In the words of Punk Rock Bowling’s brochure “It’s that time again. Lace up your boots, spike your hair, ditch your work, and F— the rest! Get ready for another edition of the biggest punk rock party of the year!” The team behind Punk Rock Bowling has worked hard for the last 17 years to create an environment where tattoos, mohawks, and studs are the norm. Their efforts paid off this Memorial Day weekend as punks flocked Las Vegas, Nevada for the 17th annual Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival. Between movie screenings, art exhibits, pool parties, club shows, and actual bowling; Punk Rock Bowling spread far outside festival grounds and engulfed a huge chunk of downtown Las Vegas.
The amount of punk rock royalty walking around Vegas was absolutely staggering. Punk Rock Bowling almost seemed more like a convention than a concert. The fact festival goers could walk down Fremont street and hear Me First And The Gimmie Gimmies, 7 Seconds, GBH, The Aggrocats, and The Humpers all at the same time really goes to show has large the festival has become.
Heavy hitters like Rancid, Refused, and Dropkick Murphys all graced the stage throughout the three day weekend, but a true highlight was how international the festival has become. Las Vegas locals Sounds Of Threat, Eliza Battle, and Battle Born kicked off the three day shows respectively; but they shared the stage with many bands from outside the United States. Bombshell Rocks and Refused from Sweden, Turbonegro from Norway and England, I.R.A from Columbia and The Mahones from Ireland all made their way onto the festival bill.
Saturday (Day one) was full of diverse bands that throw their own style onto a formulated genre. This was the only day to sell out and it was easy to see why. After Anti-Flag, TSOL, Sick Of It All, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones graced the stage; Rancid performed …And Out Come The Wolves in its entirety.
The first day of Punk rock bowling had plenty of pleasant surprises. Some memorable highlights were when Joey Briggs (Vocalist of The Briggs) Joined Success! for a Stiff Little Fingers cover. Amidst fan favorites Anti-Flag performed “Brandenburg Gate” off their latest release American Spring before they sprung into a cover of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Or when TSOL invited an entire family onstage in the middle of their politically charged set once they discovered it was a young fan at the barricade’s first show. Possibly the most unexpected surprise was the weather. Temperatures surpassing 100 degrees have become somewhat iconic at Punk Rock bowling but luckily clouds kept everyone’s mohawks from melting.
Hearing arguably Rancid’s most popular album …And Out Come The Wolves from front to back was a rare treat, but also included most of the band’s setlist staples. The treat was fantastic for die hard fans, and left plenty for the Rancid newbie to enjoy. Fans also got a taste of other albums with their encore. “Radio”, “Nihilism”, “Honor Is All We Know”, “Tenderloin, and “Fall Back Down” all made it onto the tail end of the setlist.
As Sunday (Day two) began hungover fans mosied over to the festival grounds early in the afternoon. Saturday quickly picked up momentum when Pears hit the stage. Vocalist Zach Quinn jumped all over the stage and belted lyrics. Pears blew through each of their short songs in what seemed like no time at all before The Muffs took the stage for a set full of sarcasm and self-proclaimed brand of “obnoxious pop”. Pears guitarist Brian Pretus even hopped onstage to propose to his girlfriend before The Muffs finished with a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids In America”
A Wilhelm Scream quickly kicked Saturday back into the hardcore genre with fast finger fretting and even faster lyrics before Jello Biafra & Guantanamo School of Medicine took the stage. As the ex Dead Kennedys vocalist launched into a politically charged rant he segwayed into DK anthems “California Uber Alles”, “Nazi Punks F— Off”, and “Holiday In Cambodia” amidst actual releases like “Brown Lipstick Parade”.
Turbonegro were next on the bill and seemed to have the biggest cult following of the day as fans clad in denim vests and sailor hats never ceased to appear. Motor City Devils even paid homage to Turbonegro by preforming “Hey Sailor” in their honor before scattered showers and a short lighting spout forced the festival to go off the grid for about half an hour.
After surviving the day’s bipolar weather fans were more than ready for festival headliners Refused. A sigh of relief brushed over the crowd when everyone discovered their set was not cut by the previous lighting storm. Refused seamlessly transitioned between old and new tracks with an abundance of expression and vibrant and ever-changing lighting. Fans got to hear “Francafrique”, “Freedom” and “Elektra” off their upcoming album alongside fan favorites like “New Noise”and “Liberation Frequency”
Monday (Day 3) was by far the hottest, but still a great way to end the three day marathon. Dropkick Murphys were slated to perform Do Or Die in its entirety, but not before several punk legends took the stage. Agnostic Front, Swingin’ Utters, and The Business, made the bill just to name a few.
Dubliner’s The Mahones were a supreme strand out. Dressed in a black leotard and tights and armed with an accordion Katie Kaboom acrobatically pranced around the stage through Irish punk songs. Mahones fans were in for a treat. After finishing their set early The Mahones threw in a few more encores before The Business were up. Swingin’ Utters made the best of a somber situation and played their heart out for their drummer Greg McEntee’s last show. It cast a somber light over the bands whole set, but was quite a bang to walk out on before Agnostic Front and Conflicts took the stage.
Once the lights dimmed and the sound of bagpipes filled the air the entire crowd went wild. Crowd surfers flew over the barricade one after another as the Dropkick Murphys played all the way through Do Or Die. As the album came to a close fans stormed the stage in classic fashion before the band came back out for an encore. If the entirety of Do or Die wasn’t enough, the Dropkick Murphys sprang straight into an encore of “Iron Chin” with Agnostic Front vocalist Roger Miret. They also covered “Taking Care of Business” before finishing their set with a few other fan favorites including “Rose Tattoo”.
Overall Punk Rock Bowling was a phenomenal get together of bands that define the punk genre and had enough new faces and surprises to keep things interesting. Some of the club shows were so stacked with punk rock legends that the day shows seemed a bit lacking, but if you can handle the heat and don’t get scared off by a short lighting storm Punk Rock Bowling 2016 is something worth traveling for. The festival seems to get bigger each year and is sure to be more than just noteworthy. By the Barricade recommends Punk Rock Bowling to any punk fan willing to brave the heat.