Punk Rock Bowling 2021: Day 2
Day Two had me sleeping in to let my feet recover as much as possible for another jam packed day of music at Punk Rock Bowling. Unfortunately, that meant staying off my feet a little longer to extend their life to my photo taking plans at the evening club show with my friends in Playboy Manbaby. Regardless, the day continued to be filled with memory making moments and sets.
Once again, I was here for the openers with good reason. Tom Urban, a man you may know for hanging on that Punk Rock Bowling barricade every year and a friend I’ve made in the seven years attending, has a band and this is it. Of course, not to overshadow how Kevin Wilcox, lead vocals, bouncing around makes it an enjoyable time right away and is not afraid to get weird. They bring a harder edged punk rock and another bunch of Vegas locals I can’t help but recommend to check out when you return to Vegas.
Another example of friends I haven’t seen live in a little bit and was so happy to catch in person again. I’ll admit they were a highlight in all my at home time and my introduction to an online match of Beerio Kart while on Devon Kay’s, of Direct Hit and Devon Kay and the Solutions, guest streams series during the Covid quarantining. Rocking their newer released tracks and old, Decent Criminal brought the on stage character. Tristan and Brian were just animated and clearly excited for this day to finally return them to the stage. I don’t think I would have expected it, but sure enough Tristan ripped out the strings of his guitar to put the exclamation point on a high energy set of music.
This is a band made up of a lot of punk rock experience, with probably the standout being Steve Caballero on guitar. Still, this also has ties to friends made with Tim Fennelly playing front man and guitar. I know him from the San Diego hardcore band War Fever and was cool to see him fronting this more skate punk rock band on the big PRB stage. Just off this performance, they made a great first impression and I look forward to watching and listening to them more from here.
There is no universe where I don’t catch these legends of punk rock. One notable absence was Mark Stern on drums, who was off having a kid so congrats to him and his family. Shawn was in prime form for fun and talking up the storm, even an offhand Old Man Markley joke at John Carey on guitar. Johnny took it in stride and they just looked like this was a day to embrace and enjoy being back on the stage.
The Bronx is a band that no one should ever miss live if it can be avoided. Since I got into them, all the performances I have caught involve Matt always adventuring into the crowd and singing from there for an extended period. If they aren’t the headliner, they put many to shame. From Brad Magers to Joey C on drums, this love and excitement goes across that stage in their performances. Easily one of the most stellar sets of the weekend was from the Bronx.
This band is another that I could place in my personal top ten and to see them added to their first Punk Rock Bowling only elevated my excitement for this moment. Toh Kay with the assembled cast of most the usual members delivered a banger of familiar songs and favorites over the course of their set. I found myself singing along to most, while also squeezing in some feet resting time to get ready for taking photos at a club show coming up. They additionally gave me a PRB highlight when I woke up the next morning and asked to share my Instagram photo from this night. So, yea, another band that never lets down and more the reason I love them.
The band that is my favorite Keith Morris band finally was playing before my eyes. It is another one of those first made possible by Punk Rock Bowling’s fantastic lineup builders. Assembled were Keith Morris, Zander Schloss and Greg Hetson along with Joey C, from the Bronx, drumming with them for the night and to continue on their announced tour. It was perhaps the least I’ve seen Keith talk between songs, which in past times he usually seems more vocal on politics and society. Regardless, it was just so good to watch them play before my eyes to close out the main festival on day two.
Then came the club show I was extending the life of my feet for. It was so I could work to capture the night with local friends Playboy Manbaby helping me with the photo pass. It was a loaded bill that included already favorites Laura Jane Grace, Drakulas, and Crazy & The Brains, plus bands I’d been wanting to see live, Grumpster and A Giant Dog.
Grumpster opened up this extravagant lineup they called an after party with flair and fun. They are a band that early into 2020 quarantining I discovered and fell in love with their entire song catalog. They are more of an indie rock or indie punk rock sound, with very lyrics I find down to earth and relatable. I’d been anticipating to one day catch them live and Punk Rock Bowling finally brought that chance. They hit on personal favorites including “Tunnelvision” and “Growing Pains.” I super appreciate getting to watch them and hopefully it won’t be too long until I can once again see them return to Phoenix.
Next on the second stage were my favorite locals from Phoenix, the Playboy Manbaby. This marks their third time out at Punk Rock Bowling and always on club shows. They just continue to go hard and with a collected calmness that they just look like the stage is their home. Robbie was in tip top form on the banter, including reminding us how Las Vegas is a city that knows how to market itself. TJ was a ball of energy all over the stage while harnessing his guitar and moving around with Chris, on bass, opposite side of Robbie. Chad seems to always be smiling when you glance back. Mickey, from MRCH and Violet Choir, was back on keys and backing vocals adding an additional layer to their songs for this latest Vegas trip. Just listening to random comments around me, they continued to win over more fans with this latest set at PRB.
Then alternating back over to the other stage was the punk band with a xylophone from Jersey, Crazy and the Brains. Not my first time watching them either. My first time was when they played Phoenix with the Days N Daze tour in 2018 and within days, as touring dynamics work, caught them on the PRB main stage once again. They are high energy, a little more old school bubble gum punk rock. It seems every time I catch them it leaves the song “Ice Cream” from their set stuck in my head most. In a long line of catching singers who know how to move and engage an audience this weekend, Cristoph did just that spending more time on the floor in front of the stage than on it. Once they went into their Jim Carroll Band cover of “People Who Died,” it only emboldened him further to engage singing with the crowd. Ernest, on guitar, would join him down off the stage time to time. Alongside Brett, on bass, and Jeff, on xylophone, this performance showed off an enthusiasm performing songs they have a clear affinity for. Do yourself a favor and dig into Crazy and the Brain’s catalog after reading this. You’ll thank me later.
Up after them was A Giant Dog. This is a band that was more a recent discovery that I started listening to once I saw the club show lineups. I think I can best describe them as an indie punk rock band drawing influences from rock and roll then turning it on its head with their own twist on the sound. Sabrina was amazing vocals and they have a fantastic energy to their stage presence. The entire band is full of character and charismatic that shined throughout the set. A Giant Dog an easy recommendation after finally watching them.
Second to last was one of the last bands I caught live before everything shut down, Drakulas. This Mike Wiebe fronted new wave and garage rock style band includes the talents of Rob, also from Riverboat Gamblers with Mike, and Zach Blair of Rise Against. They are a style upon their own. Drakulas members dressed with sunglasses and a uniform black, kind of an eighties interpretation of the future aesthetic of style. There is an entire retro theme to their music lyrics and look, the set including tracks referencing old formats like Beta. That’s not even going into detail how much Mike moves around and just took advantage of the environment of the pool area. He could be found singing from up on the speakers to in the pool itself. Whether you are a fan of their other works or this sounds awesome to you, Drakulas in my second time watching them delivered another impression leaving set on me.
Last of this night would be one who needs little introduction and the well adored, Laura Jane Grace. These solo performances seem as big, if not bigger, than the Against Me shows these days. She hit on songs from her solo works and Against Me favorites, including “Teenage Anarchist.” This was one that I more sat down and took in, in part because I was nursing a new ankle pain that I still don’t know exactly how I got. You couldn’t ask for a better musician to close out my second main day of Punk Rock Bowling than Laura Jane Grace.
Day 2 Photo Gallery