Sweat, beer, and Mohawks. What more could you ask for? Festivals that are specifically devoted to punk rock are few and far between, but this year’s Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival gave thousands of punks their music fix straight from Las Vegas, Nevada. The festival was split into three day shows over Memorial Day weekend but also had plenty of separate club shows, a punk rock film festival, and punk rock pool parties that popped up around the city, official or not. For the attendees that were actual bowlers or in the poker competition the music was just an added bonus. With bands like SNFU, NOFX, OFF!, and The Adicts on this year’s bill it was easy to see why punks flocked to Las Vegas from around the globe. The number of fans who traveled to this festival was staggering and far outnumbered the number of locals, but no one can complain about hosting the festival in Las Vegas where there’s almost no such thing as last call.
This year the Stern brothers booked repeat offenders from previous iterations of the festival to headline each of the three-day shows. Cock Sparrer (2008), The Decendents (2011), and NOFX (2012, 2010) all packed the festival grounds for one awesome weekend, but some of the show’s most memorable moments happened before the sun set. As fans filtered into the giant open parking lot and crossed the blacktop towards the stage everyone was ready for a show of historic proportions. Luckily each of the three days brought something unique to the table and kept fans coming back.
Punk Rock Bowling promised 3 days of intense punk rock and day one was far from a disappointment. Some of the highlights of the festival’s first day included British rockers Angelic Upstarts and The Anti-Nowhere League. These two acts packed raw aggression and that English flair Oi fans have come to love throughout their entire set. Both lead singers were more than just engaging with the crowd. If they weren’t running around on stage they were telling jokes or making sure the audience was still echoing their lyrics louder than any lead singer could do alone.
By the end of the day, the temperature finally dropped and the night’s headliner Cock Sparrer hit the stage with rain drenching the monitors. These guys have been spreading their hardcore Oi sound across the country since the early ’70s and amassed quite a following. As the crowd got drenched they shouted lyrics to hits like “Take Em’ All”, “I Got Your Number”, and “We’re Coming Back”. Their most recent appearance trumped the other two headliners in terms of onstage energy by far and definitely got the crowd moving along with them. It was obvious the Stern brothers made the right choice of asking Cock Sparrer to make a second appearance at Punk Rock Bowling, and personally, this writer is hoping for a third.
Las Vegas locals kicked off each of the day shows, but The Objex on day two was the most interesting and entertaining. Felony Melony’s crazy “costume” didn’t involve pants, but her flexible acrobatics on the stage and barricade made a practical and scandalous fashion statement. Couple that with her two foot Mohawk and the band’s obscene lyrics and you’ve got all the ingredients for an old school punk rock show.
Some other awesome acts you might have missed early on during day two were Masked Intruder and SNFU. These back to back bands were polar opposites, but the crowd seemed to enjoy them both. With four band mates form Wisconsin sporting neon ski masks and their own personal onstage cop, Masked Intruder makes every one of their shows a punk rock party. These newbies combine pop punk lyrics with 50’s style doo wop beats and cover it all with a good old fashioned punk rock attitude. The mix surprisingly works and had punks young and old rocking out and showing off dance moves across the festival grounds similar to the phenomenon that takes place during every show with The Adicts on the bill.
SNFU (Society’s No Fucking Use) on the other hand had beards that must have taken years to grow. These seasoned punk rock vitrines have fine-tuned their set down to a tee, and are still full of energy. The band runs around stage despite their older appearance giving younger bands a run for their money from a mobility standpoint.
Speaking of seasoned vetrans, The Descendents headlined day two of Punk Rock Bowling and even pulled Rise Against guitarist Zack Blair onstage to help out with “Suburban Home”. Being one of the most influential punk bands who are still performing, the stage and crowd were packed with friends and fans who just couldn’t get enough of Milo and the gang. The band breezed through their hour-long set with hits like “I’m The One”, “Hope” and “Mug” opening circle pits across the venue and sending crowd surfers hurdling over the barricade. There couldn’t have been a better band to fill the main spot at this fantastic event.
Day three sent everyone running for the shade when temperatures rose above 100 degrees. Luckily all girl band Bad Cop/ Bad Cop had plenty of super soakers and condom balloons to keep the audience soaked during their set. The last day also included the transgender sensation Against Me! And New York City’s Leftover Crack. These two acts both stuck out in very different ways.
Leftover Crack spouted off about killing cops and completely riled up the crowd. The audience was far more aggressive during their set than any other band throughout the festival and the band even egged on the security guards lining the stage, but almost as soon as it started Against Me! Hit the stage and all bets were off.
Similar to Face To Face on the previous day, Against Me!’s vocalist Laura Jane Grace appealed to a softer and less violent side of punk. By the third song, the moshing stopped and everyone took a chill pill for the most part. Some of the crowd backed off for the headliner, but you could still hear the audience echoing back every word. Their set was soft, sweet, and to the point, but the crowd rushed forward after a day of waiting for the disputed kings of punk rock NOFX.
Alright, let’s kill the elephant in the room. Yes, punk rock legends NOFX headlined Punk Rock Bowling, again. Some fans may have been turned off by the fact NOFX is a band that spends more time with witty banter than singing songs, but that’s no reason to criticize them. If Fat Mike, Bass/Vocals, hasn’t offended you, your mother, your cousin, and your whole extended family yet you probably weren’t listening close enough. The fact that NOFX hates on everyone equally makes their stage act more than just a gimmick. After seeing NOFX countless times this writer is pleased to say the band seemed soberer during their set at Punk Rock Bowling than any other performance making their commentary even funnier than normal.
Despite the blistering heat and hour of rain the three-day marathon known as Punk Rock Bowling was more than enjoyable. The sea of Mohawks, leather jackets, and bondage belts all lent itself to the show’s old school atmosphere. Punk Rock Bowling threw several sub-genres of punk together for a fantastic festival for those lucky enough to attend. By the Barricade will definitely be heading back to Las Vegas, Nevada for Punk Rock Bowling 2015!