Punk Rock Bowling 2014

author PP date 03/06/14

Punk rock is awesome. Las Vegas is awesome. Why not bring punk rock to Las Vegas? I'm convinced this is how the PRB experience came to be, most likely in a drunken poker room conversation between the Stern brothers one late evening. For a few years now yours truly has been following closely the stories and positive experiences told online by people having attended the festival, and so when NOFX were announced as headliners this year alongside Descendents, Against Me! and OFF! among others, it seemed like a natural choice to do a reportage on the whole shindig during the Memorial Weekend holiday and to get a trip to Las Vegas out of it in the process.

Punk fashion

Now I mentioned experience as a keyword above, and that's for a reason, because Punk Rock Bowling is about so much more than just standing in front of a stage watching a bunch of awesome bands do their best to encourage circle pits and other unruly behaviour in the crowd. For starters, the two festival hotels Golden Nugget and Plaza are located at the recently revived downtown area of Las Vegas, which is a short 10-15 minute taxi drive away from most hotels at the strip. Where the Las Vegas strip may be full of excess and glamour, there's a distinct wild west atmosphere in the Fremont St. part of the city, arguably a more fitting setting for a punk rock festival. Here, you'll find pool parties where bands play by the poolside, room parties, and of course, the annual Punk Rock Bowling poker tournament, which is well attended both by bands playing and by fans partaking in the festival. One of our local contacts went on record stating the only reason he bought into the tournament was for an opportunity to bust Fat Mike (NOFX) out of the tournament. And from what I've heard, all of the above is drenched in alcoholic beverages, sex, drugs, and of course plenty of non-stop gambling at the festival casinos. What's more, when the headliners finish each night, there's a set of different bands to provide you with after-party style entertainment at separate venues across Downtown, including a punk rock themed karaoke bar and much more.

Punkest security guard ever?

But four days is simply not enough to travel across the Atlantic and back again, so yours truly and our photographer Philip Hansen opted to stay on the Strip at Mandalay Bay resort instead, so we wouldn't have to change hotel halfway through our trip (plus you can only take in Downtown Vegas for so long before you'll go insane). So what follows next is a reportage of the experience told from the point-of-view of PK (who wishes to remain anonymous), a Reno, NV resident whom we had the pleasure of meeting at Groezrock in Belgium a few weeks earlier, before we get on with the festival reviews themselves.

The PRB Experience

My PRB weekend starts when I get to the hotel and grab a beer with my friends. After getting situated I head down to the poker tournament and truly get the party started. The tournament has roughly 100 people in it, all there for the sake of punk rock. This year my first table featured none other than Shawn Stern of Youth Brigade. Shawn and his brother are the two geniuses behind Punk Rock Bowling and it’s always great to see them hanging out with us fans enjoying the festivities. Poker starts at five o’clock, and, depending on how well you do, can last a couple of hours. This year was my best year and I actually managed to make money, a miracle considering the number of drinks I put into my body by the end of it. After the tournament I rejoin my friends and take down a few more cocktails before heading out to the first night of club shows.

Punk fashion

The club shows run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights from around eleven at night to three in the morning. There are four club shows at different venues each night, featuring four bands each. This year I kicked it off with Church of Confidence, Radkey, CJ Ramone, and Naked Raygun. All the bands played well, but in my opinion CJ Ramone was the best show of the night. It’s always nice to sing along to Ramones favorites with a crowd of a few hundred people, especially when you’re too young to have seen the Ramones play live in the good old days. I can’t remember what time the show ended that night, but by the time it was over I was nearly passed out and had to be up to bowl in the morning, so I headed home to get a few hours of sleep. Of course before I could get to my room, I was invited to a random fellow PRBer’s room for a late night pick me up. After consuming a few lines of snowflakes (use your imagination) I was off for another few hours in downtown Las Vegas. Finally, after something like thirteen hours of nonstop partying, I went to sleep at around six in the morning, just enough time to get a few hours of sleep before bowling.

Punk fashion

The buses from the hotel leave at eleven in the morning, far too early to recover from a hangover, so the only real solution is the hair of the dog. My friends and I woke up around ten and slammed a few beers in the room before making some mixed whiskey drinks and going down to the buses. The bowling takes place at a few different casinos away from downtown, so we hopped on the bus to Suncoast and got ready to bowl while listening to punk rock tunes. The great thing about Punk Rock Bowling is you don’t have to be any good to have fun. Even if you suck, you get a handicap which will increase your score and give you a chance to make the second day and win some money. Every year we’ve bowled our team has finished on day one, something we are not proud of. I am a terrible bowler, and after last year’s performance I had an 84 pin handicap, meaning I started each game with 84 pins knocked over already…not too bad. During bowling the alcohol is cheap and flows freely throughout all the bowling lanes. If you make ever make it out to PRB and get a bowling team, be sure to make friends with your neighbors. It is much more fun when you have a big group of people partying together, plus you find new people to hang out with throughout the weekend. If you end up in a lane next to me we will definitely be betting rounds of beers on which team has the best bowling performance, it is a blast. This year also included countless Jameson shots and cherry moonshine (stay away from that stuff, it tastes like pure alcohol). Bowling lasts about three hours, and after it is finished its time to hop back on the buses and head to the festival. On my walk to the festival gates I ran into a guy I met three years earlier at PRB. That’s another great thing about this festival, you make friends for life! After chatting and catching up for a few minutes with my long-lost friend I made my way to the show.

Punk fashion

After the Descendents finished their set I made my way to the Lucky Cheats, Piñata Protest, Old Man Markley, and Reverend Horton Heat show. I was able to make the last half of the opening bands set, which I am happy about as they were fantastic and I happily purchased their record. After that, Piñata Protest came onstage and blew my mind. Check these guys out if you get a chance, they are awesome. After their set I ran into one of our bowling opponents from day one and he offered to buy me a drink, which I happily accepted. The show ended at around three thirty in the morning and I made my way back to my hotel.

Punk fashion

The final day of the Punk Rock Bowling weekend started with an epic hangover, of which I only know one cure…more beer! So I started yet another day off with a drink and relaxed for a few hours before heading down to the Golden Nugget pool for the pool party. Somehow they managed to squeeze a tiny stage into an area next to the pool and have bands play for free while you relax in the hot Las Vegas sun. Today’s headlining band was Flock of Goo Goo, an 80’s cover band featuring members of Adolescents, Manic Hispanic, and the Cadillac Tramps. These guys were great. They were all men dressed up like 80’s women, singing 80’s songs like Come on Eileen, and 867-5309/Jenny. It was a great way to kick off the last day of the greatest weekend of the year. After the festival ended my friend and I made our way home for a relatively early night. It didn’t turn out that way as we stopped into a bar for a novelty drink. We each purchased a fishbowl filled with alcohol and made our way back to our room, only to see one of the coolest bands ever playing on the street. I have no idea what this band’s name is, but they featured a trumpet, trombone, guitars, bass, and a girl playing a saw with a violin bow. We sat and watched them with a big group of people for about forty-five minutes before they ended their show. Once again we attempted to get back to our room to finally get some sleep. We had almost made it when we got sidetracked at the downstairs bar. It was basically a big grand finale for PRB. Many of the punks who had taken over downtown Las Vegas over the weekend were clinging on to the last hours of the weekend, reminiscing about all the great times of the past few days. My friend and I drank and exchanged stories with people for another couple of hours before finally heading up to our room in the wee hours of the morning to finish out our Punk Rock Bowling weekend.

Thanks for reading…I encourage all of you to make it out to PRB next year, your first beer is on me. PK

Heat Exhaustion Area (Festival Area)

The festival area itself is basically an empty parking lot. This is a classic setting for outdoor shows in America, but a totally new experience for us Europeans used to standing on giant grass fields with a camping area attached to them next door (see: Groezrock in Belgium for instance). Here, we find a bunch of makeshift tents setup to house merch stands for punk distro's (think spikes, patches, etc), clothing brands, official festival merch, bars, and of course a single stage that functions as the center of entertainment alongside a giant beer garden tent that's found across the lot on the opposite side. Two elevated crowd stands exist in the back for those wanting to sit down while watching the shows, but generally these packed up rather quickly and it was difficult to find room especially for the later shows each day (basically as soon as the sun went down).

Speaking of the sun, whoever though it was a great idea to host a festival underneath the scorching Las Vegas sun this close to summer is clearly out of their minds. When you need SNOW CANNONS(!!) operational at full force at the beer garden in order to provide some relief from the extreme 40+ C temperatures and the sun, you probably shouldn't be hosting a festival outside. You probably shouldn't be hosting a festival in any location that involves a desert setting now that I come to think about it. When your shoes are literally melting to the asphalt and burning through your feet (!) during the early afternoon hours, it's not surprising to find every single shadowed area of the festival area crowded with people seeking protection from extreme heat exhaustion and dehydration symptoms.

