Kool Kat of the Week: Hanging Ten with Wayne Foster at the 5th Annual Clarkston Surf Fest

“Surfing is very much like making love. It always feels good, no matter how many times you’ve done it,” legendary ‘60s surfer Paul Strauch once famously declared. This Saturday’s Clarkston Surf Fest 2011 is too far inland for attendees to ride any waves literally, but with 10 of the Southeast’s top surf bands playing from noon into night, it’s sure to satisfy any lover of the fast-strumming oceanic music genre. The fifth annual event, held Sat. Sept. 24 in the playing field of the Clarkston Community Center, features local faves The Mystery Men?, The Surge!Stratogeezer and El Fossil, as well as regional favorites Daikaiju(AL), Aqualads (NC), The Intoxicators (FL), The Necronomikids (AL), Kill, Baby…Kill (AL) and The Monterreys (NC). Best of all, it’s FREE and family-friendly, so you even can introduce the kids to some great music without shelling out big bucks.

The idea of a surf music festival in Clarkston, at first glance, sounds both improbable and absolutely awesome. But then we never expected Thursday night concerts by some of Atlanta’s best retrobilly/Redneck underground bands at an Asian restaurant (Kathmandu, formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston either. That got us thinking there must be some pretty cool folks hanging ten in what’s not often dubbed Atlanta’s hippest suburb. Turns out Clarkston Surf Fest co-founder Wayne Foster doesn’t actually live there any more, but this beach party has become a labor of love for him and everyone else involved and losing a few good surf music friends has just inflamed his passion even more.

Seems like there must be a great story about how the Clarkston Surf Fest got started?
I guess it was 2004 or 2005 when my friend Randy Duke asked me to go to a surf music show at Under The Couch over at Georgia Tech. It was a band called The Penetrators. I figured with a name like that what could be bad? Wow! what a show. These guys were like modern day 1960s secret agents of rock. In between sets Randy introduced me to John McCorvey AKA “Eddie Katcher” who plays guitar in a band called The Surge! The three of us talked about how cool the music is and wouldn’t it be great if a bunch of surf bands could get together for an all-day show somewhere. Well, a light bulb went off in my head…… I was a freelance sound guy with a big PA. I also lived in Clarkston and was serving on the city council.

In 2006, I made arrangements to use the historic Woman’s Club cottage, and John lined up as many surf bands as he could. It was one of those Our Gang “hey, let’s put on a show right here in the barn” kind of events. Local advertising agency, MLT Creative, designed and printed our signs for free after I told owner, Billy Mitchell, about our plan. He’s a surf music fan. Stratogeezer, Big Ray & The Futuras, The Broken Spokes, El Capitan, The Penetrators and The Surge! played that first Surf Fest. What an experience. The Clarkston Community Center then offered us a bigger venue.

I understand this year is both special and bittersweet to you after the passing of your good friend and festival co-founder Randy Duke, as well as Spanky Twangler of the Penetrators. Can you talk a little about what both contributed to this festival and what you have planned to honor them.

We didn’t have Surf Fest in 2010 because of some personal issues in my life that were beyond my control. My best friend Randy Duke’s health had been deteriorating for some time. He passed away right around the time Surf Fest would have been going on. My girlfriend and I had also just bought a new house 30 miles away from Clarkston. I was apprehensive about doing Surf Fest again since I no longer live in Clarkston and am not involved in city government. I want to honor Randy and Spanky by not letting Surf Fest fade away. Both of these remarkable men were super musicians and both were instrumental in turning me on to the surf genre.

This year’s 10-band line-up is pretty incredible including not just some great local surf bands but terrific bands from across the region. Who’s new this year and how did you decide who would play this year?

The Monterreys, Kill, Baby… Kill!, The Intoxicators!, Aqualads, and El Fossil will be at Surf Fest for the first time. We decided who would play this year by finding bands willing to drive hundreds of miles to sleep on my vinyl couch, eat cold pizza, drink cheep beer, and work for gas money. There’s a lot of great surf bands out there and not enough venues for them to play. I wish we could have 30 bands and play all weekend! ………. (need more sponsors, need bigger venue)…… end of subliminal message.

I know you won’t want to play favorites, but can you tell us a bit about a few of the bands that are playing this year, and why you dig ‘em and local surf fans will, too?

Daikaiju takes surf music to a whole new level—out-of-control stage show with machine-like guitar precision. The Mystery Men? make you want to shake your ass and throw your panties on the stage. (My girlfriend thinks their drummer is hot.) The Surge! has been around since the dawn of time and they’re freakin’ great.

What else will be going on, in addition to the music? There’ll even be family-friendly activities for the kids, right?

As well as food, drink and adult beverages, we’ll have ongoing raffles throughout the day. We’ll be raffling off band merchandise, gift baskets and a sweet Fender Squire Strat (new) in a hardshell case. Hula-Hoop Contests, Surf Princess and Prince Contest, and Grass-Skirt Hula Dance Contest (including coconut bra), with prizes for all the kids.

With so many great bands, how do you keep it free? I understand the beverage sales proceeds even go to supporting the Clarkston Community Center.

It’s a labor of love. Not only for me but the bands as well. These guys aren’t playing surf music because they think it will make them rich. It’s in their blood. It’s like a big family reunion for surf musicians. We thought about charging admission, but keeping it free brings more people to hear this great music. We’re good at begging and we have a few sponsors. This event always costs me money. This is our fifth year and I’m still trying to figure out how to cover my expenses. I’ve been called an idiot and it probably contributed to the demise of my marriage.

Speaking of the Clarkston Community Center, what can you tell us about the venue?

The Community Center is the old Clarkston High School, built in 1924. This building was scheduled for demolition several years ago and through a lot of hard work by members of the community it was saved. After undergoing millions of dollars in renovations, this center now hosts all kinds of classes, meetings, workshops, refugee programs and entertainment. I am proud to have been on the board of directors to help make this happen.

Is this a great time to dig out that Hawaiian shirt one last time? What should the gals wear?

Any men in Hawaiian shirts and women in thongs will get in free……….. Oh, wait a minute, it’s already free. Don’t forget to bring a lawn chair, it’s gonna be 75 and sunny.

How did you personally get into surf music and what do you think explains its enduring appeal?

As a kid I heard surf music and played “Wipe Out” on my desk at school. The HAWAII 5-0 theme song was cool. It’s about fast cars and fast women, riding the waves, skydiving,  danger and excitement. Every kid wants to be a secret agent, don’t they? Check out The Penetrators Website. It’s still up. www.penetrators.com

Wayne Foster, co-founder of the Clarkston Surf Fest, in his James Bond tux. Photo courtesy of Wayne Foster.

What do you do when you’re not planning the Clarkston Surf Fest?

I run Foster Productions. We provide sound reinforcement for bands and festivals. I am currently working with a couple of 17-piece swing / big band orchestras. By the way, wedding food is overrated. Ask me about my special rates for bar mitzvahs. I finally have my own tuxedo just like James Bond. I’m working on getting a scuba suit.

Come out a night early for the Clarkston Surf Fest Pre-Party Fri. Sept. 23 at the Highland Inn Ballroom, featuring outrageous surf local heroes The Mystery Men? and Nashville’s awesome Rebel Surfers, featuring special guest Philip Townsend from C.N.i Cow on drums. In case you missed our interview with Rebel Surfers’ Pete Jamestone before their high energy set at the Rockabilly Luau last June, catch up on your reading here.

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