Hand over her heart, Aimee Interrupter delivered a punk rock pledge of allegiance as day turned to dusk.
“This is my family,” The Interrupters frontwoman sang at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Saturday. “My one crazy family, the ones who understand me.”
That sentiment encapsulates the vibe of Punk Rock Bowling, a familial gathering of mohawked brethren bonded by beer, if not blood.
This year’s fest, which ran from Saturday through Monday, featured appearances by in-your-face newcomers like Plague Vendor, who pelted the crowd with toilet paper at the end of their Saturday set, alongside PRB vets like Bad Religion, punk rock peacocks The Adicts and British oi! precursors Cocksparrer, who closed the fest with a set that felt like one prolonged bear hug between the band and the audience.
Those were but a few of the notable performance at Punk Rock Bowling 2017. Here are six more:
No one got to catch their breath, the shirtless 70-year-old being as averse to between-song pauses as chest-covering fabrics. “Play it!” Iggy Pop bellowed at his bandmates, demanding that they go faster, harder, faster, harder — you know, be more like him.
And with that, the group lunged into “Raw Power,” an anti-sleep anthem from Pop-fronted proto-punk greats The Stooges, whose tunes made up half of Pop’s 16-song headlining set Saturday.
Alternating his stentorian death vibrato with the needle-sharp yap that hasn’t lost any of its feistiness 50 years in, Pop was a blur of hair, hips and fists, all of them flung about in unison with eternal vigor. Whether the song was searching (“The Passenger”), hedonistic (“I Wanna Be Your Dog”) or bored with being bored (“No Fun”), Pop expertly delivered it to register square in the gut.
What’s the opposite of jazz hands? Whatever you call ’em, they’re one of the primary means by which Keith Morris expresses himself, his kniving, see-sawing limbs serving as exclamation points punctuating the vehemence of his words, which come coated in the bitter taste of sarcasm-flavored sarcasm.
The Off! frontman favors short, pointed jams that create the sensation of being overcaffeinated and anxiety-ridden, jittery shards of contempt that register as the inverse of escapism: These are tunes meant to rub your nose in reality, the punk rock equivalent of particularly disturbing crime scene photos.
“Having fun?” Morris asked the crowd at one point Saturday night, delivering the line as a taunt, a provocation, a dare. He’d later flip the audience the bird, a somewhat redundant gesture considering that just about every song Off! played conveyed the same message.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
“We’re not a cover band,” announced the fellow rocking the natty white suit despite the still-warm remnants of a 90-degree Saturday. “We’re the cover band.”
And with that, the glittery gauntlet was thrown down by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes singer Spike Slawson, who galloped astride his gold-tinsel-adorned mic stand as it were a hobby horse, waved his hands like a preacher casting out the demon of subtlety and paid loving tribute to John Denver after yowling through the folk favorite’s “Country Roads.”
Adding velocity, bounce, impudence and matching pink silk shirts to the great American songbook, the Gimmes even fulfilled Judy Garland’s lifelong dream of making “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” suitable for crowdsurfing.
Barely a minute after taking the stage he was already on his back, a fitting repose for a dude whose songs are often sung from the perspective of having one’s face planted on the bathroom floor.
“There’s nothing wrong with living like this,” Fidlar singer-guitarist Elvis Kuehn howled through a curtain of long black hair upon retaking his feet Sunday night, defending all the drinking and drugging that he so frequently chronicles in song.
All these high times, though, have a way of making Kuehn feel low. And so Fidlar’s shout-it-out garage punk is often about trying to navigate these extremes, with guitars that surge forth and recede like the tide washing ashore as Kuehn wails until his vocal chords are as tender as his liver.
It’s all so celebratory and comfortless at once. “I hope we’ll make it till the end,” Kuehn pined on “No Waves,” Fidlar’s catalog a tacit acknowledgment that the end could come at any moment.
The words emblazoned on his guitar updated a famous slogan from Woody Guthrie while preserving the spirit of that folk firebrand’s message as if it were still 1941, the year it was authored.
“This non-gender specific machine kills fascists,” read Scott Sturgeon’s six-string, which the Choking Victim frontman wielded like a billy club against those he perceived to be the perpetrators of various societal ills, from overzealous police officers to product-hawking media types.
Delivering his missives in a voice so gruff, it sounded like the by-product of chain-smoking filter-less Marlboros by the dumptruck-full, Sturgeon led his reactivated band through a tense, tight set of ska-inflected protest punk delivered at the speed and volume of a bullet blasting from a gun.
There were plenty of what-did-I-just-see? moments at Punk Rock Bowling, like that time a dude got on his hands and knees to lap up spilled beer from the concrete or when a lady received a healthy round of high-fives after vomiting in front of the stage. But the sight of numerous crowd members playfully batting beach balls into the air while Discharge kicked out the decidedly nonplayful jams about death and war was up there with any of them.
Discharge’s catalog is akin to a noose fixed tight around the neck of frivolity, powered by frontman Jeff Janiak’s shout-till-it-hurts vocals and strafing guitars that approximate the machine-gun fire central to the armed conflicts they frequently sing of.
Their set Monday was as merciless as the afternoon sun testing the audience’s mettle three days in. “How many people came to this festival because it’s something you believe in?” Janiak asked the crowd prior to “Protest and Survive,” one true believer addressing a sea of them.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.