Crowd at night

That said, the beer garden - serving standard American beers Pacifico, Pabst Blue Ribbon alongside Newcastle Brown Ale, Strongbow Cider + basic mixer drinks (no cocktails, though!) - had plenty of space underneath it to provide cover. Many opted to virtually hug the snow cannons in order to continue existing at the festival before sunset, when the heat fell down to a more acceptable 32-33 degrees. Likewise, the eating area was covered underneath a tent, and generally had space to sit in it at all times we tried sitting down. And here's the thing: Americans are incredibly friendly people, so whenever you sat down at the edge of a table that already had people sitting on it, you were guaranteed a conversation that lasted pretty much your entire lunch/dinner about everything and nothing - all at once. And something else the Americans are apparently good at is festival food. The stalls ranged from classic BBQ and Mexican food stalls (we're in the Southwest after all), alongside the standard hot dogs, burgers, pizza and that sort of thing. But what really impressed us most was that you could - literally - buy LOBSTER at the festival. Lobster in a roll, lobster tails, and much else was on offer from the Lobster stall. It was absolutely delicious, although our favorite has to be the Asian food stand which takes the prize home as the best food I've ever eaten in a festival setting. As for pricing, well, for European standards, let's just say everything was fucking cheap. $6 for a pint of beer ($5 for the watered down shit that is PBR)? Sign me up.

Lobster tails.

Otherwise, the festival area was fairly standard to what you'd expect to see at an outdoor festival. In terms of people, apparently looking 'tr00 punk' is extremely fashionable in these circles given the insane number of crazy mohawks, patched jackets, and spikes dominating the clothing styles. If punk rock has always been about non-conformism, the crowds at Punk Rock Bowling definitely seemed to suggest otherwise based on what was deemed acceptable in terms of what you were wearing. H2O's "What Happened?" certainly came to mind. Compared to something like FEST in Florida, which typically gathers crowds from the mid to late 90s punk scene onwards, the festival goers at PRB rather seemed to subscribe to the original punk rock rebellion from the 70s and 80s, which the festival lineup also reflects with its many '77 generation punk/oi!/street bands.

Day 1

It's Saturday around 3pm local time - or midnight within our bodies thanks to jet lag from back home. We've only just arrived in Vegas late night Thursday and haven't fully stabilized just yet (waking up at 4am thinking it's afternoon or unable to hold yourself awake past 9pm is the norm), but we've made the choice to get in around doors opening to catch a quick overview of how the festival area looks like before it opens to the public. The doors are 30 minutes delayed for some reason, which gives ample opportunity to do so, but otherwise it's clearly a terrible idea to show up this early. Not just because there are barely any people until much, much later (more like after 9pm!) possibly due to the invasion of British Oi! / hardcore that seems to be today's general theme, but because it's simply idiotic to stand on a parking lot at 3pm in the sun on a desert environment. Did you think of Converge as the epitome of uncompromising? Try the fucking Las Vegas sun. Ugh.

The Gashers

The Gashers @ 15:30-15:50

The doors were delayed by 30 minutes, which means that by the time The Gashers start their set, the parking lot is practically empty with only a handful of people gathered in front of the stage. They play aggressive, but melodic street punk with anarchist undertones, where a few good melodies catch my ear early on and have me jotting down 'decent upbeat opener' into my notes. Their reliance on street punk makes them a good fit for the theme of the festival, but their performance leaves much to be desired for due to its stand-still nature where fast songs are played with little or no movement. The female drummer, who also provides some vocals every now and then, gives them novelty, but other than that, The Gashers fail to make a lasting impression. [5½]

Black Market Syndicate

Black Market Syndicate @ 16:05-16:25

Disclaimer: I watched this set from the food tent. On the plus side? Black Market Syndicate impressed the hell out of me even that far out by playing a very catchy brand of upbeat melodic punk, not far disconnected from many Midwestern punk bands I hold so dear to my heart. They play with passion; their entire set consists of jumps and a ton of energy on stage with plenty of movement side to side, making it a fun band to watch even from a far. Their music is extremely catchy, so they can safely be classified as the first 'get into the festival/party mood' band of the festival. Their energy is infectious, so even though the crowd is small at this point, it rubs off on people who happily start consuming beers despite the temperatures outside. [7½]

