In past years, the three-day tattooing extravaganza known as Musink has brought a fairly diverse musical lineup to the OC Fairgrounds, billing everyone from Snoop Dogg to Taking Back Sunday, Yelawolf to Deftones last year alone. This time around, Musink is ringing in its 10th birthday by returning to its punk rock roots. Featuring old school punk acts like NOFX, Bad Religion, and Pennywise being joined by other rock icons such as Glassjaw and the Used, Travis Barker’s annual event figures to bring musicians, tattooers, and fans back to their favorite days of the old punk rock summer camp.
“It’s going to be so cool,” says El Hefe of NOFX. “It’s going to be like the old days of Warped Tour. We all hang out, and on Warped Tour we used to do barbecues and everything. It’s going to be a reunion like It’s Not Dead Fest was [in 2015]. We haven’t all seen each other in so long, so it’s going to be good times.”
With It’s Not Dead already slated to return later this year, there’s sure to be plenty of discussion both at and away from Musink about the impact that Kevin Lyman and his punk rock festivals have had on the music scene as a whole. If you ask some of the people involved, the decades-long friendships shared by many of the ‘90s punk bands headlining events like Musink and It’s Not Dead never would’ve happened if not for Warped.
“It all started on the Warped Tour,” says Fletcher Dragge of Pennywise. “Before that, you might play a show with NOFX or a show with Bad Religion, but on the Warped Tour, you’re with them for six weeks hanging out and drinking beers everyday. It gives you a more intimate relationship with those guys, and they become close friends. We don’t get to go on tour with them all the time anymore, so any time you get a festival where everyone’s going to be together, it’s something to really look forward to.”
“Those are the most special events for us, because it’s like we all got together in our own backyard and had the biggest and most exciting barbecue of the season,” says Greg Graffin of Bad Religion. “It’s very special, and these are like neighbors and family members coming together for a special occasion. Nothing could be more special and heartwarming.”
Of course, the beauty of a lineup like this year’s Musink is that the possibilities for collaborations and hijinx are endless. Much like how Fat Mike of NOFX joined Bad Religion for a couple of songs at Ye Scallywag in San Diego last year, there’s a good chance bands will be intermingling on stage at Musink. Whether it’s for a single verse, a few tracks together, or even something that has nothing to do with the music at all, the brotherhood shared by SoCal’s punk bands of the ‘90s is sure to be on full display this weekend — even if they’re not all performing on the same night.
“With some shows, you just never know what’s going to happen,” Dragge says. "We just played a show with NOFX in Poland, and we got extremely inebriated. In the middle of our set, Fat Mike comes out with clippers and starts cutting our hair in the middle of our set. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Fat Mike at his worst. He’s always at his best. Even though we’re not playing with them on Friday night, we’ll still be there all three nights hanging out. It should be a good weekend.”
For Dragge, Musink is always more than just a punk rock show. As one of the last bands to ever perform at Ink-N-Iron two years ago, Pennywise has always been a strong link between the tattooing and punk rock communities — so much so that Dragge is part-owner of Hermosa Beach’s Third Street Tattoo. Following the Long Beach festival’s change in direction, Musink remains as one of the last weekends truly celebrating both punk rock music and the ink that goes along with it.
“The thing that makes Musink a standout festival for me is the fact that the tattooing has evolved as an art,” Dragge says. “That whole scene has always gone hand in hand with punk rock music. It’s really cool that whatever day you’re there, you can roam around and check out all of these great artists. That whole side of it is really cool. As far as I know, that’s the only festival left that’s really doing that. I’ve never had that experience anywhere else in the world where you can go check out all of this tattooing stuff all day and then go get drunk and watch a bunch of punk bands.”
Musink’s appeal to Dragge and many of the other punk rockers doesn’t end with the tattoo connection though. With so much of the lineup based in Southern California, being able to have a weekend like this within an hour or two of driving makes the festival even more like one giant backyard cookout. Sure, everyone might be a little older now and there’ll be families involved, but this year’s Musink basically promises all of the best social aspects of old Warped Tours without having to sleep in a van or get a hotel room.
“For us, I’ll be grabbing the old ‘85 Bounder, putting a couple of kegs on it, and taking a motley crew of people down there,” Dragge says. “You have that convenience of being close to home, so you don’t even have to get a hotel room. It’s also really cool because all of your close friends in the city you live in can come out and see you. It’s crazy and kind of a nightmare sometimes, but it’s a lot of fun to have shows in your own backyard.”
But beyond simply being able to bring your RV and friends out to the show, Musink is a reminder of something even more important for bands like Pennywise, NOFX, and Bad Religion. For a bunch of whose popularity wasn’t supposed to survive the ‘90s, there are still an awful lot of people who want to come out (now with their children) and get down with the same LA-based punk bands they knew and loved growing up.
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“I’ve seen a lot of bands in my career come and go, but the scene here is just different,” El Hefe says. “Even when we did that It’s Not Dead Fest, I didn’t know what to expect, and I was blown away. It’s all these bands from the ‘90s, and there were like 30,000 people out there. It’s insane that it’s still this popular. There should be an old school Warped Tour now or something. Everyone’s grown now and bringing their kids to the shows, but it’s still just like a big family.”
As for the weekend’s host and the biggest name behind the entire festival, Travis Barker is just excited to see Musink continue to grow in every direction. With tattoos, punk rock, and classic cars, it’s still just one giant celebration of some of the drummer’s favorite things.
“It’s 10 years later and Musink just keeps getting bigger and better,” Barker says. “This year’s lineup of cars, tattoo artists and bands is one of the best yet. Every year the goal is to grow and make it the best experience possible for everybody involved.”
Musink featuring NOFX, The Vandals, The Used, Glassjaw, Bad Religion Pennywise at the OC Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Dr., (714) 708-1500, www.musinkfest.com, Mar. 17-19, $45-$299. All ages.