Punk Rock Bowling has come and gone, but now it’s time to reflect on what we didn’t know we needed as much as we did. Up until I was in the festival, I thought there was a chance that it could still not happen. But it did.
The first day we got downtown to check into the Golden Nugget and relax before heading to our first club show of the weekend.
We walk to the Place on 7th and get there early, but doors don’t open. Music starts. Line isn’t moving. We miss the Besmirchers, which is the only reason I bought a ticket for the show in the first place. So far, PRB is off to a bad start.
Next up is old school locals MIA, who weren’t bad, but aren’t my regular listening. Chicago’s Pegboy was up next; another band I knew nothing about, but was absolutely won over by. By now my legs are exploding, since I’ve been sitting on my ass for almost two years.
FEAR was next. Lee Ving still has pipes for someone of his age. It felt like a super short set as they ended almost 30 minutes before the scheduled end time.
Now it was time to hobble back to Fremont for whatever I get into. That night, it was sleep.
Day 1 Festival.
I woke up at 1:00 pm and missed the pool parties because the blinds in my room made me think it was still night. So, we wandered down to get food and walk by Circle Bar in the Nugget when I hear someone call my name. Turn around and it’s Josh Langford from Starving Wolves. Happy to see my friend as he is one of the first I know will make it to town. Ask what’s up and when are we going to the fest. Grab food to get there in time for Pears. Look to my left and it’s Zach Quinn sitting next to us. Hugs happen. Off to the fest.
We made it in time for Pears. They killed it as usual. Next up was Dillinger Four, who aren’t really my style but sounded great and got me into it. Following them was The Dwarves, whose always hilariously raunchy set has always been lots of fun.
Next up was The Mezingers. Never been a huge fan, but they sounded well enough live to catch my attention for a bit. We passed on The Queers because I don’t support bands who lick the boot and shit all over protestors or make racist comments on their social media.
Frank Turner was up next, and acoustic at that. He was the best set of the day until headliner, The Descendents. They played a mix of songs that flowed so differently than any other time I’ve seen them. However, it felt like they got cut short because of no “Suburban Home”.
Day 1 Club Show.
Back to the hotel to die for a bit before heading down to catch The Suicide Machines. We got there in time to catch Strung Out play a few singalongs before heading out back to smoke. It should be noted that the two venues were sharing outdoor patios. So, everyone from the Guttermouth show was coming into the Suicide Machines show, which made it uncomfortably tight.
Somehow we ended up behind the barricade and don’t get told to leave. So, I watch the show from there. It was the first time I had seen The Suicide Machines in about 17 years, and it did not disappoint. Though, I did blow my eardrums out.
Day 2 Festival.
Woke up late again. Tried to hit an AA meeting and hang with sober punks like me, but I think I missed it. Go outside to smoke and get coffee. Back to the room to chill until it is time to go to the Fest.
Day 2 was stacked with me kicking it off with Las Vegas’ own Suburban Resistance with local legend Tom Urban. I caught some of the Side Eyes who were absolutely killing it.
Back to the room and back in time to catch Youth Brigade, minus Mark Stern, who stayed home to have a baby; though none of them know how he got pregnant. Legs hurt already.
I stayed at the main stage for Leftover Crack, who you wouldn’t expect it from, but delivered a huge gut punch and made everyone sad with their Alec Baillie tribute.
Next up was the Aggrolites with their reggae sounds, which kept everyone dancing or at least dancing in their head. Streetlight Manifesto followed and were great and all, but they didn’t play a single one of my favorites, which left me disappointed. Headliner Circle Jerks were next. Something was up. Keith never talked to the crowd but once. He barely even moved from the spot he was at on stage all night. They sounded great, but I expected more.
Off to Citrus for Laura Jane Grace.
Laura Jane Grace.
Got to the pool in time for A Giant Dog and promptly had a panic attack and almost left in the middle of Drakulas; that’s Mike Wiebe from the Riverboat Gamblers’ other project. They are really good, in case you didn’t know.
Laura Jane Grace was up next and she was fantastic as always; mixing a blend of Against Me songs and her solo stuff. It felt rushed though, as she didn’t come back to play any encores and ended with enough time to fit in maybe 5 more songs. The crowd waited, but she never came back. So, we went back into the night feeling both good, but with wonder.
Late night hangs and food. Other stuff after, but it’s stuff you needed to be there to experience, it’s just not the same in text.
Day 3 Festival.
I finally woke up early enough for a pool show; Dr. Know fronted by Brandon Cruz. They had the crowd going crazy and even ended their set with a song they said they hadn’t played in 15 year. Fist Fuck. Friends all around. This was the setting for the final day. The end of the marathon. Time to pick up the pace.
On to the Fest.
Made it down for Bridge City Sinners, folk punk from Portland, playing an amazing set. Didn’t get to see the Schizophonics because Punk Rock Bowling is the type of fest where you run into friends you haven’t seen in 15 years and have an hour long conversation.
Next up was the illustrious Millions of Dead Cops or whatever the acronym may mean at any given moment. Dave, Al, and company led the crowd through all the MDC classics.
ALL was up next. It was ALL Chad on vocals and a special set for me personally because it was crossing off the bucket list of seeing All/Descendents in the same weekend. I’m sure it was bucket list for others because it had a special vibe.
The Riverboat Gamblers were next, fronted by Mike Wiebe. You never know what to expect from their set, let alone when you get a guest like Dave Rodriguez from Krum Bums/Starving Wolves. It was a rad set to see.
Murder City Devils were to follow and perfect for the sun setting. The organ sounds set a feeling for the time they were up there and made it seem like maybe the world was about to fucking end.
Back to the side stage for The English Beat. I can’t say anymore than it was a dance party. If you want a dance party in the middle of PRB, that was it. The biggest one of the entire weekend.
Close to the End.
Next up was Lunachicks. It was the classic Riot Grrl band’s 3rd or 4th show in like 20 years, and it was everything I expected and more. It damn near stole the whole festival in my opinion.
Now it was time.
I never thought I’d get to see Devo.
I never thought I’d be so stoked to see Devo.
They fucking killed it. Banger after banger. Costume changes. Weird videos. It was a SHOW. Put a professional band on a punk festival and it is fucking wild.
Feeling it in my feet, bad. I need to get to the club show so I call an Uber. Got in just in time for the end of local friends Soldiers of Destruction, whose last few songs killed it.
Up next was Starving Wolves ,and I can write a book here, but I’ll just say I love these guys. They are all great people. Their set was amazing. Their new song got me pumped the fuck up; and who knew Zach Volta rocked a fucking horn like that?
Defiance was up next. Angry and all the way from Portland. They slapped through song after song with the crowd singing and circle pits spinning the whole time.
Finally, the band of the weekend; The Unseen. All the way from Boston, they guys only play a show or two a year, and I almost never miss them. One of my favorite bands since I was a kid. They played pretty much every song I wanted to hear, but still, me being me, could’ve gone another hour. It was nothing but friends and hangs at that show, and it was the best part of the whole weekend.
Time to Go.
The night hangs at the Circle Bar were good. The final night is the best one, but still most of my friends aren’t here? Did they grow up? What kind of shit is this? I’m sober, but I still want to do hoodrat shit with my friends until 6:00 am.
I finally go to bed. There’s a day left. The Festival is over so I wander around Fremont Street looking for the last punks straggling around. I end up sitting at a slot machine with my drunk friend until 7:00 am talking. Back to the room. Pack it up. It’s time for the walk of shame home to die.
Thank you, Punk Rock Bowling.
I needed this. I didn’t know how much I needed it until I was there, but I needed it.
Until next year.