Who Stole the Punk Rock Picnic?

How OC's biggest backyard party went from mosh pit to money pit

*     *     *

Despite being out of the festival game this year, Punk Rock Picnic founders Litwak and Schwab are still fighting to get the bills paid for last year's fest. That includes settling some of their own debts with certain companies, in addition to the Sheriff's Department. Stage Tech, a concert-staging company based in Santa Fe Springs, was forced to take Smith to small claims court last year on delinquent staging costs; it won the suit.

For those who are actively seeking to recoup lost funds, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Though it took almost three months for process servers to locate Smith and hand him the court order to appear before a judge in small claims court, White believes he's finally on the road to recovering his losses; more important, he says, he's showing Smith that his actions won't be tolerated.

Burn, punkers, burn
Pat Kinsella
Burn, punkers, burn

"I've gotten together a group of ticket holders, bands and vendors who are at least willing to be there for the hearing for support, just so Smith can look into the faces of people who've been wronged by this whole event," he says with a grin. "Should make him at least a little uncomfortable, no?"

It's not Judge Judy, but a roomful of surly punks in a Laguna Hills courtroom promises to be entertaining; the hearing is scheduled for June 17.

With the ashes of the Punk Rock Picnic Music Festival still smoldering, many wonder whether the biggest backyard punk show in OC will ever be able to come back from the destruction caused by its ill-fated clone. Schwab and Litwak say it depends. Can they afford to pay for a new venue—assuming anyone will work with them after this year's debacle—and do they have the will to even try?

"If we could've read a crystal ball, we would've averted this totally," remarks Schwab. "There would actually be a Punk Rock Picnic No. 6. It would've already happened. But it got screwed up by one dude."

In recent months, Smith has reached out to Schwab and Litwak via text, apologizing for breaking up the partnership between them, blaming a series of things, including a former girlfriend who, he says, encouraged his ambition to take the Punk Rock Picnic on his own terms.

"I'm sorry, Jim," Smith writes in one message, which Schwab shared with the Weekly. "I was wrong for what happened; I should've never let a woman cut me off from two people I had a really good relationship with. We were a team, and we were partners. It doesn't work without the entire engine intact; I blew it."

Various attempts to reach Smith have been fruitless, aside from one very long email response explaining his side of his dealings with the city of Long Beach and one very short, expletive-filled phone call that didn't tell us much—though he sounds pretty fucking miserable.

Was the Picnic ever perfectly run? No. Were mistakes made since day one? You bet your ass. It was a dirty, grassroots event built from the ground up by people who enjoy their fair share of mischief and mayhem. But at least the damn thing had some heart and soul behind it. And though ticket holders might've incurred bumps and bruises and occasionally been knocked down along the way, the small lumps you take at Punk Rock Picnic were the kind most punks prefer, the kind from which you pop back up, spit some blood on the grass, gnash your teeth and keep on moving.

"People ask me, 'Do you even get to enjoy the festival when you're working it?'" Schwab says. "And I say no, I love it. If I'm helping someone out who already dislocated their shoulder and it's popping out again because they're goofing around that day, I grab a trash bag and make him a splint so he can go on with the day. For that eight or nine hours, we're all there together. These people are our family. So we have to take care of one another. Plain and simple."

« Previous Page

Concert Calendar

  • November
  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed