Slab City lies at the southeast corner of the Salton Sea, where the Anza-Borrego Desert becomes the Colorado Desert. The “slabs” are what’s left from WWII training facility Camp Dunlop. And there’s an Olympic-sized swimming pool, long used by desert-dwelling skate rats — if the graffiti and grind marks are any indication — who camp and party with the locals.
This was the site April 17–19 of the inaugural “Slab City Fun Fest,” Conceived and organized by Ernie Quintero, who is commonly known for highlighting garage bands — Black Lips, Pierced Arrows, the Spits — and skateboarders in his Vacilander video-zine. After skating and camping at Slab City, Quintero decided to name his band after the rustic squatters’ community of motor homes and camouflaged canopies.
“Ever since we started the band [Slab City], we’ve wanted to play out there,” says Quintero. “I started going out there a lot in the past two months and got to know everybody, and they [the ‘slabbers’] started asking us when we were going to play. Finally, we just thought about doing a skate-rock-camping kind of thing.”
No Paul McCartney, no Cure, no Throbbing Gristle, just a hundred or so kids hitting the open space, jacking into generators, and playing to friends and fans who find Coachella fare a bit too… polo.
“That one’s a pussy fest!” Quintero says jokingly about Coachella, which was the same weekend, 50 miles up the Salton Sea spine. “The Slab City Fun Fest is the real man’s drinking fest. No $75 a night for camping, no $5 bottles of water… You just bring your own shit and have a blast.”
And that’s what Quintero did along with several San Diego and SoCal-based bands on two stages. On Friday, Slab City performed, sharing “the Stage Door” slab with Anasazis, Heavy Cessna, and Destroy L.A. On Saturday, the show was moved 100 yards north to “the Range.” After being lost in the desert for hours, the Bible Brothers materialized and played their songs of the Lord without a sound check. Chango Rey & His Raymen followed with their shake-it-don’t-break-it overtones and had high praise for all things Costco. Los Sweepers played an electrifying set, almost entirely in Spanish. And the Widows inspired the crowd to destroy a Tecate piñata, which spilled Mexican candy, thong panties, and miniature handcuffs.
“They call it the last free place on earth,” says Quintero, who is considering doing another Slab City fest next year. “And I made a point to make everything free at the festival — all camping, skating, and shows are free. Just bring your board and beer.”