Mosswood Meltdown: Two days of punk rock, fun and sun in Oakland

John Waters. Photo courtesy Greg Gorman. 

The Mosswood Meltdown returns to Oakland just ahead of the 4th of July holiday. This scrappy festival is a showcase of punk, garage, and most definitely trash-music. It's brought in some big names in the past, like Iggy Pop, Devo, Ronnie Spector and Kim Gordon. But it's always provided a stage or two for the best of the Bay Area's indie and underground music scene. One thing you can consistently count on in Mosswood Park is that the Pope of Trash himself, film director and cult figure, John Waters will be handling emcee duties. This year he promises "musical mayhem." 

Held over the weekend of July 1 and 2, this is the music fest curated for those on the fringe of society. Outsiders gather in their get-ups, ready to impress like it's the social event of the summer. And perhaps for some East Bay social circles, it is. 

Le Tigre in 2004. Photo credit Leeta Harding. 

This year's line-up puts feminism on the front lines. Le Tigre, which includes Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill fame, is Day 1's headlining attraction. 

Just know that when the "Deceptacon" beat drops, the crowd will erupt in ecstasy. 

When the first wave riot grrrl scene began to evaporate in the late ‘90s, Bikini Kill faded and Le Tigre was born. With techno raves in vogue, musical tastes had shifted to a more synthetic sound as we crept past Y2K, into the new millennium. But Le Tigre’s feminist attitude remained intact. "Hot Topic" calls out the names of accomplished women and those from previous waves of feminism who paved the way for acts like them, including Angela Davis, Gertrude Stein, Billie Jean King, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Nina Simone, Ann Peebles and Hazel Dickens. 

These waves of activism ebb and flow, but like the song says, "we won't stop." 

Bratmobile in 1999. Photo credit to Pat Graham. 

Keeping with the 'riot grrrl' theme, Day 2 will highlight the Pacific Northwest's Bratmobile, who will shred punk anthems on stage. This rebellious act has taken up arms in the form of guitar, bass and drums. If you were a fan of this scene or a riot grrrl yourself, you probably remember them from the stacked Kill Rock Stars record label from the ‘90s. They were also featured on Berkeley’s Lookout Records, back in that indie label's heyday. This is considered one of the main attractions and should not be missed. 

Here are some other acts you should definitely check out: 

Quintron & Miss Pussycat 

Have you ever lost yourself on a dance floor? Even if you don't like to dance, Q & P's swamp-boogie beats, will make you move. This magical New Orleans duo will likely kick off their set with a puppet show, brought to you by the wild world of imagination inside Miss P's brain and her hand-crafted characters. Not to be outdone, Quintron, inventor of the Drum Buddy, an oscillating, light-activated drum machine, orchestrates an engery-filled set of songs. Prepare to transcend into the next realm. Dance to Q & P at 4 p.m. on the Field Stage on Day 1. 


You may not think you know ESG's music, but chances are you've already heard it. Their ‘80s track "UFO" has been relentlessly sampled in hip-hop. This group from the South Bronx, originally comprised of the Scroggins sisters, which now includes second generation Scroggins, will compel you to move. In January, these funk and post-punk legends played the Great American Music Hall in what was billed as their final San Francisco show. Now they'll delight an East Bay audience with their catchy brand of stripped-down, minimal funk. They've got ear worms aplenty. It's an opportunity you won't want to miss. Catch ESG at 6 p.m. on the Field Stage on Day 1. 


Some of you may know Cher Strauberry from the world of skateboarding. After all, she is pioneering in the sense that she's the first transgender woman pro-skater for Vans. She's also made some moves in music and shines on stage as a performer. In recent years, she was noticed on Instagram Live by Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, who produced her solo album "Chering is Caring." 

Photo credit: Rob Coons. 

Her band Twompsax has been her outlet and vehicle for creative expression as of late. But the band's journey comes to an end this weekend as the performance at Mosswood is billed as their last show ever. Strauberry told us in a recent interview that she is healing from a torn MCL and is looking forward to getting back on her board. Don't write off Strauberry from the music game quite yet. Her solo effort may be a precursor of things to come as she's constantly writing new music. You can see Twompsax perform at the park's amphitheater on Day 1 at 7:15 p.m. 

Even if you're not fully familiar with the festival's bands, the vibe here is nothing but good times. And with the steamy weekend forecast, a mass meltdown may just be in order. Stay hydrated and if you're day drinking, be sure to pace yourself.  

There's an area sectioned off where adults can drink beer and in the main grounds area you'll notice an array of food vendors that are always top-notch. Pro-tip: regular recurring vendor, Oakland's Aburaya, has Japanese fried chicken that will leave you dreaming about it at night and craving more. Don't worry…you can always get it again on Day 2! This year they're doing fried chicken burritos and burrito bowls. They also have vegan and gluten-free options available. 

Through the years, the Mosswood Meltdown has become a raucous, filthy, but most definitely fun slice of culture Oakland can be proud of. 


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