Lucha, Beer And Punk Rock

21 May

Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of the Mexican army defeating the French in the Battle of Puebla. It is a holiday that has taken on a celebration of Mexican culture and drinking here in the U.S. Over the years, the holiday has been more of day that my activities are more dictated by if there is a good show. This year presented a festival that has been hitting Tucson and a few stops around the country for a couple years now. It is the Sabroso Taco Festival with acts this year including The Offspring, Pennywise, Vandals, Lit, Unwritten Law, and Los Kung Fu Monkeys. The decision was simple for Cinco de Mayo.

First let me talk about this festival that is a mix of a couple activities alongside the music. Like the model used by others including the Punk in Drublic Fest, they opened up at noon for VIP and 1PM for everyone to beer sample until 4PM.  You’re given a set amount of tickets and a small plastic wine glass to carry around getting local and bigger craft beer samples. With this, they had Lucha Libre wrestling put on by the Rockstar Wrestling Alliance. They brought fun, over the top Lucha Libre wrestling out there between sets. The referees in this seem to be just as showman as the wrestlers they officiate. A couple of the luchador wrestlers appeared to make their way into the mosh pits around the matches. Of course, this all wrapped up with an assortment of taco vendors for the last part of what made it a taco festival.

As for the musical acts, it opened up with the energized guys of Los Kung Fu Monkeys. This was the only ska act of the day too. They are a ska punk band out of Tijuana that has been performing for years now. I only discovered them recently when they opened up for Reverend Horton Heat, Fishbone, and Strung Out last year. They put on one of the most ecstatic performances on that stage.

Lead vocalist, known as Bang Bang, spent the set inciting the crowd to move and dance to their ska punk sound. Everyone on that stage participates in the movement too, dancing, smiling and jumping around. It doesn’t matter if they are opening or headlining, the Lost Kung Fu Monkeys are now a favorite to catch performing anytime they come to town.

They were followed by sounds of Unwritten Law. Scott Russo up there with a little more stylish blond hair style than I’ve seen him with before. Plus I’m not sure the cause, but he had a wrist brace on the entire set. I’ve been following them more since Chris, of Fenix TX, joined them. He has added a perfect complimentary performance to their already animated lineup.

Their set brought out the dust storm that was the mosh pit for the rest of the day. They played a mix of songs including favorites like “Save Me.”  Unwritten Law performances continue to engage me more and more each time I catch them.

Then there was Lit, a band I haven’t watched live in quite a while. My familiarity of their music only goes as far back as their third album, “Atomic.” That is about the same time I last saw them perform. I have to say they put on an enthusiastic set up there. A little more rock ‘n roll leaning that gave them a more a more unique style among the day’s lineup.

Despite my lack of knowledge on the newer tracks, they played a few songs I knew lyrics too and sang along. Even in being so long since I have watched them live or listened, they put on an superb performance on that stage. I have to say, I still enjoy listening to Lit.

Next is one of my favorite punk bands out there, the Vandals. Their set opened up with Joe Escalante walking out with a giant sombrero with Mexico sewn into it. He was joined by the rest of the band staples, Josh Freese, Dave, and the probably unmatched in zany, Warren. The set was mixed full of awesome songs I love and know like “My Girlfriend’s Dead” to the tied to a different holiday “Oi to the World.”

Of course, the one that stood out the most after talking to people was Warren singing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” For many this was their first time catching this superb cover he occasionally does. They did not stop with the dust puns as the mosh pit pushed it toward them on stage. One including pointing out a kid in a Sevendust shirt to make a joke about that band and that shouldn’t the band be called “Ate Dust.” The charm and personality of the Vandals is hard to match, and their performance this day did not disappoint.

Riding the excellent new album, Pennywise came next. The set was filled with charms of its own. At one point, Jim Lindberg calling out the different punk bands adorning audience members. Meanwhile, Fletcher started playing songs to these bands. They went down a Nirvana cover for a bit on top of the punk stuff for one of my standout moments.

The set itself was a mix of beloved classic Pennywise with the fantastic songs from their new album. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Pennywise album in a while until their latest. Of course, they closed on the traditional “Brohymn” and group of fans and friends joining them on stage to sing along. I have to hand it to them this was one of my favorite Pennywise sets to watch.

That would wrap up my first Sabroso Taco Fest. It would make for a fantastic way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and one of my favorite times doing it. Now that the festival is on my radar, I will gladly do the drive to Tucson once again for another. The overall package of music, food, craft beer, and Lucha Libre is perfect.

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