The Generators

The Generators @ 16:40-17:10

The Generators on the other hand do their part in dampening the festival mood by playing a very standard and unimpressive set that feels extremely long despite lasting only 30 minutes thanks to the monotonous nature of the vocals. Their music is more of the old school punk rock variety with a focus on street/Oi! punk once again, and the songs are definitely nowhere near as good as what we just heard from BMS only moments ago. This despite containing hints of Bad Religion in the riffage every now and then. Combined with a lack of energy on stage - their movement mostly consists of casual movement/exchanging of positions - they are just not that interesting despite the best efforts of a small circle pit up front to convince us onlookers otherwise. At one point their guitarist plays a few riffs behind his neck, which is means there's at least something to look at, but overall their set is forgotten the instant it finishes. [5]

Devil's Brigade

Devil's Brigade @ 17:25-17:55

Straight after we have Devil's Brigade, who feel more like a random support band than a mid-level name at the lineup despite featuring Matt Freeman of Rancid and Operation Ivy fame on bass and vocals. Their brand of punk/hardcore is influenced by psychobilly, which gives it some additional flair compared to other bands playing today, but the band opt to stand still in static formation throughout their set, which doesn't help their cause at all. The piercing vocals are not particularly enjoyable, and after a while it becomes clear that no, Devil's Brigade songs are simply not very good overall. Nowhere else does this become more apparent than on a song that Tim Armstrong helped write, which is easily the best song of their set. Again, 30 minutes of 'nothing special' later means that if you were one of the many people in the beer garden / food tent during their set, you probably made a wiser choice than standing in the sun watching this. [5]

Peter And The Test Tub Babies

Peter & The Test Tub Babies @ 1810-18:40

Look, more oi! styled punk rock! Peter & The Test Tub Babies have been around for a long while but have never really achieved notoriety among any other than the street/oi! crowds (read: patches on leather jackets crowd). But luckily, their songwriting is in a much better shape than Devil's Brigade or The Generators, which means their brand of 'pub punk' contains a few catchy tunes here and there that enables the crowd to wake up a bit after an anemic response for the past two bands. "Oi! Who put fucking water up 'ere? I only like water which has hops in it!", their vocalist shouts in a thick Cockney accent, drawing some laughter from the crowd. These sorts of jokes - all delivered with the British accent - permeate their entire set, which means it's pretty funny throughout. Still, the relevancy of their song material is questionable for anyone not wearing patches on their spiked leather jackets, if you know what I mean. [6½]

Angelic Upstarts

Angelic Upstarts @ 18:55-19:40

The Oi! continues with Angelic Upstarts, who deliver a set of classic English Oi! in what is quite possibly a textbook example of the genre. After all, they are legends within the style, and tonight, they show us how it's done by playing easily the best songs out of any of their contemporaries that performed earlier. They spice up their set with similarly British humour as Peter & The Test Tub Babies just before, with their vocalist exhibiting some spectacular English arrogance by calling himself the Sean Connery of punk rock. "Some of us got it, some of us don't", he says right after, but this approach works and makes their set a rather funny experience overall, especially because he's looking like someone who has escaped from a mental institution on stage. The parking lot might still be only half full at this point, but a lot more people know their songs, so the crowd is into it as well. They dedicate a song for American multiculturalism, call themselves the 'Beegees of punk rock', and incite the first sing alongs of the festival with "Teenage Warning" about halfway through their set. In other words, all is going their way until later, when the monotonous expression of British Oi! starts catching up to them, making the set feel extremely long and repetitive towards the end. A decent, albeit unspectacular example of British Oi! at its best. [6½]

The Slackers

The Slackers @ 19:55-20:40

The Slackers are the odd one out tonight with their liberal mixture of rocksteady, reggae, and ska, but that's what makes them the perfect transition band tonight as the sun is setting in the horizon behind the band. They're a refreshing change from the Oi!, because their music is super chilled out and lacks the intensity and in-your-face vibes of what we've been listening to earlier. It's basically trumpets galore with dancing across the entire crowd, and while the band doesn't move much on stage, this doesn't matter because there's a ton of them on stage, and their songs are simply better than any of the other bands' who have played earlier today. There's a smell of weed in the air for their reggae songs, skanking in the crowd for the ska material, but the general feeling is more laid back and chilled out more than anything else. It's a good way to quiet things down and showcase to the punks that you don't need to play hard or fast to be great even in front of a punk crowd - this despite the band suggesting they were tempted to play a real anarcho punk set for this festival as a joke about their placement in the bill. There's a medley of famous old school punk covers integrated into their rocksteady style, and by the time "Wasted Days" starts drawing their set to a close before a final song, we're all in agreement: The Slackers is exactly what today needed to make it a positive experience overall. [7½]

