Punk Rock Bowling And Music Festival In Las Vegas, Sunday May 28th 2017
Second day at Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival, and I am already used to it, the succession of punk bands on the unique large stage, the numerous t-shirt & merch booths, the spot where I can get free water (very important for survival) and the very colorful crowd, although I am not sure colorful is the right word, because black is the festival’s dominant color, if black was a color.
My day started with Ten Can Riot, a band from Texas with a raucous vocal frontman, going straight to where he was supposed to go. They had some of Bad Religion melodic accents, numerous accelerations and some slight reggae-ish detours, they were the perfect band for all these Social Distortion-NOFX lovers, and they sounded very tough.
Just after them, Lost In Society hurled their harmonies, showing a lot of male power and determination in these ooo-ooo-ooos punctuating their dynamic upbeat songs. They were bouncing and jolting with raucous guitars that they were throwing high in the air, looking pretty unstoppable.
The Real McKenzies were an interesting break from all these tough punk bands, not that they weren’t punk and tough but they were Scottish first, wearing kilts and playing bagpipes on stage! Of course, the first reference which came to mind was the Pogues, because there was a real connection there, and for this reason they got loveable very fast, while praising the merit of alcohol, ‘Stick to the drug of our choice, alcohol’ told us their very chatty frontman, who was the definition of what a frontman should be…Kilts and punk rock go together like ice and whiskey, and they gave us some old-school melodic punk anthems, tainted of traditional Scottish music, but these tunes were so good you could have danced on them, actually punks were moshing rather than dancing.
The Dickies’s frontman, Leonard Graves Phillips, was boasting about Iggy Pop being older than him, probably meaning by that he had now an excuse for still doing this punk rock thing, with the band’s campy-snotty type of humor… He was a frontman with accessories, bringing on stage diving goggles, an inflatable doll, devil horns and hand puppets, a damn penis-with-its-testicles hand puppet. They had great charging songs and of course their set was just goofy and punk-ridiculous.
I couldn’t believe how many people knew all the songs from the Bouncing Souls, people were singing the band’s upbeat anthems at the top of their lungs, with one hand on the heart, and it was a fervent communion from start to finish, as their frontman even jumped in the pit a few times to give hugs. May be because it was Bad Religion’s day, I thought a lot of the bands had that same melodic upbeat vibe and the Bouncing Souls were definitively going in that direction with all these empowering sing-alongs and driving guitars. They had a few crazy anthems screaming ‘east coast fuck you’, but their message was love and respect for everyone’.
When I was in the pit during the first three songs of Choking Victim, I couldn’t make sense of anything I was hearing, but it changed once I was out of it. Still, it was a weird but interesting mix, very aggressive, borderline hardcore with fast-speed ska, and may be they were the proof that ska can go dark. Their frontman had the most gravelly voice ever, yelling like a person in horrible pain, pushing some hair raising screams… ‘This song is about the prison system!’, he told us, there also was a ‘Fuck America’ one and ‘God is dead!’, which was totally appropriate before Bad Religion. Choking Victim, which broke up after the first day of recording for their debut album, ‘No Gods, No managers’, have reunited since, spreading their gritty anarchist music around, as they should do.
It was good and a bit strange to see FIDLAR just after Choking Victim, I have followed these L.A. kids since their beginning and they were now playing the Punk Rock Bowling festival, just before the headliner! With their good humor garage punk, we were far away for the nihilistic punk or the hardcore punk, a FIDLAR set is a sunny boozy skateboard punk party and the band just wants to have fun. Zac Carper and his mates were on fire as usual, rolling back with guitar, addressing the crowd ‘Now girl mosh pit! There are too many dicks in there’. I am not sure people listened to him, but when he asked them to sit down and stand up at the same time, they did. Sure FIDLAR is punk, but a different brand of punk than these aggressive sounding bands populating the festival, they are more Black Lips than T.S.O.L. despite their close ties (guitarist Elvis and drummer Max Kuehn are Greg Kuen’s sons, keyboardist for T.S.O.L.) . They played their hits, ‘Cheap Beer’, ‘Stoked and Broke’ and beyond them, they brought a more rocking bluesy sound to the festival, leaving the dissonance for the afternoon.
Bad Religion was headlining the night, and I had rarely seen that many Bad Religion’s shirts at the same place! Their following is loyal and so much into the music, that it’s heartwarming. People were really pumped up for their set, I saw many grown-up men screaming the lyrics, jumping and shaking the barricades, acting as if they were holding the mic on stage with plenty of theatrical gesture,… and they were not all drunks! Bad Religion played a long set of 30 songs with many of the hits as usual, but frontman professor Greg Graffin joked all night long about the fact that the songs he had been writing for the band were finally coming true,… all of them! ‘American Jesus’, ‘New Dark Ages’… ‘I Want to Conquer the World’ … ‘Anesthesia’, ‘Atomic Garden’, ‘Fuck Armageddon… This is Hell’, ‘Recipe for Hate’. All of them were now a reality, not that we should rejoice about it. But yeah, there was a sort of fantasy in thinking about all these songs and their prophetic nature. NOFX’s Fat Mike (in a dress) joined them on stage for a song, and despite the ‘Welcome to the dark ages’ prophetic message, the set was a lot of fun with all these manly sing-alongs. If all these guys really mean what they sing with such fervor, if they all share Greg Graffin’s ideas about religion, science and society, this gives me hope for humanity.