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DS Photo Gallery: The Flatliners, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale and Dan Webb and The Spiders (Cambridge, MA)

If you’ve read any of the online comment sections surrounding the release of Inviting Light, the latest full-length from The Flatlinersyou’re no doubt aware that critics of the band feel they lost a couple miles (or is it kilometers?) per hour off their collective fastball. Let this be yet another lesson to you as to why it is never, ever a good idea to read the comments; let it be known that The Flats still slay.

As the northeastern US leg of their Inviting Light tour wound down, the band found themselves headlining a sold-out Sunday night show at the legendary Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The band kicked off their hour-plus set with “Mammals,” the slow burning lead track from Inviting Light, and seemed to have the capacity crowd hooked from the first notes. I’m not entirely certain if the band finds that reassuring, but I know that I do personally, given the amount of love I have for Inviting Light and the prevailing chatter about the band’s first non-Fat Wreck release in a decade. The quarters at upstairs at the Middle East are cramped and hot and sweaty when the venue is sold out, but the crowd was in high-energy motion by the time the crescendo built to the first chorus in “Mammals,” resulting in the first stage dive attempt of the night (albeit not an overly successful one).

The band tore through a seventeen-song main set that was pretty equally representative of their recent catalog, with four or five songs each from Inviting Light and it’s two immediate predecessors (2010’s Cavalcade and 2013’s Dead Language), though the two song encore consisting of “He Was A Jazzman” and “Shithawks” ultimately tipped the scales in Cavalcade‘s favor. Frontman Chris Cresswell’s voice sounds just as snarly and aggressive as ever when he wants it to, though he’s really pushed himself as a singer in more recent years. A lot of times in the live show of a rather dynamic band, you’ll find the bass player locked in to his spot at the drummer’s side allowing whoever is singing or playing guitar (or both) to roam and wander, both literally and musically. That’s not the case in The Flatliners, as the rhythm section of Paul Ramirez (drums) and Jon Darbey (bass) exhibit little in the way of interplay on stage yet remain more musically locked in the vast majority of their counterparts, making it look both infectiously fun and frustratingly easy in the process. Cresswell and lead guitarist Scott Brigham have grown immensely as guitar players over the years as their sonic palettes have expanded, and they too seem to bounce off each other in effortless, symbiotic ways. Much has been made of this being the year that not only do all the band’s members turn thirty (which boggles the mind) but the year that the band itself turns fifteen (which causes the mind to explode, Scanners-style), giving the band a well-earned reputation as valiant road warriors. If Sunday’s show — and specifically the crowd reaction — at the Middle East was any indication, they may actually just be hitting their stride now, which is a pretty inspiring thing.

Direct support on this entire tour was provided by Pkew Pkew Pkew and Red City Radio‘s Garrett Dale, the latter doing the solo troubadour thing. We’ve been big fans of the four handsome Torontonian Pkew fellas since their self-titled debut album was initially released a year ago on Royal Mountain Records a year ago, so news not only of their spot opening for the Flatliners but the more recent announcement of their having signed with SideOneDummy Records has made for pretty exciting times. The band’s live show is just as fun and high energy and handsome (did we mention handsome?) as their album is, and even though a lot of the songs might be straight-forward jams about hanging out and drinking beers, don’t let that fool you; these dudes can really, seriously play. There’s a camaraderie between not only the individual band’s members but really between all the members of this two-week East Coast jaunt, with the Flats, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Garrett Dale making frequent references to the good times they’ve been having on this trip. Dale is another classic example of not letting the occasionally straight-forward nature of the songwriting fool you; in the solo format, he’s got a gravelly voice that is full of the kind of heartbreaking soul guys like Chuck Ragan and Tom Waits have made their hallmarks, and it forces you to take notice whether he’s singing about lost love or seeing a dead body or, well, the devil’s weed.

Local support on this show came by way of Dan Webb and The Spiders.  DWaTS are one of those local bands that I’m sure most scenes might have that really should be bigger than they are. The four-piece rock-and-roll band plays hard and fast, a not-quite-punk-rock but also not-quite-90’s-alternative vibe that cuts across genres and makes them a perfect fit on a fairly wide range of bills, especially on one as varied as this particular show. One of these days, DWaTS…one of these days…

Check out our full photo gallery below. While you’re at it, the Flatties recently announced a set of West Coast tour dates around the US and Canada. They will be accompanied by The Smith Street Band, up until It’s Not Dead Fest. They are also adding a few dates to the end of July, in Canada, supporting Sum 41Check out all the dates here



DS Photo Gallery: Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Barb Wire Dolls and The Ataris at Vans Warped Tour in Mansfield

There are a lot of descriptors you can use to help quantify the experience that is the Vans Warped Tour circa 2017, but perhaps the most accurate — and non-judgmental — is “total sensory overload.” Now in its 23rd year and counting, the annual touring punk rock summer camp has morphed into a monster: ten hours and seven stages spread across numerous acres playing host to seventy-ish hard and loud and fast bands, each with their own brightly colored merchandise tent selling the entire gamut of logo-adorned paraphernalia (t-shirts and hats and shoes and belt buckles and skateboard decks and flags and rubber ducks and on and on and on), and that’s before you factor in the food vendors and the independent merchandise vendors and the gigantic Slip ‘N Slide. All of the above is also before you account for the weather, which typically qualifies as hot and steamy but on occasions like last week in Mansfield, Massachusetts, consisted of rain that was certifiably torrential.

The rains came early and often with the sky opening up almost exactly as the gates to the Xfinity Centre  amphitheater grounds did the same. Thunder and lightening made repeat appearances as well, causing a few temporary shutdowns in the action, pushing set times back for most of the day. While bottled water is typically one of the most sought-after commodities at Warped Tour stops, on this particular day it was $5 plastic rain ponchos, though any expectation that they were going to keep their users completely dry was obviously a mistake. Still, it was something, especially if you weren’t one of the masses lucky enough to be in attendance primarily for bands playing under the covered portion of the venue and were relegated to the side stages in the parking lot areas. As you can probably surmise from this discussion, we were there for the parking lot stages.

Having focused on some of the older school bands last weekend in Hartford, we turned our attention elsewhere during the deluge in Mansfield, namely to Bad Cop/Bad Cop. We had missed the Fat Wreck Chords foursome at the Connecticut stop due to the timing of their pre-noontime set, so we made it a point to be present this time. The band filled their eight-song set with tracks from their two full-length albums (2015’s Not Sorry and last month’s stellar Warriors) and played with such a blistering pace that they were able to squeeze a ninth song (“Asshole,” from their 2014 Boss Lady EP) into their scheduled twenty-five-minute set. Say what you will about the concept of divine intervention, but clearly something was at play, as shortly after the band took the stage, the rain not only stopped, but the sky cleared up enough to allow the sun to make a welcome appearance that lasted, all told, about an hour, a welcome mid-afternoon respite for sure.

The weather conditions made photography more than a little bit of a difficult proposition for our lowly-trained camera jockey (read as: me). Still, after having just kinda given in to the rain at one point, we were able to catch all or part of super enjoyable sets from Alestorm (a pirate-themed enjoyably gimmicky schtick band), the mighty Valient Thorr, Municipal Waste, Sonic Boom Six and The White Noise. We also shot…and maybe fell in love with…five-piece Greek rock and roll band Barb Wire Dolls. Frontwoman Isis Queen is one of the more enigmatic, quintessentially “rock star” performers we caught during our two Warped Tour stops, with a five-piece band (rounded out by bassist Iriel Blaque, Pyn Doll and Remmington on guitar and Krash Doll on drums) that remained especially tight and high energy in spite of the conditions.

We also caught a spirited set by The Ataris. We’ll be honest; aside from founding frontman Kris Roe, we can’t honestly say we know who’s actually, officially, in The Ataris at this point in 2017. They’ve sorta become Goldfinger or the touring version of MxPx in that regard. But they’re good; they’re real good. The band’s set, particularly tracks like “Your Boyfriend” and, of course, their set-closing cover of “The Boys of Summer” was well received by the soggy masses, and Roe and company promised to play a much longer, higher energy set when they return to the area with The Queers later this summer.

Check out our full photo gallery below.



DS Photo Gallery: Strung Out, Street Dogs, The Adolescents and The Alarm represent the old school at Warped Tour (Hartford, CT)

Much has been made of the backseat that traditional punk rock took for quite a while at the annual Vans Warped Tour. Over the last handful of years, however, those old-school punk rock vibes have been slowly returning, albeit on a bit of a smaller scale. While bands like Attila and I Prevail and Beartooth seem to represent the lion’s share of the sounds emanating from most of the 2017 edition of the Warped Tour’s seven stages, there is a distinct presence of bands from what I guess we’d call an older school of more straight-forward street punk and hardcore and rock and roll bands. Hatebreed, Sick Of It All, Valient Thorr, Municipal Waste, Anti-Flag and GWAR have all been drawing fairly sizable crowds night-in and night out in recent days. Dying Scene took in the Hartford stop on the Vans Warped Tour last weekend, and caught a couple of our favorite throwback heavyweights.

