Punk Rock Bowling 2021 - Day 3 - Live in Las Vegas (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Punk Rock Bowling 2021 - Day 3

Live in Las Vegas (2021)

live show

Day Three of Punk Rock Bowling began with perhaps the biggest “challenge set” for the entire weekend. The dare? Blag Dahlia was tasked with doing a three hour brunch acoustic set… in the morning… to a bunch of hungry people… who were most likely hungover. I got to the eatery in the Downtown Grand to find that the place was already packed with a line wrapping around the casino floor. Luckily, I got there just in time to get a seat. Many other people were not as fortunate, sadly.

Blag took the stage and off the bat acknowledged that he had no idea how he was going to fill his slot. Well, the man is nothing of not a craftsman, and if he is two things, it’s craftsman and risk-taker. And indeed, Blag, who between the Dwarves, solo, Candy Now, Earl Lee Grace, and other projects, realty had no trouble filling the set. He took time to tell jokes here or there, or to boast about how he was doing bluegrass for before the ‘90s “bluegrass explosion,” or just to reflect on how he came to playing an 11am set to a bunch of Vegas drunks. While the dwarves might be daring and offensive, at their core, they are songwriters and that’s what made the three-hour set feel like a 45 minute show. It was light and fun, and really, let you appreciate just how good these songs are, and also, that, despite the on-stage fights and smack talk, Blag is just a likeable guy. Few people could pull off this stunt, but Blag made it look like it was nothing at all. To that end, midway through the set, Dwarves-associate Josh Freeze showed up with who… why, none other than Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo in tow. Mark seemed to get a real kick out of the acoustic-meets-bawdiness of Blag and at times heckled him from the stage, climbed up on stage and started filming Blag as he played, and even made a tip jar, and left a dollar in said tip jar. These are the moments that make PRB so amazing.

Well, back at the main festival, Crazy and the Brains had an early side stage slot. Rising to the challenge the band blasted out a high energy set that was based off the previous night’s base. They whirled through a short, but punchy set of fast rockers about delivering pizza or being depressed or seizing the world for all it is worth. About 1-2,000 people were there and they were INTO IT. During the show, singer Chris jumped down into the crowd as the band kicked out their frantic and weird tunes and it seems like the band’s following is growing and they are getting new converts. It can be hard for unique bands to break through (especially in punk, weirdly) but it looks like Crazy and the Brains are on the precipice. They deserve it.

Not too long after, MDC was on the side stage and frontman Dave Dictor seemed to drink in the large crowd. He made a comment about how punk rock has grown and about how such a large gathering was indeed a victory. This translated to the band’s set where they played hits and some rarities. Of course, “John Wayne was a nazi” got a work out as did some of the newer Trump-centric numbers. The interesting thing about MDC is that while the lyrics are often very negative, the band themselves seem joyous in continuing the fight. A lot of bands could take note.

On the main stage, ALL flashed through a 40-minute set spread pretty evenly throughout their catalogue with Mass Nerder getting five full songs. The band was energetic and melodic and once again proved they are inventors (or co-inventors) of a sub-genre that now dominates punk rock.

Back on the side stage, English Beat kicked off to a ready crowd. It seemed many people were ready to get down with ska legends. The band sounded great, albeit perhaps a little bit slow, and the band played some of their biggest hits. Weirdly though, the set seemed to end abruptly after 7 or 8 songs, and about 10 minutes before their scheduled end. People seemed bummed and surprised that it was already over. Did the band just not have enough songs? Was there a miscommunication about set time? It was an odd appearance.

Back on the mainstage, Lunachicks, now primed from their club show, came to rock and they sure did. In fact, the big stage made the Lunachicks even more Lunachicks-y, with their neon/dayglo suits really lighting up the stage. They made the most of the big space running back and forth and really making it a riotous performance. The band did their hits and a few rarities. They swung between their fast, explosive numbers and their slow, low rumbling, almost-metal crushers and the crowd was into it. Again, “Jerk of All Trades” was a smasher and it sure was nice that this oft-overlooked band got at least some of what was due.

The side stage concluded its night with Municipal Waste. At this point, we all know what we are going to get with MW- hard rocking, hard partying, somewhat comical thrash metal. And that’s what the band gave and the audience was eager to take it. MW has somewhat of a limited range but at a festival like this, it works wonders.

And finally, to close out the festival proper, on the main stage was… DEVO. And let me tell you, there is a reason Devo… it’s because they are amazing. Surprisingly, the band opened with four new(er) tracks – including “Don’t shoot” and “Peek-a-boo” while they were backed by a constantly changing giant video element. It’s not always stated, but with these songs, it proved that not only are Devo punk and new wave pioneers, they are also electronic music explorers in the level of Kraftwerk, throbbing Gristle, and Human League. And then, after that, it was off to the races with hit after hit after hit. “Girl U Want”, “Uncontrollable Urge,” “Whip It,” “Gates of Steel,”- it was all there. At one point, the band put on their hazard waste suits and reenacted a scene from their videos. After that, they tore them to shreds. At another point, they were all wearing ape masks while singing about De-evolution.

And to boot, they sounded fantastic. In fact, it appears they’ve updated their sound to really kick out big spaces. The music was loud, hard-hitting, and really, really fun. Few bands can capture all ears of fans of every punk sub-genre, but frankly, everyone loved Devo and it was well deserved. I don’t know if the set was special to Devo or “just another festival performance,” but it was special to us. (Though, I will say, it did seem that Devo really did come to give it their all).

And what can you do after an AMAZING, shocking, jaw dropping, head knocking weekend like that? Well, you gotta go to the Downtown grand pool deck for one last pool party to see The Slackers. The Slackers are consummate professionals, but despite this, they somehow keep the excitement of performance and fun in their music. As the band cranked out their soulful ska, which was easy on the ears and even nicer for the soul, I thought to myself… “why, only eight months until we get to do this again…”