Overall Day 1 impression

At this point the jet lag is catching up to us and it's becoming a real struggle to stay awake. I've never listened to any Anti-Nowhere League, and Cock Sparrer weren't particularly good the last time I saw them in Copenhagen, so we decide to get back to Mandalay Bay / The Strip for some much-needed rest for a fresh start tomorrow instead of battling through two more hours of British Oi!, and hence there are no reviews of those two bands in this feature unfortunately. I heard from people Cock Sparrer were amazing though, so that's our loss, hope you guys enjoyed it.

Some constructive criticism: although it was almost certainly a conscious choice to theme Day 1 as the 'British Oi! invasion', the festival could have done better to spread these bands across the days if for no other reason than it being tiring to hear so many similar bands in a row. That's also probably why there were very few people until the end of Slackers set at the festival area with most people opting to show up for the final two bands in the bill, because let's face it: how many of us are here for Cock Sparrer vs Descendents or NOFX, after all?

Day 2

Day 2: the weather forecast suggests that featuring a few Scandinavians on an asphalt parking lot at 2pm at Las Vegas is probably a bad idea, so we opt to start the day by relaxing at the Mandalay Bay beach area instead. Turns out, even this is unbearable; by 10:30am it's impossible to be outside without feeling like a fried egg, so we decide making it on time for any of the early bands is simply impossible when the temperature shows 40 degrees Celsius on a cloudless sky. It's a bummer to miss some of the bands early on, but this wasn't as much as a choice as it was a necessity if we were to make it through the whole day alive. Las Vegas locals: how do you deal with weather like this!?

Masked Intruder

Masked Intruder @ 17:25-17:55

It's boiling hot outside, but that's not a deterrent for the thiefs in Masked Intruder to leave their coloured ski masks off - so we still have no way how to ID these intruders. Their fun, playful pop punk is a perfect mix with the sunshine though, and so when they kick off with "25 to 18" (?) the crowd is into it straight away. They've brought along police officer Bradley, who is standing on stage in an imposing position, looking angry and gesturing "I'm watching you" hand signs off to the side of the stage and to the front of the crowd. If you play close attention, he's randomly also flipping people off, which adds to the humorous atmosphere that always surrounds Masked Intruder sets. Eventually when the band gets to "I Fought The Law", Officer Bradley is officially introduced to the crowd. "This is officer Bradley. He likes to party", the vocalist says before starting the song. The officer then starts wildly jumping up and down on the stage during the "I fought the law" chorus chants, eventually making his way off stage to pound people at the front, and even to crowd surf a little bit later. Later, he's found in the pit leading the action, whilst the band are playing their signature upbeat, energetic pop punk on stage, throwing in a few jumps where necessary to keep the action flowing. There are few pauses as the band rush through their set to play as many songs as possible, but whenever there is one, a few comments delivered with a thick mafia accent fill the void with yet more humour: "This is a new song called Crime Spree, it's on an album out May 27th. Buy it because else we'll break into your houses and take your money anyway". Later on, Green pulls up about 10 girls on stage from the crowd to dance with him, which looks pretty funny, but nothing like Officer Bradley ripping off his shirt and pants male stripper style during the last song, returning to dance on stage just like he was doing earlier. "Hey, you two coloured mohawk, you're not too cool to snap!", the band shouts, showcasing why even a poppy pop punk band like Masked Intruder can work well at such a tr00 punk setting. [8]

SNFU - Gandalf IRL

SNFU @ 18:10-18:40

Many of the band's playing at PRB this year are distinctly old from the generations before most of us fans today. This applies to SNFU as well, who were one of the pioneering skate punk bands in the mid 80s who influenced Bad Religion among others. In 2014, the guys look basically like Lord Of The Rings invaded the stage with their lengthy white Gandalf-style hairdos and beards. Yet their brand of skate punk is as tight as ever with a few melodic gang shouts supporting here and there, with highlight tracks like "Better Than Eddie Vedder" and "Painful Reminder" going down well with the crowd today. Their vocalist paces across the stage with his long white hair flocking all over the place, while the rest of the band remains largely static on stage. This results into only a tiny portion of the crowd being properly into them, and combined with a few more anonymous cuts splicing the flow in between the real good ones, their set feels a little bit meh. Decent, but not that interesting, which is why they never achieved similar fame as, say, NUFAN did. [6½]

The Adicts - WTF is going on?