Boston working-class heroes Street Dogs played a late-afternoon set on the Skullcandy stage, set on one of the outdoor parking lot areas at Hartford’s Xfinity Theater. If you’re a veteran of Warped Tours in the late 90s – early 00s, you’re no doubt familiar the concept at the outdoor stages; bands alternate playing on what are basically oversized trailers placed side by side, resulting in a constant barrage of roughly twenty-five minute sets. That means you’re not going to hear an awful lot deep cuts, although Street Dogs, themselves veterans of three prior Warped Tours, do an admirable job of keeping things interesting. The set on this particular day kicked off with personal favorite of mine “In Defense Of Dorchester” and threw fan favorites like “Back To The World,” “Punk Rock And Roll,” and “Not Without A Purpose” into the mix. Frontman Mike McColgan spent at least half the set on the barricade, interacting personally with a lot of the band’s notoriously die-hard, blue collar fans. The “new lineup” consisting of longtime bassist Johnny Rioux and more recent adds Lenny Lashley and Matt Pruitt on guitar and Pete Sosa on drums) have actually been plugging away for four years now, and have finally got some new music due out before long. That’s a good thing, as the band’s trademark rallying cries are much needed in times like these.

LA punk veterans Strung Out played an early afternoon set on one of the two side-by-side stages inside the venue’s amphitheater. I will say that when the Warped Tour venues started to change a bunch of years ago and started to center, at least in this part of the country, around amphitheater settings, I and others were more than a little skeptical. But I’ll tell you what – it’s actually pretty cool having the stage split in half and allowing large crowds to stay out of the heat and/or other imposing weather elements. Like with Street Dogs, it’s tough for a band like Strung Out to adequately represent their catalog in a twenty-five minute set, but songs like “Too Close To See” from 1998’s seminal album Twisted By Design and “The Animal and the Machine” from their latest album, 2015’s Transmission.Alpha.Delta do a pretty adequate job. Frontman Jason Cruz remains one of the defining voices in the genre, and guitarists Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos continue to shred blistering, metal-infused riffs over lock-tight rhythm section Jordan Burns (drums) and Chris Aiken (bass), and no member off the quintet stays in one place for very long, making for a tightly packed, high energy set.

Representing the even older school on one of the amphitheater stages for back-to-back sets were The Alarm and the legendary Adolescents. The former, if you’re not familiar, are a seminal early-80s new wave band from Wales who have been plugging away in some form of another ever since. The brainchild of Mike Peters (also co-founder of the Love Hope Strength Foundation, which you should be familiar with), The Alarm played to a modest crowd that consisted, as you might imagine, of older fans who were very well aware of the band’s legacy, singing along with every word to tracks like “Sixty Eight Guns.” The Adolescents, who themselves are veterans of their fair share of Warped Tours since reforming fifteen-or-so years ago, played one of those sets that the other bands took notice of. Unarguably one of the coolest parts of Warped Tour is watching the camaraderie amongst the bands on the bill, and members of Street Dogs, Strung Out and Bad Cop/Bad Cop were among those present around the stage as living legends Tony Reflex and Steve Soto and the gang (Dan Root and Ian Taylor on guitar, Dave Cambra on drums) went to work. Again a case where members have changed but the core have remained just as steady as ever. Let’s face it: Tony Reflex/Cadena/Adolescent and Steve Soto are legends for a reason (and not only because their self-titled debut has been a desert island album since before most of our readers were born!).

Check out our full photo gallery below.

 



DS Exclusive: Debt Neglector Premieres Music Video For Title Track From Upcoming LP Atomicland

Orlando, Florida’s Debt Neglector has sign with Smartpunk Records just in time to release their debut full length which is out on August 18th. From what we’ve heard this one’s gonna rip. Our suspicions were reinforced when we found out that the twelve track LP clocks in just under thirty minutes! Since we’ve still got a few weeks ’til the album drops, we begged the guys to let us premiere the debut video from the impending AtomiclandWhen asked about the video for the title track, Guitarist Chris Pfister told us “We try to maintain as much of a DIY, in-house mentality as much as possible. Between the four of us we bring a pretty well balanced mix of skill sets integral to being in a band: from art to merch and video production. Zach (Anderson, drums) is the video guy, he made this himself, with the help of our good friend Michael Eliassen and bunch of free stock video clips from the Cold War.” Point your peepers at Zach’s masterpiece below.

FFO: Descendents, Bad Religion, Dead To Me



69 Enfermos (Brazilian skate punk) announce European tour

Brazil’s 69 Enfermos will be touring Europe this summer. The tour kicks off next Monday in Rome. After a few days in Italy, they’ll make their way through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia. They’re promoting their newest album, “A Place to Call Home” on Morning Wood Records.

Check out the dates below!



DS Exclusive: Chris Cresswell on “Inviting Light,” leaving Fat Wreck Chords and more

Following on the heels of the widely-accepted shitstorm that was 2016, you most certainly don’t need a punk rock news website to break to you the fact that 2017 has been a bit of a weird year. In many ways, both nationally and globally, there seem to be a lot of previously uncharted waters being navigated socially, politically, environmentally, and on and on and on. Yet just because waters are uncharted doesn’t mean that they have to be inherently bad. Enter The Flatliners. Weird though it might be, the calendar turning to 2017 kicked off a series of fairly important milestones in the history of the long-running Canadian punk rock quartet. All four members turn thirty this year. The band itself turns fifteen, and their highly-regarded Fat Wreck Chords debut, The Great Awake, turns ten.

2017 also marked the release of the band’s fifth full-length album, Inviting Light, which as you’re probably well-enough aware by now, marks a bit of a departure for a couple noteworthy reasons: while it still contains its fair share of snarling, aggressive moments, is easily the most anthemic “rock-and-roll” album in the band’s catalog. IT also marks their first album on a new label, Rise Records, after a decade on pioneering punk rock label Fat Wreck Chords.

Dying Scene chatted over the phone with Flatliners frontman Chris Cresswell just before the band left for their current eastern US tour with new SideOneDummy signee Pkew Pkew Pkew and Red City Radio‘s Garrett Dale. Cresswell is honest and engaging, even over the telephone; his frequently digressing rapid fire delivery could fool one into believing he comes from Boston Irish stock (were it not for the fact that he’s charming and humble and self-aware and so obviously Canadian). Cresswell and his Flatliners brothers are very aware that this is a big year for them, and they’re very aware of what some of the grumblings on the message boards and comment sections of the internet might opine about their band’s recent direction. They also come across as okay with all of it. “I’m always curious what people think when we put something new out, for sure, and sometimes that’s difficult,” says Cresswell. He’s also well aware that, while paying attention to some of the critics is okay, there has to be a bit of a balance. “You can’t get caught up in what other people think, because if that were the case, bands would make the same record over and over again. Filmmakers would make the same movie over and over again. The arts would suffer if you always listened to your critics. It’s not a great idea to shut them out either, because it is nice to have that push to always be better no matter what you’re doing in life.”

Due in part to the landmark nature of this particular year within the band, Cresswell and company (the band’s lineup of Scott Brigham on lead guitar, Jon Darbey on bass and Paul Ramirez on drums remains unchanged for the duration) figured it was as good a time as any to mix things up. “You do the same thing for fifteen years as a band, and ten years with the same label, even if it’s all good, there’s a part of you that wonders if there’s something else you could try,” says Cresswell. He’s more than aware of how the move from Fat to Rise Records might look, particularly as Inviting Light has a bit of a different sound. None of those rumblings are true. This is 2017; it’s not about money, it’s not about their old label declining to put it out or their new label influencing their sound. It’s really just about branching out as a band. “When you grow up on fucking Fat Wreck Chords bands and then you become one and you are one for ten years and you reach a level of personal success and fulfillment that you never dreamed to be a reachable or realistic at all, it kind of inspires you to be like “this is cool…what do we do now?” and that kind of thing.

The band had fun — a lot of it — recording Inviting Light, and in spite of the extended space between albums (their last full length, Dead Language, was released four years ago) they actually recorded it fairly quickly, albeit in two separate chunks a year apart. Where Dead Language was recorded live in studio using only the band’s road gear, the Inviting Light sessions saw the band change things up in that avenue too. Drums and bass were still recorded live because, well, because that’s how Jon and Paul seem to groove the best. They initially “played everything live but we just kept the bass and drums, and when Paul and Jon lock up, it’s insane. It’s incredible. In the two sessions we did which were essentially a year apart, they did twenty songs in like four days!” When it came time to record guitars and vocals, however Cresswell and Brigham holed up in a new studio with new producers Peter Pablo and Derek Hoffman and got experimental, playing with tones and textures until dialing working sounds in and ripping through final takes.

The result, as you know by now, is different; more major chords, more melodic, more straight-forward, a little more dare-we-say optimistic, especially when compared to Dead Language. As you might imagine, there’s a reason for that. Says Cresswell: “Before this record, I was in a pretty shit place. If you listened to or read any of the lyrics to Dead Language, it’s pretty fucking bleak, and that’s why that record is so angry and has such heavy elements to it. I was going through a heavy time on a personal level. Nothing dangerous, but I was having a really hard time being away all the time.

Lyrically speaking, Cresswell has tended to paint a bit of an admittedly bleak picture. Even as a native of the Toronto area, living as a socially-aware human in the wake of last year’s US Presidential election has been bleak in-and-of itself. “There’s a lot of evil in the world, especially with what’s happened over the last couple years on a global scale.” We’ve all seen the think-pieces on how the age of Trump will at least inspire some good, angry punk rock, and we’ve already started to see aggressive, confrontational “punk” rock albums come out and tackle those issues head on. Though this may be counter-intuitive to a stereotypical punk rock ethic, maybe there are ways to attack the issue that are less in-your-face. Cresswell offers that maybe his band’s way of trying to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel — hence Inviting Light — can help some people through a bullshit time, though he acknowledges with a self-deprecating laugh how “super fucking noble” that concept sounds. “If you can be, even to a small population of people, somebody who can help them through a tough time, that’s sick! That’s what music did for me when I was a kid and it still does it for me today!

Reflecting on being away for weeks or months at a time has been an ongoing thing as Cresswell and the Flatliners round the corner on 30 years old, particularly when you’re as inward thinking as the frontman is. Any potential ego trips are balanced — and probably eliminated — by what Cresswell calls a “rabbit hole of a self-imposed guilt trip that’s usually at play in a lot of folks who tour a lot because it is a pretty self-serving thing that we do!” The older the band gets, the older their respective family members and close friendships get, meaning additional priorities and perspectives become factored into the increasingly difficult equation. Still, especially in the punk world, the pull of the road doesn’t go away just because you’re no longer in your twenties. “There’s this insatiable desire in us to just hit the road. For instance, if you play Chicago and no one fucking comes, you’re going to go back like three months later and play there again. Punk bands are the only bands that will keep going back and playing even if no one fucking comes out, because it’s just about the experiences of the road, and being away, and the story and just fucking living in a van for real!

While the runs might get a little shorter or more spread out, hitting the road is still very much what this whole thing is about for Cresswell and The Flatliners. So far, 2017 has seen the band already complete tours of Canada with bands like The Dirty Nil and, of course, Weezer, and Europe with their longtime buds in The Menzingers. The aforementioned tour with Pkew Pkew Pkew and Garrett Dale showcases just how varied the bands that fall under the umbrella of punk rock have become, in an inspiring way. Changes in the music industry landscape have equated to differing changes, and like many of us, Cresswell knows that when it comes to one band’s sound or one person’s musical interests, “your brain musically doesn’t have to stay in one lane. You can be into whatever you want to be into. I know today there’s a lot of pressure and social anxiety is through the roof and there’s a reason for it. Day to day, it can be a tough world to live in for a lot of people, you know? But where you should be able to find solitude is in the music you’re into if you’re a music fan. You shouldn’t have to worry about what other people think.”

Check out our full conversation below. There’s a lot of other ground covered, particularly surrounding the band’s decision to leave Fat Wreck Chords – and the yearlong process of actually leaving: “It felt like a break-up, man. It was so sad… I’m just happy that we were able to go about it in a way that everybody is still friends. There’s no bad blood fucking whatsoever.” Check out all of the Flatliners upcoming tour dates here.



Death Card (hardcore) premiere video for new song “Barking Irons” off upcoming album “Damage Swing”

Crank up the speakers and prepare to destroy your furniture. Tennessee hardcore act Death Card have just signed to Innerstrength Records for the release of their debut album “Damage Swing” and we’ve got a fresh cut off the album to prime your pumps. “Barking Irons” is premiering in the form of a money burning (literally) music video and you can check it out below.

Here’s what Chad the vocalist’s had to say about the tune:

“I was just trying to write something visceral about the lawlessness of the old days and maybe that nature is still dormant in all of us. Some are better at keeping it at bay or maybe not strong enough to act that way anymore but I think most of us are just waiting for the leash to slip.”

Damn straight, Chad! My leash slips a little more each time I listen to this track.

“Damage Swing” will be available July 21st. Pre-order it here!



DS Interview: Kevin Lyman on the return of the It’s Not Dead Festival

If you’re of a certain age and you’re even a casual hanger-on to the punk community train, you no doubt spent your fair share of hot, sweaty summer days  baking under the sun at a suburban fairgrounds or amphitheater parking lot for the touring punk rock summer camp that is the annual Warped Tour. Tastes changed over the years and the classic mid-1990s “EpiFat” sound started to have less and less of a presence atop the list of Warped Tour headliners, though there has been a bit of a resurgence in the last small handful of years.

And so it was with great fanfare two years ago that the lineup for the first-ever It’s Not Dead Fest was unveiled. The debut festival took place as a one-off in San Bernadino, California, featuring a veritable who’s who of punk rock heavyweights:  Bad Religion, Descendents, NOFX, Pennywise, Anti-FlagStrung Out, Lagwagon, The Vandals, Less Than Jake and on and on and on. So where did the idea of such an impressive event come from? None other than the brain of Warped Tour founder and consistent figurehead, Kevin Lyman. “(The idea first came up) about December, and I thought I really wanted to do something,” says Lyman in his traditional rapid-fire cadence. “I started putting it out there, and the first couple of days — trust me, I get impatient sometimes — but the first couple of days it didn’t really seem to be going anywhere.” It was upon reaching out to the show’s major acts that things started to come to fruition, and quickly. “And everyone got the idea of what I wanted to do, especially the artists: Jay Bentley, Fat Mike, Fletcher (Dragge), Bill Stevenson, they all kinda got it all at once. When they’re saying that they want to do something, the agents and the managers kinda have to listen. Once I got those four bands confirmed, the rest of it took about twenty-four hours.”

The premier event, by all accounts, was a resounding success, spawning hopes among the punk rock masses — or at least of people like me — of more for the following year. A full “It’s Not Dead” tour? A Riot Fest-ish event spread across a handful of deserving markets across the country? At the very least, a similar one-off It’s Not Dead in 2016? Sadly, the year came and went without a second installment, because 2016 wasn’t quite enough of an unmitigated Dumpster fire. Alas, 2017 has seen the reformation of It’s Not Dead thanks to…the inimitable Tim Armstrong? Here’s Lyman to explain: “I wanted Rancid to play on the first one and their schedule wouldn’t allow them too. But Tim came out and played…with The Interrupters and he played with somebody else that I’m trying to remember. He played with two bands that day, and he was hanging out all day, and I said to him “Tim, it was great having you here but I would have loved to have had Rancid.” And he said, “well, hopefully we’ll get to do it again.”

When news of the pending Rancid/Dropkick Murphys nationwide co-headlining tour started to break, it seemed the perfect time to pull the It’s Not Dead machine out of the moth balls. While the roster may not be as chock full of mid-90’s staples as its predecessor was, it’s got an equally compelling UK and underground-heavy vibe to it, thanks in large part to the throwback influences of both headliners. With the announcement of the Rancid, Dropkick Murphys double-bill, groundbreaking bands like The Buzzcocks and The Selecter were quick to sign up.  “That’s why I really started focusing on the UK bands this time,” Lyman says. “We got The Adicts and GBH. I don’t think, even in the days of Goldenvoice, we had all those bands on one bill together….As soon as people heard what I was doing, all of a sudden your inbox starts filling up! With AOL accounts, you know? Throwback email addresses — everyone that still has their AOL accounts you know are the old punks!”

This year’s It’s Not Dead Festival takes place in the same spot as the original: the Glen Helen Festival Grounds in San Bernadino, California. It’s a one-off again, and it’s going down August 26th this go around, just before Lyman departs to bring his daughter to college. And don’t worry, punk fans…it’s not the last go around for It’s Not Dead either. “Sometimes you have to do something for your soul,” says Lyman somewhat wistfully (at least for an older punk. “The first one kind of replenished my soul…so there will be a next one!” 

Head below to read our full conversation with Lyman. In the interest of full disclosure, we talked quite literally just before Lyman headed out for the first date of Warped Tour, so the recent Dickies controversy hadn’t taken off yet. Sorry. Anyway, scoop up tickets to It’s Not Dead 2 here!



