Festival Review: Punk Rock Bowling – Day 3 (Las Vegas, NV)

by Oliver Brink on June 10, 2017

“No one can take away our memory!”

Discharge Kids

If Day One was about old school and hardcore and Day Two was about politics, then Day Three was about unadulterated partying and England. Admittedly, I am not much of an “oi/streetpunk” fan. It’s not that I am opposed to it, mind you, it’s just that very few of the bands in the genre have impressed their importance onto me. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked to the site of the final day of the festival, with every intention of keeping my mind open and enjoying some hearty music from across the pond.

The Quitters-4

Up first was Las Vegas’s very own—the only local group in the fest actually—The Quitters,  playing a fast and loud attack with a vocalist who reminded me of Jake Sayles (Filth, Fields of Shit) and some of the damn near heaviest sounding bass guitar I’d heard throughout the fest thus far. Four songs into their set they pulled out a full live cover of Prodigy’s “Breathe” to pretty much everyone’s surprise, and it sounded goddamn great.

Roadside Bombs

Following The Quitters were The Roadside Bombs from Santa Rosa. Here is where I must admit I found my interest waning. It’s not that they’re not good at what they do—they are—but I didn’t find what they were doing particular interesting. Too many streetpunk bands lyrically rest a bit much on machismo, which comes off as juvenile to me. That said, frontman Ben Coleman maintains a strong connection with the crowd, and the band is tight and cohesive.

Wolf Pack

Suddenly we were punched in the face by Melbourne’s Wolf Pack. This politically minded hardcore 3 piece played an intense set that reminded me of what CRASS might have sounded like if they were a metal band. The songs encouraged radical self-inspection as well critical thinking about socio-political environments. They also are a not for profit band and donate their album revenue to no-kill animal shelters and other various charities. Their energy was unstoppable, and they joked about bringing the heat with them from Down Under. A great band to look into if you haven’t seen or heard them yet.

Lion's Law-3

Back into oi/streetpunk territory with Paris’s Lion’s Law. Again, it was a situation of my trying to overcome my general malaise toward the genre, but I have to hand it to them for being excellent performers and keeping the crowd engaged. Their songs have a very anthemic quality to them, and Wattie’s voice is like a growling cannon! Of course, one of the difficulties with streetpunk and oi is that the songs blend into each other too much, which was the case with the set.

Booze and Glory-3

Leave it to England’s Booze and Glory to then break my malaise. The anti-racist streetpunk band has been around the block for a while now and manages to take the genre in a more interesting and less typical direction. There’s a dynamic quality to their songwriting that is seldom heard in the genre and separates the best from the rest, so to speak. Rather than pigeonholing themselves to their skinhead roots, they’ve expanded their outlook and played a great set that had the crowd singing and dancing with great vigor!

Discharge-4

Because politics and punk are not separate entities, it was fitting that the hardcore/metal injection to punk rock music would come from UK Crust/Hardcore legends Discharge. These guys are so good at what they do that it is impossible to deny them their legendary status. Some of the crunchiest bass riffs of the festival met with some of the best metal influenced guitar stabs and solos on top of one of the most furious vocal performances heard yet. Discharge came, saw, and destroyed. With such a huge back catalog to draw from, it should come as no surprise that they pulled off a tense and dynamic set for the circle pits to rage to.

The Adicts-10

Of course, no one throws a party like Clockwork Punk originators The Adicts, and what a party they threw. Monkey is one of the most flamboyant and fantastic frontmen in rock and roll, entering the stage in an outrageous cape and mirror vest in the band’s uniform white look. The sun was setting, and the lights became a rainbow of color as toilet paper, confetti, and playing cards flew toward the audience. Ever the consummate showman, Monkey worked the crowd perfectly, and the band threw an unforgettable spectacle as they somehow manage to do at every show they play, just like distant cousins—or brothers from other mothers—The Flaming Lips and Turbonegro.

Pennywise-6

Following a brief cleanup of the stage came SoCal skate punks Pennywise. I must admit that, while I’m not a fan, they certainly put on a very energetic and fun performance. Perhaps it was to try and one up the Adicts, but they connected so thoroughly with the crowd that their abilities are impossible to deny. In the middle of their set they pulled out Greg Hetson (formerly of The Circle Jerks and Bad Religion) from the wings to play The Circle Jerks’ “Wild in the Streets” and Bad Religion’s “Do What You Want,” which also saw Fat Mike (NOFX) tearing onto the stage and hijacking the microphone from Jim Lindberg to sing the second verse. The set culminated—as it usually does—in a fully covered stage of friends and fest-goers singing along to “Bro Hymn,” which was a pretty impressive thing to see.

InDecline

Throughout the festival, a video compilation by guerilla art group InDecline played on the large stage monitors about the making of the infamous “The Emperor Has No Balls” statue of Donald Trump. The statue, or one like it, made an appearance at the festival and was brought on stage, where Fat Mike once again took up a microphone in which he told everyone in no uncertain terms that they needed to stop ignoring that politics and punk go hand in hand and that “…punk rock IS political and if you are a Trump supporter, get the fuck out of our scene!” Mike and others proceeded to destroy the statue in an act of righteous—albeit juvenile—fury.

Cock Sparrer-10

Which brings us to the final performance of the night from the equally legendary oi progenitors, Cock Sparrer. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Shock Troops album so I was looking forward to the performance from this now 45 year old band! They delivered a fantastic and engaging performance, and if you closed your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to believe that they are as old as they are. If anything, I think age has actually made Colin McFaull’s voice sound more intriguing. Sure, it’s a bit gravelly and not that high-pitched cockney voice I remember from those albums, but the maturity lends well to the themes of family and brotherhood present in the lyrics. Their choices for closing and the encore were a bit anti-climactic in my humble opinion, but they still played all the greats and some new ones from the recently released Forever.

Thus ended the 19th Punk Rock Bowling, and into the darkness we all returned. While I’ve generally got a bit of disdain for “festivals,” Punk Rock Bowling is how you do a festival right. Many kudos to the Stern brothers for continuing to put on one hell of a show!

Oliver Brink

Oliver is a lover of film, music, theatre, and art. He writes and works out of Los Angeles.

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