Turns out there are ways to make two and a half years feel like forever. Of course, the idiot in the White House spewing nonsense daily was a regular attack on our mental well being. Then in 2020, our favorite musicians touring and festivals came to a grinding for the safety of one another with Covid 19 on the spread. Those of us being morons about wearing masks and keeping quarantined had a year and a half of streams by those same artists and a few of the festivals, including Punk Rock Bowling. It gave a bit of a lift of spirit for me and others while watching a world where morons proclaimed to be bigger experts than doctors and the medical community to make the spread worse. However, with a free vaccine available and safety procedures in place to hold an event in Las Vegas, it set the table that two and half years since the last Punk Rock Bowling we were finally going to get to attend one again.
Punk Rock Bowling brings not only an endless list of amazing music acts, but also an environment for the coming together of friends. You could describe every gathering of Punk Rock Bowling to be that. This element was what made this year’s PRB more special after the past year and staying home to reduce the spread. It was tighter hugs and bigger smiles among the mohawks and patch covered vests. I had plenty of happy moments running into friends I had not seen in so long while up there. A lot of the time leaving me unsure where to even start the conversations. Still, I always expressed how awesome it is to see every one of them again adding to the additional magic of the event.
If unfamiliar with the event, Punk Rock Bowling traditionally is about three and a half days with a two day bowling tournament mixed into the Memorial Day weekend. It meant this year was a slight shift from the usual Friday to Monday schedule to a Thursday to Sunday. With the frequent delays due to ensuring it safety, this year ended up in a less familiar time to be in Vegas with Fall just starting. Of course, this is Las Vegas and, like my hometown of Phoenix, the climate really feels like summer this time of the year. I packed a hoodie, but never needed it the entire time.
The adjustment in schedule this year meant I arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday, where normally it’s Friday. The first day rituals include my traditional drive from Phoenix. Getting there early enough to settle into my hotel and get any registrations taken care. This year included the showing proof of vaccination to receive my wristband that’ll let me attend and the process went very smoothly. Additionally, I get there so I can snag early Punk Rock Bowling merch, like my annual poster, so I don’t have to carry it around the entire time while stuck in the main festival for a day.
Day zero or the first day of PRB brings the first night of club show after parties to immediately jump into the music. For me, the choice was clear. I had to see the one Dillinger Four was at. Every night isn’t a easy decision with the stellar lineups Punk Rock Bowling assembles for these shows and usually comes down to me splitting hairs to decide. With D4, that splitting hairs was that they so rarely come to town these days so the show was the top of my choices. Of course, I couldn’t go without saying that Get Dead and Teenage Bottlerocket were not motivating factors. Get Dead is a band that puts on a live set that everyone should catch with so much energy and emotion. Then like a natural reflex, I found myself singing along to most of Teenage Bottlerocket’s set. The Uppers were the only ones new to me with a cool bubble gum, old school pop punk sound to them. The only foreboding thing would be my feet reminding me how this is a routine I wasn’t as familiar with after the past year and a half. No matter though, I went to bed riding the fun of the night and excitement for the weekend to come.
With day one of the main festival upon us, it was with a nervous excitement. Though riding that energy it did make for the earliest I would wake up this weekend. With that extra time to shower and eat, it was apparent I had time to catch Pegboy over at the Downtown Grand’s pool before the main festival. This would be the first of the weekend full of a few first time catching bands live for myself. After playing just the night before, Larry Damore was running around and sharing the microphone with everyone singing the lyrics back to him in front of the pool. Once the set was over, I double checked my sunscreen was already holding tight and went to enter my first Punk Rock Bowling festival grounds for the first time since 2019.
I’m no stranger to these guys who make frequent trips down to Phoenix, but this is certainly the biggest stage I’ve seen them on. Jerk plays a brand of skate punk that pulls on the pop punk influences of a Queers or Ramones with catchy choruses. It is the kind of music perfectly lending to Josh, lead vocals and guitar, Matt, guitar, and everyone moving and bouncing. They were a perfect starter to the weekend’s main event.
They are without a doubt one of the best bands out of Phoenix that enter their sophomore year, and first on a main stage, at Punk Rock Bowling with this year. Jett, bass and vocals, Marceliano, on guitar and co-lead vocals, and Kaz, drums, bring a blend of hardcore vocals, traditional punk rock and throw in a little ska to this year’s festival. It was good to see a little circle pit action open up for them and a little skanking in there for the ska tunes in their set.