The Grim (punk) premiere music video for “Cop Killer”

Legendary Simi Valley punk bandThe Grim have released a video for the title track off their new 7” Cop Killer, out now on Felony Records. Check it out below, along with some of the band’s upcoming tour dates.

This is the band’s first new material since 1988’s “Face Of Betrayal”. The 7” features 2 new Grim songs, Cop Killer, Cop Killer pt II and a LA’s Wasted Youth Cover song I Hate Life. The video was shot in LA at 5 star bar, Los Globos and in an East LA backyard punk party by Felony Films Felony Ron and Tali Monster.”

You can buy the 7” online here.



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero return to Boston! On a Boat! With Banditos! (6/26/17)

Longtime Boston-area fans of Lucero likely remember back to the band playing aboard a Boston Harbor cruise boat nearly a decade ago. By all accounts (yours truly was not in attendance), it was a bit of disaster, noteworthy in all the wrong reasons, not the least of which were a combination of space issues, technical difficulties, and Mother Nature not being in a particularly good mood. Fast-forward to this past Monday night and they band gave it another shot, this time aboard the larger Provincetown II. The net result could not have been more polar opposite from the 2008 show, giving both the band and the crowd a show that was equally noteworthy but for all the right reasons.

In areas like Boston (and New York and probably other places but I have a horrible East Coast bias), boat cruise shows have become a bit more of a popular option for at least two-and-a-half seasons a year, as soaring real estate costs, liquor licenses, etc., have culminated in a virtual drying up of small- and mid-sized venues. The Provincetown II is an older ship that docks in Boston’s Seaport District and typically spends most of its summer evenings running three-hour booze cruises around the Harbor (that is, when it’s not running as a shuttle between the city and Cape Cod). The minimally-lit stage (which is really not much more than a twelve-by-twelve-foot square set maybe a foot off the floor) is set at the rear of the three-tiered ship’s top deck, meaning that as the opening band takes the stage and the ship pulls away from the dock, you’re not only watching the band play, but watching the city skyline become smaller and smaller in the last few minutes of sunlight.

Boston’s port and harbor remain fairly active and are bordered to the immediate north by Logan International Airport, so tour-opener Banditos (a six-piece Southern-fried rock band from Alabama) started playing in the waning early Summer daylight surrounded by smaller cruise ships, fleets of tanker ships, returning fishing vessels and a string of departing planes taking off immediately overhead. The band were pretty well received, and seemed to think that the experience was just as cool and, in the literal sense, “awesome” on their end as it was on ours. The band’s high-energy forty-minute-ish set seemed to pass particularly quick, probably due in gigantic part to the borderline sensory overload of the experience. It can be tough to pick a perfect opening act for a band like Lucero, but Banditos are a pretty solid fit, their trummed-down Southern jams and three-headed vocal monster seeming to work pretty well on a beer company-sponsored outdoor Summer booze cruise. Their set-closing cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” (popularized by Nina Simone or Creedence Clearwater Revival, depending on your perspective) damn near stole the show as Mary Beth Richardson belted out the lead vocals from the center of the crowd.

The sun had officially set by the time Lucero took the stage.As has frequently been the case recently, the band started with a sort of mini acoustic set, kicked off by “Can’t You Hear Them Howl” from their last full-length, 2015’s All A Man Should Do. While that moment may have been scripted (frontman Ben Nichols joked that he “likes to start with that song because (he) likes it and nobody ever requests it”), the remainder of the twenty-one song (by my count, certainly not official) setlist was largely improvisational and wide-ranging. “Texas & Tennessee,” perhaps one of the two or three saddest songs in a catalog that’s chock full of sad songs, made in early appearance as it generally does, followed quickly by crowd favorite “My Best Girl.”

From there, a few twists and turns popped up, as the bulk of the set seemed to be culled mostly from the wishes of the audience who, for their own parts, were loud and engaged all night. Because of the unique setup of the ship’s upper deck, the crowd essentially filled in around the entirety of the stage, making it seem like the band were playing a theater on the round. “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble,” “Wasted” and “Hold Fast” were particular favorites for yours truly, if only because I’d not seen them live before. “Chain Link Fence” sounds more raw and intense than it did when it debuted fifteen years ago, and the band, now a five-piece again after losing the horn section that had joined them through three albums and their accompanying touring cycles, seem to have figured out how to accommodate for some of that lack of brightness and depth on songs like “Women & Work” and “On My Way Downtown.”

As the ship had turned around and headed back for port, Nichols played a few stripped down songs, starting with “Loving,” a song written for his filmmaker brother Jeff’s 2016 movie of the same name. He kept things stripped down for “Mom” and was joined by keyboard player/accordionist extraordinaire Rick Steff on “The War” and took on an a capella rendition of his solo track “Last Pale Light In The West,” which he jokingly referred to as the only sort of lullabies he can sing to his infant daughter, before being rejoined by the band for most of the rest of the set. Drummer Roy Berry’s unique playing style has long been one of my favorite things to watch, and he seemed steady as ever despite playing on a boat in an active harbor (guitarist Brian Venable commented after the show that it putting a stage on a boat is like trying to play on a piece of plywood inside a bouncy house, if that gives you a little perspective). Venable’s growling lead guitar playing does not always take center stage in a band like Lucero (particularly in the early years where the leads were more noodling riffs than true leads), but when called upon, he continues to shine on tracks like “Tears Don’t Matter Much” and “Last Night In Town.”

Special note should probably be paid to bassist John C. Stubblefield, who disappeared from the stage at one point toward the mid-point of a particularly raucous rendition of “Tears Don’t Matter Much” to partake of the festivities from the audience’s perspective and did so while missing nary a beat in the process before rejoining his bandmates on the stage in stride. Closer to the end of the evening, Stubblefield eventually raised a red wine-inspired toast to the “best night ever,” before the band wrapped up their set and the ship docked and, while maybe a tad hyperbolic, he wasn’t far off from the truth.

Check out Lucero’s upcoming tour dates here, and our full photo album below.



DS Exclusive: The U.S. Americans (Acid Punk) Premiere Music Video for “FCK THE KGB”

 

Photo Credit: Eric Van Den Brulle

Strap in gang because we’ve got a doozey for ya today! This quirky quartet is comprised of first generation Americans:  Jeff Weiss from Russia, Afghan/French/Uzbek/Egyptian/Isreali, Roy Abraham, Dan Deychak, a second generation Ukrainian and Emerson Williams the token white guy, who we assume was brought on just to meet their Affirmative Action quota. If you hadn’t guessed by the band name and the above picture they sent along with the video link, these guys don’t take themselves too seriously, but they do take their music seriously. Playing the three P’s (Progressive Psychedelic Punk-Rock) they have sunk their flag into the NYC scene and plan to stick around to spread life, liberty and the pursuit of music. And today, we’re pleased to introduce our readers to the US Americans with an exclusive premiere! The video, for the track “FCK THE KGB”, is a master class in dramatic storytelling (ed: no…no it’s not, but it’s fun and catchy af!) and comes from their upcoming debut album, Greatest Hits due out in September. Check it out (along with tour dates) below!



DS Interview – Bad Cop/Bad Cop On “Warriors,” The First Great Punk Album Of Trump’s America

In the wake of the disastrous results of last year’s presidential election in the United States, there were more than a handful of people who took solace in the fact that at least having a sexist, xenophobic, probably racist, certainly narcissistic megalomaniac at the helm of our nation would make for some good, old-fashioned angry protest punk rock. Now that we’re at about six months P.E. (post election), we’re starting to see the musical fruits of that fateful national decision and learning that that solace was not hollow by any stretch of the imagination. With the recent release of the their sophomore album, Warriors, Bad Cop / Bad Cop are among the first out of the gate in the punk rock Trump era and have set the bar incredibly high for those that will follow in their footsteps.

The California-based four-piece all-female “freight train of ‘fuck yeah!’” that is otherwise known as Bad Cop / Bad Cop were on a nationwide tour with The Interrupters in the lead up to, and immediate aftermath from, the aforementioned election. Knowing that they were due to head into the studio immediately upon completion of tour, it became obvious pretty quickly exactly what direction the new album would take. Says Jennie Cotterill, one of the band’s two guitarists/lead vocalists and principal songwriters, We kind of made a conscious decision to make this more meaningful than fun — not that there’s anything wrong with fun — but we wanted to really talk about issues that were important to everybody.”

