Where are the avocados at this avocado fest?
A trip to Fallbrook’s Avocado Festival is a reminder that street fairs still suck
If I say the words, “avocado fest,” what do you imagine? Perhaps a crowd of eager avocado enthusiasts, yearning for the opportunity to enjoy some buttery green goodness with fellow avo-heads? Or some professional avocologists unveiling exciting new developments in the realm of avocados? Or maybe you imagine some sort of cosplay where passionate attendees dress up in brown, bulbous costumes with brilliant green centers?
Whatever scenario it is that you have in your head, surely there are avocados, right?
Driving north on the 15, I wonder if all the other cars are headed up to the Fallbrook Avocado Festival. From the way the website described it, the festival sounds like a big fucking deal. There’s even a link for lodging options for people who, you know, are traveling from far reaches to attend a small-town agriculture festival. Kids, pack your things, we’re headed to Fallbrook.
But then again, I have no idea what to expect. Are avocados still the favorite fruit (a berry, actually!) among Southern Californians? Are millennials still opting to buy avocado toast instead of owning houses? Do avocados still have the hipster-chic appeal they did, say, five years ago? As someone whose diet during the pandemic consisted of things with chemical makeups closer to packing peanuts than actual food, I’ll admit that I’ve lost touch with the world of avocados, and this festival seems like a good opportunity to become reacquainted.
I’ve never been to Fallbrook, but I have a few good friends who grew up there and hardly ever talk about it. This is why it’s surprising to learn that one of the northernmost cities in San Diego county is the “Avocado Capital of the World,” according to their street signs. Is this widely known? I’ve lived in San Diego for more than a decade—hell, spent my peak millennial years here—and this is the first I’ve heard of the “Avocado Capital of the World.” Imagine how many more toasts I could’ve been buying! Imagine how many more houses I could’ve not been buying!
The temperature is a cruel 90 degrees outside by the time I find parking, and I’m still sweating from a 7-mile run I had struggled through earlier in the day. It was one of those instances where I went straight from run to shower to avocado fest with no proper cool-down. I knew that if I sat down to rest, my enthusiasm for the avocado festival would disappear fast. To keep my will going, I chugged a glass of ice coffee, jumped in the car, and drove north before fatigue set in.
But now, after an hour in the car, I emerge in the hot sun—sweaty from both unresolved adrenaline and caffeine—and I already hate Fallbrook, the avocado fest, and myself.
On our walk toward Fallbrook’s Main Street—the site of the festival—my wife Jessica points to a father carrying a large bag of Kettle Corn and says something to the effect of “uh oh.” I know exactly what she means. It’s never a good sign when you go to an event where people are eating stuff they wouldn’t eat if there were any better option. And Kettle Corn is the worst offender. It’s the ultimate last-resort food—a sad keepsake to trick yourself into thinking you haven’t wasted your time. Like: hey, maybe I drove a long way, and maybe the weather is too hot, and maybe I have a dehydration headache, but at least we got Kettle Corn, so.... worth it!(?)
The avocado festival stretches down Main Street almost as far as the eye can see. It’s a river of canopies and bodies moving at group-shuffle speed. We pass booths selling handbags, Astroturf, jewelry, cheap plushies, sports hats; political booths with anti-Newsom messages, law offices, people campaigning for County Supervisor Jim Desmond (aka local man who spent the entire pandemic undermining public health). There are shaved ice stands, food trucks and a play area for kids with giant inflatable things.
It’s then that I remember that, oh yeah, festivals kind of suck.
And apart from a few stands selling guacamole ($9 for a dump-size portion on a handful of tortilla chips), there are no avocados.
I don’t see one whole avocado during my entire time at the avocado festival. I know it might seem I’m splitting hairs here because of the aforementioned guacamole, but it’s like going to a tomato fest and only seeing ketchup. Where are the farmers with big barrels of beautiful, ripe avos? Or people dressed as avocados? What about avocado-powered cars ? Or troubadours singing avocado songs? Or bards regaling eager crowds with avocado poetry? Instead, this festival is more like an elongated Kobey’s swap meet. I watch a woman kicking a cardboard trash can down the street—through a shallow layer of spilt Kettle Corn no less—and it feels like the perfect encapsulation of this experience.
