It could be a figment of my imagination, but in the Rolodex of my mind I swear I remember my friend Jamie setting a pivotal intention during a drunken conversation, most likely over beers at a punk show. “One day if I ever get married I better have a fucking T-Rex in a tutu as my ring bearer.” Apparently dreams do come true. Nearly a decade later, my friend married the love of her life at the biggest punk show of the year, surrounded by friends, loved ones, and a ring pop toteing dinowoman.
Jamie is one of those friends in my life that has become elevated to family status. We met at Radiation Records when we were both 15 years old. The owner had just moved in from the old Puke n Vomit location, and my friends and I had shown up at the new spot to make peanut butter sandwiches for Punks Fighting Poverty, a monthly event where young crusties would head from Anaheim to Skid Row to distribute food and blankets in the old Puke van, a 1970-something pale blue monster that drove like shit and sounded like a Mac truck. We got to know each other as the beast barreled up the 5 Freeway, talking about our favorite bands and shows and tattoos we wanted to get (and now slightly regret), bouncing around on the giant bench seats, teenage gossip and banter jostling for sonic space as someone played d-beat tapes on a battery powered boom box.
Not long after, she ended up moving in with my mom and I. We became inseparable for the remainder of our teen years and early 20s, going to shows and getting into mischief as often as possible like the time we had a short lived Bikini Kill cover band and Jamie accidentally broke a friends tooth with a mic while warming up to “Suck My Left One” outside of Proof Bar, or the time we snuck into an exclusive private concert at NAMM only to find out the secret band playing was Puddle of Mudd (we got bored and stole their beer off the stage), or the time we had to club a dude with our vintage flats in the pit at an X show on Sunset Blvd after he creepily harassed a mutual friend. We were the merch girls at countless shows at the Allen Theater and the Showcase, and if I wasn’t playing drums that night you better believe we were in the pit, working through the trappings of coming of age as young girls licking our own wounds in secret, using punk as a tool to process and survive.
Punk Rock Bowling itself isn’t something I’m particularly interested in attending as an adult whose more stoked to analyze and deconstruct rather than get fucked up these days. But after a 15 year friendship full of shenanigans and wild nights at punk shows all over Southern California, there couldn’t have been a more perfect place for Jamie to celebrate her love. Her and her boyfriend-now-husband love punk, they live it and breathe it. In addition to both being punk fans and creatives, they make their living as screen printers at The Hollywood Anti-Social Club, a business they opened together last year that makes and sells all kinds of printed punk garb at their booth every weekend at the Santa Fe Springs Swapmeet.
They decided to tie the knot during a conversation about Punk Rock Bowling, believing that they are each others best friends and soulmates. A last minute affair, Jamie and her now husband Dik called me to share the news a few weeks ago and work out plans for everyone to stay at The Plaza, the official Vegas home of Punk Rock Bowling. They’re expecting a baby girl this fall, something Dik proudly shares, wearing a printed patch of the ultrasound on his vest just under the Hollywood Hooligans patch he’s known to sport.
The ceremony was packed with new and old friends wearing costumes, who congregated at the Lucky Little Chapel, a quaint spot located a little off the beaten path. It started promptly on punk time (40 minutes late) and was equally funny, working class, and beautifully gritty. The room was filled with people from all over So Cal, the groom’s party from LA and the bride’s mostly from OC. Vows were said, tears of joy were shed, and rings were exchanged: a ring pop and brass knuckles. After tying the knot in a solar system dress handmade from felt while 6 months pregnant (complete with a tiny Pluto dangling from her derriere), Jamie grabbed her husband, outfitted in a suit covered in googly-eyes, and walked down the aisle in what I am sure will go down as the most fun goddamn wedding to have ever happened at Punk Rock Bowling. They asked me to come as Elvis, an honor I’ll always cherish.
Vegas was filled with punks as far as the nose could smell for the whole weekend. The wedding party plan was to go to Punk Rock Bowling after the ceremony that night, and the sold-out Chron Gen and Angelic Upstarts show at the Freemont Country Club after the festival, one of Chron Gen’s first US appearances in over 30 years. The day was filled with catching up with old friends over beers and penny slots, talking about everything from personal accomplishment, to love life drama, to the trend of anti-intellectualism in the punk scene. When we arrived to the main festival gate there was a mix up with the tickets, and it turned out that my partner and I didn’t have access into the show. We bid the rest of the wedding party adieu, and headed up with a friend to the adjoining El Cortez Parking lot, which had a perfect view of the festival and quickly filled up with leather jacket clad street punx.
We got up there just in time to watch the majority of the Buzzcocks set from a good spot on the stairs. While watching jams like “What Do I Get?” and “I Don’t Mind“ we met some young punks from LA and talked about the Smell’s eviction notice, hoping they can overcome it. For a moment, I felt like we were in a punk rock VIP penthouse suite, overlooking the jam packed, sweaty sea of mohawks from our concrete deck with a perfect birds eye view of the festival and a decent mix of the music.
But just as the Descendents took the stage the local security showed up dressed like characters from Reno 911, shooing away dozens of punks just as Descendents bust out into a fitting theme for the moment “Everything Sucks.” One young guy begged security to wait for one song since he couldn’t afford the $60 cover charge to see his favorite band that day, a request met with an unsympathetic leathery grimace and a stern shake of a flashlight.
When we got to the bottom of the El Cortez stairs we saw a group of young party drunks taking pictures with a passed out punk, a phenomena that became a problematic hallmark of the event visible by way of the official Passed Out Punx Instagram. Once they cleared we went to check on him, but by the time we were able to get around the maze of cars and walls we saw the same two security guards who cleared the top level starting to kick him since he was unresponsive. We spent most of the Descendents set sticking by the dude and trying to wake him up to help the kid stay out of jail. We blocked security from kicking him anymore called the only two numbers on his flip phone, one of which from the good ol’ 949.
We knew he would be ok when he started tapping along to “Bikeage” while remaining blacked out, a weird moment as the security (clearly not understanding the dark humor of the moment) asked if who could pick him up and take him back to a hotel room that night, to which I responded “not me,” thankful for all the friends who scooped my ass up as a messy punk kid. When he finally woke up without a word, he stumbled away unaffected into the Freemont Street night, like an injured dove released back into the wild.
By the time we reunited with our party and got to the Chron Gen and Angelic Upstarts show, seemingly everyone on the strip and in the show was wasted and it was probably well past most people’s regular bed time. Sadly, the show was mostly a bro fest, a lot of dudes trying to look hard and drink even harder, which can be unfortunately contagious, and a bummer since Chron Gen is one of Jamie’s favorite bands that she has wanted to see as long as I’ve known her.
This show reminded me of a lot of the things I’ve come to resent about punk. The only thing worse than normative elitism is when it’s paired with a violent streak, unreconciled trauma, masked with an a-political affinity for anarchy and a tall can of PBR. Chron Gen was fine, not great, not bad. They sounded fresh and went through their set with a lot of energy and excitement, but their songs fell flat on a lot of 21+ audience members who were either posturing, uninterested, or too drunk to care. A small pit went off for a good portion of the show, but the fun ended when some punk dude in a political punk band shirt kicked a cane out from under a man watching the show, hit him with it, stole it and ran off. Our party left after that.
Monday’s activities at The Plaza were way less heavy, but equally messy. Punks with melting liberty spikes and hats of all kinds were out in full force, soaking up every last minute of Punk Rock Bowling one tall can and free cigar at a time. PRB’s Pool Parties are pretty cool concepts: all of them are free and all ages and you don’t have to have a room key to get into them. On Sunday street punks swam with their vests on at The Plaza’s tiny pool, causing the water to get murky needing to be drained and refilled for Monday after some reports of rashes breaking out.
We went down to check out Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels around 1:30 but saved the swimming for the Golden Nugget. The Plaza had plenty of plumbing issues as a result of Punk Rock Bowling, sewage backed up in some people’s bathrooms, and hallways actually smelled like poop for most of the weekend. But the hotel was great, I really can’t complain about anything other than the hidden $15 resort fee and the poo smell in the hallway. Radiation played a mix of covers and originals, disappointingly only a few Specials songs: “Little Rich Girl” which he dedicated to Amy Winehouse and “Rat Race.” He did please a lot of kids in Misfits shirts by playing a punk-a-billy cover of The Munsters theme, essentially shooting fish in a barrel, getting people to move their bodies more than any other song in the set.
Later that night people started to trickle into the hotel for a Poker tournament, changing the dynamics of Freemont street as the totally punk fest started to bleed into vapes, fedoras and even more dogs making it hard to discern who was there for what. We went to a DIY show to get away from the strip that night where we saw more bands comprised totally of men and learned that the dude who owns Zappos is king gentrifier of Las Vegas and locals hate him. When we got back to our hotel we actually saw a dog wearing a fedora, waiting to get checked in.
Tuesday was our last hurrah which was mostly spent eating, hugging, swimming, and swapping memories and battle scars from the weekend, the way I’m assuming that any destination wedding concludes. Although a lot of the festival reminded me of facets of the punk scene I’ve come to resent and do not identify with, Dik and Jamie’s wedding was a nice reminder of the transformative potential of finding likeminded people to build relationships with through mutual interests. I don’t think I have ever seen her so happy in her life, with a man who would do anything to give her the world (even on a beer budget), reunited with old friends in a place that reminded us so much of our roots.
My old friends and I live different lives than each other now, but we all have close bonds and owe our friendship and much of what we have as adults to punk, even though the things we talk about now rarely have anything to do with shows or bands. After spending a lot of the weekend feeling grown up and talking about how far we have all come that afternoon at the pool, Jamie and her husband passed out on some lounge chairs after dreaming about college funds for their kids.
Dik’s weekend beer belly resembled Jamie’s pregnant stomach, both moving up and down with each breath. The groom’s sister drew up some embarrassing impromptu signs and snapped some shots of the two zonked out in public, hoping to get their mugs on the Passed Out Punks Instagram feed. Punk is weird, it makes a person grow up really fast, but remain young at heart forever simultaneously. But in that moment, adolescent humor had never felt so poetic.