If the question of what to say was pretty apparent from the beginning, the question of how to say it was a little trickier. While the pull for a punk rock band might be to attack an administration in a relentlessly in-your-face manner, the Bad Cop / Bad Cop crew opted to try to pull people in toward at least having conversations, rather than just pushing them away. Says Cotterill: “the reaction to this extreme situation is extreme. But then, when you go extreme, you lose people in the middle.” While the punk scene was still in its infancy forty years ago when Joey Ramone poked some tongue-in-cheek fun at the certain faction within this little world that seems hell-bent on simply being against everything, though that element still remains. “We talked about…how are we going to do this and what are we going to say, because we don’t want to alienate people,” says Cotterill. “Having productive conversation is more important than just saying “I’m against you!” Once there’s a physical line, that’s where people stop listening, and I really don’t care to do that.”

And let’s face it; we’ve all got friends (or parents, or friends’ parents, or at least that one uncle) whose beliefs remain about as diametrically opposed to our own as possible, in spite of what should be overwhelming commonality.  “(As we were writing) I kept thinking about this one friend that I have that is real right thinking,” explains Cotterill’s co-frontwoman and partner-in-crime, Stacey Dee. “We grew up together, and I won’t give up on this guy because at the end of the day, I know we get along. We’re coming from the same fucking place in life. I know that his search is one of health and positivity and happiness, so at the end of the day, you can’t be fucking hateful when you’re positive and happy.” And while a more in-your-face approach might be appropriate for some — Bad Cop / Bad Cop favorites and co-Warped Tourmates War On Women for example — there’s room at the table for different approaches. Says Cotterill: “War On Women is great if you’re woke, but there’ a lot of people that aren’t woke… I think that our platform is hoping to rope the unsuspecting listener into a conversation.”

With that in mind, the band recruited their frequent producer Davey Warsop (Dave Hause, Foo Fighters), took a little creative input from their label boss, the one-and-only Fat Mike Burkett, and put out the first truly defining album of the Trump presidency. While’s it’s got an obvious progressive bent to it, to call it a political album is a bit of a mistake. “No one political belief will sum up who you are as a human being on this planet,” says Dee. Like her fellow sisters-in-arms, Dee takes seriously her role as a conduit for change and for building bridges. “The truth is, entertainment is going to be the way to reach across the aisle, because people on the other side that are going to be racist or whatever are going to see something in somebody, whether it be an actor or a musician or whatever, and they’re going to say “fuck, I can’t deny that. I like that person.”

Cotterill and Dee alike have seen the tide shift at its most basic level, taking note of positive changes even though they might be slow to come to pass. Cotterill remembers a sense of bewilderment when marriage equality first came on the ballot in California in 2008.  “(At first) I was like ‘of course it’s going to pass because people aren’t that awful.’ And then it didn’t pass and I was crushed. But then Iowa passed it (the following year)…And we think we’re the ones that are so progressive.” By the time the California Supreme Court finally overturned Proposition 8 five years later, the tide had long-since turned and a clear majority of California voters were in favor of same-sex marriage protections. “Really conservative people felt that it was a victory (the first time around),” says Cotterill, quickly pointing out that “everybody else was like “I never thought about it until right now.”

While the bulk of Warriors consists of material aimed not only at the current political system but the overarching nature of American society circa 2017 as well, there are still a handful of moments that are not merely a little more personal, but that are personal in a way that is stomach-punchingly honest and raw and without any shred of pretense. Album closer “Brain Is for Lovers,” for example, deals head on with Cotterill’s feelings surrounding the suicide of a longtime friend and former band mate. The chorus of “Brain…” relays a sentiment that’s not overly common in songs that are ultimately about grief and loss and remembrance. “(That song) was about someone who was a really good friend of mine and committed suicide about a year ago and I was so worked up about that song that I couldn’t even talk about it,” explains Cotterill. Dee, herself the author of another of the album’s more powerful and personal tracks, “Retrograde,” (more on that in a minute) sounds particularly proud of her Cotterill’s work on “Brain Is For Lovers”: “It was gnarly! But where we got to in the end, and the way that Jennie pushed through, her voice is fucking killer! She was pissed that she had to do it, but it came out fucking great. Sometimes you have to see the forest through the trees!”

Oh, so about the above-mentioned track, “Retrograde.” Frequent readers of these pages may recall last year’s in-depth sit-down we had with Dee in which she opened up about her battles with drug addiction and her subsequent journey out of that particularly dark era of her life. This made for a notoriously difficult experience when it came time to write music after finding sobriety: “As I got older and as I got sober over the last couple years, my writing hasn’t been like it used to be. I was predominantly negative, and negative stuff comes out when you’re negative.” Album-opener “Retrograde” reclaims Dee’s place as a songwriting powerhouse, telling the story of a woman grappling her own demons in kick-ass, unapologetic fashion. It’s also a song that Fat Wreck co-founder Erin Burkett is particularly fond of: “To me, it’s about finding your inner strength, and re-inventing yourself.  Stacey wrote this about her battle with drugs and alcohol; however, addiction takes on all forms. Sometimes being addicted to behaviors or people can be just as damaging, and the only way to overcome any of it is to realize, that all the power is yours.  No one else is going to fix you.”

Fat Wreck Chords, the label founded by Burkett and her now-ex-husband Fat Mike more than a quarter century ago remains a pillar of the independent music community in large part because of the family environment that they’ve created and fostered over that period of time. As all too many people know, it can be devastatingly painful to watch a family member struggle their way through an active addiction. Burkett elaborates on this particular situation: “I have to say that I am so proud of Stacey. She was in a very dark place on our FAT 25 year anniversary tour, and the band ended up having to leave the tour, possibly breaking up for good. Over the years, we have put a lot of band members through rehab, but it’s up the individual to do the work. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Looking yourself in the mirror and not liking what you see is a very hard thing to overcome. Stacey has come back better and stronger and pissed off and ready to change the world. These four woman have really gelled as a band, and found their voice together. It’s awesome.”

The tide may be turning in a more positive and encouraging direction both for the band and for society as a whole again, but as the Bad Cop/Bad Cop ladies note, it won’t do so without education and hard work. That we’re at a point where a group of four women who are not, as Cotterill states it, “twenty-anythings,” is a bit of a light in the darkness in and of itself. “For people to like us as women in our thirties and forties is fucking killer,” explains Dee. “We definitely have something to say and stand by, and I think we have to lead this revolution!”

Warriors was obviously released last Friday (June 16th) on Fat Wreck. Bad Cop / Bad Cop are playing the duration of this year’s Warped Tour, which also kicked off last Friday in Seattle; head here for info on your local stop!

Head below to check out our email exchange with the one-and-only Erin Burkett and the text of our far-reaching and in-depth chat with Dee and Cotterill below!

 



Day Three: Punk Rock Bowling 2017 (Vegas)

The day before ended in Bad Religion, one of the greatest bands the scene has to offer, continuously kicking it until they kick the bucket. And Day Three was the end of it all, the final day for the punks to don their denims and get out into the sun, to dance and sing and hug their new friends. Day Three felt like a long farewell– a little less hectic, a bit more casual, and still a helluva lot of fun.

Press and VIP lines were a breeze and I got in with no problem at all. To give the new venue credit, each day steadily improved. This is also fair time to mention everything that was happening at the fest that weren’t people with guitars, bass, and drums. Vendors packed the left side of the venue with shirts, hats, records, CDs, tote bags, wallets, necklaces, patches, stickers, with a dozen etceteras. Always a sick reminder that there is not only a cool world out there of punk stuff, but there are also people out there creating it. Doc Martens might have had the most inspired festival booth, featuring big piles of deflated beach balls up for the grabbing. By the end of the night, there were over twenty being pushed around in the pit. I’m not a big fan of Doc’s, mostly because they don’t fit my feet, but even I could admit it was a pretty sly move.

Onto the music! The first band of the day was The Quitters. I was actually pretty stoked to hear them based on the recommendation of DS lens-jockey Cricket Fox. They played first, so there was nowhere near a big crowd (and also, the festival starts a bit earlier on the last day, so you know, folks might be sleeping or something like that), but they rocked it. They played an old school kind of punk rock, stuff that is snotty and fun without being pop punk, and loud and shouty without being hardcore. Its the sort of music that if you wanted to create the original ink drop from which all of punk bled out of (ruining some fine parchment in the process), this would be at the tip of the fountain pen. A real cool blended sound of forty years of music, from Descendents to Refused. Their beats were surprisingly danceable too, as even the security guards were breaking characters and nodding along. The Quitters are awesome, check ‘em out when you get a chance.

Roadside Bombs played next. I would describe their sound as a sort of a throwback thing, like a ‘77 punk amalgam with a bit of classic rock thrown in there. It wasn’t too bad, not really my thing, but I thought they performed well. The next band, Wolfpack might get the award for most interesting bio of the weekend. I was watching them intently, mystified by what I read in the pamphlet: they’re a Melbourne not-for-profit band. Crazy, right? Looking at their bandcamp page, they say they’ve raised $26,000 for charity. Even weirder, and maybe cooler, depending on your predilections, is that the band is led from the back by the drummer. Aside from their tax status, they were pretty dope, playing a pretty riffy style of metal-infused hardcore punk.

