Every Memorial Day weekend for the past 17 years, Las Vegas has hosted the Punk Rock Bowling Music Festival. With hordes of punks flocking to a small corner lot of Downtown, music fans from all over the country and world come to join in on the four days of diverse live punk rock in an outdoor setting. Aside from a bowling tournament and contests held offsite at various hotels in the city, the numerous tiny bars in the area throw late night club shows, many of which were immediately sold out.
This year, over 100 bands performed each day throughout the shows and main festival with Saturday's headliners including Rancid, Sick Of It All, The Mighty Mighty Bostones, Anti-Flag and local heroes TSOL. Sunday night, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine, Turbonegro, Murder City Devils, and Refused headlined, and finally Monday was closed with Dropkick Murphys, Conflict, Agnostic Front, The Business, and Swinging Utters. Each day and evening had slam pits that could rival any LA/OC show, and saw furies of human bodies with spiked, dyed Mohawks and leather jackets flying and stage diving.
Given that we love punk rock and outdoor multi-venue music festivals, this was just another easy excuse to head to Vegas. In any case, Here are 10 highlights and considerations to make, if you're planning on attending next year's Punk Rock Bowling festivities.
The name of this festival is Punk Rock Bowling, so for lazy people who don't read up on it, you'd expect it to be live music at or near a bowling alley, right? Well, not exactly. The grimy corner of Downtown where the outdoor main festival was held, had shuttles, which took fans and hopeful bowlers to four nearby hotels for the Bowling portion of Punk Rock Bowling. Together, more than $16,000 dollars in prize monies were awarded, and fans got to play along with teams composed of some of the performers as well. Yet, for a few thousand revelers, there was no bowling at all, just hours of live punk rock.
If you were smart, you would plan ahead and walk, which most sane people did. But, the best parking options were to leave your car at the hotel you are registered in, or if not, a notable, reputable downtown area casino, such as Fremont Street, the D, Golden Nugget, or a few others. Either park in a self parking garage and remember where you parked, or use valet and be sure to tip a buck to ensure they take care of your car. Don't lose the ticket in the pit though! Street parking, and garage parking is normally available in the area, but the areas and facilities directly adjacent to the outdoor venue site of the concert looked shady, to say the least. Use discretion, or better yet, Uber, call a cab, or have a designated driver handle the parking situation for you, if you plan on drinking.
8. Be Ready For a Long Line
For many who stayed at hotels in the Downtown area, the concert was located around a 10-block walk away. Unless you are a vendor, have a pass or are working at the show's main event site, be prepared to wait in a long ass line. The earlier fans showed up, obviously meant a less of a waiting time. But if you showed up anytime after 5 p.m. the line stretched more than three blocks to get in. Doors opened each day at around 3:30 p.m., and tons partied en route to the show, drinking beers and drinks on the streets and in line, to pass the time.
7.Limit Alcohol, Be Cool
OK so, yeah you're at a punk show and it's Las Vegas, the laws are a bit different than in LA. It's totally legal to drink in the streets as long as you aren't acting stupid and breaking any other laws. The key word is stupid. Know your limit and that of those in your party. Designate a driver and stick to it! A DUI is just worth it! Be responsible and use common sense. Just because they have $5 dollar 64 ounce mixed drinks and 99 cent Tall cans, doesn't mean you should guzzle down $20 bucks worth! The Clark County Sheriffs made their presence known at this festival, and though the majority in attendence were fine, unfortunately several belligerent, drunk, punks spent the night at the drunk tank or in jail. If you don't act like a fool, you'll be totally fine.
6.Budget Your Gambling
OK, so this isn't Hustler or Commerce Casino, this is Vegas, baby! Gambling options everywhere you look. Pick your game to throw your money away at: Poker, Black Jack, Craps, Roulette, Slots, Keno, Bingo, Sports Betting, Horse Racing, you name it. But, the best advice is to always stay with a budget if you chose to indulge. Plan ahead, to ensure money for your room, food and gas money to get back home isn't fed into a slot machine or rolled away on the craps tables. There's nothing worse than explaining to your date, that you spent your time gambling all your essential travel funds. Plus, in the odd, 1 to 5 percent chance you strike a jackpot (anything over $100 for most people, $50 for some punks), take your money and run. DO NOT BET YOUR ENTIRE WINNINGS in hopes of doubling up. Las Vegas is about fun. If you go in with an attitude of entitlement, or overconfidence, or dependence on winning, you are destined to lose. Lady Luck is truly random, so never ever expect to win anything, and go in gambling away what you can afford to lose.
