictive drama play out. “I came for the music, not for this,” remarked on bystander at the railing when I was nearby. And yet he kept watching, transfixed.

Unsurprisingly Kobayashi raced out to an early lead, downing at least ten more tacos than his nearest competitors constantly. But midway through the contest, something amazing started happening—Molly started gaining on the Japanese legend, and then she overtook him! As the clock counted down, Molly Schuyler continued to hold an edge over Takeru Kobayashi. When the final horn sounded, both had hit 170 on the unofficial card tally. But they would have to wait and see how much would be subtracted after weighing bowl of ejected taco bits. Once the final count came in, it was Kobayashi extending his undefeated streak in this competition, with a final and official world record number of 157 tacos eaten in only ten minutes. Molly came in at 149. But oh, was it close!

Music

Of course, the biggest draw of this event was the bountiful punk rock line-up featured across both days of festivities at Sabroso. As the festival was sponsored by Gringo Bandito, the hot sauce line produced by The Offspring’s lead singer, Dexter Holland, it made sense that line-up was comprised of rock and roll and punk rock names.

Early in the afternoon, Orange Blossom Special kicked off the concert spree with a short but engaging set that actually attracted the attention of the early crowd and had them rocking along. With some great rhythm and strong beats to their songs, they were a fantastic opening act. Red City Radio and Plague Vendor followed, infusing their band of hard rock into the festival grounds.

Face to Face came fourth, and the famous 90s punk rock band best known for their song, “Disconnected,” provided a nostalgic but energy-laden performance that had the crowd dancing and head banging along. Their set reminded me of Sum-41’s appearance at Sabroso a couple of years prior—a band that achieved momentary great popularity during my high school years, faded from mainstream recognition, but still continues to perform and actually continues to put on great shows.

Heading into the back half of the day’s line-up, it was time to dip into the storied heavy hitters. Hardcore punk legends, Black Flag, went first, jamming its raw and gritty riffs in rapid succession. Hits like “Nervous Breakdown,” “Jealous Again,” “Six Pack,” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme” thrilled longtime fans of the 80s band. They closed with their chaotic cover of “Louie Louie,” much to their fans’ delight.

As if it was a competition, Descendents followed with a full headlining set’s worth of songs compressed into an hour. Favorites like ”Suburban Home” and “Everthing Sux” and “I Like Food” and “Clean Sheets” were played in quick succession. Milo Aukerman, playing a role of “cool punk grandpa” at this point in his career, tirelessly belted out the lyrics to music from a punk rock band that has been so influential on a second generation of punk rock and skate punk bands that have become mainstay icons in their own right (including The Offspring).

Finally, after the sun had set and the tacos had been obliterated, The Offspring took the stage to close out the festival and the weekend in their headlining position. Kicking things right off with “Americana,” Dexter and Noodles and company worked through some of the band’s biggest hits, like “Bad Habit,” “Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Separated),” “Pretty Fly for a White Guy,” “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid,” “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” and more. The audience even got a song—”It Won’t Get Better”—from their recently completed and upcoming album. They even dipped into up-and-coming-band mode and shot out a cover of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie.” All the while, Noodles proclaimed Sabroso Festival the best thing to happen to live rock and roll since Altamont Free Concert while trying to remember when exactly Altamont had happened (turns out it was fifty years ago). The band and the night ended as The Offspring always do, with “Self Esteem” as the closer, sending people home on… well, the song isn’t a happy note, but the gig was an enjoyable one.

Orange Blossom Special

Red City Radio

Plague Vendor

Face to Face

Black Flag

Descendents

The Offspring

That does it from this year’s Sabroso Festival! We had another fantastic time enjoying great music, fine food, delicious alcohol, and ridiculously entertaining wrestling. The relaxing vibe and easy-going people made this feel like a grand party full of really cool guests, and we certainly hope it returns again next year.

For those who missed it, the same promoters are also putting on Back to the Beach Festival, scheduled for the last weekend of this month at Huntington State Beach. That one doesn’t have a beer or gourmet food emphasis, but being a festival in Southern California, you can bet that craft creations will be present regardless.

Thanks for reading, folks. And maybe culminate the occasion with beer and tacos for dinner tonight!

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