Not even the beer tent offers solace. Six dollars buys a ticket, which you then trade for what appears to be a 10-ounce pour. There’s a sunburnt couple grinding to the in-between-band music and I don’t want to imagine how much they’ve had to shell out to get that drunk. I don’t buy any beer tickets; I’ve already lost too much self-respect today. I just want to get out of Fallbrook with a little bit of dignity.
On the way out, we stop at The Spoiled Avocado, a store where everything is avocado-themed. Upon entering, we hear a woman’s voice, disembodied, ask: “But would you wear the avocado pants?” I scan through the items and feel a desperation to get some sort of trinket, something—like the Kettle Corn—to prove that I was here, there, whatever.
I find a t-shirt with a graphic of a mohawked avocado kicking a cluster of grapes into a hole. “THIS IS FALLBROOK!” the avocado yells. Timely reference! A man next to me is also looking at the shirt and narrating it to his partner who’s distracted with something else: “And he’s kicking the grapes down the hole like in the movie 300.” The man chuckles at the concept for what feels like way too long.
On our way out, we walk next to a father carrying the biggest bag of Kettle Corn I’ve ever seen.
The ride home is mostly silent.
When we pull into the driveway, we agree to never speak of the avocado fest again.
REST IN POWER, GABE SERBIAN
This past weekend, we lost Gabe Serbian—drummer for The Locust and Headwound City (among others). I never met Gabe, but as a drummer, I found his talent intimidating. There are certain names that drummers bring up when we talk to each other, but so few evoke an immediate, visceral reaction than Gabe’s. We speak about his skill like teens talk about Faces of Death videos: scary, taboo, and completely unbelievable. Usually, I can listen to a complex drum beat and be like, “I could maybe do that eventually,” but I’m certain I could never do what Gabe did. I know a lot of people who were close to Gabe, and my heart goes out to them and his family.
LISTEN TO THIS
The Snodgrass - Styloid Process
At the start of the pandemic, I began listening to ambient and instrumental music. I found it was nice to fall asleep with soft, wordless music playing through noise-canceling headphones. It felt wondrous and numbing after a day of reading the news and wallowing in uncertainty and depression. However, since I was completely unfamiliar with the genre (an ambient amateur, if you will), I settled on the most obvious picks: film scores, Nine Inch Nails’ instrumental albums, and even some Moby (shudder).
But the experience gave me a whole new excitement and appreciation for instrumental music, which is why The Snodgrass’s experimental Styloid Process EP has been playing on my headphones for the past week.
Dubbed The Snodgrass’s “second debut album” (the first debut burned up in a hard-drive incident back in 2001, according to Bandcamp), Styloid Process is the direct result of a worldwide pandemic. There’s anxiety, foreboding and a vein of omniscient dread running through the album’s seven tracks, but also a sleek propulsion that keeps the album feeling like a thriller instead of a Lynchian void. These tracks are tonal, modular, and yes, experimental—8-bit sounds abound!—but there’s a cunning pop sensibility that springs up before anything feels too bleak. For example, the deep, thudding low-end of “Lincoln” could be the soundtrack to a spy movie. I mean, cut any montage to the bouncy “Pepitas,” and you’re going to get a great scene.
But, again, Styloid Process is a product of uncertainty and solitude, and it reminds the listener of this during the album’s closer, “What A Time To Be Dead,” a seven-minute descent into warm, cacophonous darkness. It’s a compelling opus that purposely eschews patterns and formula, mirroring what I imagine to be the flashing final thoughts of a mind shutting down. And, not to sound weird or anything, but it’s an enjoyable sensation.
AWKSD GUEST LIST
The Guest List gives AWKSD subscribers the opportunity to see live music for free. Just reply to this email and let me know which show you want to see, and I’ll hook you and a friend up. First come, first served.
Sunday, May 8
The Todds, The Grin, and Serbia @ Til Two Club: I’m very excited about The Todds, a newish darkwave, post-punk band that sound like they’re direct descendents of Joy Division (you can never go wrong with a JD-influenced sound, btw). Listen to their EP Orwellian and tell me you don’t feel cold in a good way.
Got a tip or wanna say hi? Email me at email@example.com, or follow me on Twitter @theryanbradford. And if you like what you’ve just read, please hit that little heart icon at the end of the post.