These garage rock ladies are another Phoenix representative and in their second Punk Rock Bowling, appearing on the main stage both years. There are always smiles and energized on the stage. Nicole once again showing the PRB crowd that you can play keys at many different angles and with flair, not letting Meliza and Christina have all the fun on guitar and bass. They are always a blast to watch and good to see more familiar faces on the PRB stage with them once again!
Bad Cop/Bad Cop
From one rad band of ladies to another, Bad Cop/Bad Cop just came out with energy. I mean, don’t just take my word for it. You can go check out Frank Turner’s, who was noticeably side stage for their entire set, Twitter praising them. They are always so amazing to see live. They are about raising up one another, singing songs of empowerment and strongly voicing their opposition to many of societies continued issues that hit close to home. It was wonderful seeing them again.
I missed seeing these dudes. It’d been longer than just the pandemic year since I last got to see their faces and see a set. Their stage presence hasn’t lost a beat. It started with Zach bringing out Erin Daggers, Fat Wreck co-founder, with a (fake?) marriage proposal and denial to kick things off. Then it was just that high intensity PEARS I know and love. Zach becomes a creature crawling around the stage belting lyrics to new songs and old, like my personal favorite “Sycophant.” To watch Zach, Brian, Erich, and Jarrett in person again and get to hug those guys again off stage just makes them one of the biggest highlights of my weekend.
This marks Frank’s first time up on that Punk Rock Bowling main stage and surprisingly, it was just him and Matt Nasir, of the Sleeping Souls, on mandolin. However, even with that it was a blast to watch and sing along to Frank’s iconic tunes. I was left excited to move and sing along, even acoustically without the full Sleeping Souls, to songs like “Four Simple Words” and “The Road.” It is so good to see him able to tour and visit the U.S. once again.
Holy hell, did they pack that side street in front of the Monster main stage. Not only that, it was easily one of the largest mosh pits of the night and weekend squeezing the sides of the crowd. This was where I ended up squeezing my way back as my feet were catching up to me in soreness and couldn’t guarantee my camera would be safe a few rows back from the stage. Nonetheless, just listening to the latter half of the set from the back was as amazing a time watching Anti-Flag for the first time in two years. They are and always will be one of my top ten favorite bands.
This night just looked like Milo was embracing the audience and outdoors of the festival, bouncing back to the barricade with the microphone. Descendents are a band of four guys that just look like they are so happy to be playing these songs for anyone in attendance. I always appreciate that from them and the songs they performed for the hour set to close out our first day at the event.
From here it was a test of endurance and will as I went to my most anticipated club show of the weekend. I had one goal though, to watch the Suicide Machines for the first time and be standing for it the entire set. The club show opened with The Run Around from Chicago with a rocking guitar and entertaining set to open up. MakeWar was just phenomenal and that was, in part, that they sounded much better over the Fremont Country Club speakers than the first time I watched them earlier this year. My first impression was good, but this second impression was where I really got into their music. Then in what seemed to be the universe testing how much I can withstand to make it to Suicide Machines, we found ourselves a little delayed with technical issues before the Strung Out set. I’m not sure I would have made it without hanging onto that barricade. To Strung Out’s credit, they always put forth such a high quality and enthusiastic performance. That gave me another rocking set to keep my mind away from how much my feet hurt.
Finally the time was for the Suicide Machines. In my time since making a bigger effort to watch bands live, they haven’t made the trek to the Phoenix unfortunately. Though I am happy I have been able to catch Jay Navarro one time prior as his band, Break Anchor, did make a stop in town about seven years ago. Like many of his projects, very political and high energy punk rock. Nevertheless, this night cemented why the Suicide Machines are just one of the best bands in the genre. The way Jay Navarro performs is animated and spending majority of the time on the barricade sharing the microphone with the excited fans. It felt like a comradery and friends together for their favorite songs throughout the entire hour and then some set. The entire band just feeds and shares that same energy. They invite guests up to additionally sing songs. The entire thing just felt like friends getting together for one big fun time of music. The Suicide Machines lived up to my anticipation and managed to further surpass them with this amazing experience set. From here it was time for perhaps the most painful, but well worth it, walks on my feet to my hotel room for rest to get ready for an even busier day two.
Day 1 Photo Gallery