Punk Rock Bowling 2021 - Day 1 - Live in Las Vegas (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Punk Rock Bowling 2021 - Day 1

Live in Las Vegas (2021)

live show

I’d been wanting to get to Punk Rock Bowling for years. Ironically, it was Covid that made it all possible. After cancelling the event entirely in 2020, the 2021 version was pushed back to the fall. This made it much more convenient for my family situation. We bought tickets and booked our hotel and flights in the spring. Then we sweated it out for six months, wondering if it was actually going to happen.

Despite some last minute shuffling of bands, PRB was a go. We flew into Vegas on Thursday, the day before most of the festivities got under way. This gave us a bit of a chance to adjust to the three hour time difference, and to do some non punk stuff with our wives. The girls came along to enjoy a relaxing few days by the pool, while we hung out with the unwashed masses.

The first bands we saw were actually at the pool. We headed over to the pool of the Downtown Grand plenty early to make sure we didn’t miss Chicago legends Pegboy. (We stayed at the Downtown Grand, so we had early access to the pool shows. Our wives hung out at the much mellower pool at The Plaza, a sister hotel.) This started the three day trend of drinking before lunch, which is getting to be quite a challenge at my age.

The Uppers opened the show with a short, fun, energetic set of retro punk. They were decked out in their full denim, even though it was over 90 degrees before noon. I appreciated their dedication to keeping it punk. The St. Louis quintet would likely be popular with fans of bands like The Briefs, Modern Action, The Stitches etc… If you’re looking to pogo till you puke, (and who isn't?), check out The Uppers.

Pegboy dressed much more sensibly, but still seemed like they might pass out. I had seen Pegboy last year at a drive-in show in their hometown of Chicago. That gig was during the height of the pandemic, and right after the death of Naked Raygun/Pegboy bassist Pierre Kezdy, and was kind of a mess. This was much better. There were lots of great songs from Strong Reaction as well as the (sort of expected) cover of Mission of Burma's “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver”. It was really cool to see the west coast crowd (and Ray Rocket) singing along to one of our midwestern favorites.

After a brief visit, a quick dip and a couple of drinks with our wives at the other pool, we headed over to the main festival grounds. We first caught SoCal’s F.Y.P. knocking out an energetic 35 minute set of 90 second bangers on the main stage. I can’t claim to know this band super well, but I’ve always liked what I've heard. I’d only seen them once before, at Dummerfest in Milwaukee a few years ago, and was impressed then too. Add F.Y.P. to the ever growing list of bands I need to dig into deeper.

Pears started a string of strong performances on the smaller, Monster stage. Before they went on, a friend described Pears as a great small club band, and I agreed. Pears then proceeded to prove us both wrong. Sometimes elusive singer singer Zach Quinn worked the crowd like an old pro, and the band’s spastic but melodic hardcore was a big hit. Pears have been quiet lately, and I’m curious what’s next for the New Orleans quartet.

Speaking of a big hit, Dillenger Four was up next on the main stage. The Minneapolis mainstays are not a band that I really listened to in their prime, but they’ve grown on me in recent years. The songs about drinking really hit the spot for an audience that was mostly half in the bag by late afternoon. Not surprisingly, the raspy singing and catchy songs translated well in a festival environment. Despite being a fellow midwesterner, this was my first time seeing D4. I’m glad I finally got the chance.

Dwarves turned in an amazing set on the small stage. Singer Blag Dahlia and bassist Rex Everything (Nick Oliveri), who I’d never seen with the band, were on fire. They played material from across the last 30 years with barely a pause. It was fun, funny and it kicked ass. Everyone present would have to acknowledge that they were a well oiled punk rock machine.

Dwarves setlist: Dominator, Devil’s Level, Sluts of the U.S.A., Like You Want, Back Seat of My Car, Let’s Fuck, How It’s Done, Astro Boy, Demonica, We Only Came to Get High, I Will Deny, Everybody’s Girl, You Gotta Burn, The Dwarves Are Still the Best Band Ever, We Must Have Blood

The Queers were up next on the Monster stage. After some technical difficulties, they somehow managed to match Dwarves for sheer entertainment value. First off, I was shocked to learn that Joe King no longer plays guitar live. I guess he quit a few years ago, and I guess it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. They’ve got this young, longhaired Italian guy who absolutely rips. The new lineup also digs deeper into the band’s impressive back catalog, and even plays some newer stuff. This was the most eclectic Queers setlist I’d heard in at least 15 years.

The Queers setlist: Attack of the 5 Foot Bitch, Tamara is a Punk, Like a Parasite, I Met Her at the Rat, Debra Jean, Can’t Stop Farting, Night of the Livid Queers, Tulu is a Wimp, Monster Zero, No Tit, You’re Tripping, I Hate Everything, Granola Head, Ursula Finally Has Tits, Love Love Love, Cindy’s on Methadone, The KKK Took My Baby Away, Fuck the World, This Place Sucks, Punk Rock Girls

Descendents headlined the main stage on Friday night and did not disappoint. NOFX was originally scheduled for the slot, but was removed, or forced to withdraw, I can’t remember which, due to the fake outrage over some “controversial” comments they made a few years back at PRB about a shooting at a country music festival in Vegas. I haven’t seen NOFX for years, and was looking forward to seeing them, but truth be told, Descendents are a much more consistently good live band.

From the beginning of “Everything Sucks” to the end of “Smile”, the band was a joy to behold. They somehow managed to jam 30 songs from every era of the band into their one hour time slot. Songs from 2021’s 9th & Walnut and 2016’s Hypercaffium Spazzinate blended seamlessly with stuff from 1982’s Milo Goes to College. Descendents capped off what was already a great day of music.

Confessions of a merch whore: Friday was a heavy vinyl day. Early in the day I grabbed a seven inch from The Uppers. Later I picked up Reverberation (orange) and Don't Back Down from The Queers. Dwarves were blowing out their records because they didn’t want to bring them home, so I got Young and Good Looking (orange), Take Back the Night (white), Invented Rock and Roll, How to Win Friends and Influence People (pink) and Born Again for $10 each. I already had the vast majority of the Queers/Dwarves stuff on CD, but, you know, I have a problem. I was a little bummed out that Descendents didn't have their new record available on wax.