Ice cream and anarchy — they go well together.
Punk rockers are proud parents.
Growing old doesn’t mean getting old.
It’s never too hot to rock.
These are but a few takeaways from the return of Punk Rock Bowling at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center over the weekend.
Let us elaborate.
It’s possible to be serious and seriously fun at once
On the main stage Sunday night, the Lunachicks alternated biting and bouncy critiques of skin-deep feminine beauty standards with songs about dead gerbils. And in doing so, the reunited femme punk cult favorites encapsulated the vibe of the weekend: You can get a little silly and still have something to say.
Here, there were booths helmed by nonprofits like Punk Rock Food Drive and Punk Rock Saves Lives next to vendors hawking “I’m Evil But I Still Need Cuddles” tank tops and serial killer T-shirts; folks queued up at the Ben & Jerry’s truck near the main stage on Saturday as anarcho-punks Leftover Crack fumed about police brutality; a former microbiologist with a Ph.D in chemistry — Descendants frontman Milo Aukerman — sang about the joys of coffee on a Friday night.
Aukerman prefers java to beer.
Speaking of which …
Beer is good — until it’s not
“Let’s get drunk together again!” bellowed Tony Forresta, singer for crossover thrash throwbacks Municipal Waste, who did, in fact, lay waste to the Monster Energy Stage on Sunday night, turning a section of Bridger Avenue into a block-long mosh pit that churned like a blender full of sweaty humans.
“We like to fall all over ourselves,” Forresta howled in one of the weekend’s most over-the-top performances. “We like to drink and we do it quite well.”
One guy who maybe should have abstained a bit: Murder City Devils frontman Spencer Moody.
The Seattle rockers can set fire to a stage, but Moody appeared so inebriated during the band’s set on Sunday — flubbing lyrics, losing his place in a number songs — that it derailed a group capable of locomotive performances.
His bandmates played well, but Moody — always a loose cannon, usually in a good way — got a little too loose on this occasion.
PRB doesn’t belong exclusively to the party animals
“Stay hydrated with things that don’t have alcohol in them,” advised Russ Rankin, singer for melodic punk vets Good Riddance, brandishing a water bottle on the main stage Saturday afternoon.
“No?” he continued. “It was worth a try.”
But Rankin wasn’t alone in eschewing all the Modelo tall boys in the house.
New York City hardcore vets Youth of Today have long espoused a drug- and alcohol-free “straight-edge” lifestyle and, as evidenced by the band’s almost absurdly adrenalized showing on Saturday, it’s certainly kept them in top physical form.
With frontman/punk rock life coach Ray Cappo doing handstands on the drum riser and bouncing about the stage as if his legs were corked with bed springs, the band’s performance was akin to getting elbowed in the face — by positivity.
“The world’s got riots / The world’s got fights,” Cappo sang on “I Have Faith.” “But I trust people will see the light.”
The best way to beat the heat? More heat
Two of the weekend’s best performances came late Saturday afternoon and early evening on the Monster Energy Stage when the crowd was still sweating out beverages as quickly as they could be consumed.
There was The Bronx, as unrelenting as the sun above, all serrated guitar riffs and a frontman, Matt Caughthran, who howled like the devil with a stubbed toe.
Prior to them came Plague Vendor, whose sharp-edged rock ’n’ roll was brought to life by singer Brandon Blaine, a man who carried himself like he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be Iggy Pop or David Lee Roth — and so why not be both?
“I have been locked up in a cage for 22 months,” he panted into the mic. “Something’s gonna happen.”
For 25 minutes, he didn’t stand still. “When you got no brakes,” he explained, “it’s hard to stop.”
The kids will be all right
Maybe the most awesome scene of the weekend: a dude in a kilt guiding three kids in what appeared to be their first circle pit during the Circle Jerks’ main stage set on Saturday.
It was a heartwarming moment — think “Leave it to Beaver” in combat boots.
Kids were everywhere at Punk Rock Bowling this year, from the mom skanking along with her daughter to Leftover Crack, hoisting her up to see the band’s female singer-keyboardist when she took to the mic, to an abundance of dads carting around youngsters in protective headphones.
They were even on stage at times: During The Riverboat Gamblers’ set on Sunday, the Texas quintet brought up a young girl named Lilly to scream along with them.
“No way to stop us!” she shouted.
Age is just a number — a pretty high number in this case, but still …
“I’m 61,” announced Shawn Stern, Youth Brigade frontman and Punk Rock Bowling Festival co-founder, Saturday evening on the main stage, “but I’m still up here, trying to do this.”
And he did it well, Youth Brigade still brimming with youthful energy even if they no longer live up to their name.
It was a recurring sight at Punk Rock Bowling.
Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris just turned 66 but remained a fire hydrant of anti-authority bile Saturday on the main stage, offering knife-voiced take-downs of such everyday irritants as junk mail and nuclear annihilation.
Finally, there was Devo on Sunday, some of whom are now in their seventies.
Still, their performance was among the weekend’s most invigorated, the New Wave progenitors’ sardonic yet danceable songs about empty consumerism, pop culture homogeneity and intellectual regression dating back to the ’70s, in some instances, but remaining pointed social critiques decades later.
Time marches on — and, somehow, they remain ahead of it.
Contact Jason Bracelin at email@example.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram