Punk Rock Bowling is in its 20th year which is a sensational milestone for any festival let alone one with a distinct niche such as Punk Rock. Started many years ago by Shawn and Mark Stern, the brothers behind BYO Records, as well as founding members of the legendary Los Angeles punk band Youth Brigade. This four-day extravaganza has grown over the years and now features after shows spread across six different venues, there are pool parties, a Punk Rock Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament, movies, comedy and of course bowling, wow! When we at SCENEzine read that, we thought how could we not head along and celebrate this one of a kind punk rock cornucopia.
I have been to festivals all over the world and never have I experienced anything quite like this. From the moment I checked into the Golden Nugget (I recommend you do the same) I was immersed in the festival, there were punk rockers everywhere and from all over the globe with more than a few from my home nation of Australia. A whole tribe of punks sporting multi-coloured Mohawks spiked up high and wearing denim vests with nothing left to patch over, just kicking by the pool and playing poker, it was unlike anything I had ever seen. The festival itself is literally right outside the Golden Nuggets doors and all the bands stay there too, so running into your favourite bands in the lifts or at the bar is not uncommon.
Any Punk Rock Bowling veteran will tell you it’s a marathon not a sprint so pace yourself, this would have been good advice if I had listened but I am an Aussie in downtown Vegas surrounded by my tribe members, on my first night I hit up a club show featuring The Bronx and The Dwarves, it was insane. The next day it left me a little worse for wear but I am a professional journalist god damn it, so after a quick swim in the pool and a slide thru a shark aquarium (yes you read that right) I strapped up my Dr Martins, got my shit together, grabbed an 805 and was front and centre for my first day of the festival.
I walk into the festival and find it’s set up to be awesome. Having a one stage approach really works for me, having no clashes and not running between stages is great considering the state I’m in plus the downtime between sets isn’t long at all, just enough time to make a snake hiss and grab an 805 from one of the many bars. With the Vegas sun glaring down on me I was able to find plenty of shade, pull up a chair and continue watching the bands. When I needed tucker, I ventured into the food truck zone which offered some real quality grub including many vegan options. Also, I took the time to check out the Punks with Paint Brushes Art Gallery, featuring some fine works from your punk rock icons, who knew musicians can paint too.
Over the course of three days I saw some quality music acts D.O.A are a punk band that’s been around for forty years and I finally got to see them. Suicidal Tendencies delivered an absolute psycho set, Rise Against did one of the best sets I have ever seen from them and one thing I wasn’t expecting to see was Steve Aoki onstage with them covering Minor Threat, but hey that is the joy of festivals and punk, you never know what bands inspired other artists to go on and create music. Turbonegro have the most dedicated fan base in the world and they were all on hand to watch them do their thing. Against Me as always an absolute highlight and At the Drive In provided a great ending with a high energy set.
So much of the PRB action take’s place in after shows and pool parties which feature bands who aren’t playing the actual festival days. Tickets to these sell out fast and the venues are small in size and if you’re thinking how do I see all the bands on the festival and see the sideshows you have to realise, this is VEGAS not Sydney and just as Sydney is locking you out of a venue, in Vegas your favourite bands are just taking to the stage, some of the acts we saw were Lagwagon, The Bombops (who are our new favourite band), The Zero Boys and The Faction. On our final night though we ended things in a big punk rock Karaoke sing along with The Phenomenauts and Agnostic Blunt, what a way to end an absolute solid weekend of punk rock mayhem and chaos.
Punk Rock Bowling isn’t just a festival it’s an experience unlike no other, a collective of people and places all united in a brother and sisterhood of punk rock. The show is so much more than what’s on the festival grounds it’s out there in the town and it’s the people you meet along the way that make this festival going experience unlike any other in the world. I look at Punk Rock Bowling Festival as a blueprint for any successful music festival, after all they have been doing it for twenty years now.
Review – Chad
Photo Gallery – Christian Ross