“If you’re good with your words, you can be marginal at everything else.” – Psycho Mordenson
I’m here to tell all you fine Dying Scene readers that you don’t know anything and none of this matters.
These are essential tenets in the current popular reality. They enable the individual to circumvent even the most vicious of panic-inducing facts, empowering an event like Punk Rock Bowling or Fat Fest to exist in its full flowering of enjoyment and depravity. Well executed, they will prompt an overarching disregard for the world that could be in favor of what’s presently occurring.
After all, if a song is less than two minutes long, you’d better damn well enjoy it while it lasts.
Punk Rock Bowling 2015
Those that search for meaning in something like PRB engage in an inherent delusion. The only point you’ll find in punk rock comes attached to a leather jacket with a 40-ounce side of malt liquor to wash it down. Sure, you could construct anything you’d like around the perimeter, but at its core, it really is a futile effort, no matter how much the politically engaged like to rant and rave. Entropy wins the day every time. Pure thermodynamics.
This is an indispensable facet of PRB. It’s important to have an infusion of senselessness and meaninglessness every so often, just to jerk the senses into alignment with the true chaos of the universe.
These were the thoughts drifting through my drug-addled brain as I sped through meandering California highways towards the Great Desert. Meanwhile, a news report was bleating through the sound system:
“All citizens will be issued eye protection and full riot gear. Wear it or you’ll be shot on sight. In related news, we’re getting an AP update about the Las Vegas PRB crisis… wait for it, OK, yes lock your doors and windows, streets are closed. Do not give punks alcohol or money – it will only encourage them. Do not feed the animals. Now, please remove your hats for the National Anthem.”
But here’s the kicker, folks – you treat a person like an animal long enough, pretty soon they will turn into one.
“Exterminate all the brutes!” – Kurtz
Much later, in my room at the Golden Nugget, Psycho Mordenson stumbled through the door at precisely 4:20 AM, mumbling something like “I fought the beer and the beer won” as he ricocheted between the walls, knocking over various empty bottles in the process, finally settling into a freshly soiled armchair to engage in an epic battle to free his feet from a pair of tightly laced boots.
Las Vegas. Once again, I was surrounded by the din of perpetually rolling slot machines, vaporized drugs, and pixelated ass cheeks, all spiced by a generous sampling of punk rock culture.
A rash of Turbojugend was found milling around the Grotto, while a four-foot green mohawk busied herself ordering the frittata, lobster benedict, and another bloody mary for brunch.
Behind this scene was the pool area – a vast, at-capacity display case where the beautiful and beautifully grotesque reflected the high sun while sauntering between passed-out PRB attendees. This was fittingly complemented by an adjacent mega-fish-tank, where large sea predators floated their laps with toothy indifference.
Those wandering the Golden Nugget property Friday evening may have staggered across the Grand Ballroom where an “art exhibit” housed the work of Edward Colver, Leee Childers, Mad Marc Rude, and Jesse Fischer. Images chronicling long lost moments from the history of punk rock were presented, each priceless, bought for thousands. Bar on the right.
Before this was a long, unruly line of punk bowlers waiting to check in for the weekend tournament, some clearly plotting to cheat their way into the meager prize pool. Prowling in the darkened corners were the ever-vigilant Stern brothers, observing their creation with half-engaged interest.
Out on Fremont and the surrounding avenues was the usual assemblage of attendees busying themselves with harassed steps towards the next Event. The crusties were out too, some setting up camp with instruments, others waiting for the jingle of loose change to cool off with a beer. I would later spot a line of paper bag-covered glass on the third or fourth floor of a parking garage across the street from the festival grounds, a vantage point that offered a complete view of the stage and ample listening opportunities. It’s unknown how long this perch remained available before the inevitable private security intervention.
