Punk Rock Bowling In Downtown Las Vegas, Sunday May 27th 2018
Punk Rock Bowling is going strong in its 20th year anniversary and Sunday brought another interesting lineup, reluctantly headlined by the hilarious NOFX, as frontman Fat Mike told us they had insisted for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to be the headliners.
But my day started very early, with many bands to discover in the afternoon busy lineup. After all, if you are in Las Vegas, you are here to be amused, and Crazy and the Brains seemed to have understood this with their colorful set of pop punk songs,… while they were exploring dark subjects like politics or mental illness, as their moniker suggests. Their frontman was moving like a rapper on stage, and the usual guitar solos had been replaced by xylophone parts, something quite unexpected for such high energy. They were very entertaining, did plenty of runaways along the stage, and their aaaahh-aaaahhs had something that reminded me about everyone’s favorite skate punk band, FIDLAR.
Oregon’s own Larry and His Flask put the punk in bluegrass with a collection of instruments (trumpet, banjo and an upright bass) rarely seen at punk festivals. They were rootsy and crazy, with a touch of ragtime jazz and a hillbilly country, so saying that they were a punk version of Mumford and Sons would not even be fair,… their bassist in particular was a mad man, carrying and pivoting his large instrument all set long, making the show even more entertaining. In the middle of their stage circus, they brought chaos inside their cool and upbeat melodies, and looked like a brass band with a mosh pit… Plus a band which dedicates a hobo song to ‘homeless people’ and another one to ‘mothers’ has to have plenty of heart.
Swingin’ Utters had very catchy tempos and punk songs going in a more traditional and familiar way, while their singer/frontman singer was constantly self stabbing, boxing the air, walking like broken mechanics, while beating himself in the face. These street punks, who have toured with Rancid and are signed to Fat Wreck Chords run by NOFX’s Fat Mike, had catchy choruses and sometimes sounded like a bridge between punk ska and R.E.M.
The Briefs sounded and looked like a band from the UK, although they emerged from the Seattle scene in 1999. With their New Wave look, skinny jeans, bleached haircuts, they gave us a high energy set, launching their retro-punk tunes like rockets in the sky. They had the attitude, the plastic sunglasses and the multi-voice harmonies to bring back a flavor of the late ‘70s British punk scene.
Talking about old school, the Partisans continued with a laid back attitude and a music evoking classic punk like the Sex Pistols. With their fast bullet songs, Phil Stanton’s morose delivery, they put the A of Anarchy in LAs VegAs, but they nevertheless modulated their set with tunes a bit softer than others, while an inflatable doll was crowd surfing above our heads.
Looking at all these jackets in the crowd, Turbonegro were highly anticipated, and the Turbojugend army had invaded the city. Frontman Anthony Sylvester even said it was simply amazing to be walking into a casino and see hundreds of these Turbojugend jackets. There is no doubt that the band is a strong force and their set simply destroyed the place with their usual blend of anarchic humor, shock and sexuality. Euroboy had glitter around his eyes, with its macho look and high socks Anthony Sylvester could have been the grand marshal of a gay parade and the rest was just great music, mixing Sabbath or AC/DC-worthy riffs, hard rock choruses and space-y guitars solos. Sylvester joked that president Trump would be happy to see more immigrants from Norway like them, before launching another hard rocking and muscular tune, such as ‘All my Friends are Dead’, sung by the entire crowd. Their advice for us was to get wasted because this Sunday was like a Saturday, and Sylvester took a dive in the crowd during ‘I Got Erection’,… which made complete sense.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, without any doubt the best-dressed band of the festival (although it’s not a very difficult thing to accomplish at a punk rock fest) brought back the ska in the middle of this punk debauchery, with their well-known and infectious hits. If they look like an institution these days (they also played last year), their agitated dance triggered a good energy and made punk rockers crowd surf as if the band was playing the most ferocious and aggressive music ever. You could be fooled by these good-looking guys wearing white suits and playing trumpets, but they reminded us that punk is just an attitude.
With NOFX, you know you are there for a good laugh with self-deprecating jokes and boundaries pushed to the limits of good taste. Half stand-up comedians, half musicians, they made us laugh between their one-minute hooky punk songs, while covering all the punk rock bases. Fat Mike and his band looked like characters of a Mike Judge’s cartoon…’This song is about Muslims’, said Fat Mike before ’72 Hookers’, and immediately joked they did sing it and ‘did not get shot’. NOFX have never cared about being politically correct and some said they crossed the line when they joked about the recent Las Vegas shooting, ‘I guess you only get shot in Vegas if you are in a country band’, but all these Bad Religion shirts in the crowd found their way to the front row. ‘Can you make him look smaller, I want to represent the band we are!’ kept saying Fat Mike while pointing to their good-looking drummer, and the rest was punk hooks breaking into ska parts, wrapped around self loathing humor.
As someone reminded us between two acts, punk rock has never been more important to fight the fascist propaganda machine that a misguided democracy has put in place in our country. Punk is political as life is political, and ‘fight for your rights and resist’ was the message of each band which played the festival, as ignorance and apathy have always been our worst enemies.