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If your vehicle was sturdy enough to get you to this year's Punk Rock Picnic at Oak Canyon Ranch (aka the middle of nowhere) -- meaning your car didn't overheat during the uphill slaloms or get stuck in the makeshift loose-dirt road parking lot -- then you experienced what was probably the best Punk Rock Picnic to date.
Thousands showed up for the all-day, early-bird punk rock festival. The crowd included just about everybody in the punk rock pantheon of fans: full-fledged punk rock families complete with mohawked little ones, middle school kids who just heard their first Black Flag song, even old-school veterans with walking canes. The gates opened at 11 a.m. and the first band went up at noon. There were 10 stages with eight bands set to play on each, guys on bikes doing backflips off ramps and a "Punk Dogs" food stand. It was pretty much the place to be for any alternative-minded individual in Southern California.
Tailgating was half the fun. People brought things like homemade lemon Hefeweizens to share, and security was minimal.
The event seemed to be organized a bit better than the years before. For starters, four of the stages were set up in a type of street roundabout fashion, making it way easier to hear your favorite bands if they happened to be playing at the exact freaking time.
As far as bands are concerned, where to start? El Nada, a punk band from Mexicali, rocked on the Old School Stage, as Dirty Filthy Mugs and their Celtic-slanted working class punk did on the same stage later in the evening. On the Redneck Stage, Social Conflict from East Los Angeles gathered a small crowd as they performed their classic "Razorblade Mary." And right beside that stage was MLCH Skate Stage with Battalion of Saints!
An honorable mention goes out to Downtown Brown from Michigan for being the first band to get a breakdancing pit going for their gnarly funk punk songs. Their fans came out to hear them play "Skynet is Real," complete with Terminator's doomsday drumbeat as the beat. They wrapped their set after being heckled for "going way over your set time, man" by The Angry Samoans. They immediately wrapped it up with their outro, a performance of the Home Improvement theme song.
The big hitters of the day all did their part to show that they are still as bad ass as they all were in the '80s. Circle One has a new singer, but he is a bad ass one. Besides that, the rest are original members, and no one is really going to care about that stuff when "Highway Patrolman" is done.
The Yeastie Boys stole the show with their much-loved clown-ified covers of punk rock classics such as "Abolish Barnum," but not before inhaling a fair share of carcinogens from the meters of colorful aerosol silly string used as props.
The headliners tore it up on the main stage. The ever-cheerful Casey Royer from D.I. shared his endearing punk rock gospel, "We appreciate what you are, what you'll become or what you'll never be." The Crowd followed, performing all of their famed Beach Blvd compilation classics such as "Living in Madrid."
But really, everyone paid to see Jello Biafra, hoping to hear him to perform any old Dead Kennedy stuff. And he did -- "California Uber Alles," "Too Drunk To Drunk" and of course "Holiday in Cambodia." But each song was interwoven with new ballads like "John Dillinger," a song about abandoning the three strikes law. Seconds after Biafra's last song, Ving Lee of FEAR exploded into "I Love Living in the City." He even had a saxophonist to aid him in the performance of "New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones."
Trash cans were thrown in the air and the pit was at its largest as the sun went down and FEAR concluded the night. It was a good punk rock picnic.
Critical bias: I was hit on by a MILF before getting in. Therefore, I strutted around like a boss and probably saw everything through a boss perspective.
The crowd: Punk rock nuclear families.
Overheard in the crowd: "Good afternoon, fuck you and I hope you die."
Random notebook dump: Mission Brewery's Shipwreck IPA is way too sweet for an IPA.
Follow Javier Cabral and his punk rock coverage on Twitter at @theglutster.