It's Not Dead Festival
San Manuel Amphitheatre
It's Not Dead Festival (INDF) promised to bring one of the biggest and best days of punk rock SoCal has ever seen. The lineup contained so many punk legends from the last few decades spread across three stages that there was no chance of seeing all of them, no matter how hard you tried.
Long story short, INDF delivered. For over 10.5 hours, top-notch punk, ska, and everything in between rocked San Bernardino on Saturday, and thousands of fans absolutely ate it up despite painfully hot temperatures.
With a wide range of styles, ages, and liberty spike-holding hair products, the massive crowd proved to be just as diverse as the dozens of bands lined up for the afternoon and evening. Just about every age was spoken for between 6 and 60 at the show, with parents brought their young children, high schoolers showed up to see bands popular when their folks were their age, and SoCal's OG punks showing up to see some of their favorite bands from back in the day.
One thing that made INDF different from other festivals (and potentially frustrating) was that the day's schedule wasn't released until the doors opened. Even the bands were kept in the dark, which could've led to some blunders, although everything seemed to go relatively smoothly.
By not revealing the schedule to the crowd, it insured that the fans would be sticking around the stages containing their favorite bands (including the constantly impressive rotating "turntable" the main stage uses to let one band soundcheck while another performs) rather than only showing up for one set and then leaving. It was begging to cause some minor chaos in the heat of the afternoon, but punk fans young and old showed their resilience (and dedication to the music) by keeping the pits full almost regardless of who was playing.
Of the seemingly endless string of bands that played during the early afternoon, H2O's set was certainly among the best. Manic Hispanic and Agent Orange kicked off the Old Skool Stage with back-to-back sets of classic OC punk in the blistering heat, and bands like Goldfinger and OC's own Reel Big Fish (including a brief cover of the Offspring's "Self Esteem") added some nice ska diversity to break up hours of essentially the performed history of punk rock.
As the sun began to creep toward the mountains and certain areas of the festival saw glorious shade for the first time, Anti-Flag, Less Than Jake, and the Bouncing Souls followed Reel Big Fish's 3:40 p.m. set with a few of the best performances of the day while the Briggs and the Interrupters tore up the Big Ernie Stage. At the time, the inability to see both stages at once seemed like the biggest scheduling conflict of the day, but then scheduling disaster struck.
The final four bands of the main stage were left to a spinning wheel of chance as to what order they'd play in. NOFX, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and the Descendents were playing from 7:10 until 10:50 on the main stage, but a low-tech Price is Right game would determine when each went on.
With the Adolescents playing a half-hour set at 7:15 p.m. on the Old Skool Stage, I silently wished for Pennywise to come up first on the wheel. Nothing against Pennywise, but if I'm going to do my duty in writing about OC punk and see the Adolescents, they'd be the obvious choice for who I'd least mind missing.
No luck, the Descendents play first.
Moving forward a few hours through sets by the Vandals, Lagwagon, and more, I realized I could watch the Adolescents' set and then rush over to catch the end of the Descendents. With that plan in mind, it seemed appropriate and hilarious that the Adolescents mentioned multiple times during their classic set that the Descendents were playing on the next stage over.
Considering how fast and aggressive the Adolescents' songs are, they certainly make playing them live look far less difficult than many of the other bands on the bill. Outside of the vocal intensity, the entire set seemed like the band was just having a good time casually playing, not like there was the biggest and most raucous crowd at a secondary stage all day for the band.
After catching the last 15 minutes of the Descendents sounded fitting for one of the most influential (and underappreciated) punk bands in history, NOFX launched into a classic set complete with "Linoleum," "Stickin' in My Eye," "Leave It Alone," "The Separation of Church N Skate," and Fat Mike in a kilt. The two bands were highlights for many fans, as Bad Religion and Pennywise have already played festivals like Coachella, Musink, and Ink-N-Iron this year, allowing SoCal fans plenty of chances to see them.
Bad Religion performed the penultimate set of the night, sounding as professional and as thoughtful and displeased with global problems as ever before. Pennywise closed the festival out with their personal brand of beer-infused punk, although a good portion of the crowd left the dust-covered venue after Bad Religion.
While Taste of Chaos was more "Warped Tour 2006 Revisited," INDF was certainly "Warped Tour 1996 Revisited," complete with skateboarders and BMX riders. INDF forced the question "Is there such a thing as too much punk rock?" before proving the answer is either "No" or "Fuck you!" depending on who you ask. For one day, it didn't matter who you were or where you came from, thousands were united under the scorching sun and punk rock.