Meanwhile, behind the tall chain-link fences, cops with tight lips and crew cuts and wraparound sunglasses looked on as Anti Flag belted out charmers like Fuck Police Brutality. These are the things that bring us together, like a Clash cover or an elbow to the ribs. Anti Flag says it’s all about empathy and unity and caring about someone beside yourself, which I’m sure is true for someone out there.
Several months prior, I saw Anti Flag at a club in San Francisco called Slims.
I’m always delighted when I find someone who thinks his personal politics actually matter in this day and age. Involvement is pointless, but why not? It’s like rooting for your favorite football team or pro wrestler. Here in America, cheering for a touchdown while sitting in your living room covered in guacamole has roughly the same effect as a trip to the voting booth. Objectively, the only thing that matters in football and politics is money. Subsequently, the best way to support something nowadays is to throw some cash at it – indeed, a good justification for PRB ticket prices.
But that won’t stop the idealists from parading their philosophies. Attendees got a taste when an anti-GMO protest trumpeted down Fremont.
“HELL NO GMO! HELL NO GMO!”
A minor inconvenience. Either way, the current always flows towards the path of least resistance, like a trip to Hogs & Heifers Saloon for beers at 1 AM as the amphetamines wear off.
While the Big Show undoubtedly brought in the multitudes, the club shows were, once again, equally as appealing, offering up all the bands you’d expect, as well as potential new favorites in a more traditional, intimate setting.
One such assembly was enjoyed Friday night in the dank musk of the Fremont Country Club, where GBH headlined a five-band lineup.
Early in the night, a pretty, young-looking attendee asked me who was on stage. I told her I couldn’t remember, and at that moment, I realized two very important things: the first was that I was completely fucking sideways drunk. The second was that I was thoroughly entertained by the band. Mordenson seemed better informed than I: “Schleprock?” he replied.
“I’M FUCKING DRUNK.”
The next day, we saw Schleprock’s lead singer in the hallway of the fifth floor of the south tower of The Plaza before the band’s follow-up appearance at one of the many gratis pool parties. Cordial and relaxed, he entertained my inane questioning over a refreshing can of PBR before stepping up to perform another solid set.
As in years past, the sound quality offered by this open-air venue was abysmal, but it hardly mattered – the band was still good, and those present enjoyed it all the same, dancing unhindered. Some opted to tempt fate by climbing the flimsy stage scaffolding before leaping into the sparse crowd below, hitting the ground with a sickening thud, over and over again.
At the time, I was under the influence of some heavy opiates to postpone the inevitable hangover, but still managed to do my journalistic duty, recording such sights as the appearance of a chicken statue in the front row, a skateboarder in the circle pit, and a sex doll in the pool.
Not long after, 88 Fingers Louie began to play and the rain started to fall, forecasting similar scenarios throughout the weekend.
It’s a strange thing to get rained on in Vegas. The precipitation brings out the crazies, and when it collects, we all get filthy. It was like a colony of ants joined together in collective surface tension to create a living raft, unity found at the bottom. Because when the tides finally rise, we all seem to lean inwards, heaping and piling on one another, laughing along the way because even though you’re the one being crushed, it sure beats drowning alone.
It’s unknown if TSOL’s lead singer Jack Grisham made this same foreboding connection, but regardless, the man did have a few interesting things to say, advocating for the widespread social acceptance of urolagnia and necrophilia (find a handy reference guide here), as well as tough parenting techniques like beating a kid’s ball sack with a stick.
It was after the urolagnia reference, right before the band played Code Blue, that the simile dawned on me – PRB is like a long, slow pissing contest into the desert wind, thousands of punks spraying each other with a warm spring shower, ropey arcs fresh from the tap, golden rain dripping into the dry ground.
And in the corners, a psychotic farmer danced, bringing the torrent, planting seeds with high fives and hip shimmies. A shirtless man on crutches did a single-leg pogo, and a wheelchair pit keeper kept the fun as Conflict kept on playing.
