It's Not Dead Fest 2017 - Live in San Bernardino (Cover Artwork)

It's Not Dead Fest 2017

Live in San Bernardino (2017)

live show

The name “It’s Not Dead” has held a special, albeit somewhat comical, place in my mind since its first iteration in 2015—Kevin Lyman’s nostalgic nod to the 90’s heyday of punk, carefully orchestrated with the biggest names still in the game, with a touch self-deprecating humor. Gearing up for 2017’s festivities, the joke inside my head became “I’m Not Dead…Yet”—anyone who lived to tell the sunburned tale after the first INDF knows it was no easy feat to endure ~12 hours of San Bernardino in full summer fury, a gauntlet of sweat, dust and dehydration that would make Bear Grylls climb into the chest cavity of the nearest animal carcass for shade. But when Lyman and crew throw another enticing offer on the table, you grab your sunscreen, pray to the hydration gods, and show up for a great time.

New editor Ricky Frankel, my concert photographer husband and I did just that, arriving at the Glen Helen Amphitheater in the early afternoon of August 26th, a day promising some excellent live music as well as temperatures guaranteed to top 100 degrees. Pro tip #1: cough up $20 for the VIP parking—you’ll thank yourself later when you have to trek back to your vehicle. With three song limits in the photo pit, and Ricky having to sprint from interview to interview throughout the afternoon, we had to hit the ground running. First up, local legends True Rivals—though the crowd had yet to begin showing up in earnest at all, sparing themselves the brunt of the heat, the early birds were treated to some classic jams, like “Hopeless”, as well as a few new bangers off of their 2017 EP ‘Look At Me!’. Next up, we headed towards the main stage just as the crowd was flocking to The Interrupters—we detoured to check out the art exhibits and merch tents along the way, but judging from the suddenly swelling crowd filing to the main stage and the swelling applause throughout the set, The Interrupters proved to be a crowd favorite once again. Next up, we chugged down $24 in water (to be fair, there was a filing station for water bottles that were brought from home—we goofed on this one big time) and listened to Mad Caddies in the distance, while gearing up for The Flatliners.

Chris and the boys tore through “Bruises” and “Sew My Mouth Shut”, as well as new tracks from this year’s ‘Inviting Light’. Just as we settled in, three songs were up, and we were onto the next—Good Riddance put on a super energetic performance, as always, and we caught “Running on Fumes” before getting treated to an acoustic rendition of “99 Red Balloons” and “Leave a Light On” from Kevin Seconds. Unexpectedly, Dave Smalley and Down By Law solved a decade old mystery shared between my husband and I from the scary days of LimeWire and indiscriminate mp3 file names—long ago we came into possession of a cover of The Pretenders’ “500 Miles” which was purported to be by Propagandhi, per the file name. Never being fully convinced that Propagandhi were the actual band singing the cover, we assumed we’d never be sure—until Smalley et al played it exactly as we’d heard while we stood laughing hysterically. Next up, A Wilhelm Scream managed to bring their usual 100% despite the threat of heat stroke, which was no small feat. We broke away for a food and hydration break while listening to The Buzzcocks and Off!, a welcomed staple of this year’s festival circuit, from afar.

As the sun began to set another festival staple for the year, The Adicts, hit the stage in their typically dazzling fashion—all flashy mirrored costume and flying cards. Next, The Casualties with David Rodriguez of Starving Wolves on vocals delivered a rowdy, exciting performance. The crowd, sensing the setting of the sun, began to liven up and by the time Spike and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes were belting out Cher’s “Believe” (which is a cover, in case you weren’t sure…) it was a damn dance party at the main stage.

After a sight pause between bands, and the sun having properly set, the evening’s main event—Dropkick Murphys and Rancid, who were ending their Boston to Berkeley tour on today’s stop—were set to take the stage. Having never seen either band live, the excitement was palpable and infectious, and despite being woefully underexposed to Dropkick’s discography, the flying beer alone was a testament to the crowds’ love of this band, the entirety of the performance being a giant drunken singalong. Finally, after a day’s worth of intense perspiration and anticipation, Rancid stormed the stage. Their energy was nothing short of electric, and the crowd responded in kind. They delivered the classics and crowd favorites—“Journey to the End of the East Bay”, “Olympia, WA”, “Telegraph Ave” amongst others—with an intensity that made the show feel like it was taking place two decades ago as opposed to 2017. Upping the ante one last time, the night closed with an encore between Rancid and Dropkick, performing covers such as “Cretin Hop” and “If the Kids Are United” to an exhausted but ecstatic audience. As the last note rang out, and we started the cattle-like procession of the exiting crowd to the parking lot, nothing but praise for the day’s events could be heard.

With 2017 picking up where 2015 left off, Kevin Lyman proved once again that “it” isn’t dead, and won’t be anytime soon.