LOS ANGELES, June 6, 2014 — Another Punk Rock Bowling has come to pass. While some of his notes and memory cards did not, Michael Fear survived. He is a Punk Rock Bowling survivor. Michael Fear braved the Las Vegas heat to enjoy the best music festival America has to offer. Lollapalooza retired to somewhere near Chicago. Coachella has never been good. The Warped Tour has lost sight of its origins and is more screamo and makeup than punk these days. Punk Rock Bowling, however, is still punk and still worth every penny you have to scrounge in order to get there.
Here is a look at the weekend through the eyes of Michael Fear.
Day 1. Arrived late due to cab drivers not knowing their way around down town Las Vegas, or they were playing dumb trying to make an extra buck, also took a bit longer to get in because Cock Sparrer had to cut in line so they would not miss their “bloody set” as the bass player called it.
Devils Brigade – There was a good mixture of older and young punks in the crowd, yet they were dull and didn’t seem into it. The band came out super energetic and sounded amazing. It was my first time ever hearing them. Although they had me rocking out, they never really won over the audience and ended up seeming like background noise to mindless conversations going on in the crowd.
We saw a rainbow and it was 102 degrees out.
Angelic Upstarts – Blew my mind that they sounded just like the old mixed tape my bother gave me with them on it when I was a kid in the 80s. Every single person who was not in line for beer or water was pushing to get closer to the stage. The band, which formed in England in 1977, won many people over who did not even know who Angelic Upstarts were before the show. Mensi, the singer, made some great jokes and taught the newbies to AU a little history lesson on the band. Great stage presence and energy.
Peter and the Test Tube Babies – The crowd that was checking out the merch, waiting in line for beers or water all showed up once Peter and the Test Tube Babies belted out their first notes. They laid out heavy baselines and people were eating it up. The crowd, at times, was singing along and there was a decent pit going. Peter Bywaters’ raspiness and smirks as their set grew closer to the end were quite entertaining. By the end of the set I found myself wanting a few more.
The Slackers – The Slackers stole the show!!!! They came out with super high energy, witty banter and some of the most body moving songs I have ever witnessed at a concert. Every single person was either dancing, moving, or singing along from start to end. The crowd begged for more and more once they were done. The rest of the night people were talking about the Slackers and how they “stole the show”. They could have headlined this or any of the festival. Best band of the day.
Cock Sparrer – About the third or fourth time seeing them, sounded as tight knit as ever. The sound throughout the venue was perfect, best out of all the bands. Colin McFaull drove home clear and precise lyrics making it a pleasure to the ear drums that you could hear the entire song.
Day 2. Lost my notes on Objex, LA Plebe and Lost in Society, sorry…
Masked Intruder – WOW. I never thought that so many guys could rip it up on stage in Las Vegas wearing obnoxious wool ski masks in 100+ degree weather. Only the second time I even heard them, but I instantly became a fan. Great stage presence, never a dull moment on stage and definitely got the crowd involved with the show making it that much more enjoyable. Will seek them out to see them again in a more intimate environment to experience it that way too.
SNFU – I have waiting my whole life to see SNFU live and they did not disappoint! With Chi (Chinn) and Dave the only members I remembered from back in the day, it was a phenomenal set. SNFU tore it up and sounded better than I could ever imagine. They played an effortless set that had the crowd eagerly anticipating the next song immediately after the last one ended. Having met Randy Steffes (guitar), Kurt Robertson (guitar, backup vocals), Dave Bacon (bass, backup vocals, and Andian White (drums, backup vocals) the night before fresh off of the plane from Montreal Canada, I couldn’t tell that they were as tired as they had said they were and neither could the crowd. They jammed every song down the crowd’s throat with ease, and everybody loved it. Chi seemed ageless on stage. Adrian, the youngest of the group, was killing it on drums, Dave was laying down delicious bass lines that made your chest thump and Kurt and Randy worked back and forth on guitar just killing it. If you missed SNFU, you missed one of the top performances of PRB 2014.
The Dwarves – The greatest rock band ever. They blew my socks off and out of the hot and sweaty parking lot, down the street, around the corner and all the way to grandmother’s house they went! Holy moly. With favorites like Demonica, Everybody’s Girl, You Gotta Burn and Dominator, The Dwarves definitely did not disappoint. He Who Cannot Be Named was his explosive crotch thrusting self with more energy and stage presence than anyone all weekend. Blag sounded amazing and clear as ever on vocals. Blag and He Who Cannot Be Named showed again that they are two of the best pairs onstage in regards to feeding off of each other’s energy. Even though they didn’t rip things up like the Dwarves of past, they were the tightest sounding band and the crowd was more into them than anyone else this night until the headliner, Descendents, came on. I got to watch the Descendents onstage next to Blag (even took a cheesy selfie that he was stoked to do).
