Mayer Hawthorne - Pacific Festival: The Dunes - September 2, 2012

Categories: live review
Mayer Hawthorne!!!-001.jpg
Jackie Connor
Mayer Hawthorne
Mayer Hawthorne
Pacific Festival: The Dunes
September 2, 2012

See Also:
*Pacific Festival: The Dunes Strips Down By the Sea
*Josh Epstein of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. on Pacific Festival, His Favorite Housewife of Orange County
*Pacific Festival: The Dunes Announced

Mayer Hawthorne had a pretty lofty task in front of him on Sunday night as the headliner of Pacific Festival: The Dunes. Staring out over a sea of sun-baked, Red Bull-chugging Newport Beach party animals, he'd have to effectively deliver an authentic wave of Motown throwbackery to the WASP-iest corner of Orange County...while wearing shorts. By day's end, a glut of nonstop EDM and VIP lounging embodied the spirit of festival --now in its third year. With all the hyper-excitement of MTV Spring Break on steroids, was this crowd they really ready for some blue-eyed soul from the Motor City?
The Michigan-born crooner answered that question swiftly as he launched into a blustering, full-band intro jam that echoed across the water of the festival's seaside stage like a slick, soul revue for the 21st century. Staring out at his own little sea of sunbaked revelers, Hawthorne's saccharine falsetto got an early workout with tracks like "You Called Me" and "Gonna Take a Long Time" from the 2011 sophomore album "How Do You Do."

Pacific Festival, which moved its party out of Oak Canyon Ranch to the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort and Marina, took plenty of risks this year by revamping their third annual summer fling. Those who went to last year's bacchanal remember a very different picture, one where mammoth headliners like Snoop Dogg, Ghostland Observatory and Cut Copy commanded several stages and a lot more people. It's odd to think that a festival brand might be seen as taking a risk by scaling back, but this year's party appeared to do it right, despite the natural habitat of cliche OC snobbery that can sometimes accompany a ritzy location like the Dunes. But any comparisons to an episode of MTV's "Laguna Beach" washed away as the sun went down.

Hawthorne's reputation as a seamlessly charismatic performer may have been earned during his recently-wrapped world tour with his band the County, but it was learned right here in OC. Some may remember Hawthorne playing his first live show ever at the Continental Room in Fullerton, shuffling and sweet-talking on a cramped lounge-style stage surrounded by a packed house. Two years later, returning to headline on of the most buzzed-about festivals of the summer was an impressive, full-circle move.

His showmanship borrowing from legends like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, seemed completely original, given his anachronistic stage ensemble. Picture a '60s soul singer hopping around in Angus Young schoolboy shorts while playing an unabashedly cheesy '80s Flying V guitar in the year 2012. It was the kind of lighthearted approach to the genre that resonated well with the crowd as they dug their toes in the sand and packed in tight like a school of sardines out of water. Hawthorne's flashing "MH" stage backdrop pulsed in time with their two-stepping.

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