From the moment the Punk Rock Picnic opened its gates, the homegrown festival was faced with a Herculean task–it needed to be perfect. By punk metrics, that basically means open on time, have all the bands get to the stage when they're supposed to, don't charge us too much for beer, let us have our moshpits and give us our headliner. And for the most part, we actually got that. Had you left before the sun went down, you probably walked away thinking the whole thing had gone off without too many hitches. Hell, the fact that it happened at all should've been enough of a miracle considering what happened to the festival in 2013.
But most of what people who are anxious to talk shit on the festival will remember (whether they were there or not) is how it ended–withThe Cockney Rejects' singer Jeff Geggus getting on the mic to announce that the band would not be playing their headlining set because the festival was forced to pack up early.
On Saturday night, the return of the Picnic was cut short by the city of Long Beach due to lack of security and noise complaints from local residents–specifically the barrage F-bombs that rained down all day from the stages showering neighboring yacht club community. We're pretty sure the Meatmen's set alone clocked about 115 "fucks" all on their own. In a way it was a classic case of aging crust punks doing what they do best–offending the aging upper crust. Of course it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a public spot like the Long Beach Marina is a lot more likely to get a fowl-mouthed festival pinched than more secluded areas like Oak Canyon Ranch or Hidden Valley where the Picnic has been held in years past.
However, when it came to the festival not being able to pay for security guards to stay for the end of the festival, that's when LBC police stepped in and forced everyone to clear out. The reason for lack of funds for security, according to promoter Steve Smith, stemmed from the brief tour they did up and down the coast with Cockney Rejects and Angry Samoans in order give them enough money from the shows to make Cockney's trip from the UK worthwhile. Instead, Smith said it ended up screwing up the Picnic. This year, Smith had help from partner nd fellow organizer Rick Bottrell who planned out the tour and was the primary financial backer for the festival.
"We did not bring in enough sales to cover all the costs," Smith says. "We paid [the bands] so much money on the tour that we tanked. It was a huge success, but also a huge letdown in the end." According to Smith, all the bands got paid for the Picnic except for Cockney Rejects. No official word from the band was available as of press time. But from what we observed, out of the lukewarm turnout we saw throughout the day, the crowd that actually stayed to see the headliner was slightly over a few hundred people, if that.
But we could spend the next five paragraphs whining about all the things that went wrong during this attempt to revive the Picnic. We could cry about the fact that UK legends Discharge couldn't play because of some troubles getting their visas, the roving bands of racist skinhead losers who seemed to have their own booth according to this post on Instagram, the overpriced carne asada fries…But let's talk about what the festival got right, shall we?
For one, it doesn't matter who organizes this festival or how many big time headliners they claim to offer, this Picnic will always be about the $5 bands you could pay to see on any night of the week. Sorry, but it is. Anyone who saw the Yeastie Boys blanket the moshpit in a blizzard of popcorn and streamers as they went apeshit on their classic clown punk cover songs can attest to that. They by far had the the best crowd amongst the smaller stages. Where else can you see a dude in a gorilla suit moshing alongside a guy with his daughter on his shoulders and a dude dressed up like Batman? The only thing they were missing was a cameo from singer John Clownhooley, who was busy tearing it up on guitar with his band, The Zero Class. Another highlight was local legend Gabby Gaborno running around the stage with an eyepatch committing his usual antics, including nut tapping the guitarist of one of his many bands, the X Members. Ah, classic Gabby.
All the local bands that normally play the Picnic–Co-Dependents, 45 Grave, Agent Orange, El Nada, and dozens more– they all turn up an extra notch for this fest. It's basically the culmination of a year's worth of dive bar shows, lugging their own gear and planning tours held together by scotch tape and bubblegum. This fest has always been about the 50 bands that aren't on the top of the flier. That portion of the Picnic still rocked, in addition to the newly added Nardcore Stage featuring Aggression, Stalag 13, Fang, and the bands that live and die by their own $5 shows outside of SoCal.
We were also glad to see that Long Beach's bike-friendly philosophy extended to the moshpits, evidenced by this guy above during Dissenion on the mainstage.
And even though a ton of freaks weren't able to hop the fence to get in for free thanks to security (when they were present), we still got people like the shirtless dude running around with a bullhorn and a handlebar mustache enticing people to staple dollar bills to his body. "One dollar, one staple who wants to play!"
Watching punk legend Rick Thorne go from MCing a stage, to playing with his band to shredding on a half pipe was pretty emblematic of the blue collar work ethic that goes into making this festival what it is.
Hey, even Tré Cool form Green Day showed up! According to his Instagram he was one of three people to catch whatever band is playing in the background of this photo.
Most importantly, even with all the crappy scene politics weighing it down, the Picnic still maintained a sense of humor about itself. It knows Kevin Lyman or Goldenvoice would never lay a finger on it for any number of reasons (probably because we all know there's still no money in old-school punk rock). The best joke of the day came from Ill Repute's singer John Phaneuf who gave the fest a good ribbing for its past transgressions.
"Hey thanks to Rick and Steve for putting on the Punk Rock Picnic," Phaneuf said. "Give it up for them. Hey where are they? Oh, they're taking off with all the money before they pay the bands!"
Awesome, joke–maybe not for the Cockney Rejects, though.
Of course the last 45 minutes of this year's The Punk Rock Picnic pretty much ensures this event can't (or at least shouldn't!) ever be thrown by the same two people ever again, that's not to say they didn't try hard to make it work. If you read our article on the festival in last week's paper, we did give them props for fighting to revive the fest after it's public image was totally ruined two years ago. Lord knows this infernal rag got our jabs in at their expense. They even gave out free VIP to people who showed proof that they bought tickets in 2013. That included giving out backstage passes, eight kegs of beer, 1,500 dozens of pizzas, 200 nachos and free booze, according to the promoters. Smith told the Weekly that all his hospitality earned him was a punch in the mouth by a female skinhead who he claims she wanted a refund after the show was shut down before getting her fifth beer…stay classy Long Beach!
A lot of people will say that if this festival been designed and run by professional promoters with a ton of capital and experience with huge events, people wouldn't have a reason to complain. Although they probably still would anyway because, well, that's what people (especially punks) do. But it also wouldn't be the Punk Rock Picnic. It would be another corporate festival. And even if everything went smoothly, by old school punk standards that would still be the opposite of perfect. But since there's little to no chance that this event can sustain yet another blow to it's infamous reputation–it was nice knowing ya, PRP. Thanks for the memories. The good ones, anyway.