When Jared Watson and Dustin Bushnell of the Dirty Heads and Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome get together, magic seems to happen.
The trio has known each other for well over a decade and has collaborated regularly and successfully throughout that time. Back in 2010, Dirty Heads released the cut “Lay Me Down” featuring Ramirez on vocals and it helped launch the Huntington Beach-based quintet into the mainstream with the song landing in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s alternative and rock songs charts.
That particular track came together one night during an impromptu jam session as the guys were hanging out and enjoying a few cold Coronas in the backyard of Bushnell’s Orange County home.
“His daughter was in the background crying the entire time,” Ramirez recalled with a laugh. “We were like, ‘This song may not be that good if it’s making kids cry’.”
The relationship goes far beyond just one song as Ramirez has served as a producer on several Dirty Heads albums, including their forthcoming seventh release, “Swim Team,” due out in the fall. As they were putting the finishing touches on the record in a Costa Mesa studio last month, they were also working out the details for the Dirty Heads/Sublime with Rome-curated High & Mighty Festival.
In partnership with local festival promoters Synergy Global Entertainment (Ozzfest/Knotfest, Driftwood, Sabroso, Ohana) and Bill Hardie (Musink Tattoo Convention & Music Festival), the two-day event will take place Saturday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 6 at Village Green Park at the intersection of Main and Euclid streets in downtown Garden Grove. The fest was initially scheduled to take place at Oak Canyon Park in Silverado, but was officially moved to the more spacious location in June.
Saturday will be headlined by Sublime with Rome with Soja, Stick Figure, Magic!, King Lil G, Katastro, Iya Terra, Tunnel Vision, Tyrone’s Jacket and NoahJvmes. Dirty Heads headline on Sunday with Jurassic 5, Tribal Seeds, Tech N9ne, Chief Keef, Murs, Ballyhoo!, Pacific Dub, Landon McNamara and Know-Madik.
The all-ages day-long fest will start around 1 p.m. each day and end at 10 p.m. on Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sunday. There will also be a full vendor village, local eats and craft beer tastings courtesy of Brew Ha Ha Productions from breweries such as Bootleggers, Hangar 24, Green Flash, Modern Times and more for those 21-and-over until 4 p.m.
“We weren’t sitting around thinking that we knew how to throw a festival,” Watson said. “We knew we had to partner with people who knew what they were doing and who we could trust to see our vision. We knew we wanted bands that we were either inspired by coming up, bands that were inspiring us now and just bands that we’ve become friends with that are just great people and we knew were going to crush.”
Putting together a day of hip-hop, roots reggae and rock music was something Watson said he’s wanted to see in his home county for a long time.
“The whole point of festivals, for me, is to maybe see something new,” he said, noting that Dirty Heads have been the odd man out at plenty of festivals, though the exposure has given them the opportunity to win over countless new fans.
“We could have easily done a reggae rock fest and everyone would have known every band, but what’s the fun in that? There’s a lane for that already here, so we wanted to do something different.”
Ramirez said that getting up-and-coming acts such as Chicago-based rapper and producer Chief Keef at the same festival as influential Los Angeles hip-hop group Jurassic 5 was essential, but his major concern was the quality of food that would be served to the masses.
“I wanted good food, like quality food, not just (gross) festival food,” he said. “That was honestly one of my first concerns. There needs to be some barbecue and tacos all around. I have a very small palate, so I eat the same (stuff) and a lot of it. So if people come out and they’re maybe not super into our music, if you don’t smoke weed or like hip-hop or reggae, well then come at least eat some good food.”
After finishing up work on Dirty Heads’ album, Ramirez and the rest of Sublime with Rome, bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Carlos Verdugo, have been out on tour with fellow Orange County act, the Offspring. The pair played one of the last shows at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in October of last year and decided then to take the show across the country and overseas this year.
“I finally got to watch the Offspring play at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and it was the first time in a long time,” Ramirez said. “I forgot how many insanely awesome songs those guys have. They have like 30 No. 1 hits. I knew the entire set, and so did everyone else. It was kind of an obvious thing for us to go on tour, they were just a different style of band. … We’ve been on the road with Pennywise, but that’s a little faster punk, but the Offspring has these huge chants and huge melodies and Dexter is an insanely good singer. It’s definitely one of those tours where we know we need to bring our A-game because they’re going to bring it.”
The band is also going to begin work on the follow-up to its 2015 release, “Sirens,” later this year. With drummer Josh Freese, also of the Vandals, out on tour with Sting, the guys brought in Verdugo, who had previously played with Tribal Seeds.
“That was like a no-brainer,” Ramirez said. “Josh wanted to go play with Sting on his private jets. I’m kidding, it’s all love, but we jammed with Carlos and it felt really good and super fluid so while Josh is out this summer, Carlos will be jamming with us.”
Ramirez joked that the new music would be some sort of “Jimmy Buffett dubstep” but with his eclectic taste it wouldn’t be shocking if he actually pulled something like that off.
“We’re going to Texas in October to put together some ideas, but I don’t really know what it will be like,” he said. “Every album is different because people are listening to different (stuff). If you put out the same album, that’s boring. You can’t look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and say your album is dope. No, you put out the same album. I’m constantly listening to new music and so are Eric and Carlos, so you’ve got three different minds coming together so we’ll make sense of it all later this year.”
Dirty Heads offered a taste of its new music with the track, “Vacation,” which was released earlier this month. The upbeat track and accompanying music video features actor Dennis Haskins reprising his role as Mr. Belding, the principle of Bayside High School from the hit late ‘80s-early ‘90s TV series “Saved By the Bell.”
“We didn’t go in with any real direction for this album,” Watson said. “Forcing a single never works. We just went in wanting to have a good time and all of this new, creative and cool stuff started happening and that kind of directed where the album is now.”
Not wanting to give too much away about the new release, Watson said that the band will be playing some of the new stuff at High & Mighty. Recently they’ve been incorporating a handful of brand new songs into its sets recently to see how they go over in front of a live audience.
“That’s how I gauge songs,” he said. “You can look at the numbers from streaming or downloads or whatever, but there’s something to be said about playing a song live and the kids go bonkers for it.”
High & Mighty Festival
With: Sublime with Rome, Soja, Stick Figure, Magic!, King Lil G, Katastro, Custom and Iya Terra on Saturday, Aug. 5 and Dirty Heads, Jurassic 5, Tribal Seeds, Tech N9ne, Murs, Chief Keef, Ballyhoo!, Pacific Dub, Landon McNamara and Know-Madik on Sunday, Aug. 6.
When: 1-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5 and 1-9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6
Where: Village Green Park, 12732 Main Street, Garden Grove
Tickets: $49-$69 general admission; $149-$299 for VIP passes. Complimentary craft beer tastings come with festival admission for those 21 and older from 1-4 p.m. for general admission and 12-4 p.m. for VIP guests.
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