Day Three was all about Oi! though. Cocksparrer was headlining and they wouldn’t be the only working class punks to grace the PRB stage. This was the year of street punk and oi. Lion’s Law was the first band to start playing the style in earnest and got my attention for being from one of the least oi places I can think of– France. I thought it was pretty cool, and strangely, a natural fit for the naturally surly French accent. It also made me think about how French punk has been getting more and more attention lately with the likes of Lion’s Law, Guerilla Poubelle, and Not Scientists.

And then, in a weird sort of double feature, we had another oi band playing. This was England’s Booze & Glory, and a lot of folks were here for them. I hadn’t heard of them before the festival, but street punk and oi aren’t styles I follow very closely. I’m also not afraid to admit I’m in the minority though, because from day one I saw tons of punks rocking Booze & Glory shirts. I was starting to get the vibe that these guys were the next big thing in their scene. As far as their sound goes, I mean, I’m not sure what there is to describe. They sound like a band that wears suspenders and throws back pints of lager. The real test of mettle for a band like this is in their songwriting, what they can communicate that all the other hooligans with guitars haven’t been able to do before, or to do it now in a way that’ll communicate it to a new generation. Judging from the crowd, Booze & Glory are a torchbearer for their sound. My only issue is with the placement of these two bands on the bill, while I’m sure their audience dug ‘em a lot, it all bled together for me.

As any dude who likes melodic punk bands, the occasional Dan Yemin hardcore project, and folk punk; I also inexplicably love Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone, and anything else that is crusty and patches well on flannel. And that is why I was stoked to see Discharge. The originators of D-beat, true harcore pioneers, and one of the major influences to a lot of my favorite modern hardcore. For such an old fucking band, they killed it. They had tons of energy and ran through a set that felt like a machine gun peppering of shredded solos and barked declaratives. Of all the acts of Day Three, Discharge might have been the most intense to witness.

I was warned about the Adicts before I got to Vegas. I didn’t have a lot to go on, y’ know? I was told they were great live, but I never really listened to them. I mean, I’m not a big face paint guy, bands with a huge visual presence always felt weird to me, same with bands in costume. I don’t know, it’s one of those things that never really felt right. I mean, I don’t even like the Misfits– what do the Adicts have to offer?

It’s nice to be wrong.

When the confetti cleared, the Adicts were my favorite act of Day Three. This isn’t just punk rock, it’s spectacle. While watching them play and dance; throw cards, balloons, and streamers into the audience, I experienced, what I can only assume, is pure joy. My initial worry was of a band that takes themselves too seriously, who take the imagery from A Clockwork Orange and use it as a way to secure some false sense of danger, when its really just adolescent pageantry. The Adicts know exactly what they are, they embrace the silliness– and most of all– they want you to have fun. They’re a fun band that puts on a fun show. Why else would you wear a cape made of mirrors? It’s ridiculous fun. And their music works with the show they’ve crafted. It’s singalong ‘77 style punk, the kind of stuff that got me singing along without ever hearing a word before. The Adicts are amazing, a punk rock treasure that needs to be seen to be believed.

The light was waning after the Adicts wrapped up and I was left in a bit of a state of awe. I mean, what band can really follow that up?

A lot of people have mixed feelings about Pennywise, and I guess I’d count myself in that lot. I like a couple of songs, but mostly see them as the lesser of the 90s melodic hardcore bands to make it big. A little to bro-ey for me, I guess. They have a knack for songwriting though, “Fuck Authority” is ultimately a kind of dumb, almost ritual reduction of one of punk rock’s core tenets, but even I have to admit it strikes a chord. I mean, you could also say punk rock is just a dumb, almost ritual reduction of rock ‘n roll, right? They played a handful of covers in a row, “Wild in the Streets” by Circle Jerks, “Do What You Want” by Bad Religion, in which Fat Mike jumped on stage to help with vocals, and “Minor Threat” by Minor Threat. As is the expectation, they ended their set with “Bro-Hymn” and I got to hear a couple thousand woahs all in unison. Even if Pennywise wasn’t my thing, that was just a little magic.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a punk festival without a little politics mixed with catharsis. Fat Mike appeared on stage before the final set with a statue of a nude Donald Trump. He reaffirmed his beliefs that punk rock and politics are intertwined and not to be unraveled, allowing one of the Stern daughters to be the first to take a swing at the presidential effigy. The bat was shared by various band members as each broke the statue down with more and more nasty blows, batting the president’s dick off, until finally Fat Mike beheaded him. It was a fun, albeit violent sideshow in between the musical sets and a reminder of where PRB’s heart is.

The final act of the mainstage was the exclamation mark in Oi!– scene veterans Cock Sparrer took up their instruments as the air cooled and the festival marched into night. That’s one thing that bears mentioning: at night, Vegas is beautiful. The air is tolerable and the neon gives the city an otherworldly glow. At Punk Rock Bowling, it is a signal for the second half of the day for some, but for everyone in the crowd, it is an invitation to come closer. Cock Sparrer played one of the best sets I’d seen that weekend for devotees and casuals alike. The age old band came out to play old favorites and stuff off their new record Forever. As cliche as it is, they seemed like the kinda guys you’d wanna have a beer with– funny, humble, and talented old school punks. They played a host of tracks that I couldn’t help but singalong to on my first time. If I discovered anything at this Punk Rock Bowling, it might have been a new appreciation of what the best working class punk can do, bring people together and bind them in less than three minutes.

Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was because we were at the end, but this was when I started getting sentimental. I saw a crowd full of people, ages five to sixty-five, and they were singing along and dancing, smiling and laughing. I watched the song “Because You’re Young” become an affirmative anthem for generations of punks, young and old, as they looked back at the road they took in life and let their smiles broaden together. When the set ended, I was smiling too. All the denim, ink, and piercings unloaded into the streets and I saw a community. There was chatter about what they just saw, who they’re seeing next, and when they’ll fly out. Folks threw handshakes and hugs and promised to see each other next year.

A punk show, a party, a community– built from the ground up to rumble every year, to bring old and new together, to close distances– that was Punk Rock Bowling 2017.

Full slide-show below.



Day Two: Punk Rock Bowling 2017 (Vegas)

Well, it was Day Two, and I was already worn the fuck out. Menzingers played the night before and because of my inane sleep schedule, I got home at three am, then woke up at eight-thirty. Just my luck. But, whatever your level of sobriety or awakeness, Punk Rock Bowling waits for no man.

And besides, this was the big day of the festival for me. My OG heroes, Bad Religion, were headlining. Back when I was still wet behind the mohawk, Bad Religion were the ones who shepherded me into the club– there is no missing Bad Religion, so sleep be damned, I was out in the door.

As for the logistics, Day Two was a step in the right direction for all of us press folks. Most of yesterday’s issues were ironed out and we were ready to party. Security was a little harsher than I remember last year, but only a week after the Manchester attack, it’d have been hard to believe there wouldn’t be changes. Too many of those little things though, and it also starts becoming harder and harder to believe that anything really can be punk rock. It’s a reminder that music and subculture are powerless, no matter how dressed up and resilient it pretends to be in the wake of tragedy. A debate for another day– on to the music.

The Venomous Pinks opened the day with some fast, woah-oh filled punk rock. Kinda hardcore, kinda poppy– like an all female version of Night Birds without the horror and surf lyrical focus. With a little research, I found out that they are apart of the same SquidHat Records family as The Quitters who opened on Day Three. The more you know. Following up The Venomous Pinks were another smaller act, (this is the portion of the day where bands no one’s heard of play, and folks skip for gambling or drinking– which is a shame, because for me, punk rock is absolutely about these young bands injecting new blood into the genre) Ten Can Riot hail from Dallas with a lead singer who doesn’t sound Texan in the least. It’s fast epifat-style jams with some aussie-fied vocals. The crowd wasn’t big, but the folks who were there were receptive to the set and I thought they conducted themselves well enough to keep an eye on in the future.

Lost In Society were a pretty big surprise for me. I had heard a little about them before the festival, I’d heard some good things about their last album, but as is usually the case, I hadn’t actually listened to them before. Seeing them on the stage, I got the lowkey hype surrounding them. They are a tight young band with some big hooks who know how to work the crowd. They brought in everyone who might have just been nodding along with their finale– playing the song “Not Afraid” and teaching the audience its call and response chorus of “Nice to meet you/ FUCK YOU TOO!” Fists were raised and words were sung, it was an awesome end to the set.