Being the region is in a drought, and it's in the middle of a desert at the end of May, it was surprising to experience cloudy and muggy outdoor day in Las Vegas. But on Sunday evening, as the dark gray cloud slowly encircled the city, heavy rain was beginning to fall for the last headliners. In the distance lightning and thunder was heard, but after the outdoor portion of the main show had concluded. It was funny to see tons of shirtless dudes wearing shorts and scantily clad women in a cloudy damp atmosphere. But it was warm, during the day in the 80s and 70s at night.
4. Notable performances
TSOL provided a massive interjection of words, courtesy of front man Jack Grisham, who turned the event into a family affair inviting a young boy, his sister and a cousin, all in their early teens up onstage to escape the moshing fans. With classic songs like "Abolish Government," "World War III," "Dance With Me" and "Code Blue," Grisham shared anecdotes about his political leanings, having sex with his oldest child's mom, swallowing urine in pool water from last year's pool part where TSOL played. After a bit of rambling, a small group began yelling "Culero!" and the band got back to business and the slam pit flared up hard.
From Oslo, Norway, Turbonegro are a fiendish, yet slightly flamboyant hard rock band with a punk rock edge and head bangers vibe. Imagine the Ramones, David Bowie, Judas Priest, KISS, and the Sex Pistols all mixed into one, with a strong international following of rabid fans known as Turbougend. The band's logo was seen all over patches, denim and leather jackets, and is known for a heavy biker image and following. Live, the show rocked, with some bashing fists and others banging heads, as the band's energetic sound of glam rock, metal and punk energy echoed throw the streets of Downtown Las Vegas just as the sun was setting.
Although the main outdoor festival was sick, the secret to having an amazing time at Punk Rock Bowling, is to score your way into the many nightly club shows, thrown after hours, in small bars and clubs throughout the vicinity, many within walking distance and with alcohol after hours. The only problem is they sell out fast, and are in small capacity venues. This year, fans got a chance to see bands like GBH, The Weirdoes, The Rezillos, Ill Repute, Manic Hispanic, 7 Seconds, English Beat, Strung Out, Clit 45, The Unseen, Negative Approach, Icons of Filth and tons more, who didn't perform at the main festival. Get your tickets to these shows, as early as you can, or miss out!
In all aspects, the bands' set times, parking, food options, transportation, memoribila like records and shirts, be smart and plan ahead. Basically, plan the entire vacation for next year's trip now. Right Now. Don't be a fool and try to plan a ride, get a room and tickets to shows a month from the show. If you can't buy tickets, at least book a room at The Golden Nugget, or your favorite Las Vegas Hotel for Memorial Day Weekend, 2016. If you attend next year's Punk Rock Bowling you'll be so thankful you booked in advance! The city is always packed but expect it to be packed beyond belief with tourists, families, vacationers and people from all over the world on this holiday weekend.
Now, we know not everyone's a millionaire. Times are tough, and that's understandable. But, this is Vegas, and the Golden Rule for a good time in Las Vegas is to bring MONEY. This might mean different things to different people. Budget your funds out well ahead of time, to allow for expenditures such as Food, Hotel, gas, Gambling LOSSES, entertainment, alcohol, Food, and Transpiration within the city. This doesn't have to break the bank but it won't be cheap, and can be done if you plan ahead. Remember, gambling doesn't have to be part of your itinerary, but odds are it will be, so plan in advance and plan to lose. But, don't show up expecting to have a blast, if all you can afford is the 99 Cent Store. At Punk Rock Bowling luckily, even though tickets cost a tiny chunk of change, for the bands, and experience, it is worth it. Do whatever it takes, save every month, or work Uber for a month straight, save the funds and bring a bit of extra capital in to Las Vegas, you won't regret it.