The Adicts @ 19:50-20:35

The Adicts singer enters the stage wearing a crazy, flashy suit with top fat outfit that appears to be made entirely out of diamonds based on the way it shines in the spotlight. What follows hereafter are average songs, but a nothing short of spectacular live performance that seems to get crazier by the minute. What starts off with a few simple magic tricks with lines of rope turning into confetti showers and small explosions quickly develops into serpentine line being pulled from the singer's mouth, fireworks style enormous roses appearing from the middle of nowhere, confetti cannons in rapid-fire mode, humongous beach balls and serpentine rolls flying everywhere in the crowd, even spray paint being fired off on stage in a performance that puts entertainment far before song quality. The expense budget for this show must have been enormous, because there seriously wasn't a single moment where confetti and serpentine and other shit wasn't flying across the audience in quantities that would make Green Day blush. Aside for the last few songs like "Viva La Revolution" and "You'll Never Walk Alone", which receive huge sing alongs, the show is pure entertainment with questionable value without all the extra stuff going on. That said, what a spectacular, unforgettable show, that had me jotting down "WTF is going on" towards the end of my notes. [8]

Face To Face

Face To Face @ 8:50-9:40

It's late on Day 2, the heat has been ridiculous today, so people are understandably tired. That's why it takes a little while for Face To Face to wake up the crowd. "I know people who have been drinking two days straight can do better than that", their singer says after the first woo-hoo sing along is a little milder than expected. He's right. The upbeat nature of their melodic punk rock works well and is catchy enough to have a portion of the crowd singing along. "A-OK", "Bright Lights Go Down" are some of the biggest Face To Face highlights and it's great to hear them played so tightly live, especially the former track which has an amazing melody line to support it. So while the first half of the set feels a little anonymous, the second half is pretty much packed with FTF classics from their entire discography. It's great, catchy material, but the band doesn't do much on stage aside from a few breakouts away from the mic stands, so it's difficult to justify a much higher rating. Still, in terms of song quality, they might be the best band on the bill today, even if Descendents are about to get on stage next. [7½]


Descendents @ 10:00-11:10

I've seen Descendents play Groezrock a couple of times now and they've never felt very much at home on the huge stage in front of 15-18.000 people. Here, at Punk Rock Bowling, they're facing maybe a few thousand people at most, and as such their set feels tighter and better than what I've seen in the past. They open with "Everything Sux" from 1996, and follow it up with a real old school 1982 track "Hope" straight after. The sound is thick and far better than any of the other bands have experienced tonight, which does wonders to their short and to-the-point songs. They have relatively good energy on stage (compensating for their relative age), and capture the imagination of pretty much everyone in the crowd from where I'm standing. The middle part of their set is dominated by their weirdo tracks with all the spoken-word bits and stop/start sequences, and I have to admit never having been a fan of these as they ruin the flow compared to classic tracks like "Suburban Home" and "Silly Girl". "I'm The One" is another one with a great crowd response, and "Coffee Mug" keeps the pit going, with the audience mostly responding with fists in the air throughout their set. It's a solid set that features many Descendents classics and certainly lives up to what we expected from headliners, yet feels like it falls a little short thanks to the stark contrast created by the Adicts show only an hour and a half earlier. [7½]

Overall Day 2 impression

There's way more people at the festival area from the get go despite today being a much warmer day, which speaks volumes about how much better bands overall are playing today. The theme has leaned more on the melodic side of punk rock with mostly skate punk or similar bands on the bill, which is a welcome change from the Oi! theme from the day before, but would it not have worked better in a mix of day 1 and 2 together?

A funny anecdote from today is the death of the surveillance drone that has been flying above the crowd and the stage for 1½ days now filming everything possible; the crowd lifts the dead vehicle high above their heads and cheer in what appears to be not-so-subtle criticism of the surveillance state of USA.

