It isn’t often that SoCal natives Army of Freshmen play a local show. You’re more likely to find them hopping puddles for a European/UK tour, or perhaps snacking down on some fish tacos at Ventura’s renowned Spencer Makenzie’s. The band once had their travel calendars booked nearly year-round, panning their own DIY shows and nabbing tour slots with bands like jokesters Bowling For Soup.

Sometimes real life takes priority though – bills and families, y’know. But that’s not going to stop these guys from making music. Far from it. Fresh out of the studio, with new tracks to spare, the band hit up an outdoor stage at the Fifth Annual Citrus Classic Balloon Festival in Santa Paula, CA this July.

The Citrus Classic Balloon Festival brings together music, vendors, and a pretty a nifty car show on the outskirts of Santa Paula. Not to mention the highlight of the whole shindig, the hot air balloons! “Are you ready to see some balloons tonight??” AOF vocalist Chris Jay hyped up the crowd, as if he were introducing a headlining band.

Their set was followed by the Balloon Glow, where the hot air balloons were inflated and illuminated on the nighttime horizon. Families gathered around with cameras and funnel cakes to enjoy the fun.

Even so, Army of Freshmen weren’t about to lay down and let the balloons overshadow their return to the all-ages audience of Ventura County. The band were full of all their usual antics, and new drummer Jimmy Schlachter was all smiles. He may be relatively new to the AOF crew, but he blended seamlessly with the veteran band members.

The last song of the band’s set, a new track off the upcoming CD Happy To Be Alive, was performed with Chris Jay trapped in a Bubble Roller. Bubble Rollers are basically giant hamster balls for humans, set in water. Now try and keep your balance in one of those while singing. Definitely not easy, but totally worth the laughs. 

Maybe a hot air balloon festival isn’t the first place you’d go to check out the best of local bands but, sometimes, it might be just where you’ll find them. And if all else fails, at least you can check out the hot air balloons and sample some local eats.


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