Punk Rock Bowling In Downtown Las Vegas, Saturday May 26th 2018
I have never thought that punk and Las Vegas could fit together in the same sentence before attending Punk Rock Bowling, a festival which is happening each year on Memorial Day weekend. It’s my second year attending the event and although last year the excitement reached an unprecedented high because the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop, was headlining the first day, there still is plenty to see and discover this year.
Saturday was actually a full discovery, as I knew very little about the bands playing:The Father Figures, Resistance 77, Noi!se, D.O.A., The Marked Men, GBH, L7, Suicidal tendencies, and Rise Against, Beside L7, that I had already seen perform with Shonen Knife a few years ago, I knew very little about the rest of the bands, although I was aware that some of them were legendary.
There were some relatively young bands, such as self-proclaimed ‘post skate punk’, Arizona-based the Father Figures, whose lead vocalist/bassist Tom Reardon was shouting his lyrics in a mix of urgency and darkness. With Michael Cornelius on guitar, and Bobby Lerma on drums, there was not too much movement on stage but a blend of terror and aggression in his scream. Noi!se was representing Northwest street punk, with a very in-your-face sound and loud drumming. These grey skies Noi!se guys were true mosh pit warriors and were visibly happy to see how many people had gathered for the event. Later on, Texas-based The Marked Men had brighter (even poppy) songs that they executed with a military precision and multi-voices over a breathless rhythm.
But there also were veterans of the punk scene, and even of the UK street punk scene, such as Resistance 77, an upbeat jumpy group of men, with a great stage energy, who were ‘still fucking angry’ (and why wouldn’t they be?) joyously shouting ‘oi! will never die’… D.O.A. were other veterans who brought up many epic duels and a lot of stage bravado with guitar played behind the neck, violent arm wheels and legs kicking the air. They were celebrating 40 years of music, with frontman Joey ‘Shithead’ Keithley, one of the founding members of the band, was the star of the show. Grievous Bodily Harm, better known as GBH, or Charged GBH, also brought a large crowd… as they have been around for a long time and are even considered as pioneers in the UK punk rock genre. Wearing his signature leather jacket, frontman Colin Abrahall screamed like a beast all set long, bringing the audience with him, and starting a violent mosh pit. Suddenly a guy got on stage to make the longest jump ever (the width of the photo pit), probably breaking a record and half breaking his neck… ‘That was a bit naughty’ said Abrahall before announcing songs like ‘Necrophilia’, ‘Give Me Fire’, and ‘Maniac’…
Women are often poorly represented in a punk rock festival but L7 were there to save the day. They rocked the stage with a lot of blue and pink hair flying to their catchy heavy melodies. Playing in front of their simple logo L7, they were the most straightforward rock ‘n’ roll band, loud and explosive, not exactly fast or sped up, but developing grooves and triggering many sing alongs. They even introduced new songs, ‘we came back to bitch’ acclaimed with joy by the crowd.
You couldn’t have gone more agitated than the guys of Suicidal Tendencies, they were a complete riot from start to finish, playing and running like maniacs on stage, and constantly involving the crowd in their stage banters. Described as the fathers of crossover trash, they were going through styles and songs at the speed of light, from hardcore skate punk to their own style of punky rap, while beloved frontman Mike Muir brought a huge crowd on stage with him for a large part of the show. They knew how to lead a crowd and, looking at the fervor coming from the crowd, you could tell they certainly represented a strength and support for all these fans, as a deep sense of community had invaded the stage.
Chicago punk band Rise Against were headlining the first day of Punk Rock Bowling with Tim McIlrath’s spectacular howl and desire to bring people together in one same big oooo-ooooooo. It was powerful punk with plenty of energy, as McIlrath was constantly jumping onto the large amps to get up close and personal with the audience.
I should also said that fans attending Punk Rock Bowling Day 1 could get free mohawks and buy a million different shirts… As usual, the crowd was very colorful and very into the punk spirit of this all-generation event, yes I have seen tiny kids with a green mohawk! it may sound like the strangest thing, but in a city that has seen it all, punk is the most real thing in Las Vegas in May.