Downtown Las Vegas
How do I even begin to describe the degree of epic-ness for an event like the 13th Annual Punk Rock Bowling Tournament and Music Festival in Downtown Las Vegas? A lineup of rare punk bands from around the world? Sure! It takes place during a three-day weekend? Yes'm! A party venue? You bet your ass!
More than 24 bands performed at the yearly festival put together by BYO Records over the course of this past Memorial Day weekend. Bands included local greats such as the Descendents, as well as the forefathers of punk, Cock Sparrer.
This three-day pass went for less than half the price of other, more-popular, hipster music festivals in the middle of deserts--and it sold out quick! All hotels that were allotted to the show-goers were within walking distance of the stage and clubs. And in Vegas, where street drinking is absolutely legal, it sure was one damn fun weekend.
The official first event of the festival didn't kick off until Saturday night, instead of Friday like last year's, but most attendees had rolled in Friday night, as several club shows with bonus bands were going on throughout the weekend. Saturday's diverse lineup included the '80s hardcore sounds of the Grim, the vintage tones of Stiff Little Fingers, and the comrade-like beats of Dropkick Murphys.
Stiff Little Fingers played most of their classics--"Wasted Life," "Barbwire Love," "Suspect Device," even their highly gratifying cover of the Specials "It Doesn't Make it Alright."
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After them, it was a very happy-go-lucky set by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, featuring Fat Mike and his sky-blue suit. But all these really only prepared us for headliners the Descendents. They performed every song they are loved for, from their loneliness hymn "Hope" to their 17-second-long ode to food, "I Like Food."
Monday night's show kept the awesomeness train going, concluding with the Dwarves, Manic Hispanic, Leftover Crack, Agnostic Front and Cock Sparrer.
Leftover Crack played a truly memorable and inspirational show, not just with their positive, thought-provoking messages in their songs, but also with singer Stza being truly punk rock. As they played their melodic set, he got a paint-filled spray-gun from his backpack and started to graffiti the huge, inflated, plastic bottle of Miller Lite on the side of the stage. He sprayed at the logo until he was forcibly pulled away by stage security. Like I said, these guys really do act on what they believe in and not just sing about it. Cough, cough . . . despite corporate sponsors to make a punk-rock show happen!
Up next were a skinhead's show of a lifetime. Agnostic Front probably played the most intense set of the weekend. They opened up with "Victim In Pain" and brought forth their East Coast hardcore noise in the most vehement way possible: loud and moving really fast around the stage.
But the reason 90 percent or more of the people were here was Cock Sparrer. The East-end fathers of British punk and Oi! were the self-proclaimed headliners of the show. Fans of all ages and backgrounds came from around the U.S.--even Canada--to pay homage to these seasoned veterans. With almost all the original members since 1972, the syncopated energy expressed through their live songs is something that must be heard to be believed. "Teenage Heart," "Running Riot," "Working," "England Belongs to Me"--you name it, these legends played it, and every person sang along, too.
BYO somehow always manages to outdo itself with the lineup a little more each year. Combined with the growing momentum this festival has been receiving, there's no doubt the Punk Rock Bowling Tournament and Festival is what Collin Mcfaull (singer of Cock Sparrer) calls "the best punk show on the planet." Cheers!
Overheard in the crowd: "Fat Mike, I am your lost son!"
Critics bias: Working while being in Vegas for a three-day punk-rock festival? Why, sure! I don't need to party.
The crowd: Diverse punk-rockers from around the world. Still, it was a mostly older crowd, with attendees being 25-plus. There were even a couple of drunk metalheads with Rapunzel-like locks throwing up the bunny ears!
Random notebook dump: Among many other surprisingly good beers, the venue had Cuzqueña beer for sale.