The Addicts and Face to Face – I can say that both bands brought their fans to the show that day. The majority of the crowd was singing along to both. The sound again was amazing for both bands. Everywhere you were in the crowd you could hear everything clearly with the vocals being album crisp. Every single person I could see was singing along with Face to Face’s Disconnected, the crowd favorite for their set for sure.
DESCENDENTS – The parking lot shook as Milo stepped on stage. By far, one of the best live sets I have ever seen. Bill, Stephen, Milo, and Karl were exactly what the Descendents have always been; one of the best and most admired punk bands of all time. Bill did was Bill does, completely rip it up on drums. Makes your skin tingle, your head rock, and your heart beat faster. Stephen did what Stephen does, plays chords that take over your head and shoulders and refuse to leave you standing still. With one of the best stage presences, in my opinion, Stephen played an amazing set, sounding as awesome as ever. Karl did what Karl does. He took mine and everyone else’s breath away with his solid play on bass. One of my biggest influences were the bass lines he laid down as if he were on auto pilot. Milo was Milo and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Every single person there was singing along at the top of their lungs. Descendents capped off a great day with a perfect set.
Bad Cop / Bad Cop – An amazing surprise! With high energy, tons of fun, a great stage presence and a sound as if they had been together for 15+ years, I was instantly drawn to Bad Cop / Bad Cop. Very likable sound for the first time hearing them, I would like to hear their whole album and see them in a more intimate environment to get another perspective. They pitched a new 7” for which I will be looking. Met three of the four girls after their set and found out the band is from San Pedro, California. I spoke to singer/guitarist Jennie at the merch booth and being from almost the same area and playing music in her town for over ten years we instantly found conversation easy. The best all girl band to come out of Pedro since Dirty Laundry, in my opinion.
Cerebral Ballzy – The drummer made the set tolerable for me. He and the guitar player were the only ones that really seemed into it. Towards the end the singer seemed to wake up or something and made some gut wrenching shrieks that made me think of Leftover Crack and kept me from hiding in the beer area for some shade.
Good Riddance – Came out explosive. Drummer steals my attention with his hard hits and all around quickness. The crowd started to amass mid set, everyone seemed into the energy the band was putting out there and bodies and heads were rocking and moving for the first time today.
OFF! – KEITH!!! I do not even know what to say. Every time I see OFF!, they win me over and over, again and again. This band will make you forget that you miss Circle Jerks and early Black Flag. OFF! never disappoints.
Leftöver Crack – Seeming much more sober than when I saw them last in 2004, LOC did not disappoint at all. Letting cops know that they were hated and could go f**k themselves was a recurring thing throughout this set. They played 500 Channels (Choking Victim), which brought the crowd to a whole new level. They were going crazy, dancing and singing along, as they did with Gang Control, Rock the 40oz, One Dead Cop, Gay Rude Boys Unite, and every other song they played. The new guitar player held his own and really impressed me by holding it down so well, he looked super young. Vocals were awesome and super clear. F**K THE POLICE was sung by every single person outside, including myself and a few of LOC’s friends that I just happened to stumble upon while I rested from dancing. Met a few of the band members after their set and they were super cool and friendly.
Against Me! – Against Me! Was awesome. It was good to see the new songs live. Laura Jane Grace was definitely a crowd pleaser. The band sounded great. If you have never seen them, you should keep an eye out for them in the future.
NoFX – Sounded amazing. They were the usual NoFX, made funnies, had everyone going from start to finish, made funny on pay and how much time they could play with one of the Stern brothers on stage. They played Who Will Be the First to OD at PRB that they sort of made up last year, making everyone instantly fall in live with it. They played their version of Tony Sly’s The Shortest Pier, dedicating it to Tony Sly. This was one of the more memorable moments of the weekend. By the time Day 3 ended, my feet were done.
Again, the Stern brothers killed it with Punk Rock Bowling. It is a journey every punk should make at least once if they can. The weekend went great and now we’re already looking forward to Punk Rock Bowling 2015.
Michael Fear heavily contributed to this article.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball