1994 was an important year in the resurgence of a punk rock that had gone back underground the latter half of the eighties. It marked a couple seminal albums released that year, including Green Day’s Dookie, Bad Religion’s Stranger Than Fiction and Offspring’s Smash. Another one of those big albums was NOFX’s Punk In Drublic. In the time since its release, the album has crossed the one million threshold and stands a fan favorite in punk circles. Beginning in 2017, it became the name of a punk rock and craft brew festival put together by Fat Mike, lead singer of NOFX and Fat Wreck Chords cofounder, and Cameron Collins, Brew Ha Ha cofounder. It has continued to supplant the NOFX regular tour throwing other Fat Wreck bands and friends of the band into the mix on each stop. This year brought the festival back to Phoenix for the first time since 2017 loaded with Fat favorites, a couple of Arizona’s great locals, and the Bouncing Souls out at the newly opened Bell Bank Park in Mesa.
Right out of the gate Punk In Drublic kicked off with the fantastic sounds of Flagstaff’s Winterhaven. If you have not had the opportunity to watch these guys, they bring wonderful melodies and pop punk to the stage. Great vocals from James Hernandez on leads bolstered with harmonies and additional vocals from Nick Schira on drums. There was fun had with the crowd as James told the crowd about how he wasn’t wearing any sunscreen despite a reminding text from his mom.
Colton, on bass, making friends with another in the crowd lifting his Descendents socks to share in comradery with another wearing their Descendents shirt. They had personality that shined as the early day was a little overcast. Winterhaven was wonderful with this great opportunity to open the festival.
Having a pair of locals opening follows the pattern of the first Phoenix Punk in Drublic, this time with the rocking sound of the Venomous Pinks. They seemed to be riding their own excitement right out of the gate blazing through their fast-paced punk rock tunes. It was the earliest I’ve seen them perform “Pizza Slice” in a set. As always, Drea and Gaby getting the crowd to throw up their hands in the form of that familiar triangle slice.
They touted and played their upcoming new single, “No Rules” that will see a music video release this week. All the while, a few in the crowd partaking of their Fire & Fury Brewing collab, the Venomous Lites Kolsch, while hearing their tunes. To close it, they brought the Last Gang’s Brenna Red to sing vocals. While easily the fastest set of the day, the Venomous Pinks brought the fun.
Then speaking of the Last Gang, they brought the first Fat Wreck band of the day. This band continues to look comfortable on the stage. There is a happy atmosphere watching them like a happy little family. Sean always is working in his usual enthusiasm and gymnastics with the bass. Brenna has a unique voice that reminds me a little of Brody Doll and Distillers and adds to their distinct sound.
Watching them perform “WFTW” and singing along cements it as my favorite off their newest album, Noise Noise Noise. The setlist included new and old, like “Sing For Your Supper” and “Panic Dreaming.” Every time I see the Last Gang, the crowd not only gets bigger, but more engaged singing along to their music. It is cool to see them grow with well earned popularity and I always love getting to watch them play.
Authority Zero going after would mark the last of the Arizona bands on the day’s bill. They came off doing a little signing in the craft beer tents for their new beer collaboration, Pacific Tide, with Delahunt Brewing. Jason DeVore and the boys were electric. This set marked another time getting to see Brandon Landelius, of A Vulture Wake, back on guitar for them once again. Chris Dalley was providing more backing vocals behind the kit with the plush flamingo on front of his drum kit.
Midway through they brought out Rob Rover to promote Punk Rock Saves Lives. Plus, there was that “Rattlin’ Bog” in the mix of songs showcasing Jason’s amazing linguistic speed skills. We even got to see Travis Stephens, once Authority Zero’s tour manager, back up there and out watching the set side stage. There was a lot of positive moments and energy making Authority Zero’s set yet another fantastic go from the Mesa town guys.
Crossing that halfway mark brought Lagwagon back to Phoenix for the third time in the past six months. Joey Cape made a joke at that exact thing, asking weren’t they just here? Regardless, it was business as usual for the Caper and crew. We got a more expanded setlist than the two albums they played on those last two visits, but you knew you’d hear “E. Daggers” when you saw Erin was out at Punk In Dublic.
Joey said she does vocals on it but only gave a shake of the head when he looked over at her during the song to sing it. They hit a lot of fan favorites and went out on perhaps the one that has only gotten more popular with its association to the date, “May 16.” Lagwagon was the first of our bands to go to forty minutes and they packed it full.
It came time for the Bouncing Souls first visit to Phoenix since they played the Pot of Gold Festival in 2018. Maybe it was the anticipation built up since last time I watched them live, but it was my favorite set of the day. They played banger after banger of songs that flew by. There was “That Song,” “East Coast Fuck You,” and “Lean on Sheena” among countless others played from their amazing catalog.
Greg, lead vocals, always engaging with the crowd and trying to get them involved. Introing “Here We Go” he asked for a sing along to the pretty simple and fast chorus that this crowd obliged him. If anything, this set reminded me that there are few Bouncing Souls songs that I am not excited to hear. They made for perhaps the best set of the day.
From there, we went from one charismatic singer to perhaps the best in punk rock with Spike Slawson and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. With the sundown, stage lights centered on him and his ukulele to begin. You may say he started the Gimme Gimmes set as his other music covering identity, Uke Hunt. However, as the first song neared an end, he was joined by his bandmates with CJ Ramone, Joey Cape, Jake Kiley, and Andrew Pinch making up tonight’s incarnation of the band.
Like their last visit, Spike solicited for weirdest places people have had sex giving props to Whataburger and the zoo. This time around we got Fat Mike back out on bass for four songs, swapping spots with CJ. He hasn’t played full time with them in a few years so this was a treat. As with their last visit, on full display was why the Gimme Gimmes are one of the best and most full of character cover bands in music.
Last was the band that put the Punk in Drublic, NOFX. Fat Mike came out dancing to the “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture show. They began on the NOFX Backstage Passport intro song to kick off their hour and a half set. From there it was their usual self-defecating jokes, political remarks, and other random commentary between songs from their near forty-year long catalog. They took shots at the state’s politics, calling Arizona the “Alabama of the West,” which surprisingly got a mixture of cheers and booing perhaps revealing the mixed political crowd we had in attendance. I personally laughed and agree to an extent.
As for songs, it was not limited to the album that named the festival as we heard “Six Years On Dope” To “Franco Unamerican,” from “Dinosaurs Will Die” to a cover of Rancid’s “Radio.” It got a little weird toward the end, as Mike stopped singing before “Don’t Call Me White” was over and Eric Melvin took over vocals to finish it. Then he sat out playing until the upbeat, punk rock portion of “Kill All the White Man” closing the night right before the ten o’clock cutoff. All that said, this NOFX set left me happy and entertained. It was the bow on the lineup of another wonderful Punk In Drublic to come to Phoenix.
Be sure to catch other stops and lineups on the Punk In Drublic Craft Beer and Music festival, if nearby, on the following dates and locations:
Saturday, March 26 in San Diego, CA at Petco Park
Sunday, March 27 in Venture, CA at the Ventura Fairgrounds
Saturday, May 7 in Sacramento, CA at Heart health Park at the Cal Expo
Friday, July 8 in Cleveland, OH at Jacobs Pavilion
Saturday, July 9 in Detroit, MI at the Masonic Temple Outdoors