Punk Rock Bowling - Las Vegas: Day One (Cover Artwork)
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Punk Rock Bowling

Las Vegas: Day One (2016)

live show

Read Day 2 here!

Every year I some how find a way to miss Punk Rock Bowling whether it be not having enough cash to make the trip out to Vegas or just being out of town the same weekend it takes place. Not this year! 2016 was the year I made it my mission to make to the festival. With that line up, how could you not? I mean FLAG, Decendents, Night Birds, Dillinger Four, Subhumans, etc. – just those bands alone made it worth the trip because I had never had the pleasure of seeing most of them perform (Descendents excluded – I saw them at It's Not Dead Fest last October). But not only was the incredible line up what made this festival an incredible experience, but I also went with fellow news editor Stevie Allen, John Allen (who took pictures of the bands), and their friend Steve who was dying to FLAG. So the great bands and the great people are definitely what made this weekend one of the most memorable of my life.

Day one had a bit of a lighter list of bands the four of us wanted to see. The day ended incredibly late for me, but it was still nonetheless a good way to ease into the festival mindset of running around downtown trying to catch all the bands we wanted to see. The first show we went to believe it or not, was a club show. I’m pretty sure it was not officially affiliated with Punk Rock Bowling, but it was still very worth seeing. The club we went to was The Beauty Bar and PEARS were headlining the afternoon show. The two opening bands were local acts called No Red Alice and Illicitor both of which put on solid performances.

Now at this point, I hadn't seen PEARS live since Green Star had come out. Yes, the album is absolutely fantastic, but seeing how the songs were so complicated and fast I wondered how they were going to be able to play those songs live. But I have to hand it to them, they not only played their older songs incredibly well, but they also played newer songs like “The Flu,” “I Love My Kennel,” and “Green Star” just about perfectly and the crowd went absolutely nuts over them so much so that they demanded one more song after PEARS had finished their set. The band ended it with their famous cover of “Judy Is A Punk,” which was a very appropriate way to end it.

After exploring downtown for bit the four of us headed to the actual festival, which was in a giant parking lot just a few blocks away. Unfortunately, I realized we had lost track of time and we had missed Youth Brigade, which was definitely in some ways ironic and the biggest regret of the weekend for me. But we had got there in the middle of The Bronx’s set, which was just as lively, hard-hitting, and energetic as the last time I had seen them live at FYF Fest in 2014.

The first actual full set the four of us saw was the Subhumans who were definitely on my “can’t miss list.” And as expected they rocked! You don't realize how amazing their stage prescience is until you see them live. They played songs such as “No,” “It’s All Gone Dead,” and “Mickey Mouse.” To top it all off Dick Lucas’s spoken introductions to songs were noticeably informative and entertaining especially when he got political (which was most of the time). Of course he did take one or two shots at Donald Trump and told the crowd not to vote for him -- something tells me though that they didn’t need much persuading.

Now this next band that got on stage after the Subhumans finished their set was The Exploited. In all honestly their show was a bit of a low point of the fest. They played songs like “Let’s Start A War (Said Maggie One Day), “I Believe In Anarchy,” “Cop Cars,” “Sex & Violence,” but they did not play “Fuck The USA.” For a band that was visibly trying so hard to put on the best show that they could, they just didn’t sound good at all. There was definitely something off with how the guitar sounded and Wattie did not bring his vocal A-game either. It wasn’t the sound system because all of the other bands sounded fine. For a band that is so legendary and in some ways pioneers of hardcore and thrash, it was a disappointing performance.

Now this was the part of day one I was looking forward to most. It was FLAG’s turn to perform. They were also one of the band’s I absolutely needed to see. I have seen OFF! a handful of times, but I never got a chance to see either FLAG or Greg Ginn’s excuse for Black Flag a few years ago. The four of us already knew that this was going to be a legendary show. I can honestly say that every member of the band were killing it on stage. This was an absolutely mind-blowing set. Keith Morris’s vocals were stellar as was Bill Stevenson on drums and the rest of the band for that matter. It was a performance of near biblical proportions because they played songs that you think you could only watch on YouTube or that were never going to be heard live again. They played “Revenge,” “Police Story,” “My War,” “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie,” “Six Pack,” “Nervous Breakdown” and ton more classics. FLAG’s show was probably the most unique, not just because of their line up, but also because (as I’m sure most of you know) Keith Morris and Dez Candena switched off on lead vocals. Again, Keith was phenomenal, but Dez was as well. And for someone who had just gotten a tumor removed from his throat it was pretty remarkable that he was able to pull it off at all. His voice did sound hoarse, but it made the songs sound that much better and pretty brutal (in a positive way). They played an encore, which consisted of “I Heard It Before”, and Dez took over lead vocals again for “Damaged I.”

So that was day one of Punk Rock Bowling. The fact that we got to see all of these bands in less than 12 hours is nothing but insane. But the night was still young. Once the FLAG was done I had to quickly split from the group because I was the only one of the four of us who had a ticket for another club show, but since that show technically started on day 2 of the festival it’ll have to wait until my review of that day gets written up and posted. So keep an eye out for it if I haven’t lost you with this one.

You can see some pictures of the festival on the Punknews Instagram here.