“Prime directive/ exterminate the whole fucking race” – Misfits
Fat Fest At Thee Parkside
Much later, in San Francisco, I found myself swilling down homegrown brews to get drunk in time for the Swingin’ Utters set. The punk rock bourgeoisie were throwing a party to celebrate a quarter century of Fat Wreck Chords, and there would be no question about my attendance. Not only did my formative punk rock experiences occur in the Bay Area, I couldn’t think of a better sendoff for the easy summer months.
Set smack dab in the backyard of Thee Parkside (one of the best dive bars I’ve ever been too), Fat Mike and company were on home turf, annexing a full street block to house the festivities. The crowd was older, but the circle pit was still chaotic and dangerous. Eating pavement is of little consequence when you’re a 16-year-old rubber ball, but at 40, there’s a real chance something will break. To my delight, I saw a good amount of violence throughout the weekend, complete with split lips and dripping noses, and at several points, I was certain a fistfight would break out.
Perhaps that’s how we should kill off all these ancient bands – geriatric punk rock mosh pits. It’ll be a new bloodsport, like cockfighting, just with more wrinkles. Only the strong will survive. I’m currently contemplating Fat Mike giving Ben Weasel a Sydney-style kick to the face.
The event offered two stages, one under Thee Parkside roof and one in the open air, combining the familiarity of a show at your local watering hole with the broad scope of an all-out festival. Food trucks, long toilet lines and merch tables sat burning in the sun, while picnic tables, free water and a TV playing The Garbage Pail Kids Movie could be found inside.
Fat Mike once said punk rock is a family, and to some extent, I agree. If PRB was the annual extended reunion, Fat Fest was your weird brother’s birthday party. Bands like Strung Out, the Gimme Gimmes, Sick Of It All, Uke Hunt, Masked Intruder, Good Riddance, Lagwagon, and, of course, NOFX provided more than 16 hours of top-notch diversion. Sauced Beefansin put it best: “That’s what you get with Fat. Quality music, quality beer, and quality atmosphere… maybe.”
It seemed like everyone went big on Saturday. There would be no encore after the last song had played – all in attendance, musicians included, were eager to escape into the night. The siren call of unexplored bars and high-grade pharmaceuticals was simply too strong.
Sunday morning broke with the harsh reality of a blacked-out memory, but there was no time for that – another day of music was waiting. Things were a bit slower on day two, the mood slightly muted. There were memories of Tony Sly while No Use & Friends belted out a few classics. Fat Mike confessed to puking hours earlier. Regardless, we all dug deep, swallowed what was left, and ordered up one final round like it was last call.
That night, as the sun disappeared and the wind picked up off the bay, my afternoon sweat chilled dry as a reminder of fall’s inevitable approach. So I loaded up and headed out, blasting back across the San Francisco bay towards sanctuary.
The drugs had worn off and the drink was pissed away. Winter would soon rear its ugly head, and with it, month after month of rituals and bizarre beliefs designed to invoke the lengthening daylight hours of spring. I felt threadbare, a bit ill even. Greased in the slime pit, it was like some kind of mutant virus had infiltrated my defenses, attacking me from within.
Not that it mattered. You can never go back after getting smeared like that, and no, it will never buff out.
No quarter asked, no quarter given. The record has turned into an ashtray, so breathe until you choke.
I had poured out the remainders with this family of dregs – old, young, fat, skinny, ugly, gay, dependent, socially crippled, socially destructive, up for three days, down for the count, covered in ink, punctured with holes, save the Earth, burn it to the ground, poor as shit, turning tricks, a bad swimmer, nice as hell and mean as fuck.
Somewhere nearby, a psychotic farmer kept on dancing, and when the ice finally thaws, all my treasures will be revealed…
“Don’t tell me about the answer/ ‘cause then another one will come along soon/ I don’t believe you have the answer/ I’ve got ideas too/ but if you’ve got enough naiveté/ and you’ve got conviction/ then the answer is perfect for you” – Bad Religion
Until next time,