Day 3

Day 3: the weather gods are not being any kinder to us, and today is in fact the warmest day of the whole festival. It says a lot when just by standing still without moving in the sun you are sweating as much as after running a half a marathon, no exaggeration, and the light breeze feels like standing right in front of a blow dryer. Even so, surprisingly many people have challenged the power of the desert sun early on, as the festival area is already half full by the time we arrive for the Good Riddance set around 5pm. Once again, the unforgiving sun and temperature has left us poor Scandinavians no chance for arriving early to check out the smaller bands today, but here you have the sum up of the best of the rest instead.

Good Riddance

Good Riddance @ 17:10-17:50

So there's a light breeze that's totally not helping anyone standing underneath the scorching sun, prompting Good Riddance vocalist Russ Rankin to fire off a couple of jokes about it ("Global warming is NOT happening. Believe me."). These melodic hardcore specialists were gone for a long time but recently reunited to play more shows and record a new album that's slated to be released sometime during 2015, and tonight they are full of energy on stage. Jumps, kicks, running around, changing positions in rapid fashion are the common theme throughout their set, as are rock solid songs that underline why they have been a cornerstone of the melodic hardcore scene throughout much of the late 90s and early 2000s ear. That being said, their set is otherwise rather uneventful it taking place early on during the afternoon; aside from the jumps and a few more comments about heat, it's all about playing fast, melodic songs with decent energy. That works, but only to a certain extent. [7]


OFF! @ 18:05-18:45

Anyone who thinks hardcore is dead in its original format needs to go see OFF! live. Not only are they explosive, fierce, and genuine in terms of their 80s style piercing sound, but they also perform with youthful energy that defies their old age (Vocalist Keith Morris is 58 years old). Tonight, they perform a great selection of songs from both old albums and a few select cuts from the new album as well, but the theme remains the same: short, sweet bursts of hardcore fury delivered with the intensity and accuracy of a bullet. It's aggressive and in-your-face, yet super groovy and catchy for its old school, spirited expression. The crowd, for some reason, doesn't seem to be into them even though they play some of the best material of any band on this festival with convincing energy, which is all the more surprising considering Morris spewing off criticism and commentary on Las Vegas commercialism that should work on this crowd exceptionally well. There's space for some humour and self-irony as well: "We have five songs left...which means there's still time to go gamble, play roulette, dick around and still come back and play them on schedule", Morris explains, before they get into yet another extremely good track, "Jeffrey Lee Pierce" from their debut album "First Four EPs". It's an impressive set overall that should be championed by all punk and hardcore fans alike for its excellence in retaining the original hardcore ideals alive. [8½]

Leftöver Crack - airtime

Leftöver Crack @ 19:00-19:45

Leftöver Crack really, really hate the police, at least if we are to base that on the in-between song banter by enigmatic frontman Stza, whom we also know from Star Fucking Hipsters and, of course, Choking Victim. Pretty much every chance he has is spent on explaining what the next song is about, which turns out to be killing cops, anti-cops, hating cops, burning prisons, and pretty much every anarchistic idealism out there. It's such extreme left-wing rhetoric that it's difficult to take 100% seriously, but at least the band compensate by playing brilliant skacore tracks characterized by their signature 90s style buzzing distortion. Songs from both Star Fucking Hipsters and Choking Victim are aired amidst Leftöver Crack classics, which means the setlist is pretty much an all-star highlight reel of some of the best, most danceable ska core out there. Everyone is totally awake, skanking, and singing along even to an old Choking Victim track like "Crack Rock Steady", that is, when they aren't busy throwing the middle fingers in the air at the request of Stza towards the cops, racists, fascists and whatnot. They have sublime energy on stage, but most importantly, the songs tonight are simply incredible, with great energy flowing through the entire set with a perfect mixture of coarse screams and melodic guitars to make this one the best set of all of Punk Rock Bowling this year. [9]

Against Me!

