Twenty years ago there was a small festival that started up in Las Vegas as a couple of club shows. That festival gradually grew to become what everyone knows as Punk Rock Bowling. Five years ago, in a similar idea for the Phoenix scene, Andy Jones put on the first ever Phoenix Ska Punk Bowling. The goal was to bring together our local punk, ska, and rockabilly at an affordable price for a couple days. Each year brings a couple national headliners too, that first one included Teenage Bottlerocket, The Queers, and Copyrights.
Flash forward to the fifth anniversary, Andy with Travis Hansen put together another year headlined by JFA and Death by Stereo. On top of that we had two out of towners, People Corrupting People and Epic 18, alongside seven of our awesome locals. One other pleasure was Don Bolles, of the Germs, DJing and adding color commentary between band sets through the night and bowling the next day.
Opening up all of it was Reason Unknown. These political punk rockers are no stranger to the event having played it a couple years. Even having watched them plenty of times, I still get a kick out of Matt’s guitar on songs like “A New Tomorrow” sounding like bagpipes.
Travis and Pat take turns on lead vocals, with Pat occasionally shedding the guitar to just sing. These guys I continue to love watching their brand of punk rock. Reason Unknown a band I continue to tell you to add to your list of bands to catch
After them comes an ever growing band that everyone should make an effort to watch, Madd Dog Tannen. Ever since I first wrote about them, they always dress up for the occasion. Their sound has continued to mature and get better. For this set it was a mix of the songs we love, and they treated us to a few new ones. Kevin and Brian bounced back and forth on the stage.
Not to mention the most expressive guys on a stage with Shawn and Kyle in the mix. Later on, they invited Jack Hunter up to help sing a cover, along with a couple strums of Brian’s guitar. If their charismatic set like this doesn’t win you over, I’m not sure how else to tell you to watch Madd Dog Tannen.
Then was the first rockabilly act of the night, the Devillains. These guys appeared on my radar in the last year, having caught them once or twice before. Donny is a great lead vocalist up there with flair. He knows how to move as he performs and the hair style to back it up.
A welcome sight is seeing Che back rocking the upright bass for rockabilly. His performance looks like he just fell right back into his comfort zone with these guys. The Devillains should be on your radar if they haven’t already made their mark.
The energetic guys of FoL, the artists formerly known as First or Last, had the pleasure to follow that up. The three piece mixes it up when it comes to vocals, although I probably would lean Chris, on drums, the lead singer.
Although you could say Dave is by how much he occupies the lead vocals too. Since I got the platform here, there is something I have to say. I always get confused when they say they are going to play their song “Sour Grapes.” I hear them say the name, expect a Descendents’ cover and get a much harder punk song of the same name. Regardless, FoL knows how to put on a performance and they did just that.
Super cool is the next band, the Dead Beat Hymns. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to tell you about these hardcore punks. Don’t let the space cats shirt throw you off. Theron alone goes to town on the lead vocals with such energy and passion.
Plus I have to publicly compliment Chris’s yellow strings and Sinestro Corps theme on his bass. They are another band that just keeps getting better each and every time I catch them perform. Knowing that, Dead Beat Hymns are a band to keep an eye on if you are a fan of hardcore in Phoenix.
The guys that relocated from Lake Havasu to become a Phoenix resident, TV Tragedy, rocked the stage next. This is a band that even when they were out of Havasu, you could catch if you were going to shows around Phoenix. Maus’s vocals and stage presence reminds me of Mark from Guttermouth with a similar vocal to the old Davey Havok of A.F.I.
The guys around him, including another Joe, do an excellent job of creating a tight sound to their punk rock. TV Tragedy is a band I easily recommend. Nowadays, they are playing quite regularly so no excuse if you aim to catch them.
Following them up was our other Rockabilly act, the Phoenix staple of Creepsville 666. I would go out on a limb and say they are most likely to be brought up if you discuss the genre here. The reason is exactly what we saw this night, with a performance that gets an entire crowd moving.
There is dancing and a circle pit. You have the charismatic Geno on lead vocals and guitar. You have Matrick always good at chiming in talking to the crowd. Johnny looking like he loves every moment on drums. JD going strong on the stand up and backup vocals. Creepsville 666 had people clamoring for an encore from a band that wasn’t even our headliner.
First of our touring and ska acts hit the stage with Epic 18. These guys out of California brought an energized set of skanking. This six member band brings a little 2 Tone for the old school fans and a little Ska Punk for the third wave fans. They kept the circle from Creepsville going as people skanked along to the music.
Adam was great up there on lead vocals, but he wasn’t the only one singing as Logan and Eli added their talents through the set. An additional bonus, if you were present the extra lighting was because you may have been a part of their recording too. It was such a pleasure catching Epic 18 as part of this year’s festivities.
Then it was a band I had heard good things of from a few friends in Denver, PCP otherwise known as People Corrupting People. This is one of those bands that they may have horns, but I have to say they are pretty much a punk band like our local Exxxtra Crispy or Playboy Manbaby.
With that said, this band expands on the traditional punk sound to include the violin, played by Jen Torres. You can tell these guys love the music they perform by how the band is jumping, screaming, singing and moving around to the music. I’ll single out Nick, who did an awesome job keeping up the banter and humor with the crowd between the high energy songs. Add PCP to the list of Denver bands I hope I can see return to Phoenix or catch in another visit up to their hometown soon.
Second to last was a band I was just seeing live for my first time, Death by Stereo. Right out of the gate I was struck by how much the crowd immediately was into it, moshing and moving. More so than any other band this night. Credit to that has to be Efrem’s fantastic performance singing up there. He leans out, feeds the microphone to audience members wanting to sing along.
Adding to it was Paul Miner back on bass and that stylish mustache on Dan Palmer on guitar. JP did a shot in front of the stage near the end that added to the entertainment value of their set. I suppose I could say it left me blown away by the end of that performance. Death by Stereo’s set made for one of my favorite sets of this year’s Phoenix Ska Punk Bowling.
Last up on this year’s lineup were the local legends, JFA. With Brian still rocking those lead vocals and Don that guitar, they put up one heck of a performance of their own. One thing I have to say is seeing founding member Michael Cornelius, now of the Father Figures, come out for a performance speaks volumes. There are bands these days that you can’t find a former member anywhere near the band they created.
Their performance was one that matched the high energy of Death by Stereo before. Brian continues to move around that stage as he sings, and these guys match that enthusiasm with elegance. Brian not only sings, he occasionally played keys on a few songs. This made for added depth to their set. JFA was the perfect closer to a fantastic fifth Phoenix Ska Punk Bowling. I can’t wait to see what is in store for year number six.