The Punk in Drublic logline is the sort of thing that makes a Pacific Northwest punk a little misty-eyed: craft beer + punk rock. It sounds so simple, yet until now, it hadn’t been done. Fat Mike has managed to combine the unique atmosphere of a punk rock show with a brewfest. As Langston Hughes said, “Hold fast to dreams.”
The tour stops are cities most likely missed on regular circuits. I arrived at the Tacoma stop with the thought, as I’m sure did everyone else: why the fuck is this in Tacoma? The question is probably the answer. NOFX is a band that has been around forever and toured about everywhere you can think of, doing a weird tour of less-sought American cities seems right up their alley. Sometimes the only reason is why not?
I got to the venue early enough to walk around and take in the sights. It kind of reminded me of a mini-Punk Rock Bowling, but without the oppressive desert heat. In fact, the green grass and cool air were a welcome change from my past festival experiences. If there’s anyone listening out there: the mild climate of the Northwest is perfect for this type of thing. People were drinking beers and chatting, hyping themselves about the last time they saw NOFX or Bad Religion; decked out in Fat Wreck gear and comparing tasting notes. It was a cool vibe, definitely a unique festival experience. I had the pleasure of trying out Stone’s NOFX collaboration beer– a hoppy lager called Punk In Drublic– and am happy to report it tastes about how you’d expect: a big earthy bouquet of lager maltiness with a strong dose of hops. Pretty damn good, if you ask me.
The biggest problem with the beer side of the operation was that there wasn’t enough. There were ten-thousand punks in Tacoma that night, and they drank all the beer.
Impressively, it wasn’t even cheap beer, we’re talking ten-bucks-a-pop festival cups here. Fat Mike got his I-told-you-so in on the mic at the end of the night. For next time, they’ll have to remember that the crowd that goes to see a craft beer/ NOFX show aren’t the one-and-done types. Besides the beer running out into the middle of the final set, the festival went pretty smoothly, excepting for the long beer and merch lines. It’s hard to be too upset, allowing for inexperience with this sort of event. If they do it again (and God, I hope they do it again), they’ll need twice the kegs and the volunteers to go with them.
For the music of the day, I’m happy to say all the bands killed it. Tacoma darlings, the Hilltop Rats opened the show, obviously honored to be in the company of such a strong lineup. They played fast and aggressive skate punk with tons of melody and banter. They were there to get the fest started off right, and they were there to have fun along the way– what else can you expect from a band who played a song called “Jell-O Shots”?
Not to beat a dead horse, but the lines for beer were getting gargantuan by the time the music started in earnest. Unfortunately, the beer line predicament kept me in line for the entirety of Bad Cop/ Bad Cop’s set. From where I was though, they sounded great. Warriors is one of my favorites of the year, and I was happy to hear them play and harmonize with expert precision.
Goldinger was up next and if I had to name a song of their’s to save my life, I would have to gracefully accept a bullet. But, when they came on stage, I was in total awe. Those guys have energy to spare. They were bouncing up and down, kicking out muscular riffs that had folks dancing and singing along. Ska isn’t usually my thing, but man, I had to admit– Goldfinger kinda rocked it.
Less Than Jake had a bunch of energy too, and gave a bashful “Thanks, Fat Mike,” for putting on the punk beer fest. If there was a running theme through the night, it was that the band’s were as enthralled with the novelty of the event as the fans. They opened with “All My Best Friends are Metalheads,” which means, if I had to name one song of Less Than Jake’s to save my life, I could do exactly that.
The gateway band that I can’t shake is Bad Religion. Yeah, there were other bands I listened to when I first got into punk, but Bad Religion is the one that I always come back to. What can I say about them that hasn’t been said? Their set at Punk In Drublic was one of the best I’ve seen from them, they sounded great (especially their harmonies) and opened with “American Jesus” and ended with “Fuck Armageddon… This is Hell.” In between those two, they also played “No Control,” “Do What You Want,” “Generator,” “Los Angeles Is Burning,” and a bunch of their other hits. As he is apt to do, Fat Mike jumped on stage for the bridge of “21st Century (Digital Boy).” At Punk Rock Bowling, he took over bass for “We’re Only Gonna Die.” If there’s one thing Fat Mike likes to do (besides drugs), it’s help Bad Religion keep their set exciting. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again, but it always brings a smile to my face.
I’d only see NOFX once before, but knowing how the band follows whims (you know, like pulling off a punk beer fest in Tacoma), I always figured their sets could be pretty distinct. As per usual, there was the trademark banter, which for a NOFX fan is as much a part of their set as well, you know– songs– but, it was funny and entertaining. Fat Mike riffed on event coordinators not having enough beer and then proceeded to play a lot of classic tracks, changing words for laughs along the way. Seeing NOFX in their element with an audience of ten-thousand was a sight to see. You don’t get many opportunities to sing “Bob” with a choir that size. Everyone was really into it, singing and circle pitting– whether in the pit or not– and I was pleasantly surprised to hear them play one of my favorite deep cuts, “I’m a Huge Fan of Bad Religion,” maybe just because I can relate to the title.
All in all, Tacoma’s Punk in Drublic was a unique spectacle of good beer, great live performances, and some logistics that could stand to be improved. But, as Fat Mike celebratorily said, “This is a punk rock festival for ADULTS!” And it certainly was. There was beer and there was a music, and not a fucking kid in sight.
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?