Camp Punk In Drublic: Day One - Live in Thornville (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Camp Punk In Drublic: Day One

Live in Thornville (2018)

live show

I’ve been to a ton of music festivals in my nearly 30 years of concert going. My first one was the World Series Of Rock in 1989 featuring Poison, White Lion, Tesla, Winger and Bulletboys. (It was awesome.) Fortunately, my taste has improved since then. I’ve been to a handful of the three day Riot Fests. (Sadly, no Punk Rock Bowling yet.) I’ve done a few of each of the one day Lollapaloozas and Van’s Warped Tours. I’ve seen a bunch of great smaller ones too like Dummerfest and Tesco Fest. I even went to the HORDE tour once. (No Lilith Fair though.) None of them could properly prepare me for Camp Punk In Drublic.

Between the ages of 8 and 16, I spent one week each Summer at camp in Northern Michigan. We slept in cabins and swam in the lake. We paddled around in canoes and shot bows and arrows. At night we gathered around a campfire and sang silly songs. This also did not help prepare me for Camp Punk In Drublic. I started drinking beer in my teens. I’ve been doing it pretty consistently for almost as long as I’ve been going to shows. This was actually pretty good preparation for Camp Punk In Drublic, which took place June 1st-3rd in rural Thornville, OH.

Here’s the scenario: Two guys in their mid 40s driving six hours to central Ohio to tent camp for three nights and take in an idealized late ‘90s Warped Tour lineup. Let’s not forget that there was going to be tons of craft beer. Neither of us are campers, so we knew we were in for a real adventure. Before we even left, CPID was already embroiled in controversy. NOFX’s ill advised, but off the cuff joke (about the shooting at Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas) the weekend before at Punk Rock Bowling got them in a heap of trouble. Fat Mike and his bands NOFX and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes were dropped from their own festival. Both were supposed to be headliners. The ‘Fat Mike Presents’ part of Camp Punk In Drublic just vanished.

I really want to editorialize about this, but I'll try to stick to the facts. NOFX was replaced by Descendents and MFGG’s were replaced by The Vandals. My friend and frequent traveling companion was pissed. He really wanted to see those bands. I took it more in stride. Descendents for NOFX is a fair swap. If we're being honest, NOFX shows have become pretty hit or miss over the last decade or so. Descendents always deliver. The Vandals are not as big as MFGG’s, so it could be considered a downgrade, but I hadn't seen The Vandals since ‘97 and really love their early stuff. Ultimately, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a novelty cover band. I was OK with the switch, even if I was in the minority and the reason for it irritated me.

We took off Friday morning and had pretty smooth sailing on the way down. Once we arrived at the campground, we had to wait in the first of what would be many lines. The list of items banned from the event was ridiculously long, and they were searching cars fairly thoroughly. People were getting nervous and abandoning their cases of contraband beer. Many of us took advantage of the slow moving lines and guzzled a bunch of these orphaned beers. It was about the only free thing all weekend. I’m glad we weren’t going through a DUI checkpoint. Sometimes it’s good to be (relatively) normal looking older dudes, as we got through the inspection unscathed.

Guzzling beers and setting up tents don’t necessarily go together, but eventually we managed. The camping sites were pretty small, and the tents were packed closely together. From a distance, it looked like a refugee camp. Fortunately, we had friendly neighbors from Pittsburgh on both sides of us. We were assigned a spot close to nearby bathrooms (if you can call them that) and vending. This was good and bad. It was good because we didn’t have to walk too far to buy stuff, but bad because people were constantly walking by or cutting through our campsite. After getting set up, we made the ten or so minute walk over to the concert grounds.

The facility was kind of bowl shaped. The huge, covered stage was at the bottom, and the area in front of the stage was gravel. We’re talking big, one inch chunks of gravel. My Vans shod feet did not like it at all. I couldn’t imagine getting knocked down in that gigantic mosh pit. Above was a grassy, gently rolling hill. That’s where the the food and beer sales were, as well as the handful of other vendors. Overall, there was plenty of room for the large, but not too large crowd. It was set up like Riot Fest, in that all the T-Shirts and other merch were only sold in one big, controlled area. (Warped Tour does it better. There, each individual band gets their own little booth.)

We went to grab a couple of overpriced beers to supplement our free ones from a few hours earlier, and were a little surprised to see that three of the four beers on tap were from Stone Brewery. (They were also selling Stone’s Punk In Drublic six packs in the campground.) Stone had very publically cut ties with NOFX and Punk In Drublic only a couple of days earlier. (Apparently up to that point, they were unaware that Fat Mike and NOFX had ever been offensive.) My first thought was, fuck Stone Brewery! If they were really that bothered by the recent turn of events, they should have pulled their kegs. Surely they could take a loss of profit on such righteous grounds. On second thought, I realized they probably had a contractual obligation and didn’t want to get sued. Only time will tell if they made the right decision. At CPID, there certainly seemed to be more anti-Stone sentiment than anti-NOFX sentiment.

Finally, we went to check out the music. We completely missed the opening band, Superfuct, but got there in time to see Guttermouth. It was actually sort of surreal to see them play on such a big stage for so many people. Guttermouth plays Grand Rapids every year or two, always at a tiny club. In GR you can walk right up to the stage and heckle singer Mark Adkins. (He likes it.) I suspect that’s the case at most places they play. Several thousand people really seemed to enjoy them and their sometimes tired gags. I was actually fairly impressed by their ability to hold the attention of such a large crowd. I must admit it, Guttermouth was pretty good. We were off to a fine start.

Next up was a must see band for me, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. I had never managed to see Jello live, and he definitely lived up to my expectations. That strange, unique, unmistakable voice of his is still in fine form. His endless political rants were largely customized for the state of Ohio. I think I love listening to him talk as much as I do listening to him sing. I was also surprised by how well the GSM stuff blended with the classic Dead Kennedys stuff. “Satan’s Combover” and “Pentagram Pajama Party” were GSM highlights.

Of course, what the ravenous crowd really wanted were those old DK songs. “California Uber Alles” came fairly early in the set and was directed toward former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. On “Nazi Punks (Trumps) Fuck Off” a nearly 60 year old Jello Biafra went into the crowd. It was pretty impressive. They finished with “Holiday in Cambodia” and were well over their allotted time. I don’t think anybody minded. Jello is a current artist. He constantly says that he prefers looking forward to looking back. That being said, I was encouraged by the passion he still has for performing 35 year old Dead Kennedys songs.

The Vandals closed the first night of music, and they had some big shoes to fill. They also had a tough act to follow. I’m happy to report that they rose to the occasion. If nothing else, they’re one of the few bands that can match Me First and the Gimme Gimmes in sheer comedic value. For this show, they were also joined by Derek Grant of Alkaline Trio fame on drums. “Live Fast Diarrhea” and “My Girlfriend’s Dead” were big hits with crowd. Of course, “Urban Struggle” and “Anarchy Burger” went over well too. “The Legend of Pat Brown” was my personal favorite, and I sang my ass off. For their encore, singer Dave played guitar and guitarist Warren took the lead vocals. They played what could only be described as a flamboyant cover version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” The Vandals definitely delivered, especially on such short notice.

When the bands were finished, most of the crowd left. They missed out. The ‘Campfire Stories’ might have been my favorite part of Camp Punk In Drublic. While you can see bands play anywhere, this was a unique opportunity to get some insight from a handful of punk legends. They started by putting a small campfire on stage. (Ironically, campfires were banned in the actual campground.) The participants sat in tall chairs a semi circle. It was structured like a roundtable discussion, and was moderated by the ever entertaining Jack Grisham. Grisham is best known for being the singer for TSOL, but he’s also an author and a generally quick witted guy. His band wasn’t playing. He was there for this, and he also led the twice daily AA meetings. (I wanted to go to one just out of curiosity, but I thought it would be disrespectful.) The other guy just hanging around for the ‘Campfire Stories’ was the ageless Keith Morris.

The first three on stage were Grisham, Morris and Vandals bassist Joe Escalante. They were later joined by Jello Biafra, who couldn’t seem to help himself. They mostly talked about the NOFX situation. There was also an opportunity for fans to ask questions, which ranged from enlightening to mundane. Jello talks fast and had a tendency to dominate the conversation. It would also appear that his politics have gotten more mainstream over the years. It took a strong host in Grisham to keep him in check. Morris talks slow and could seem a little out of it, but his measured words almost always contained pearls of wisdom. It was 75 minutes of often fascinating conversation among punk titans.

On our way back to the campground, we stopped to watch a few minutes of The Decline of Western Civilization on a giant inflatable screen. It was a strange juxtaposition seeing a young Keith Morris belt out those old Black Flag songs. Like the ‘Campfire Stories’, it was not well attended. We made our way back to the campsite and most of our neighbors were already down for the count. We had one more beer before calling it a night at about 3am.