I’ll be honest here. I fucking hate celtic punk. It’s corny as hell roleplay for guys who want desperately to belong to a different culture, or it’s corny as hell roleplay for guys who want to engage in a caricature of their own culture. Basically, it’s almost never cool. So, you can probably say The Real Mckenzies aren’t my thing– they have the celtic schtick with the tempering measure of being from Nova Scotia.. It’s almost never cool, but fuck it, I can say it was at least fun. The Real Mckenzies had a sense of humor and looked to be having as much fun as the audience was. They brought things down and gave a surprising (for me, at least) ode to the recently deceased Chris Cornell. It’s nice to see these old guys rocking hard and having a good time while being conscientious of what happens outside of the insular world of punk rock.

The Dickies are one of those old school bands that sound like the Ramones, kinda like the Spits from the days before. They hail back from the early days where punk and garage rock were almost synonymous. Catchy, but not really my thing again. Crowd dug it, but I can’t be into everything, you know? They played their set and I nodded along and let the kids who were into have at it. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Now, The Bouncing Souls. For me, the Souls were the first big band of the night, and the crowd supported that observation. Everyone was up front for the Jersey boys. I’m a rare breed it seems– there’s an interesting phenomenon with this band, there are the people who don’t care for them, and then there’s the folks that are die-hards (and there are a lot of die-hards)– I’m just a casual fan of the band, not a know-every-word fan. I always wonder what it is about the Souls that bring people together in such an intense way. Maybe it’s that bouncy mix of carefree fun and occasional insight that can take the right psyche and turn one into a True Believer. Either way, of the one other time I’d seen them, this was definitely them at their best. Singer Greg Attonito was genuinely animated and engaged with the set. The energy was good and they ripped through a setlist of singalongs for an adoring audience.

Choking Victim was one of the reasons I made Punk Rock Bowling an unmissable event. One could argue, if you’ve seen Leftover Crack a handful of times, you’ve basically seen Choking Victim. And to be fair, every time I’ve seen Leftover Crack, they’ve made sure to play “500 Channels,” so there is some truth there. But, c’mon. It’s Choking Victim. If you even like them just a little bit, you wanna be able to say you saw them. I was happy to see they got just as strong, if not stronger response than the Bouncing Souls. There was a moment when I looked around and saw all the punks shuffling back and forth, excited as Stza and co. walked on stage and realized: everyone is here for Choking Victim. The front of the stage was packed with punks, for a moment the entire festival ground became part of the crowd. There was no disappointment, they instigated and antagonized with their music (and made sure I got to hear “500 Channels” for a fourth time), with Stza introducing a song dedicated to the police at the venue, about killing cops. It’s not Punk Rock Bowling, and it’s definitely not Choking Victim without a little authority baiting.

The weirdest part of the day wasn’t so much a disappointment as just a bum note. What the fuck was up with Fidlar? They’re fine folks, I’m sure. They play some garage rock/hardcore/ surfy indie rock amalgam, and I know some of the younger kids are into them. They have a little bit of inherited pedigree as one of the members is the son of a member of TSOL. But, no matter what they take from the sounds of punk rock, there is something off about them. It’s like an impression of punk rock rather than an honest interpretation. The crowd agreed too. It was weird seeing so many open spaces in the pit, people looking around, bored and confused at what these rich kids in costume were peddling. Yeah, they had all the moves– they rolled on the stage to play solos and they screamed into mics, but it never felt right. This is punk for kids who go to Coachella. It felt out of place at Punk Rock Bowling.

But, even the weirdness of Fidlar couldn’t really quell the energy of the evening. Bad Religion was going to play. The one band everyone has in common. The gateway band that survives the initial waves of growing taste. Bad Religion are a hard band to grow out of. The crowd moved in a rush toward the stage as the opening notes of “American Jesus” rang out. There was a lot of discussion over what they would open with at Punk Rock Bowling, among the guesses were “True North,” “Against the Grain,” and “Do What You Want” (mine), but Meredith (photographer extraordinaire) and Jeff (friend of Dying Scene, and all around chill dude) nailed the selection. What could me more iconic and rousing to bring the punks together for a headliner? When I’d seen Bad Religion before, they played pretty solid ninety minute sets, so it was actually kind of nice to see a shorter, crisper stage headlining set, about fifteen minutes shorter with a more casual sense of kinship and fun. For Bad Religion, it felt like their thousandth victory lap, and they’re still smiling past the finish line. The set had one extremely notable moment, when NOFX singer/bassist Fat Mike ran on stage in a dress and high-jacked Jay Bentley’s bass to play with the band on “We’re Only Gonna Die.” That’s why you go to Punk Rock Bowling, folks. It’s those kind of moments that you can’t get anywhere else.

They closed with “Fuck Armageddon… This is Hell” as per usual, a song that has become their own “Bro Hymn” over the years. The great thing about Bad Religion though is that they have so much good material to work with, that whatever comes before that is sure to be great. To list all the songs they played would be a challenge (and fucking boring), but you got hits like “Supersonic,” “Generator,” “Los Angeles is Burning,” “Do What You Want,” “Suffer”: whatever they play, it’s gonna be good.

The fest was a-raging that night and despite the weird misstep with Fidlar– who should’ve traded spots with the Bouncing Souls and played earlier in the night– I had to admit it was one of the best lineups of PRB I had ever seen. Choking Victim, Bouncing Souls, and Bad Religion are three pretty huge bands, and I managed to see ‘em all in an evening. That’s killer.

Check out what happened in the photo gallery below and stay tuned for our final installment in our drunken recollections of the beauty and madness that is Punk Rock Bowling!



Pre-fest and Day One: Punk Rock Bowling 2017

The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound.

“A Horse With No Name,” America

Last year, I was a novice. I didn’t understand what Punk Rock Bowling would ask of me. This isn’t just another three day festival– it’s a party. It’s an excuse to get together with your punk friends, old and new. There’s beers, there’s all your favorite bands, and then there’s a couple thousand punks to see you through it. Punk Rock Bowling is a party that rages across Memorial Day Weekend, and having been broken-in last year, I finally understood.

You have to know the basics. Vegas is a city built in a desert– you’re gonna be hot. Vegas is dry, because it’s built in a desert– drink water. Vegas is at its hottest when the festival starts– wear shorts. There’s also the issue of scheduling. Last year, I went all in and went to more club shows than I cared to see. There were too many nights of me nodding along to bands I only kinda-sorta liked and then yawning my way out the door. This year, I knew what it was gonna take. When Punk Rock Bowling is laid out before you, there is enough to do without adding to it. I picked two club shows, ones of bands I loved, and then I stuck to that. This is my vacation after all, and I took it on my own terms– with that new level of focus and experience, I was ready to tackle the behemoth that is the 19th Annual Punk Rock Bowling, and I’m happy to say I had a blast.

The basics of the festival are simple. Three days of bands at the main festival, culminating in a big headlining act each night. After the festival, but often times with a fair amount of overlap (this is one of the more unfortunate things about the festival– if you want to see the openers at your club shows, you generally have to leave a song or two into the festival headliner) there are club shows featuring stacked and varied lineups. Street punk, skate punk, acoustic, hardcore, classic, sad melodic stuff– it’s all there in walking distance from Fremont Street. Which is, I would say, the festival’s greatest coup, eliminating the need of DDs or even really any sense of vehicular self preservation. It’s all right there.

Besides the festival and club shows, there were also pool parties with stellar lineups in their own right, flash tattoos from Bouncing Soul Bryan Kienlen, a comedy show sponsored by The Hard Times, punk documentary screenings, and of course, everything else Las Vegas has to offer on its own. You get the idea. Punk Rock Bowling isn’t just catching a show or two– it’s a 24-hour, three-day job, where the workforce is tattooed and hellbent on fun.

I arrived to Vegas two days early, so I had plenty of time to settle in. My first PRB extracurricular was the aforementioned comedy show. It took place at the Gold Nugget with a lineup of punk comics, headlined by Sideonedummy founder Joe Sib. We all filtered in, not sure what we were in for, and as one would imagine, the front seats were the last to be taken. Goodrich Gevaart, Hard Times writer and comedian, encouraged folks to take the front seats, promising that “it wasn’t that sort of show,” and that no one would fuck with them “in a way that wasn’t fun.” I’d never seen any live stand-up before, but I’d watched a fair amount from the comfort of my home. I was happy to say that all the comedians present were hilarious, poking good natured fun at the punks and themselves, sharing stories about their punk past. My favorite bit was when John Michael Bond brought an audience member on stage to play the game Sad Man or Bad Man, where we had to guess whether the lyrics on the screen were those of a pop punk band or a mass murderer. Good times were had by all. I hope this is a tradition continued by next year’s Punk Rock Bowling.

The stand up ended just in time to start another bar tab and then head off to the first show of the weekend, a set of acoustic performances by Off With Their Heads, Brendan Kelly, Steve Soto (of the Adolescents), and locals No Red Alice. The Beauty Bar is one of my favorite venues in Vegas, and usually has the best deals in town ($6 PBR and a shot is the equivalent of holding up a liquor store in other cities– straight up robbery). It’s a smaller space with an outdoor stage, but intimate, and therefore perfect for the sort of show this was going to be.

No Red Alice started the show with a pretty breezy set with lots of asides and jokes. At a couple points the vocalist even started strumming and singing Off With Their Heads’ “Clear the Air.” They played some acoustic punk that reminded me of Chuck Ragan’s more punk-driven solo stuff. I was nervous for Steve Soto, as the last time I saw an old school punk-rocker-gone-solo was in a similar setting last year didn’t go nearly as well (looking at you, belligerent Grant Hart). Soto was humble and a pro, playing countrified acoustic songs with writing chops to spare. He gave the audience fair warning that he wasn’t going to do any Adolescents’ songs, because, “they’d sound like shit” on acoustic. Brendan Kelly came up next and played a pretty straightforward set of mostly Lawrence Arms songs. I was joined by Dying Scene head honcho Dave Buck around this time (who, in infinite kindness and wisdom, made sure I kept a drink in my hand for the rest of my night). Dave’s a big fan of Brendan Kelly’s solo stuff, and was disappointed by the lack of I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever tunes, as for me, I’m always good with some Larry Arms. Off With Their Heads ended the night with a set of tunes that translated a lot better to the acoustic setting than I would’ve thought. Folks were screaming along and holding beers to the night sky. All in all, a pretty great way to end the night.

The next day, we woke up, probably way too early and wandered around Fremont for a while, drinking beers, meeting people, and getting stoked for the fest. It stands to say, that a couple things did change this year at PRB. The location was moved, and with that comes some good and some bad. Maybe this was the new venues fault, or just general disorganization, but the press and VIP folks had a helluva time getting in the first day. So long was the wait, in fact, that we missed the entirety of New Trends and part of Mobina Galore. When I did get in though, I went straight to the stage to see the latter in action. Of all the early openers I saw in Vegas that weekend, Mobina Galore stands as the best. They sounded loud and full for a two-piece, with gravel-throated vocals and hearty melodies. It’s like a stripped down version of the Reinventing Axl Rose version of Against Me!, and for me, they were easily one of the highlights of the fest.

Drug Church were one of the few post-hardcore acts of the fest, and as expected, provided a different feel from the rest of the lineup. This is the sort of stuff that goes with cold winters and black T-shirts, and accordingly, it felt a little dissonant for a sunny afternoon in Vegas. Still, I was impressed with their composition as well as their intensity. The other band who could perhaps lay claim to a similar genre was Plague Vendor, who played next. The crowd grew substantially for the Epitaph post/garage/psych band, and they threw down a set of performances that were a little bit Iggy and a little bit At the Drive-In. At this point in the day, the stage was christened with a thrown bra, and I got to roll my eyes as singer Brandon Blaine located the admirer and asked her to prove it was hers. It was a kind of dumb, rockstar misstep in banter that marred an otherwise good set.

I’d never seen the Interrupters before, but man, they were one of the other biggest surprises of Day One. I’m not a huge ska guy, but I was humming along and smiling throughout their set. They brought a lot of fun to the festival and I could tell a large part of the attendees were smitten by their upbeat ska-punk tunes. Their cover of “Sound System” by Operation Ivy was a huge hit, and probably the best version of it I’ve heard aside from the original. The Spits played next, and were fine, but not really my taste. Just some pretty solid, three-chord punk rock in the vein of the Ramones.

OFF! was the next band on the Day One lineup that I wanted to see. I’d seen them before, and I’d see them again. There’s something about OFF!’s unhinged throwback hardcore. It’s music from another time, performed by one of its originators, given new life with the help of a new generation. Keith Morris is as vital as ever on stage, going off about politics (as one could guess, a post-Trump PRB is going to have a fair amount of politics, a theme that would run through every day of the festival), moving across the stage like a caged animal, spitting words like poison seeds. This is also a good point to mention that one of the upgrades in the new festival grounds were two large screens where folks who weren’t up close could see the action in crystal-clear high definition– although the venue seemed lackadaisical about making sure it was showing what was going on on stage for the entire set, rather than show sponsor commercials, or even more dull, the Punk Rock Bowling logo on a black screen.

I won’t bury the lead here. There were a lot of punks who were there to see Iggy, and probably a lot more who wanted to see Discharge, Pennywise, Cock Sparrer, The Dickies, The Adicts, Fidlar, and a lot of others throughout the weekend, but for me, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes were my most anticipated act. Yeah, it’s true: I have a soft spot for oldies and Fat Wreck– if you grew up with NOFX and parents with a radio, you probably do too. They didn’t disappoint in the least. Singer Spike Slawson oozed greasy charisma as he crooned out pop standards, introducing many with an obligatory, “This next one’s a cover.” As I was watching them play, I could only think that if any band represented Vegas, it was them. They were as happily gauche as neon, slots, and floral prints and a lot more entertaining.

Iggy Pop was up next, but I had places to go. Yep, that’s right, club show. I stayed through the first couple of songs, and as soon as the Godfather came on stage, hordes rushed up toward the stage, going crazy for “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Passenger.” I got to see a little glimpse of that famous stage presence before I left, but alas, I had to bounce. Iggy Pop is cool and all, but I didn’t grow up with him and I’ve never been much for my hobbies becoming obligations. There were tons of punks going wild for him though, so I didn’t feel too bad leaving him to his fans. That’s part of PRB, you gotta do it on your own terms.

What I left for were two of my favorite bands playing on the same ticket. It was Wolves & Wolves & Wolves & Wolves, Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Toys That Kill, The Lawrence Arms, and the Menzingers. Stacked lineup. I left Iggy in time to see about half of Bad Cop/ Bad Cop’s set. Their harmonies were tight and they played some songs off their upcoming album, including “Amputations.” New songs are usually a bit of a hard sell in the live setting, but from what I heard at the show, Warriors is gonna be a killer album.

The Bunkhouse is set up uniquely, it’s an outdoor venue (mostly)– similar to the Beauty Bar– but much larger. It’s a big dirt lot with an outdoor bar and a dead pickup in the middle for our most brazen to sit. Connected to it is a small indoor venue. They did a pretty cool thing at this show, by alternating the opening bands playing inside and outside, to make set-up easier and keep things moving along. So, Toys That Kill played next in the indoor venue, and I listened and nodded along from outside with a PBR. I’m honestly not that familiar with the band, despite seeing them before, so I used that time to chat with my other Dying Scene peeps about the events of the day.

The last time I saw the Ramblin’ Boys was a brief encore in Portland, where the Falcon went into the crowd as a conga line and came back as the Lawrence Arms. So, technically, I only saw them for two songs. Seeing them for a full set was one of my white whales. We all have bands we want to mark off our bucket list– The Lawrence Arms are one of mine. They came on with all the bravado and swagger inherent in their reputation, promising to “rock the dicks off” everyone who came before them. They played a lot of tracks off Oh Calcutta!, including my absolute favorite, “Recovering the Opposable Thumb,” and ending with “Are you there Margaret? It’s Me, God.”  It was an awesome set with a whole lot of energy, but as great as it was, The Lawrence Arms were only my second favorite band playing that show. The next was going to be something.

I’m a pretty reserved guy most of the time. Sometimes I’m in the pit, but most of the time I’m sipping a beer and singing along in the back. I don’t mind. The days of feeling guilty if I don’t knock elbows during my favorite song are long behind me. I’m there to listen and hang. All of that nonchalance leaves when I see the Menzingers. My favorite bands come and go, but the Menzingers are one of those that I couldn’t shake if I tried. Chamberlain Waits, On the Impossible Past, and their most recent, After the Party will be spinning for a long time coming for me. Some bands write the score to your life, the Menzingers are my Hans Zimmer. So, I went nuts. I was screaming along, I was hugging new friends, we were closing our eyes and beating our chests, howling out slice-of-life vignettes that have been internalized to a heartbeat. The Menzingers played a fantastic mix of old and new, opening with “Tellin’ Lies” and ending with “In Remission.” One of the biggest surprises of the set was a Rancid cover. They rocked “Roots Radical” and we rocked with them, the booze and the fervor even encouraging my usually reserved self to start a circle of drunken skankers.

Day One ended with a big bang, and our lives were started anew in a baptism of nebulas and catharsis, reborn and re-energized– blah, blah, blah. We were tired. We slept and we rested up for the insanity that would be Day Two.

Check out the gallery below and stay tuned for our follow-up articles detailing the continued debauchery that is Punk Rock Bowling!