Against Me! @ 20:00-20:45

Against Me! were one of the main draws for the festival for the undersigned, having seen them multiple times before and falling in love with the way they just play their songs in constant flow with few, if any, pauses during their set. Tonight, it feels like they might be in the wrong place, as about half of their set consists of songs from the newest three albums. They are unquestionably the most poppy band on the bill, so it feels rather weird singing along to songs like "New Wave", "Unconditional Love", and especially "I Was A Teenage Anarchist" amidst a crowd of tr00 punks as mentioned earlier. That said, props to the band for starting the set with "Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong", and for integrating tracks like "Cliché Guevara", "Sink, Florida, Sink", and "We Laugh At Danger And Break All The Rules" into their set. Tom Gabel/Laura Jane Grace still sounds exactly the same as we remember him/her in the old days, screaming through the songs with passion and energy, even if the band's overall expression has taken a step towards the direction of pop in recent years. It works; the set is rock solid with only quality songs in it, but it definitely feels like this set is being played in front of the wrong audience tonight. [8]


NOFX @ 21:00-22:10

Predictably, it doesn't take long for Fat Mike to take his first stab at Against Me! vocalist Laura Jane Grace. "Hey Melvin, where's your bra? You have bigger nipples than Laura does... that's what I call false advertising!", but that's not before pointing out that there are some black people and Mexicans in the crowd, and noting that Mexicans like punk rock way more than black people. "60%" and "72 Hookers" kick off the set as has been the custom on this tour so far, and the sing along from the crowd's side commences here and doesn't cease until the end of the set as is also the custom at NOFX shows no matter where they are playing. "Stern says we can only play for 45 minutes so I guess we should get going", Fat Mike proclaims, before one of the festival organizers jumps on stage and shouts "YOU CAN PLAY FOR THREE HOURS". That's not quite what happens tonight, mostly because the band (or well, mostly Fat Mike) appear totally exhausted from the weekend, probably having ingested a year's worth of drugs and booze in the last couple of days. As a result, their set is charismatically sloppy tonight with the word tight being an alien planet, but then again, that's always been the theme of going to a NOFX show: it's totally hit or miss whether the band are up for it or not. That being said, they're still funny as hell, starting to play the first line or two of "Creeping Out Sara" when Fat Mike decides he actually doesn't like that song and skips over to "Ronnie & Mags" instead. Nice. later on, a huge black guy is dedicated "Don't Call Me White", but that's not even the most offensive thing in the NOFX repertoire tonight. At one point, Fat Mike gets a hold of an oriental hat and proceeds to make fun of Chinese people for pretty much 15 minutes straight in between the songs. When El Hefe joins in for the fun, needless to say it is hilarious to listen to these guys jabber at each other with condescending Chinese accents. Later, Laura from Against Me! is on the receiving end of another stab when Melvin appears on stage for the encore with a black bra stuffed with toilet paper inside. Yes, the NOFX set is once again 50/50 stand up comedy/entertainment and songs, but that's exactly what makes it awesome, even as tonight is the 11th time I'm seeing these guys live. [8½]

The festivities continue tonight at Punk Rock Karaoke, but the RF.net crew is exhausted at this point from the constant heat and in dire need of a shower (and the easy poker tables at Mandalay Bay), so we head back to the Strip while many others opt for Punk Rock Karaoke and the other after-show entertainment on offer today. Overall, Day 3 has seen the best bands by far, but also the worst heat. 42-44 C is simply not suitable for spending the entire day outdoors - you just end up drinking your beers and ciders way faster in a desperate attempt to re-hydrate your body.

Final Words

In general, Punk Rock Bowling is a very mature festival that's organized extremely well. We couldn't find anything major to pinpoint at the festival that needed desperate fixing, other than the weather conditions, but that's not something you can do anything about unless you move the festival a few weeks earlier in the year.

What struck us perhaps most was how organized the bar queueing was at the festival. People stood in cute lines leading up the counter instead of overflowing the entire bar with a who gets bartenders attention first-competition that seems to be the case everywhere else outside of the United States. It leads into many conversations with strangers as you wait, but at the same time the European style chaos has its own charm as well.

Festival Merch area

In the end, we'd give Punk Rock Bowling a thumbs up for future attendance. Just remember fucking shitloads of sunscreen and a hat to protect you from the sun!

The Good:

* GREAT quality food

* Great value for money (ticket price, food, drinks)

* Quick changeovers meant you never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes for the next band

* Awesome overall atmosphere, super friendly people, so much to explore outside of the 'festival' itself.

* Amazing location in the middle of Las Vegas.

* Plenty of toilets.

The Bad:

* No pissoirs other than those found inside of the porta-poo boxes

* Not enough snow cannons to help you cool down - quadruple the amount needed!

* More shadow areas needed where you can also see the stage

The Ugly:

* Too fucking hot! Impossible to watch all bands each day due to the overwhelming heat.

All text by: Petteri 'PP' Pertola (except where separately noted)

All photos by: Philip B. Hansen

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